2nd- mc donald's, st. paul, famous dave's, minneapolis
4th- papa john's pizza, hopkins
5th- brit's pub and the local, minneapolis
6th- the egg and i, minneapolis
12th- herkimer, minneapolis
13th- toast wine bar and cafe, minneapolis
15th- tejas, edina
19th- woolley's, bloomington
27th- 20.21, minneapolis
29th- whitney bistro/onyx bar, bloomington
31st- eden avenue grill, edina
2nd- mc donald's, st. paul (c-), famous dave's, minneapolis (b+)
since the niece and nephew (and my sister and her husband) are among us, it was inevitable i'd have to eat at mc donald's at some point. it's not a place i like eating at, as i generally don't think their food is good. or tastes food-like. (see bitedex... i've not eaten a meal there since some point in mid-2003 or earlier (though i have had a soft-serve cone now and then).
i think i chose wisely, getting the asian chicken salad, with mixed greens, mandarin orange slices, a packet of slivered almonds, and check this... edamame (!). plus some newman's low-fat ginger dressing... it would've been decent except for the stuff they try to pass off as grilled chicken... it's manufactured or something at the place where they make what was probably food at some point taste like nothing. the salad's a b-, the chicken a d, so... surprisingly it didn't completely suck. who knew?
dinner was better, at least. i like famous dave's. they have excellent sauces, excellent. all the food tends to be quite good. except for the always weird corn they always have ( i gave mine away). i had the usual standby, half bbq chicken (some to take home), with the cornbread (love it, and ate someone else's, too), and i ditched the at least vaguely healthy slaw for a double shot of fries. because i can. and needed to.
4th- papa john's pizza, hopkins (c)
like mc do's, i can't recall the last time i've had papa john's in the past several years. i've given up on good deliverable pizza, more or less (the only one i've liked is davanni's, and i think it's better cold, oddly). but there was more people than usual to feed, and no one wanted to cook, so we did a xl 'garden fresh' pizza (aka the veggie one... i'm pretty sure olives aren't garden fresh, nor were the tomatoes, for that matter), and a large pan-style cheese for the kiddies. the pan-style crust wasn't bad, but there was nothing outstanding in either pizza. they were ok.
5th- brit's pub and the local, minneapolis (see below)
brits v. the local...
what's very odd is that we had a happy hour at brit's, played the thursday trivia (with my sister, her husband, and her crew- as bloody hindrances... we won by a whole point... which was good as i think she would beat me up or something if i didn't win... and my sister more or less demanded and got a t-shirt, which was not a beer promotion one for a change... as did i, and the rest of the folks got beer glasses, plus a free round... now back to our regularly scheduled program). then after, we went to the local... and got much the same food we had at brit's. and i don't think it was on purpose (let's just say i had a hard cider, a bailey's, and a shot with jameson, peach schnapps and cranberry juice in the course of the evening so things were kinda blurrier than usual at times).
round one- know your chicken.
at brit's we got the kings wings, which i've had just recently (to quote their site... "a full pound of chicken wings tossed in our spicy and sweet sauce, with a ration of bleu cheese dressing ." they were not much better than before, i'd give them an average grade on this. since it was happy hour, they were $4.95
the local had 'chicken shots.' which is a much more amusing name, though i am not at all sure what it's given that moniker. they're in a tangy whisky glaze. and they were really, really good. $8.99 for that lot. they're $5.99 during happy hour.
winner- the local.
round two- you dip.
brit's version of the very popular artichoke dip is an artichoke and spinach version. it has "four cheeses, artichoke hearts, fresh spinach and tomatoes....served with toasted baguette slices," also $4.95. it was good, though the artichokes were quartered, and it was kind of hard to eat. they had plenty of toast (well, almost toast, it could've used another minute to be complete toast). like most of their food, average.
the baked artichoke dip at the local had cheddar and parmesan, chopped artichokes, roasted peppers and roasted garlic, and it's served with some flatbread. and is $9.99. there was a disagreement on this version. i thought it was way better than the brit's version, easier to eat with the chopped artichokes, tastier with the roasted garlic, and the flatbread was kickass even naked (it was an extra $.99 for more, they didn't have enough). however, some people thought that version was a bit oily/greasy. it needed stirring.
winner- the local.
at brit's it was an average calamari in tempura batter with mary rose sauce (again $4.95). at the local, below average fries (don't know the cost, they are not on the menu)
winner- it's not a round, and hell, it'd be a draw anyway.
round three- where are we anyway?
(a..k.a. the setting) brit's on the rooftop above the lawn bowling, with plenty of shade, and not overly busy. comfortable furniture. nice. quietish. good for happy hour. the local's loud, crowded nicollet mall seating area (it was dark, so shade didn't matter). metal furniture that was not quite comfortable. i enjoyed it way less.
round four- brk bonus round!
(a.k.a. the service) brit's was on the side of good. no gaffes, food brought at a resonable time, etc. the local needed more servers, as the one doing our table of six and one that had maybe a dozen and a half people (and maybe more tables) was overwhelmed... food came before drinks (weird), there was a glass of water that was requested three times before it showed up a half an hour later, etc. bad, bad service.
does the better food at the local make up for the crap service and a bill that was twice as high? in my book, not so much. weighing the outcome, i'm going to pretty much call it a draw (and they average out to maybe a c for both). but i'd rather eat dinner with at the local than brit's. they may have good service on less crowded days, but brit's probably won't have better food.
6th- the egg and i, minneapolis (c)
again out to breakfast, but not my choice. invited out, didn't get to pick the place. (i'd hit french meadow in that area first.) i had the country omelet with cheddar, onions and american fries it in... it was hard to eat and oddly didn't taste so much of eggs. or cheese. just potatoes with a hint of onion. decent toast, the pancakes were ok. service was good. i'm having an average eating week, more or less.
12th- herkimer, minneapolis (c-)
after i sent back my inedible dry, overly charred tuscan chicken sandwich that kept falling apart (i sent it back because it tasted not like chicken, but like charcoal. ick.), i got the veggie burger, which was pretty ok. i thought it needed cheese, but applaud the veganness of it without it. the funny part- they must've microwaved it or something, as it had no hint of grill marks. wonder if they usually grill them. interesting. i'm not anti-grilled foods, i'm anti-badly grilled foods.
and no, nothing was offered off the bill for the crap food. not even a free dessert or something.
i upgraded to the sweet potato fries on mine. odd, the first batch were pretty good, better than anyplace else's so far, including the highland/longfellow/edina/etc. grill's, but the second batch with the second sandwich were better. they come with chipotle ketsup, but taste better (not surprisingly) with cheese or chipotle mayo. (we had tons of condiments laying about).
mrs. brk went with the crab cake sandwich. not chunks either, it was strings like i had last night. and it was also a bit on the overdone side, but her sandwich was edible. she got the regular fries with it, and they were... regular.
we split the 'cubans,' long homemade pretzels with cheese sauce (note- cheese with an s, not a z) and some sort of spicy mustard. good, but they seemed a bit spendy- almost the cost of a sandwich here.
the noise sitch hasn't improved much but the non-smoking ordinance made things easier to take by far. service was ok, with a few minor weird things (if you take my first plate away with silverware, more silverware would be handy when you bring another), but getting menu opinons out of the server was difficult, as everything was 'good.' right, everything's good, but what's the best stuff? i suppose it's better than being eeyore about it (see last night, also).
so if we balance the inedible sandwich against everything else, it works out to be c-.
13th- toast wine bar and cafe, minneapolis (b)
toast is the place that's written up as having no fryer or grill, so the menu is on the smaller side. there's soups, antipasti, a few sandwiches. it's run by one of the founders of auriga, and while the food doesn't reach auriga's lofty heights, it's still very good. it's a funky space, with dark walls, light wood, and abstract art. our musical soundtrack was spanish jazz (a bit loud, but hey).
the kitchen turns out a very reasonably priced list of food (mostly, you guessed it, things toasted) and has a nice reasonably priced wine list. i split a bottle of prosecco, some crostini, a pizza, and a cheese plate with someone and the pre-tax price was about $25 per person.
the crostini were a ricotta and smoked salmon one, which was pretty good, but needed a bit of oomph, like dill in the ricotta or something and a black olive and italian tuna (the kind that comes in olive oil) which was quite nice, and probably easy to replicate at home- basically chopped olives under the tuna. nice flavors, but a bit of zing wouldn't have hurt. their crostini menu places each piece at $1.50, so you can be thrifty and get one, or go for an all crostini dinner with the dozen or so versions.
the pizza was kind of like that, too. we had their mushroom, leek, onion, and white truffle oil version. it's large and pretty substantial, even if it is a thin crust. there were lots of mushrooms involved- in a sort of duxelle paste where you'd see the tomato, as pieces in a layer above that. as such, the flavor was largely mushroom. it would've been a better flavor mix had the other ingredients (especially the white truffle oil) were a bit more prominent, but as it was it wasn't bad. this one was $9, all of the pizzas on the menu were similarly priced.
they have cheeses on their main menu (you can get one for $3, three for $8, four for $11, or five for $14- there are only five, but for some reason they don't list two, so that would be $6), but we opted for the dessert cheese plate, which gives you three cheese selections, fruit (in our case apples drizzled with carmel), some almonds and pistachios, a dash of balsamic, a violet-seed mustard, and not enough toast for us (ironic, no? we asked for more, and received it... i don't think it was an extra charge. i really need to start remembering to always grab the itemized bill, that would make this easier...).
you can either get the cheeses they pick, or you can pick three, if you have some you wish to try. we got a grafton reserve cheddar, a bleu cheese made on a farm in ramsey county, and a goat cheese, too. there were substantial amounts of cheese on the plate, and at $6.50, a steal of a price. i wonder what farm the bleu cheese was from, as it was very tasty. not that the rest weren't, but that one was the best of them. mmm, cheese. and yes, in case you didn't catch it, all three courses featured cheese. did you expect less from me?
you can choose to sit in the more social front area, get some sun at the outside tables, or the side area if you want a bit more 'me time.' the restroom seems unfinished (someplace better for towels and a coat/purse hook come to mind), but small quibbles. i'd say it's a good place for a wine-based happy hour or a light dinner, it's affordable, they have good quality ingredients, and good service (yep, no complaints at all on that front, how odd). i think if they tweaked things slightly, they'd get a solid a in my mind. and i think they'll get there.
15th- tejas, edina (c)
so no more chicken for a while, it may not be safe for me to get any when i am out. between the herikmer and here, i'm doomed to dry, overcooked, non-chicken tasting chicken.
here it came in the form of their popular chicken and wild rice burrito. mrs. brk had ordered it the last time she went here, and said just by looking at it the chicken was dry. and the plate didn't have enough mango-habenero sauce to save it, we asked for more. it helped, as did the blue cheese left over from mrs. brk's dinner. the slaw with it, an apple and fennel, was limp.
as were the fries that came with mrs. brk's burger. apparently they always are. don't order them. get the burger (reportedly very good and done spot on), but with... um... a side salad? chips? the chips were good, as was the tableside guac, per usual.
service was professional, which is more than i usually get, n'est pas?
19th- woolley's, bloomington (b-)
well, not great for a restaurant, but not bad for a hotel restaurant... in this case, one of the bloomington embassy suites. the location in the middle of the hotel could be a lot worse, they've got some nice, though a bit odd, landscaping in the middle, with water running through and a lot of live plants and such. menu prices for a hotel restaurant were very reasonable. however, the background noise sounds like a player piano, that's distracting when it goes for long periods of time. almost grating. make it stop!
mrs. brk went with a steak, as it's more of a steak place than anything- the smallest prime rib (you can order three or so sizes). it was a bit undercooked for what she ordered. i went with panko-encrusted walleye, and it was a bit topping heavy. we both went with baked potatoes off the starch menu, and each meal came with a side of veg. all the food was way underseaoned-everything needed a bit more of the basic salt and pepper, to start, and maybe more.
well, the bread wasn't underseasoned. not great, but not underseasoned. they do bake it on premise, so it is nice and hot when it gets to the table. it wasn't great, but it wasn't bad.
after we mentioned to the manager that the veg was underdone (especially the mostly raw onion), we opted to not get more, but we got more anyway. service was trying too hard in a good way, which makes a refreshing change, as strange as that may sound. people checked in a lot. i've had a lot worse in hotels.... and in restaurants, for that matter, both food and service.
we had a two for one coupon, plus we get 1000 open table points, so for what we paid and what we get out of it, it was worth going to try. not sure we'd rush back or anything. i do get the feeling that they're trying, which is always good.
27th- 20.21, minneapolis (a-)
when the place first got to town, i was skeptical. i though wolfgang was overextended and maybe a bit played out. jean-georges had disappointed me, why wouldn't wolfie? it seemed the same scenario... boy opens restaurant, boy gets famous, cheats on his original restaurant, and soon there's baby portabello pizzas running about everywhere...
but not wolf, still, i am glad to say. in fact i wanted to come back to the lovely food for the fab deal, the three course happy hour bar menu for $20.21, sooner than i ended up getting here. (though this time i had a spot of time and a museum pass- check them out at your library, kids, so i got into the walker for free and hit the picasso exhibit and had time for the rest of the collection on show... the indoor art, that is... i'd recommend it). and yes, they still have it on fridays. in fact, the restaurant seemed more busy than when we were last here, but the bar was a bit less packed.
we both got drinks (and i can hear the comments now... yes, that makes three times in one month for those of you keeping track out there.... i'm such a sot...) the passion fruit bellini was nice and tart, but the passion paradise i had (vodka, i think, passion fruit and sprite) was a lot more girly. it paired surprisingly well with the chinese chicken salad that i had, which shone a bit more than last time with a lack of dressing... strange but true. not sure there was any on it. not so sure how the bellini went with the short ribs with pickled veg and ginger. that one was plated completely differently than the last time people ordered it... points for freshening the presentation.
the main courses were split. the lovely curry of last time was off the menu, this time it was salmon on a bed of mushrooms and some sort of green in a light soy-based sauce paired with jasmine rice and the crispy quail with a pineapple-black pepper sauce, spicy greens and arugula-pea tendril salad (the last one was still on their web site, can you guess?). the salmon was a bit overcooked for my preference, and each ingredient was ok on it's own, but it was a knocked out of the park homer if you got a forkfull of everything. someone was paying attention when they put that recipe together. with the tiny bones in it, the quail's hard to eat gracefully, and though quite good and well put-together, it wasn't the stunner of a meal the salmon was. the quail, at the bartender's suggestion, was paired with a white wine, grüner veltliner, which worked. who knew?
dessert was a molten chocolate cake in a berry sauce that was not all leaden as they can get, but very light, almost spongy. i went with the lemon tart with lots of lovely lemon curd in it and some fresh blueberries in a different berry sauce. and while still good, it can't top the artistic pyrimid of dessert happiness that was the lemon option last time. we also wanted to retry the limoncello dessert drink ordered last time and ended up with something close, but a bit sweeter. this time the limoncello and sparkling wine had muddled mint and some ginger-infused syrup. so it was better, i thought, girl-drink drunk that i am.
so yeah, i'd like to come back here again soon. so far it's been a place with great food, and very good service (with a bartender who really knows their stuff). which maybe only happens to me at the restaurant part of vincent besides here.
29th- whitney bistro/onyx bar, bloomington (b-)
so there's the marble room with a waterfall, all full of windows letting in sun. very upscale, even the restrooms. though the place is in a hotel called the country inn and suites, the decor is so not that. there's the onyx bar, which has no onyx in it. the menu is a collection of sandwiches and more bistro fare on one side, and upscale dishes on the other. it appears to be a locally owned and operated restaurant (it's a tco member), but in a national hotel chain. the employees in the place are very not 'country inn and suites' in a good way.
so yeah, there's some identity crisis going on here.
it's a weird space to be in, especially when it's almost empty, as it was when mrs. brk went. we each had a sandwich, not out of line with pricing in most bistros. her turkey and avocado blt (more or less) was a lot better than my grilled chicken, which was competent but boring. the fries with both were crispy and hot, but didn't have much potato taste. service was good (partially due to the lack of people in the place, but still...).
i was a bit ooked out with the salt and pepper arrangement. they kosher salt and pepper in small dishes on each table, with a spoon next to them, and i am not sure if they change it between people or not, but there's a bit too much sneezing and bug opportunity there.
31st- eden avenue grill, edina (c-)
same thing only different once more... i had the chicken taco salad, only this time it was sad. a very odd mix of salad mix (not just romaine, but also red leaf lettuce and a few more kinds), a chicken breast in strips, a sad amount of tomatoes, three black olive slices (i asked for more), a bit of cheddar, and a few taco chips. salsa, sour cream, and guacamole on the side. very not worth it and kind of flavorless. a mess of a salad.
mrs. brk enjoyed her chicken chow mein, very old school, though it lacked some cashews and crunch. it came with tons of rice. we split a slice of pecan pie, served too cold, but the slice was ok. service was still rushed, and the place still packed and loud. i can see why we haven't made it back here sooner. prices are a bit high, too.
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