Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Eat Shop Kitchen and Bar

I was very excited to hear about a new restaurant opening in the West Metro called Eat Shop Kitchen and Bar. It is NOT a chain! It is close to where we live! There are not enough exclamation points in the world to convey my excitement! You see, this is the kind of place we would usually have to drive downtown or across town to find. And it is only a few miles from our house, the prices are reasonable and the food is good. We ended up deciding to stop in at the last minute for happy hour while out running errands on a Friday evening.

John ordered the $5 happy hour burger. This is a really good deal! It was not a tiny burger either. It was a full sized, hand pattied cheese burger on an onion bun with lettuce, onion and tomato. It was very juicy and cooked to order.

Not everything is awesome in Eat Shop land. We were just not crazy about the hot fries. The seasoning was spicy and salty and there was just too much of it. Maybe if they went a bit lighter on the seasoning, the hot fries would be better. I did not care for the hollandaise dipping sauce either. It was all egg yolk and no citrus bite, quite bland. I liked the fries that came with John's burger a lot better.

I spotted the pretzels on the appetizer menu and just had to try them even though they were not a happy hour special. The pretzels were pretty good, though a bit on the dry side, but I did not care for the cheese dipping sauce. It tasted watery, not cheesy. I had asked for some mustard on the side and the pretzels were better in the mustard sauce by far. It was a spicy mustard though, so we used it sparingly.

We also ordered the happy hour steak tacos, $5. These were very good! The steak was tasty, and there was lots of fresh grated cheese, some pickled onions and guacamole underneath. The guacamole was great. Very freshly made. The taco shells were fresh and crisp.  This was very tasty and a great value.

We liked Eat Shop a lot and will be going back soon for a full dinner. Great food, great service, great ambiance. We sat in the bar on this visit and would do so again. They have a bunch of flat panel TVs for the sports fan in your life. So if you like good food and he likes sports, everyone will be happy! They have a full bar with a large wine list and lots of local beers on tap as well as national brands.

Deals & Discounts: Eat Shop had a very good happy hour with both food and drink specials. I'd suggest checking their website for the most up to date information, but right now they have food specials, most of which we sampled on this visit as well as $4 house wines and $3 select beers as well as $1 off all other tap beers.

Eat Shop Kitchen and Bar
16605 County Road 24 (Hwy 55)
Plymouth, MN 55447

Friday, November 23, 2012

Joe's Garage

We visited Joe's Garage awhile back during the fall Restaurant Week though Mpls/St Paul magazine for a Friday lunch. Yes, this post is rather overdue! Anyway, we were both looking forward to visiting as John had never eaten at Joe's before and I had not been back in a few years.

The Restaurant Week menu seemed to be choices off of their regular menu, but sized appropriately for a two course meal. John chose the fish tacos with pineapple salsa and cilantro for his first course. These were very good. The pineapple added a nice sweet flavor to the otherwise bland fish. Very flavorful.

John ordered the buttermilk fried chicken with with garlic mashed potatoes, garlic green beans and rosemary gravy. The chicken was boneless breaded chicken, so if you hate chicken on the bone, this is the meal for you. John said he was craving comfort food so he enjoyed this entree a lot. The garlic green beans were really tasty too. I tried a couple to make sure they were good!

My entree was the spicy Asian pork sliders with Asian slaw and peanut soy dressing. I really liked the sliders, the meat was very good, not at all greasy and very flavorful. I did not think they were very spicy either. The slaw added a nice crunch and the peanut say gave it a salty bite. Very nice. I saw they have this as a full size burger on the menu and I would definitely recommend that.

I had the bread pudding for dessert. I was so excited to try it that I forgot to take a photo of it. It was very good with bits of dark chocolate, pecans and craisins mixed into with the bread. It was tasty, but I wished I'd ordered the fish tacos too.

Overall, we had  a great lunch and look forward to returning again. The service was quick, which is nice at lunch. I think then location and parking difficulties keep us from thinking of Joe's Garage on a regular basis. It might be more convenient to those that live in the nearby area, though there is parking close by, it tends to fill up quickly. They also have a very large and well known patio that has great views of the basilica and downtown. It is certainly worth the trip in the warmer months.

Deals & Discounts: We visited during Restaurant Week, which is a promotion through Mpls/St Paul Magazine for price fixe menus at different places around town. We paid $10 for a two course lunch in this case. I believe Joe's also has a good happy hour with food and drink specials. The web site currently lists 25% off tap beers, house wines, rail drinks and selected appetizers 4-6pm Monday – Friday. But you may want to call before going to verify the current specials.

Joe's Garage
1610 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 904-1163

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rudolph's BBQ

We stopped in at Rudolph's on a night we did not feel like cooking. Those happen a lot at our house. Thank goodness for restaurants.

We've dined at Rudolph's quite a few times before because they have a coupon in the Entertainment book every year. The discount is a good amount, but for some reason the food is always sort of underwhelming. We've tried ribs at quite a few places around town and while Rudolph's is probably one of the nicest rib joints in town, it is also one of the most expensive. The ribs are ok, but they have never impressed me all that much. There are better ribs at other places around town at lower prices.

John ordered the St Louis style spare ribs with fries.The ribs were good really. Not dry and not fatty. I think the sauce is a bit underwhelming. The sauce is closer to ketchup than anything else in flavor and consistency. It just has a bit more of a brown sugar flavor to it than ketchup. I guess I like a BBQ sauce with a bit more spice and unusual flavors. The french fries are your standard frozen french fries, nothing special, but not bad either.

I had the herb grilled walleye with mashed potatoes, asparagus and lemon sauce. I was trying to order something a little lighter, but the lemon sauce tasted mostly of butter, so I don't think it was a lower calorie meal at all. The fish did not taste of herbs either, it just had a light breading on it that was getting soggy from all of the lemon butter sauce. The fish was cooked properly and tasted ok. The asparagus was ok, but somewhat overcooked and limp. The mashed potatoes were good, but the garlic flavor in them did not mesh well with the lemon butter sauce all around them.

The service was acceptable and our server was very efficient. We were seated next to a large table of ladies who were very loudly enjoying the happy hour though. So it was pretty loud in the bar area. The dining room tends to be a lot quieter. Maybe next time we need to request a table in the dining room instead.

Deals & Discounts: Rudolph's is always in the Entertainment book and is is always a hefty discount, for example in the current 2013 book the coupon is good for up to $20 off with the purchase of another entree of equal or lesser value. I suppose that is the main reason we keep returning here. They also have a very good happy hour from 4-7 pm Monday through Friday and 11-6 pm on Saturday and Sunday. They have discounts appetizers and $3 rails drinks and $2 off tap beer and wines.

Rudolph's BBQ
1933 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 871-8969

Monday, November 19, 2012

5-8 Club

It's another case of I thought I already did a post, but I guess not. I really thought I'd done a post on the 5-8 Club a long time ago. We visit the Champlin location occasionally as it is not all that far from where we live and it is a good place for a quick casual meal.

John ordered the garlic burger and jojo fries. The jojo's are basically potato wedges and are pretty tasty. John said the garlic burger was good, but it did not have very much garlic flavor really. The coleslaw is very good, seems to be freshly made and very creamy. Good coleslaw is harder to find than you would think!

I ordered a cheeseburger with onion rings on it. I can not recall what it is called on the menu and the website is down so I can't double check. Anyway, it was a decent burger and I would order it again.

The juicy lucy is a specialty at the 5-8 club. It is one of the places in the Twin Cities that claims to be the creator of the famous cheese stuffed burger. I have tried the juicy lucy here before and liked it a lot, but I do not have any photos of previous visits unfortunately.

The service was friendly and efficient. We sat in the bar on this visit and they have a bunch of TVs so it would be a good place to go and watch a football game on TV or other sporting event.

Deals & Discounts: The 5-8 always has a coupon in the Entertainment book. In the current 2012-2013 book there are a couple coupons for a 1/2 price hamburger basket or $3.25 off any item with the purchase of another item. Not the best discount, but better than nothing I guess.

5-8 Club
6251 Douglas Court North
Champlin, MN 55316
(763) 425-5858

plus 2 other locations in Minneapolis and Maplewood:
5800 Cedar Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55417
(612) 823-5858

2289 Minnehaha Ave E
Maplewood, MN 55119
(651) 735-5858

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sonora Grill

We visited Sonora Grill for a late Sunday lunch a couple Saturdays ago. It is a relatively new stall at the Midtown Global Market and we had seen it featured on a couple of food shows on TV. So we had pretty high expectations. First of all, we were a bit disappointed when we arrived and and found out they were sold out of the Sonora dog, the bacon wrapped hot dog. How do you run out of bacon and hot dogs? We we looked at the menu a bit, walked around the rest of the market and ended up coming back and ordering other menu items instead.

We each ordered the shrimp caramelos, and they were described on the menu as red tempura, cilantro and cabbage sonora style tacos. The tacos were quite tasty, and had just a tiny bit of spice. The red color made me think they looked like they would be quite hot and spicy, but I guess that was just an illusion. The shrimp were cooked well and this was a tasty taco. I think I liked this taco more than John did though.
We both ordered the beef skirt steak caramelos that had chihuahua cheese, sauteed onions, cilantro and salsa verde. We both thought these were good tacos with lots of steak and onion inside. The cabbage added  a nice crunch too.
I also got a side of the eggplant fries with chimichurri aoili. The eggplant fries were quite tasty, but they were also quite greasy. They really soaked up the oil they were cooked in. We ate about half of the eggplant fries and had enough of them. The dipping sauce that came with the fries was quite good and it gave some good flavor and spice to what is otherwise a very bland vegetable. The breading on the eggplant fries did not do much to give them more flavor either. I wanted to keep my arteries free for tastier greasy goodness.

Unfortunately, while eating my steak taco I bit into a piece of wood inside the taco. I should have taken a photo of it, but I forgot. (Major error on my part, I know.) I put it on a napkin and took it up to the counter and told them this was in my taco and I thought they should know about it. The employees did not seem very concerned. They said the steak is cooked on skewers, so that is where it came from probably. I told them I thought they would want to know about it because it ruined my meal for me. They did not offer any apologies or anything at all. I was very disappointed in how they handled the situation and would have at least liked a sincere apology. Their apathy led me to feel that they did not care if I returned again or not, which is too bad. So, to say the least, the service was not exactly great.

Sonora Grill
920 East Lake Street
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 871-1900

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ike's - Minnetonka

I have been anxiously and excitedly awaiting the opening of Ike's in Minnetonka all summer. Ike's in the West metro? With no downtown parking hassles? Yay! The construction and opening was delayed a few times, but they finally opened for business in mid-September. We waited awhile after it opened to visit because I hate it when a place is busy at first just because it is new. I like to wait until the food and service get into a groove and are up to par.

We arrived fairly early hoping to get in right away, but it was pretty packed at about 6pm. This location has a very nice patio with heaters and quite a few tables. The interior is a bit smaller than I was expecting, but it is still larger than the downtown location. The greeter said it would be a 45 minute wait, but we only waited about 20 minutes. Oddly enough, the entire time we were there, even after we were seated there appeared to be a wait for a table, but at all times there were at least 3-4 tables open in the dining room. I understand the concept of staggered seating, but creating a wait when there are tables available seemed strange to me.

This is the top shelf margarita. It is served a bit differently than at the other location, but it was excellent. Just what the doctor called for on a Friday night after a busy week at work!
The menu at this location is slightly expanded compared to the downtown location, so there were some new menu items that looked interesting. However, I think we both saw the prime rib on the menu and were unable to look beyond it at anything else. As you can see by the photos, we both made a good choice. The prime rib is hickory smoked and you could actually taste the smoky flavor. Wow. It was perfect. It was also cooked perfectly. The smoked flavor made it just a bit more interesting than prime rib I've had elsewhere. John ordered fries as his side.Hand cut fries, just like they have at the downtown location.
I ordered the garlic mashed potatoes as my side. They had a good garlic flavor, but they were just a bit dry. The horseradish sauce on the side of the prime rib was excellent as well, added a bit of spice, which was delicious.

Overall, the service was good and we were not kept waiting for anything. Our server seemed somewhat distracted and was always looking around at other tables even while he was talking to us, which bothered me a bit. Other than that, we had a great visit and we look forward to visiting Ike's in Minnetonka often.

Deals & Discounts: I am not aware of any coupons or Groupons for Ike's. However, the downtown location has a very good happy hour and I would expect the Minnetonka location would have a similar happy hour as well. I am not finding any information regarding happy hour on their website, so I will have to check on this on my next visit or maybe give them a call to confirm.

17805 Highway 7
Minnetonka, MN 55345
Phone: (952) 681-7099

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pizzeria Lola

We stopped in at Pizzeria Lola late on a Sunday afternoon while out running errands. I've been hearing for awhile that the pizza was great in the media and from friends, so I was looking forward to checking it out. We were not disappointed.

We were seated quickly and ordered right away. The menu had a lot of options that looked very interesting. We ordered the My Sha-roni! pizza that has red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni and sausage. The pizza came out after just a short wait. The crust was great, rather light, but it was sturdy enough to hold all of the toppings. The pizza is wood fired so it had a bit of that flavor too. Love that! The red sauce was good with a very fresh tomato flavor and I loved the house made sausage. It was not too spicy, but very flavorful. Even the pepperoni were good. I love it when pepperoni is sliced thin so it gets just a bit crispy. They have a small bar with several beers on tap and wine is also available, though it looked like the bar was mainly for overflow seating.

We had a great visit to Pizzeria Lola. The food and service were both excellent. I wish they had more locations, because it is great and I can't wait to go back soon.

Pizzeria Lola
5557 Xerxes Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55410

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fayze's - LaCrosse, WI - Trip Report

We visited LaCrosse, Wisconsin, with our friends Megan and Jason back in September for a short weekend getaway for Oktoberfest 2012. So this report is way overdue. We all used to go every year, but due to other obligations we've had to take a year off here and there. This year we arrived Thursday night after work and attended the Tapping of the Golden Keg on Friday morning at 11 am. Later that evening we decided to visit Fayze's to refuel. We've been here quite a few times before and it is always pretty decent food. And great Bloody Mary's according to everyone else in my party. I'm not into Bloody Mary's, except for the olives. I'll eat your olives if you need me to!

I had the fire grilled prime rib dipped in garlic butter. The dipping sounded better than it tasted. I should not have ordered it dipped. It was very overdone and chewy. Maybe it would have been overdone either way, but this may have made it worse. The baked potato was good at least. They have great dinner rolls in the bread basket too. And all dinners come with a small side salad to start. You really do get quite a bit of food for the money.
Megan had a steak, the sirloin I beleive. She said it was really good and cooked as ordered.
Both John and Jason had the Friday fish fry special with cod. They both said the fish was really good, very light and flaky. The fries were ok, just your typical frozen french fries.
Cheap ketchup. Is it really that expensive to buy Heinz ketchup?
Oktoberfest song book and 2012 program of events.
They are tapping the Golden Keg on stage. Lots of people in attendance this year!

We had a good time in LaCrosse and everyone except me had a good dinner at Fayze's. I'm sure we will return again on our next trip. Even though the food is a bit hit or miss, there are not many other choices in the downtown area anyway.

135 4th Street South  
La Crosse, WI 54601
(608) 784-9548

Monday, November 5, 2012

Zen Box

Zex Box is a very popular, very tiny Japanese outlet located in the skyway system. I think they maybe have 4 or 5 tables inside the restaurant, which is not really an issue because most people take it to go.

They offer a variety of combo plates and rice bowls. My favorite menu item is the gyoza
(chicken dumplings). They come with any bento set or combo meal you order and they also have a combo that is all gyoza. On my most recent visit, I ordered the Bento #2 Chicken Kara-age that comes with chicken, gyoza and a small cabbage salad and ginger dressing. The ginger dressing is really good too, it makes a good palate cleanser at the end of the meal. The gyoza are always really good because they are just a bit crispy and they pour a bit of soy sauce over the top as well. The chicken dumplings are boneless and have a slightly crispy skin and then they pour what they call kamikaze sauce over the chicken and the rice. The sauce is a bit spicy with some garlic flavor for that extra kick.

Zen Box is a nice change from the usual Asian offerings in the skyway and it is very popular, so go early or be prepared to wait in a bit of a line.

Deals & Discounts: There are no coupon deals that I have been able to find, though they do offer a frequent diner card. After 10 punches you get a free bento set.

Zen Box
601 Marquette Avenue South #204
(Six Quebec building, skyway level)
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 341-3313