Wednesday, August 28, 2013

State Fair 2013

It has been a busy, busy summer and this week is no exception. As a result, this post will be a bit abbreviated. We only had time for a short visit to the fair on a weekday this year and of course, I picked the absolute hottest day of the year on Tuesday afternoon/evening. Let's just say I won't be going on a super hot day again if I can help it. At least they had misters all around the grounds to help everyone cool off a bit.

Overall, we had a good visit. One nice thing about going on a hot day is that there were no lines for anything at all. The people watching was still excellent though. I saw a couple odd contraptions for hauling children around the fair, one was a homemade covered wagon being pulled by a couple guys. I should have taken a picture of it. It was strange.

 I started off with a pronto pup. Traditional fare to start for me. 
A walleye cake from Giggles Campfire Grill. The sauce with the cakes has a nice spicy bite, though I don't much care for the wild rice in the walleye cakes as it gets hard and crunchy.
For some reason I just had to try the deep fried olives on a stick, new at the fair this year. They are stuffed with cream cheese and breaded. The cream cheese in the olives was rather undetectable and not very flavorful. The breading was a bit thick for my liking and the ranch sauce was super watery. It added very little. I don't think I would order this item again.
In search of some refreshment, I tried a wine flight at the Minnesota Wine Country building. The first one was probably the best of the three, though I am not really impressed by Minnesota wines.
Fresh french fries- a standard item for John. Very crisp, fresh and good as always. John also had a turkey sandwich from turkey to go that was gone before I could get a photo of it. He said it was awesome as always.
We stopped by the Minnesota Brewers Association hall again this year as we liked it so much last year.  John had the hoppy flight on the left and I went with the lighter flight on the right. The lineups change daily.
I tried the dough-sant from French Meadow. It was very light and fluffy, though the powdered sugar is very messy. It was hot and fresh and really good.
I picked up some macaroons from the Salty Tart to snack on the next day. I am pleased to report they are great as always. I love to get salt water taffy to snack on after the fair as well. 

There are a bunch of things we forgot to try. The Minne-apple pie for starters. I would have also liked to try some items form the new Mancini's booth. Wish we had time to go back! But we ran out of time and energy. The hot weather really tired me out and made me lose my appetite. I hope all of you have better weather for the fair than we did! 

Deals & Discounts: I recommend buying your fair admission tickets in advance at Cub Foods and other local outlets. This year we saved $3 per ticket by buying admission tickets ahead of time. I also bought the Blue Ribbon Bargain book for $4 at Cub; it costs $5 if you buy it at the fair.

Last year's State Fair post is here:

Minnesota State Fair
Located at 1265 North Snelling Ave. N. in St. Paul, MN
2013 dates: August 22 - September 2

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Outtakes Bar and Grill - at the New Hope Cinema Grill

This summer a few new restaurants have opened in our neck of the woods, but the best of the bunch has to be Outtakes Bar and Grill. It is next door to the New Hope Cinema Grill and has the same owners. The Cinema Grill has always had better than average food anyway, so I was hoping Outtakes would be just as good and it was.

I has the BBQ flatbread that has BBQ sauce, cheese, chicken, bacon and onions on it. I really liked the thin, crisp crust. The BBQ sauce had a nice flavor, if a bit on the sweet side. The portion was filling and generous and I took some home to eat the next day.

John had the buffalo chicken sandwich with waffle fries. He liked the sandwich a lot. The chicken was grilled and had buffalo sauce, tomato and lettuce on a lightly toasted bun. The portion of waffle fries was large. I believe all sandwiches come with chips and you can upgrade to waffle fries for an extra charge of $1.99. Even after adding the waffle fries, the prices are in line with similar sports bars in the area for similar food quality.

Both were solid choices and we will certainly return again soon. The location is close to home and very convenient. It’s always nice to have a go-to place that you don’t have to drive very far to get to. The service was quite good as well. I found it slightly amusing that the servers take down your order on a cell phone. At first, I thought the server was texting at our table while taking our order. After watching  her do the same at other tables I realized that is part of the ordering system apparently.  The space has been newly remodeled and is rather sleek and modern looking. We are definitely looking forward to returning often.

Deals and Discounts: Outtakes has a daily happy hour from 3-6pm and a late night happy hour from 9-midnight. They currently offer deals on both food and drink as well as a daily food special. More details are available on their website:

Outtakes Bar and Grill
2749 Winnetka Ave N
New Hope, MN 55427
(763) 417-0017

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ike's Minnetonka brunch

We visited Ike’s on our way out of town a couple weekends ago and it was so good I wanted to share. Usually, we get the family style brunch, but this time we both felt like trying something different.

Of course, we started with the gigantic cinnamon roll anyway, which we though only came with the family style brunch. I forgot to snap a photo of it, but it as big as your head and full of caramel and cinnamon goodness.

John had the sausage and egg flatbread, which did not sound good to me at first, but once I tasted it I loved it. The extra crispy pieces of hash browns sprinkled on top were the best part to me. John liked the flavor of the breakfast sausage. Apparently the sausage is bacon infused. Extra porky I guess for an extra awesome flavor!

I had the Ike’s breakfast sandwich which was quite good as well. It had bacon, avocado, fried eggs and tomato aioli on Texas toast. I don’t recall the tomato aioli adding a lot of flavor, but the avocado was great since avocado makes all sandwiches better. It also came with a side of hash browns. It was a good sandwich but the toast was really thick and made the sandwich overly bready. It would be better with regular bread I think. It was a very large portion and I was unable to finish all of it.

The restaurant was not busy at all on a Saturday morning and we were seated right away. The service was quite good as well.

Here is a link to our last visit to Ike’s Minnetonka:

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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Milton's Vino, Vittles and Beer

Oh Milton’s….how I really, really wanted to love this place, but I can’t. It is conveniently located quite close to home in Crystal. The location is in a boring old strip mall, but they have done a nice job with the interior and made it look cute in a shabby chic kind of way. It is a small place, only 12-14 tables or so plus a small bar area. And it is not a chain, which is tough to come by in the suburbs. The tap beer list was short, but interesting. They have a larger selection of bottled beer as well as a selection of wine available. Sounds good so far, right? Unfortunately, our food was the lowlight of our visit.

John had the ribeye sandwich and it was not good at all. The meat did not resemble steak at all, unless you consider Steak Umms to be real meat. It tasted like processed meat and was very dry and salty and certainly not worth the $10.95 they charged for it. The French fries were nothing special either, just your standard frozen French fries.

I had the pork rib nachos which sounded great, but tasted overwhelmingly like salt. The dish certainly looked attractive with sliced avocado, tomatoes and a special spicy sauce drizzled on top . The salted commercial chips and salty pork rib meat made it too much to handle. Maybe if the chips been free of salt and homemade this dish would have been good, but it was not.

I’m not sure if we will give Milton’s another try or not. Maybe in a couple months we should go back and see if things have changed at all. Maybe we ordered the wrong items and need to give it another chance. The menu seems a bit short and limited right now. Hopefully they are still working on refining it. Unfortunately, the food is just tastes like overpriced and dressed up items right off the Sysco truck. I had been hoping for so much more.

Milton’s Vittles, Vino, Beer
3545 Douglas Drive
Crystal, MN 55422
(763) 535-9373

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bloomy's Roast Beef

I visited the Bloomy’s food truck last week as I had a Groupon deal I’d bought awhile back to use. This time I thought I’d stray from my usual roast beef sandwich selection and try their roast beef commercial with mashed potatoes and corn for $9.

The mashed potatoes were very good and tasted homemade. The roast beef was tender, with great flavor and some of it was cooked medium rare, which I liked a lot. There was a piece of bread under the meat and the bread was toasted, which made it very difficult to cut with a plastic fork and knife. I did not think the bread needed to be toasted. The corn was ok. It was a bit soft and overcooked. There was a good amount of gravy over everything and it had a lot of minced garlic visible in it. I think they probably used too much garlic in the gravy as it had a very unusual sour flavor. I did not care for the gravy and tried to avoid eating it as much as I could. Unless they change the gravy I don't think I'll be ordering this item again.

The service at the Bloomy’s truck is always very quick and friendly with a manageable line that moves very quickly. But I think next time I will stick with the roast beef sandwiches, which I liked a whole lot better.

Here's a link to my last blog post abut Bloomy's:

Bloomy's Roast Beef
Twitter: @BloomysRB

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Park Tavern

We visited Park Tavern shortly after John’s birthday because he received an email coupon from their birthday club for a free large three topping pizza. This is one of the better birthday deals we have discovered from a non-chain restaurant in this area, so I wanted to share our experience with everyone.

We ordered a pepperoni, sausage and mushroom pizza, along with a beer each. We have had the pizza here before and I am always pleasantly surprised at how delicious it is. The Park Tavern has such a large menu, I think the pizza is an overlooked hidden gem. The crust is thin, but quite crispy and there are a generous amount of toppings on the pizza, but not so many that the crust gets soggy. The pizza sauce is pretty average, as is the cheese. The sausage and pepperoni are really flavorful though.

As always, the service at the Park Tavern was great. The servers are always quick to refill your drinks and check back as needed.

If you are interested in joining the Park Tavern e-club, visit their website for more information. The sign up button is in the main header of the home page. They send emails with coupons monthly and a few more on special events, but it is a manageable number of emails, in my opinion.

Park Tavern
3401 Louisiana Ave S
St Louis Park, MN 55426
(952) 929-6810

Monday, August 5, 2013

JL Beers - Grand Forks, ND

We have visited JL Beers twice this summer so far on separate trips to Grand Forks. We were in Grand Forks both times to visit family and friends, but we always try to throw in a fun dining experience or side trip. JL Beers is turning out to be the highlight of our trips to Grand Forks. It is a pretty small place that only serves beer, burgers, fries and chips. The beer selection is enormous and ever changing. If you like to try new beer, this is the place for you.

On my first visit I had the BLT BLU burger, which is a blue cheeseburger with bacon, lettuce, tomato and blue cheese with their house made potato chips. Oh my goodness, these chips are great! They slice them right there behind the bar and toss them right into the fryer. The chips are very light and crispy and not at all greasy. You can add different seasoning salts to the chips as well, but I just went with sea salt since I had the R dip on the side. There are several chip dips to choose from as well. I tried the R dip, which is a house special dip. It was a sour cream based chip dip with a fair amount of spice to it. I am not sure what provided the spice in the dip though.

The burger was excellent; very juicy and just the right thickness. I’d estimate these are about ¼ pound burgers. The buns are very good as well; lightly toasted and soft, but strong enough to withstand the juices from the meat and cheese.

John had the Rajun Cajun burger on both of our visits. Apparently he liked it a lot. The Rajun Cajun topping are pepper jack cheese Cajun lime sauce, and grilled onions.

John and I both tried a beer flight on our second visit. It was a good way to try a selection of beers available on tap.

John's Cajun burger on our second visit.

On my second visit I tried the Columbia burger with a side of hand cut Cajun fries. The topping included bacon, cheese and barbeque sauce. The burger was very good, but I think from now on I will stick with ordering the potato chips as my side as I was not that crazy about the fries. I ordered my fries thin cut though, so maybe next time I should try thick cut fries instead. The chips are much more crave-able than the fries though. It is difficult to explain why I did not care for the fries, I guess the fries were tasty, but not as crispy as I would have liked I suppose.

I really enjoyed both of our visits to JL Beers and we will definitely return soon. The atmosphere is pretty basic, I get the feeling they are trying to recreate the feeling of an old school bar, with a long bar taking up one side of the interior and tables on the other side. It is a pretty small place with only 6-7 tables, though some hold as many as 6-8 people at a time. We did not encounter a wait on either of our visits. Also, as a side note, they do not allow children or any patrons under 21 in the restaurant, which is a bit unusual, so no kids menu. The other unusual item is that they do not serve tap water. You have to buy a bottle of water if you wish to add a glass of water to your meal. I don’t know what the reasoning behind the lack of tap water is about, it seemed silly and annoying to me.

The service was quite good on both of our visits. The first time we were seated at the bar and the second time we were at a table. Both times our server checked back on a regular basis to see if we needed anything. We found the prices to be quite affordable—most items are in the $3-5 range, though the burgers don’t include fries or chips you need to add them a la carte.

We also heard JL Beers is going to open in the Twin Cities area sometime next year, so we are looking forward to that as well. Hopefully it is on our side of town in the West Metro!

JL Beers
2531 S Columbia Rd,
Grand Forks, ND ‎
(701) 738-1000