Thursday, October 31, 2013

The best birthday dining deals

In honor of my birthday today I thought I would do a short rundown of the best birthday dining deals available. Everyone has a birthday so everyone is eligible! I am not including free dessert deals as I don’t consider that to be a great value.

Free entrees unless otherwise noted:
Benihana - $30 credit – best deal out there in my opinion
Houlihan’s – up to $15 value
Don Pablos - $10 value
Noodles and Company
Tony Roma’s - $15.99 value
Park Tavern – free large 3 topping pizza
Red Robin – free burger
Perkin’s – free magnificent seven breakfast
Chevy’s Fresh Mex – free entree
Sunshine Factory  - buy one get one free
Lion’s Tap – free regular hamburger
Famous Dave’s – buy one entrée get one 50% off

I’ve listed the deals above in order from best deal to less desirable deal. I must admit, I consider anything free a pretty good deal, but some are certainly better than others!

Lunches downtown:
Which wich – free small sandwich
Au Bon Pain – free sandwich
Panera – free dessert
Starbucks – free drink – good for birthday month
Caribou Coffee – free drink – offer good only on your birthday

Retail deals:
Godiva - $10 off any purchase

The best way to sign up for the birthday clubs for any of the restaurants listed above is to visit their websites and join any birthday club or loyalty club offered. Then, just wait for your birthday to roll around and watch the deals come in!

Also, if you know of a great birthday deal I have missed, please mention it in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Capital Grille

We visited the Capital Grille due to a coupon I received in the mail from American Express for $50 off any purchase. We thought it sounded like a good value, and we have not tried Capital Grille before so we thought we would give it a try. We ended up visiting on a Sunday night as they were booked solid, I suppose to due to the fact that Wicked was playing down the street.

We arrived a few minutes early, but we were seated right away in a side room off of the main dining room. The atmosphere was very dark and clubby, with lots of dark wood and dark carpets. Our server stopped by right away to introduce himself and get us started with drinks. He also made some menu recommendations, which we found to be very helpful.

I started with a glass of prosecco and John had a Sapphire tonic. He said the drink tasted off. Not a lot of liquor either, lots of tonic.

I was not that hungry so we shared a Caesar salad. This may have been a bad idea. The salad was too white and yellow for my tastes, poor quality lettuce.  The dressing had good flavor though.

John had the porcini delmonico. It had a porcini mushroom crust and it was drizzled with 12 year aged balsamic. The steak was very good. Cooked perfectly. The porcini crust gave it a nice earthy taste.  John’s steak was cooked as requested too.  

We shared a side of roasted mushrooms, which were cooked perfectly and we had a nice variety of types in the mix.

I had the filet Oscar, which is a filet with crab meat and béarnaise sauce.    All of their steaks are dry aged and mine was very tender and cooked perfectly as I had requested.

Overall, I think we were happy with our food and the service, but not wowed by it. I think the steak was very good, the other items were just average. For an expensive steakhouse, wowing is in order. Every time.

Compared to other nice steakhouses we’ve been at in the Twin Cities, I would rate Capital Grill near the bottom though. I think Murray’s was better. You get the same service and good quality food at slightly lower prices. Manny’s was definitely better. Manny’s impresses all the way around. So I’m glad we got a deal on this experience, but I don’t think we will be going back.

Capital Grille
LaSalle Plaza
801 Hennepin Ave 
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 692-9000

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Velee Deli truck

I think this will likely be my last food truck post of the season. The trucks are wrapping things up for the year and most of the good ones are already off the streets. But a few remain, and one of them is the Vellee Deli truck.

I’ve visited the Vellee Deli truck before for burritos. The post is here if you'd like more information: 

But I don’t think I have remembered to take a photos of their very delicious quesadillas. They offer a couple types of quesadillas one vegetarian and one chicken. I tried the Dragon Melt quesadilla with chicken, shallots, cilantro, lime, queso cheese and baja sauce. It also comes with a side of sour cream. I added two kicks to it as well, which is their spicy sauce. Last time I got just one kick and it was not spicy at all. This time, I could certainly taste the kicker sauce! The exterior of the quesadilla was pleasantly crunchy and it has a lot of fillings inside. It is definitely enough to fill me up at lunch, but I tend to eat smaller portions at lunch time.

Vellee Deli
Twitter: @velleedeli

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lulu's Street Food

Food truck season is unfortunately wrapping up as the weather gets colder, but I have a couple short but lingering posts to share.

I visited the Lulu's truck again recently and liked it a lot more than last time. I had the shrimp tacos with tempura avocado and pico de gallo. The shrimp were small, but not over or under cooked and just a little bit spicy. The tempura coated avocado pieces added a nice bit of crunch to the tacos too. I liked the tortillas better this time too. They were thinner and better tasting than my last visit. I really enjoyed the shrimp tacos and would definitely order them again. The tempura avocado was an interesting twist on a standard taco.

Here's a quick link to my last visit:

LuLu's Street Food

Thursday, October 10, 2013


My friend Stephanie and I visited Firelake at the Mall of America recently since I wanted to do a bit of shopping at the MOA. It might have been a bad idea to visit the MOA on a Saturday as it was quite busy. However, Firelake was a bit of an oasis since it is just slightly detached from the mall. It is accessible via a skyway on the second floor of the mall, but as you get closer to the hotel the atmosphere changes a bit. It is a lot quieter and the Radisson Blu has a very modern design. It looked like a nice hotel and it’s about time they built a hotel that is attached to the mall. The design of the restaurant is very open and modern as well, but with some wood accents throughout.

We had a reservation and we were seated immediately. Our server stopped by right away and suggested a couple drinks. We needed a few minutes and it took some time before he stopped back again. About the time we were wondering where he went he came back to take our drink orders. It took awhile for our drinks to arrive and once they arrived we placed our orders. The food came out in a decent amount of time, but it took a long time for the server to check back with us. Later on, I wanted another glass of wine and the server was nowhere to be found until he came to take an order at another table. Once we were finished there was a long break between when the dessert was delivered and out bill was delivered. After our cards were ran we did not see the server again. It seemed like he should have been checking back with us more often and on the floor more.

Stephanie had the honey cured duroc pork chop. She substituted sweet potato spaetzl for the loaded fingerling potatoes, which had with blue cheese, scallions and crème fraiche on them.  The pork chop was good.  Stephanie said she did not recall tasting the apple-pecan flavor that should have been there from the smoking, but the bacon marmalade that was on it was very good and that may have masked the apple-pecan flavor. The fingerling potatoes were really great with the blue cheese and crème fraiche. Tons of flavor.

I had the rosemary rotisserie chicken entrée with cheddar mashed potatoes. The chicken was very juicy and tender and I liked the slight saltiness of the rotisserie rub. The mashed potatoes were good, but I did not detect a lot of cheese flavor in them. The portion was quite generous.

We had the dark chocolate truffle tart for dessert.  Dessert was good, but not too memorable. The chocolate flavor was good, and not overly sweet.

I think Firelake is a nice addition to the current dining options at the Mall of America. It seems a bit more upscale and relaxed than restaurants in the mall itself and the menu is quite extensive with some interesting choices. I think the menu has a wide enough variety, there is something to please almost anyone, which is important in a hotel setting I’m sure. The prices were on the higher side, but they had less expensive options like sandwiches, pizza and flatbreads as well.

2100 Killebrew Dr
Bloomington, MN 55425
Phone: (952) 881-5258

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Butcher and the Boar patio

We visited Butcher and the Boar after attending a Vikings game in Downtown Minneapolis a couple weekends ago. After the game we met up with a couple friends to catch up a bit and then decided to find somewhere to eat before heading back home.

The patio was pretty quiet when we arrived around 4pm and we just seated ourselves. The patio food menu is abbreviated compared to the dining room menu, but still had plenty to choose from. I should have taken a photo of the menu as I can’t find it online.

We started with the jalapeno corn dog. This was really great with a very crisp exterior and not at all greasy. We dipped it in regular ketchup. They had a spicy ketchup available as well, but with the jalapenos in the breading, it was too spicy.

John had the big brat with kraut and that is exactly what he got. It came on a griddled buttery bun.

I had the loaded foot long hot dog. I’m not even sure what was all on this hot dog, but it was great. From what I can recall there were jalapenos, fries onion straws, cilantro, sour cream, mustards and some assorted red peppers and onions. It ended up tasting like a very fun version of slaw on top of the hot dog. The bread was griddled and very rich and buttery flavored.

I enjoyed the Butcher and the Boar patio a lot. The food choices were affordable; I think we spent around $33.00 before tip and that included a couple of beers too. I should note that the patio opens at 3pm daily and the inside restaurant does not open until 5pm daily.

Here is the link to our visit last winter:

The Butcher and the Boar
1121 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 238-8888

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pat's Tap

We’ve been meaning to get to Pat’s Tap for forever and a day and we finally made it for an early dinner on a Friday night recently. I guess I’m not destined to review new restaurants as Pat’s has been open for a couple of years now.

It was quite busy when we arrived, but they had some open tables indoors, so we were seated promptly. There was a wait for patio tables. Our server stopped by right away and went over the menu with us. She was very helpful throughout the meal and stopped back often.

We started with the fried green beans with ginger orange sauce. Deep frying fresh green beans is probably some sort of crime against vegetables, but these were tasty with a light breading and not at all greasy. The sauce was reminiscent of sweet and sour sauce and worked great with the fried beans. This is state fair style food at its best!

I had the bacon burger with crumbled bacon in the burger and Swiss cheese and fried onions on top. I ordered chips, but received fries. The waitress realized the error and apologized and asked if I still wanted chips and only charged us for the chips. The fries were great, so it was an error in my favor for sure. The hand cut fries were thin and crisp, just the way I like them.

John had the big cheese burger with cheddar, tomato and garlic dill pickles with French fries. The cheese on this was crisped on the griddle and really, really fabulous. It has a slight crunch when you bit into it. So good. I could have just eaten a piece of that cheese plain I think. Both of our burgers were really good, with perfectly toasted buns built for containment of such hefty burgers.

The menu had a nice variety, with healthier options and vegetarian choices as well. I’d like to go back and try more of the appetizer selections sometime soon! The unhealthy options always looks so appetizing to me. The beer selection was good, with many local selections on the extensive list. 

Deals & Discounts: There is an early happy hour from 3-6pm Monday through Friday and a late happy hour from 10-close on Sunday through Thursday. The drink specials currently feature $2 off rail cocktails, house wine and  selected tap beers. The food specials offer 5 selections for $5 each. I would imagine the offering may change, so I would visit the website for the most up to date details.

Pat’s Tap
3510 Nicollet Ave  
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 822-8216

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Band Box Diner

A few of us from work decided to take a field trip last week and try someplace new for lunch. We walked over to the Band Box diner for lunch. It was worth the walk! It was about 6-7 blocks form our office.

The diner is pretty small. Not quite as small as say, Al’s Breakfast, but it only has a counter with half a dozen seats and maybe six tables. The server was good, very efficient. We were in and out in a pretty short amount of time really. It was pretty empty when we arrived and a bit fuller by the time we left around 12:30pm or so.

Jenny had an omelet with ham and cheese. She said it was good, but did not seem that enthused by it. It looked better than some omelets I’ve had recently though.

I had the bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions. I thought the burger was great. The bun was very light and fluffy, but sturdy enough to contain the burger’s goodness. The buns are from Franklin Street Bakery I guess. The meat is black angus beef and it had good flavor. The bacon was perfect. Crispy, etc. The fries were probably my favorite part. Hand cut and just the right thickness. Though I like thin, crispy fries a lot.

Travis  had a burger with something called bro sauce, which was some sort of BBQ sauce. He thought Burger Place burgers (a skyway joint) are just as good, and I had to disagree. He did agree that the fries are good though.

I think the Band Box Diner’s burgers are great and far better than any skyway burger places. Though, this is not on the skyway, nor all that close, it is definitely worth the trip if you have the time or inclination of go off the beaten path a bit. The cost was about average for downtown my burger and fries was almost $12 before tip. 

Band Box Diner
729 S 10th St
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(612) 332-0850