Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Hen House

Hen House Eatery opened last month in the old Peter’s Grill location in downtown Minneapolis. They have done some work to the space including new paint, some new light fixtures and a new bar. They retained some of the more charming features of the previous tenant such as part of the counter seating and the wooden booths.

I had the egg, bacon, avocado, cream cheese and tomatoes sandwich with Hen potatoes on my first visit. The sandwich was barely warm when it arrived unfortunately. I did not care for the type of bread used with this sandwich, it was a multi grain bread and after it was toasted it did not have much flavor. The bacon was of good quality, but it was a bit undercooked and not at all crisp. The cream cheese was melted into the bread and it did not seem to add much flavor. I was excited to try the Hen potatoes are they are cubed sweet potatoes with rosemary. However, the sweet potatoes were very undercooked and crunchy throughout even thought they were cut into very small pieces. They have potential if they were cooked through.

One of my lunch companions had the kitchen sink omelet, which contained Italian sausage, bacon, ham, sausage, cheddar cheese, green onions, tomatoes, peppers and hash browns . He thought it was overpriced at $12.99. While the omelet was very large, I have to agree. That is rather steep for a bunch of eggs.

On my second visit I had the turkey panini with garlic artichoke mayo, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and a side of fries. The fries were your standard frozen French fries and nothing special, but they arrived hot and tasted freshly made. The panini was pretty good, with lots of cheese and turkey, but I did not detect any garlic, artichoke or mayo. And at $9.99 for the sandwich plus $2.00 extra for fries the sandwich become pretty expensive quickly.

Even after both visits I’m still on the fence about Hen House. Both times I sat at the bar and the server seemed very rushed, probably because she was covering the whole bar and counter area. So service was acceptable, but not exactly friendly. Both times, the food was a bit underwhelming. Nothing was amazing enough to make me want to come back soon. So, I’m still undecided. I am hoping they improve as they are open longer and maybe make some refinements to the menu and the food. For now, it just seems like overpriced average-quality breakfast food and sandwiches, that are not worth the trip downtown.

Deals and Discounts: Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 2-7pm. I am not sure what the discounts are though. No details on the website that I could find, but a City Pages write up mentioned all drinks are $1 off.

Hen House
114 S 8th St
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Yard House

A new outpost of the Yard House opened last month in St Louis Park. We tried to get in a few times, but the wait times were always an hour or more. We had the foresight to call ahead before this visit and at least get our names added to the waiting list. We still had to wait about 30-40 minutes once we arrived, but it was not as bad as the hour plus we had been quoted before. By the time we checked in and got a drink it was not too long before our table was ready. We ended up in a booth near the front of the restaurant.

It was very busy and loud in the restaurant, and the atmosphere is sports-bar like with lots of big screen TVs and some industrial touches such as huge fans in the ceiling. One full wall of the restaurant contains all of the beer kegs behind glass. The employees all seemed very friendly and helpful despite the place being very busy and full.

The beer selection is the main draw here and they do not disappoint. I was also pleased to see a large number of local beers on the tap list. The beer selection is gigantic; I think they have over 100-plus beers on tap, so there is certainly something fort everyone.

I had the grilled chicken and avocado sandwich with Swiss, lettuce, tomato, onion and mayo on a poppy seed bun. I liked the sandwich a lot; the chicken was very juicy and not at all dry as can be the case with chicken breasts. The thin cut matchstick fries were great. They arrived hot and tasted very fresh.

John had the avocado Swiss burger. Basically the same thing I had but with a hamburger patty. The hamburger was cooked medium as ordered and was very juicy.

I am surprised to say that I really liked Yard House. I was not very excited about the food as it is another chain restaurant (owned by the Darden, which also owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster) but it exceed my expectations. We will certainly go back, especially if getting in becomes easier. The long wait times are a major deterrent right now, but I’m sure that will subside as the newness wears off a bit.

Deals and Discounts: A daily happy hour is offered on both food and beverages. It runs Monday - Friday 3pm - 6pm  and Sunday - Wednesday 10pm - Close. Drinks and food specials are offered including half off selected appetizers. Detailed information is available on their website: http://www.yardhouse.com/MN/st-louis-park-restaurant/happy-hour/

Yard House
1665 Park Place Blvd.
St. Louis Park, MN 55416

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Maison Darras

Finally some new openings to report in the Minneapolis skyways! Maison Darras has opened in the Baker building recently and it appears to be a wonderful addition. It is a very small storefront made up of mostly counter and food display cases, though there are a few tables inside. It is mainly targeted at those picking up lunch and taking it back to the office.

On my first visit I had the goat cheese, turkey and tomato Panini. After you order they take the sandwich out of the case and put it on a panini press for a few minutes to warm it through. The combination of flavors in my sandwich was a winner with tart goat cheese and tangy tomatoes.
I also had the crème brulee, but in my excitement I totally forgot to take a photo of it. The crust was crisp and the interior was rich and creamy making this an excellent crème brulee. The prices are not bad; the paninis are $5.49 and sandwiches are $6.49. you could add a dessert and beverage as a combo meal for an extra fee as well.

I loved my first visit to Maison Darras and will be going back again soon. I am looking forward to trying more of their soups, salads, paninis and sandwiches.

Update: I went back again this week for a second visit.

This time I had the Chesterfield panini, which contained chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce. The chicken was cubed into small pieces and quite good. Not at all dry. The BBQ sauce gave the sandwich a rich and tangy flavor.
Here is a photo of the creme brûlée I talked about above. Amazing on the second visit as well!

Deals & Discounts: I was given a stamp card on my first visit. If you buy 10 sandwiches or salads you get one free. Not a bad deal for frequent visitors.

Maison Darras
Baker Center
733 Marquette Ave, Suite 211
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Hours: Monday to Friday 8:30am - 2:00pm

Friday, April 11, 2014


John and I visited Mason’s for happy hour recently before an event at Target Center. It is located in the Masonic building at the corner of Hennepin and 6th Street.  It was not at all busy when we arrived around 5pm and we were able to get a nice table near the windows in the bar area right away. We tried a few things off of the happy hour menu since we just felt like some small appetizers.

First up are the Mason’s tots with mustard cheese sauce. The cheese sauce was ok and the tots were good, with what were obviously freshly grated potatoes, but they had an overwhelming flavor of paprika, which I didn’t think had much flavor. It did here, but it was not a pleasant flavor, maybe slightly smoky and dry, it mostly gave the tots a reddish hue and an unusual aftertaste.

John tried the Mason’s wings in four different flavors: dry rub, zesty ginger, buffalo and spicy BBQ. The wings were just ok, the exterior was pretty soggy, not crisp at all. The dry rub was probably the best of the bunch.

The last item was the grilled flatbread with mozzarella, sun dried tomato, garlic, red onion and balsamic. This was probably the best appetizer out of all of them. The mozzarella was really fresh tasting, though the crust seemed to be commercially made pita bread, the balsamic and sun dried tomatoes really added great flavor to the dish overall.

The service was good as well at the atmosphere, though the food was just ok. I think we would consider stopping in for drinks again, but probably not to dine.

Deals & Discounts: Mason’s offers a variety of happy hour specials as well as industry night deals and pre-event deals. I would suggest checking their website for the most current offers: http://www.masonsmn.com/specials

Mason's Restaurant Barre
528 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 516-3344

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pub 42

We visited Pub 42 in New Hope recently and had a wonderful experience. The building was the former location of the Sunshine Factory and they recently moved to a new location in Plymouth. While the food at Sunshine Factory was always decent, it was nothing to get very excited about. It was your basic bar food. Pub 42 might be a game changer for this area of town.

We were not expecting it to be very busy as it was early on a Thursday night, but there was a wait for table both in the bar and dining room. (There is a separate wait list for both rooms.) We managed to find a seat at the bar and after a bit of a wait we were able to order a couple drinks to enjoy while we waited for a table. Right after we received our drinks our pager went off as the wait was much shorter than quoted. We were led to a booth in the new dining room. Our server was obviously new, but did a good job most of the time. She did disappear for awhile right at the end of the meal when we were paying the check, but other servers picked up the slack.

I had the double bleu burger with house chips. The burger had bleu cheese crumbles, bleu cheese dressing, crispy onion straws and bacon on top. It was very good and cooked as ordered. The bun was lightly toasted and substantial enough to handle the weight of the burger. The house chips were just ok. They were a bit bland.

John had the Millionaire’s BLT with fries. This sandwich is great. It was a BLT taken to a new level. It had brown sugar chile bacon, lemon aioli, tomatoes, lettuce and mayo on toasted white bread. The bacon was amazing. It was thick cut bacon with a nice spicy kick to it with a touch of sweetness from a glaze. If you love BLTs, I highly recommend this sandwich. The fries seemed to be house made as well and they were great. Very hot, fresh and salty.
We finished with a couple martinis. John’s had cucumber infused vodka or gin; we are not totally sure what it was. The waitress said one thing and the menu said another. I had a strawberry stoli doli, which was excellent. Just what we need, stoli dolis right down the street. This could be dangerous!

Pub 42 was unexpectedly great. The food was excellent and we were expecting average. The drinks were great and they have also done a good job remodeling the dining room with comfortable booths and more updated décor. They have also added a lot of taps, so the beer offerings are very extensive with lots of local choices. If our first visit is any indication, Pub 42 has a lot of potential.

Deals & Discounts: They have a happy hour! Both early and late. Monday – Friday: 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close and Saturday and Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Here is a link to the happy hour page on the website: http://pub42.com/happy-hour/

Pub 42
7600 42nd Ave N
New Hope, MN 55427
(763) 278-4242

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque

We visited Smalley’s in Stillwater recently. It has been on our list of BBQ place to visit for some time, but the distance from home is an issue. We went on a Saturday afternoon/evening for an early dinner.

The sweet corn conch fritters with smoked Caribbean aioli were as good as any we’ve had on vacation in Key West. The sauce was quite spicy and really made the fritters sing. The exterior was crisp and the fish inside was cooked just right.

We also tried the chicken wings jerk style with medium spice. These were the best wings ever! They had a wonderful smoky flavor throughout and the exterior was crisp. These attributes are harder to find in buffalo style wings than you would expect.

The last item was the barbeque combo with pork spare ribs, beef brisket and pork shoulder with black beans and rice and roasted sweet potatoes. We over ordered and ended up taking most of this item home to eat the next day, but all of the meats were smoky and delicious. I really liked the roasted sweet potatoes, it is just not an item you can find around here very often.

Overall, everything was great, but I know we will be going back for those smoked jerk wings. The service was fine, nothing memorable occurred and our beverages were kept filled throughout the meal. The place is a little bit pirate themed, but not overly so. The main feature of the dining room is a large fireplace, which was nice on a cold day. If you want a taste of the Caribbean in Minnesota Smalley’s is the place to go!

After Smalley’s we headed up the hill to Life Bridge Brewing to use a Living Social Deal for beer flights. They were prepared for the large crowds redeeming the deal and we had a great visit. Definitely have to return again soon!

Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque
423 Main St S
Stillwater, MN 55082
(651) 439-5375