Friday, August 28, 2015

Maggie's Restaurant

We visited Maggie's for breakfast last weekend. We went because we had a discount card from the Metro Dining Club and thought it might be a hidden gem. Turns out it is just inexpensive, average food, which is not a bad thing necessarily.

We seated ourselves when we arrived, as directed, and most tables were full except for the row near the kitchen. The service was brisk and we never really waited long for anything, including our food.

John had eggs, hash browns, bacon and sourdough toast. The hash browns were crispy, but didn't taste like freshly grated potatoes, likely frozen.
John didn't think the sourdough toast was sourdough at all, probably just white bread. SO that was disappointing.
I had the pancakes, with two eggs over medium with sausage and bacon. The bacon was average quality and the sausage tasted OK but was nothing special. The pancakes were pretty light and fluffy but nothing amazing either.

While we were not impressed with the food, there was nothing really wrong with it. It is a good place for inexpensive food at a place you can get in and out of pretty quickly.

Deals & discounts: We used the monthly punch card from the Metro Dining Club good for one complimentary menu selection when a second election of equal or greater value is purchased, good for up to $6 off per month.

Maggie's Restaurant
844 Lake St, Wayzata Village Shops
Wayzata, MN 55391
(952) 476-0840

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Naf Naf Grill

Naf Naf Grill is a new lunch option for downtown Minneapolis workers that recently opened in the US Bank Plaza building on the first level. It is skyway connected for the downtown worker that doesn’t like to go outdoors.

The menu touts authentic Middle Eastern food including pitas, falafel and shawarma, all freshly prepared. The ordering process is reminiscent of Chipotle in that you select and build the custom item of your choice, starting with your choice of pita, basmati rice, romaine lettuce or hummus, then select chicken or beef shawarma meat or falafel and add your choice of salads, garnishes and sauces. Sides include Naf fries, lentil soup and basmati rice.

I went with a pita and added chicken shawarma and topped it with chopped salad, some purple cabbage salad and garlic sauce. The chicken was tender and flavorful and the garlic sauce was strong and had lots of garlic flavor. The toppings were added generously and the pita was filled to capacity. The pitas are freshly made in-house and mine was very light, fresh and chewy. I added a side of the Naf fries and they a bit of a potato chip and French fry hybrid as some pieces are cut thicker and some are cut thinner so you get some that are crispy and some more tender.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with Naf Naf grill. It offers unique fare not available elsewhere downtown. I think I’d like to go back and try the salads and maybe some of the other sauce options. The customization of your order does offer a lot of options.

Naf Naf Grill
U.S. Bank Plaza
200 S. 6th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402
Phone: 612-236-4620
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:30AM - 6PM | Sat-Sun Closed

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Surly Beer Hall - revisit

We went back to the Surly taproom recently with John's mom and her husband Al, when they visited us for the week. We were there during the week and it wasn't too busy when we arrived so we were seated right away. It filled up quickly though.

I had the brisket with a side of corn. The brisket had a great smoky flavor and was very tender. They had two BBQ sauces, one sweet and one spicier. The spicy was quite mild. The corn had poblano, cotija, lime and it was a bit spicy. All of it was great and I'd order the brisket again.
 Al had the smoked polish with caraway kraut, kale salad, bootees mustard. Al had never tried kale and liked it a lot. 
 Surly burger for John's mom. It was a double cheeseburger with thinner patties. 
John had the chopped brisket sandwich topped with slaw and a side of fries

The food was all very good once again. I'm looking forward to going back and trying more things on the menu. It also seems like they change up the menu every so often, which helps keep it interesting. And the tap list seems to change often as well. There are always a few selections available at the taproom that we've never seen elsewhere.

Here is a link to our first visit:

Surly Tap Room
520 Malcolm Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN
(763) 999-4040

Friday, August 7, 2015

Las Vegas trip report - 7.3.15-7.9.15 The one with John's 40th birthday!

We headed to Las Vegas for the second time this year for another 40th birthday, this time for John. When it came down to deciding what he wanted to do for is birthday Las Vegas was at the top of the list. Out flight was on time and uneventful and we actually landed a bit early.
We had decided in advance to skip the taxi line and reserve a town car for transportation to the hotel. The driver was a bit hard to find at the airport, but she was very nice and got us there pretty quickly. We got a bit lost downtown and we ended up driving through First Friday festivities. 

We checked in at the Rush Tower desk and we thought we had called ahead to upgrade to the Gold Tower, but we were booked Carson and got a free upgrade to Gold anyway. However, the first two nights we were in a room with two beds. We were able to switch to a King room on Sunday. The Gold Tower was recently remodeled too, and they did a nice job. The rooms look similar to the Rush rooms now and are very comfortable. The AC units are much quieter now as well. 

view from our first room

After check in we went to the Rush lounge to grab a drink, but it was quite busy, so we just headed down to the Golden Gate to get things started. We played blackjack for a long time and I was up a bit and John was down a bit. We ended up walking down to the 4 Queen for a bit. We played some video poker and I played $0.25 Top Dollar. I think we ended up turning in for the night around 2am.
Decent hot on Top Dollar, too bad it was not a dollar machine though. 

Saturday morning we were up by 9am and headed to breakfast at Magnolia's Veranda at the 4 Queens. John had seen a deal on their website that you get a buy one get one free entree during your birthday month, so John went to get that comp. 
bacon, eggs, hash browns, sourdough toast

bacon, eggs, hash browns, sourdough toast

After breakfast, we headed back to the room to get ready for the day. Next, we went to the El Cortez and played a few slots.
We tried to get Millionised, but failed. Rats. 
John had a pretty good win on the game even though he did not hit the big jackpot.

Next, we went over to Main Street Station to play some video poker at the Boar's Head Bar. No great wins to report. John grabbed some ice cream at Lappert's on the way over. They had some interesting Hawaiian themed flavors.

We decided to try the new bar and restaurant on Fremont east called Therapy for happy hour and some snacks.

The smash, pretty close to a Sinatra smash. And pretty good. 
Shot of the room from the back corner looking toward Fremont. 
oxtail empanadas, Very tasty. 
chicken meatballs, not bad.

We did not order a ton of food at Therapy, but what we had was good enough to make me want to go back and try more items. And the drinks were solid, so that is a major plus. I'd put it in the recommend column. Seems to be a nice addition to Fremont East. It is certainly better than the icky dollar store that used to be in that spot.

We walked through Binion's and played a few slots there as well, then went back to the room to freshen up and change clothes for a night on the strip. We took a taxi to the Venetian as we had dinner reservations at Aquaknox. We ended up having a few drinks at the Bourbon Room and watching amusing old 80's hair band videos. The bartenders were pretty chatty and fun as well. So it made paying an arm and a leg for drinks a bit more bearable.
Bourbon Room. Raspberry blush and a beer.

We played a bit of bubble craps and headed over to Aquaknox for our dinner reservation. We had originally planned to go to Lakeside at Wynn, but they had some silly long pants dress code for men, so we cancelled that. No dress code at Aquaknox. The food and service were phenomenal too. I was so impressed by our waiter, I made sure to tell him and the manager was right behind him and heard me as well, so that worked out well. Sometimes in Las Vegas service can be so lacking, which is disappointing to say the least.
Oyster starter for John
amuse bouche
John had the sablefish
I had the barramundi
complimentary dessert/ drink

After dinner we walked over to Rhumbar at the Mirage to try and get a spot on the patio to watch the fireworks. We ended up making some new friends who were there for a wedding and sitting with them.

We couldn't really see the fireworks at Rhumbar, should have gone elsewhere or ran out to the sidewalk. I think the street was closed for awhile too, so you could walk out there as well. Awhile after the fireworks ended we grabbed a taxi at the side door of the Mirage and headed back downtown to the Golden Gate for a blackjack session. (Golden Gate cocktail waitress note: our favorite waitress Jan is apparently on some sort of medical leave, so we did not see her at all this trip. Hope she comes back soon! Also, one of my favorite dancing dealers, Penny, said she was quitting and her it was her last week as she is getting married soon. So congrats to Penny!)

We were not feeling the greatest Sunday morning, but we got up and went to see about switching rooms. We were moved up a couple floors and into a king room.
no more flowered curtains around the bed
new furniture
view from room
new vanities
new shower doors

We took a taxi to Mon Ami Gabi for breakfast but by the time we arrived it was already lunchtime. The wait for a table was non-existent if you were willing to sit inside. 
steak sandwich
The waiter let me order breakfast anyway.

We wandered through Planet Hollywood and over to Cosmopolitan. We played a few slots and then found a $10 3:2 blackjack table and played for awhile. I didn't do well, but John certainly did. We will have to put the Cosmo on the list for decent blackjack. At least on Sunday afternoons. We were both really tired yet, so we went back to the hotel to take a nap. Why be a hero when you are on vacation, right? 

We got going again in time to get to the SLS in time for the US/Japan Women's World Cup final. Didn't miss too much anyway. 
Umami Burger is a nice place to watch sporting events and we got right in too. 
simple salad
sauces for burgers and fries
John had the California burger
onion rings
amazing tater tots!
I had the Manly burger, which was topped with house beer-cheddar, bacon lardons, smoked salt onion strings, house ketchup and mustard spread.

The burgers were OK, I think I liked the tater tots far better than anything else. this is a great place to watch sports though. have to remember to come back here again for that.

After the soccer game, we played a few slots and wandered around but nothing much caught our attention so we took the monorail down to The Linq. Of course the ticket booth was closed, so we could not use the BOGO MyVegas comp. (We had a few MyVegas awards to use and we did not redeem any except for a free t-shirt at Palace Station on the day we rented a car. The MyVegas value is not there anymore and we did not make it down toward MGM, NYNY or Monte Carlo at all this time.)
We wandered around and watched a Bellagio fountain show and walked through the conservatory. The display was a new under the sea theme and really very cool.

After the gardens we took a taxi back downtown and went to Main Street Station to play blackjack for awhile. We went to bed pretty early too.

But we were up early the next day and feeling much better than the day before! We hit DuPar's for breakfast, which was excellent as always. Not a bad way to start a Monday.

We sat by the pool at the Golden Nugget for awhile. It got hot pretty fast, though it was not bad if you were in the water.

After stopping back at the room to get ready we went down to the El Cortez for a bit of blackjack and to pay the Millioniser. We did not get Millionised to our shock and horror.

We had lunch at Pizza Rock and it was quite good once again. We had the sausage and stout pizza this time.
Sausage and stout pizza

We had double booked ourselves at the Downtown Grand as the room offer came with a few freebies we wanted to take advantage of. The room was nice, but we didn't pack up and move over here or anything. We also used some free slot play at the DT Grand. 
DT Grand room
bathroom DT Grand
We went down to Atomic Liquors for a couple drinks. great bartenders. 
We stopped in at the Container Park as I had bought a Groupon for Jin Ju chocolates. the chocolates were amazing and they even packed the bag with cold packs so they would not melt in the heat.

We also had a Groupon for the Vanguard Lounge. The drinks were top notch once more and there were actually a few other early birds in there with us.
We stopped back at the room as it was raining a bit. We've never been in Las Vegas for rain, so it was interesting to see. The rain didn't seem to affect things on Fremont too much, but I guess there was some flooding in other parts of the city.
GG in the rain
We played blackjack at the Vegas Club and Golden Gate for the rest of the night, so the rain was not a big deal to us. The Vegas Club was not horrible this time either. We had fun playing there and the dealers were actually competent. We had a night time snack at American Coney before we turned in for the night.  I forgot to take a food photo before eating and you don't want to see the empty containers anyway.

Tuesday morning we got up bright and early as we had a car rental reservation. There is a rental desk at the Golden Nugget so it was very quick and easy to pick up and drop off the car and pretty affordable as well.
Since we had a car, we went to The Peppermill for breakfast. It was quite busy and there appeared to be a wait, but we got seated almost immediately.
indoor foliage at Peppermill
omelet and hash browns, the hash browns were really great too!
eggs, sausage and hash browns
warm blueberry muffin was excellent also
parting shot of the Riv, might be gone next time around!

We did a bit of shopping and touring around town. We maybe should have had a better plan, but it was interesting to see new parts of the city. 
We had a delicious lunch at In n Out since we had the car. 
We tried to get Millionised at Arizona Charlie's, but no luck. 
John and the rental car at Red Rocks casino. That is a nice area, but goodness, it is far away from everything else. There is an upscale shopping area just across the road as well.
on the road again
We also stopped at Frankie's Tiki Room on the way back downtown.
I got a cool tiki glass this time, should have last time too.

We returned the rental car and decided to play blackjack at the Golden Nugget for awhile. I think I broke even at best. So we went over to try playing at the Plaza instead. We had a great dealer, but they started a dueling pianos show right behind our table, which was loud and awful in so many ways, so we left when the dealer went on break.

We decided we'd better eat a little something, so we went to Triple George down by the DT Grand. 
great espresso martini

amazing sourdough bread
The calamari was excellent

Next, we went over to the Downtown Grand to try playing blackjack there. Found some awful players there. Sigh. I think John used some slot play that came with  the room offer also.

sorta quiet at DT Grand as usual
                                                     The new bar at the Fremont casino

We went to the Golden Gate and closed out the night paying blackjack there. I'm not totally sure how late we stayed out. Not that late. 

Since it was John's birthday on Wednesday he chose DuPar's for his birthday breakfast. 

famous DuPar's pancakes
turkey sausage I think

We sat by the pool at the Golden Nugget for awhile and later on went down to the El Cortez to try and win the Millioniser again. No go. We wandered around stopping at The D and The Golden Nugget.

We decided to try Bocho, a newer sushi place on Fremont East for lunch. We both ordered the bento box lunch special, which was a good deal at $15.95 per person. 

miso soup
 Bocho bento box with sushi and sashimi
interior of juice bar next to Bocho
After lunch we walked down to Main Street Station for some video poker. I finally got one four of a kind, but that was the best I did. 

We stopped at the Cal and then stopped back at the room for a bit. We casino hopped downtown and both played roulette for the first time at the Golden Gate. I won twice in a row when my number hit, so I did great. John didn't win that I can recall. 

We stopped at the Plaza and the Vegas Club to play some blackjack. I almost forgot, we saw Todd Bridges playing craps at the Plaza too! I guess his crappy show is still running at the Plaza, which was a shock to me!  Anyway, that was our big celebrity sighting of the trip. If you can call him a celebrity.  Next, we headed to Vic and Anthony's for John's birthday dinner reservation. 

I started with shrimp cocktail.
John started with oysters.
we split a ribeye steak

blue cheese butter for my steak
side of mushrooms
John's birthday desert of creme brûlée.

The food and service were excellent once more and I am glad we went back. Vic and Anthony's is certainly the best steakhouse downtown and the food and service reflect that.

We were tired and full and had an early flight at 7am so we headed back to the room and went to bed early. We had to be up at 4am to make our 7am flight. The flight home was uneventful and arrived on time. It was nice to be home so early, but I was exhausted the rest of the day.