Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Barbette is another one of those Minneapolis restaurants that has been around for years and I have never tried. Stephanie and I went there recently after visiting the Art Institute for a special exhibition. We were able to find free parking on the street nearby and we did not have a reservation, but got right in as it was quite early in the evening, around 5pm I think. The room is open with a bar on one side and funky light fixtures scattered around the room.

Our server greeted us in a timely manner and we ordered drinks. They offer a full bar with beer, cocktails and wines. I had the Frida y Diego drink and Steph had a Bent Paddle beer.

Stephanie had the soup of the day, which was some sort of vegetable soup if I recall correctly.
We both ordered the Parisian style steak frites. The French fries were very good, very fresh, hot and crispy. I liked the Bearnaise on the side also. The steak is more of a braised beef or roast style, than an actual steak, but the meat was very tender and had great flavor.
Parisian style steak frites
Since we did to order any appetizers, we tried two different desserts. First, the vanilla creme brûlée, which was very good. It was rich and creamy with a warm, crisp top.
The second dessert was the squash tart. It had bourbon carmel sauce, marshmallow fluff and candied pecans on the plate. It basically tasted like pumpkin pie and this is not a bad thing. I suppose squash and pumpkin flavors are so close, they taste more or less the same.

We enjoyed everything we ordered and found the ambiance and service to be great. I would like to return and try a few items from the brunch menu.

1600 W Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Phone:(612) 827-5710

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Sushi Fix Restaurant

Sushi Fix started out as a food truck coming to the streets of downtown Minneapolis a few years ago. After the food truck became a major success the owner found a spot in Wayzata to open a brick and mortar location in 2012. They have already expended the restaurant and we just recently visited for the first time. I really need to work on getting to new places when they first open. Or at least in the first year.

I started with the Sunshine cocktail that contained orange calpico, grand mariner and soda. It was a bit sweet, but not overly so. John had a draft Saporro. They had a variety of interesting Japanese beers available.
We had the goyza for our appetizer. They were very crisp and delicious with a nice soy dipping sauce.
 The sashimi trip included salmon, tuna and yellowtail. The fish was very delicious and fresh tasting.
Our sushi roll was the Ay Carumba Mexican roll with salmon, tuna hamachi, cilantro, avocado, and cucumber with ponzu sauce, wasabi aoli and chili oil. This was a spicier roll, but not overly spicy, so we both liked it a lot.

The restaurant wasn't too busy when we arrived, but it was fairly early in the evening on  a Friday night. It was much busier by the time we left an hour later. We were seated right away and the service was fine, noting particularly memorable. The food and drinks were all excellent, the fish was all very fresh and well prepared. The prices seemed a bit high, but I suppose that is to be expected for sushi in Minnesota, as everything has to be flown in. I enjoyed Sushi Fix and I thought I would as I liked the truck a lot also. I look forward to going back soon.

Sushi Fix
862 Lake St E
Wayzata, MN 55391
Phone: (952) 473-1364

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Las Vegas trip report - The one with the Dam & lots of Lyft

Another Las Vegas trip is in the books and I need to get going on this summary so we don't forget all the things we did!

We were scheduled to fly our of MSP at 9:50pm, but John got off work early and the earlier flight looked like it had lots of space, so we went standby for the 7:30pm flight. We had to pay $50, but we got the Delta Comfort seats right on the bulkhead, so snacks and alcoholic beverages were included, which was nice and made the cost worthwhile. Our bags even made the flight and I didn't think they would. We arrived in Las Vegas on time and John's friend Mark was meeting us there for part of our trip. He arrived just a few minutes after we got our bags.

We had both downloaded the Lyft app and were excited to try it out in Las Vegas, having used Uber at home on occasion. We both downloaded the app at home and staved in Las Vegas so we would get the 5 free $10 rides promo we had heard others were getting. We hailed a driver on the app and headed over to the pick-up area. It took the driver a bit to find us, I guess you have to be careful where you drop the pin for pickups. He took Koval all the way downtown and it was very fast too. Our ride to the Golden Nugget ended up being very cheap, around $10, including tip, with the $10 off, whereas a taxi is usually $45 plus. So even without the promo, Lyft is a lot cheaper than taxis.

We checked into the Golden Nugget and didn't score a free upgrade form the Landry Club card. The guy at the front desk said they didn't do the upgrades anymore. So we paid for an upgrade to a Gold Tower Club room as the resort fee was waived with those rooms. The room was nice, but right behind the elevator and I could hear the elevators all night long. Anyway, enough with all the travel details.

We unpacked a bit and went to the Rush Lounge to grab our first drinks. We met up with Mark and, as usual, we headed over to the Golden Gate for some blackjack. We stayed until about 2am and called it a night. I think I finished even and John was down.

Thursday morning, we went to DuPar's for breakfast (I guess I forgot to take photos, but we ordered our usual choices) and then over to Walgreen's for some supplies. We stopped by the front desk to see if we could change rooms, which we were able to move down a floor and to the other end of the hallway, so there were no sounds at all. After getting showered up, we went over to Main Street Station for some video poker at the Boar's Head bar. No wins worthy of reporting. We also stopped at the Plaza, Downtown Grand and El Cortez. We used some free slot play coupons from the Las Vegas Advisor book. No hits unfortunately. We had a couple drinks at Parlour Bar at the El Cortez and decided it was time for lunch. We went to Siegel's 1941, which was actually quite good. We were also able to use a coupon from the LVA book for a free entree, which was nice. The food and service were both decent, and the remodeled dining room is nice too.

I had the holiday dinner with squash soup
and turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and green beans

with a very decent pumpkin pie for dessert
French dip for John
Schimmel's corned beef sandwich with cole slaw

We wandered back under the Fremont Canopy, observing most of the food and beverage establishments on Fremont East were closed for the holiday, and stopped by Sigma Derby at The D and did the free spin at 4 Queens. We decided to head down to the strip to watch the football game. We grabbed a Lyft outside the valet nearest the Carson Tower and went to Level 107 at the Stratosphere for happy hour. 
Level 107 drinks
nice night time view

We grabbed another Lyft ride down to the Linq hotel and watched the Bears/Packers game at Tag bar. The service wasn't great at first, but we just went up to the bar to grab beers. The beer menu is very extensive. 

stopped by Margaritaville for a Loaded Landshark on our walk down the strip

The guys decided chicken wings sounded good, and John and I had the bright idea to go to Blue Ribbon Sushi for their amazing friend chicken wings. We got right in, as it was not very busy. 
some sashimi 

the chicken wings

After dinner, we took a Lyft from the Cosmo back to the Golden Nugget (even though we asked for the Golden Gate, close enough I guess). We walked down to the Golden Gate and played blackjack for awhile and called it a night after both of us didn't do too well, if I recall correctly. 

Friday, we had rented a car and planned on heading out to Hoover Dam for a tour. We were up at 8 and picked up the keys to the car around 9am. We were all starving, so we headed over to the Fremont for the buffet. The food was OK, nothing great, I think it was better when we last visited a couple years ago. I think we got on the road around 11am and got out to Hoover Dam around noon. It is not very far away, but the traffic after you turn off for the dam backs up as they talk to each driver and inspect some of the vehicles. We were able to get on the 2:30 tour for the longer dam tour, where you get to go inside the tunnels. So he had plenty of time to walk around on top of the dam, go through the museum, gift shop and cafe. The tour was very interesting and took about an hour, though in some ways, it felt a bit like a tour of the Hoover Dam elevators. 
from the viewing area on top of visitor center
pic from inside the tunnels, though a vent on the front of the dam

Since we had a car, we made a couple of stops on the way back to the hotel. We stopped at In n' Out in Henderson for a late lunch/early dinner. I forgot to get photos of that also.
Our next stop was at a new tiki bar called the Golden Tiki. It is apparently in Chinatown, which I did not realize. It is a lot larger than Frankie's, but the tiki glasses were not very exciting. The drinks were definitely good and strong though.

John had something called Navy Grog that had a flaming lime in it when it arrived. Very cool!
Mark and I had mai tais

We returned the car to the Golden Nugget parking garage and decided to take a little craft beer tour. Our first stop was Banger Brewing right on Fremont. John and I have been here before, but we wanted to take Mark too. 
Mark went with the sampler

Next, we took a Lyft over to Tenaya Creek Brewery. I guess they just opened a new location, not far from downtown, so it was a short ride away. It was not busy at all, maybe most people don't know about the new location?

After that we took a Lyft back to Fremont Street and ended up playing blackjack at the Plaza in the new party pit area in the front. Oddly, they had great blackjack rules in this area, with $5 3-2 tables. I think we only made it until around 1am, but it was a really busy day! Mark's flight home was fairly early on Saturday morning, so we said goodbye and hoped he had a fun time with us. I think he said he had only been to Vegas once before, so hopefully he enjoyed it enough to want to go back.

Saturday morning we slept in pretty late, until 10am I think. We decided to head over to Four Queens for breakfast at Magnolia's. I forgot to take photos of that as well, but I think I've covered Magnolia's pretty well in past trip reports. It was still good as ever.

I had a Groupon for JinJu Chocolates at the Container Park and John went to The El Cortez for some sports bets. By the way, I highly recommend JinJu Chocolates, everything was very good. Next, we went to the Plaza to use some match plays from the coupon books, then Four Queens and Binion's for some free slot play coupons to use. No wins.

We headed over to Pizza Rock for lunch. I ordered the meatball for an appetizer. They were quite good and the sauce was very fresh tasting.
We had the Butcher pizza, which was very meaty and more than the two of us could eat. We sat at the bar and the service was not great as the bartender was very busy the whole time. I ordered a drink and never got it, it was on the bill, so she removed it with an apology.

We went over to The D and John used a matchplay and also played through $100 very quickly, while I just watched. We went over to the Fremont to get a couple free beers as John got drink coupons with his sports bets earlier in the day. We played a few slots, really wanted to pay The Christmas Story slot, but some old people were hogging it and not even playing one of the machines (so rude). We ended up sitting down to play double desk blackjack for a couple hours, which was unprofitable for me, but I think it went better for John.

We had a late dinner at Chart House at the Golden Nugget, which was quite good as it has been on previous visits.
I had the mac nut mahi with warm peanut sauce, mango relish, soy glaze & mashed purple sweet potato. Very good.
John had the mahi with tropical fruit salsa
side of mushrooms, we didn't realize John's came with sides

We were stuffed and tired, so we called it a day after dinner and went back to the room to hit the hay. Probably wise to take it easy.

Sunday morning we wanted tog et up in time to watch the Vikings game. We went to Cadillac Mexican Kitchen at the Golden Nugget as they have lots of TVs and serve breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Laredo cheese omelet for me
eggs americana for John

We found a couple other groups of Minnesotans and watched the whole game and enjoyed a Vikings win. The mimosas were very good and John liked the bloody mary.

After the game, we took Lyft to the Venetian. We went to Yardbird for lunch/brunch. We had visited the original location in Miami a couple years ago when we took a cruise out of there, and enjoyed it a lot. 

John had the brisket sandwich 
I had the fried chicken. The hot sauce on the side was a bit spicy and very good. The chicken was very juicy and had a nice crisp skin. We sat at the bar and the service was fine.

After lunch, we played a few slots at the Venetian. No wins, the slots hated me this time. We walked over to the Mirage as I had a MyVegas redemption for the Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden. I wanted to check it out since we were there and it was free. It was nothing I would have paid for, as there is not a lot to it; just some dolphins in a couple pools and some lions and tigers. I must say, you do get very close to the lions and tigers. John watched football in the sports book, in the meantime.

hi lion, you are right there!
a couple baby tigers, white one on the man's lap and an orange one to the left

We grabbed a Lyft at the Mirage, some confusion about where to find the driver. The app said the side valet and the driver went to the front. That seems to be an issue with some places on the strip, where are they supposed to pick you up. Some drivers just call, but I had to call a couple. Anyway, we went to the Cosmo, hoping to find some good blackjack, but it was higher limits than we wanted to play. We walked over to Paris, didn't find any low limit tables there either. We did make a reservation for later that night at Gordon Ramsay Steak though. We decide to go to Hooters as we knew they would have low limits. We found some younger girls from Minneapolis there for a 21st birthday, having lots of fun and playing their own crazy blackjack rules. One of the dealers said they are switching over to being a Holiday Inn and room remodels are underway, but they didn't know if or when the casino would be redone. They seemed to know about the name change to the Hive, but not know when it happens.

We grabbed a Lyft ride back to Paris for our Gordon Ramsay Steak reservation. The restaurant didn't seem that busy when we arrived, and it was later, around 8:30, but it was busy by the time we left. The food and service were excellent once more. I was very impressed.

wheel of meat
the antioxidant 
amazing bread plate
lobster appetizer
ribeye steak
brussel sprouts and potato puree

Gordon Ramsay Steak was just as good as the first time we visited, which was impressive. We both had a bunch of Total Rewards credits, so the whole meal was comped and we just had to leave the tip, which was great.

After dinner, we walked outside to watch a Bellagio fountain show, but it was really cold outside and hard to stand there. We took a Lyft back to the Golden Nugget and turned in early as we had to be up fairly early for our 11am flight home. We had some confusion finding the first driver at Paris, the first once wanted to pick up outside the bus and tour valet and then a second driver was at the main valet. This was probably the worst part with Lyft being new in town, figuring out where to find the drivers.

our second room

The Gold Tower Club bathrooms are very similar to the Rush Tower bathrooms now. We even had a TV in the mirror!

Monday morning we had breakfast at DuPar's, packed up our stuff and headed to the airport. (I forgot to take photos of that until it was too late.) We used Lyft one last time to the airport. The lines for the D gates, didn't look too bad, but we both recently both applied for and got Global Entry, which also included TSA Pre-check, so we breezed right through the lines. Our flight home was on time and uneventful, even though some snow was predicted for MSP. We managed to arrived before it started snowing too badly, pick up the dog and get home pretty quickly.

I'm glad to say we finally made it to Hoover Dam after many, many trips to Las Vegas. Using Lyft to get around was another revelation for us. It was super affordable and easy to use in most instances, with only a couple minor issues. It really made me feel like we go anywhere we wanted and not have to worry so much about the costs.

I'm sad to finish my report and to have another Vegas trip in the books. I'm not even sure when we will be going back next, as we have two trips to Mexico planned for 2016, so I don't think we will be able to make it to Vegas until Thanksgiving next year at least. But hopefully something will come up before then!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Birch's on the Lake Brewhouse

I had read a brief article on Heavy Table about the beer offerings at Birch's on the Lake and when I visited the website I noticed they also served food in a formal dining room and a more casual brewpub. This sounded like an interesting option, so we planned to visit Friday night for dinner, but other plans came up, so we went for brunch on Sunday instead.

When we arrived we noticed there were not many cars in the parking lot, and it was around 11am. This is never a great sign. The upstairs restaurant was closed and a sign directed us to the brewpub downstairs. We were greeted by the bartender and seated ourselves. The dining area had quite a few tables filled actually, but it was not packed.

They don't do tasting flights, but you can order small 2 oz pours for just $1 each, so I tried the pumpkin ale, witbier and coffee chocolate golden ale. I forgot to take a photo, but it was a nice amount to sample the beers. The pumpkin ale was quite good, not overly sweet and witbier was a decent lighter beer and the chocolate ale was unusual in that it was a lighter beer with coffee and chocolate notes. Not sure I would get get the coffee chocolate golden ale again.
John tried the sorachi ace IPA.

The server was helpful, friendly and checked on us as needed. She was able to tell us a bit about the beers and kept our water glasses filled.
I had the prime rib Benedict, which was a cheddar biscuit topped with thinly sliced prime rib, tow poached eggs and horseradish hollandaise with a side of hash browns. I did not detect any horseradish flavor in the hollandaise and the prime rib was very well done and quite tough. If the prime rib had been rare, this could have been a good dish, as it was, it was just OK. The hash browns were quite good though. they were very crispy and had some onions added to them to give them additional flavor.
John had the Long Lake breakfast with two eggs, two strips of bacon, Kramarzuk's Ukrainian sausage, hash browns and he ordered sourdough toast, but was given a biscuit. A runner brought out the plates and he was told about the toast and he quickly brought a piece of toast out. It was supposed to be sourdough, but it was either very bland or white toast. It was also cold, so John told the server and she brought new toast out.

I don't think I was impressed or dazzled by the food or beer, everything was acceptable, and we found the brewpub to be a nice atmosphere with a great view of the lake. There is a patio deck, so that will likely be popular in the warmer months. I think we will have to come back and try the supper club, located upstairs and maybe keep checking back to see what other options they add to the beer menu. It has lots of potential in a beautiful building with great views.

Birch's on the Lake Brewhouse
1310 Wayzata Blvd,
Long Lake, MN 55356
(952) 473-7373