Wednesday, December 27, 2017

John Hardy BBQ - Rochester, MN

We stopped at John Hardy BBQ when to went down to Rochester to visit a couple breweries on the passport. It has been there for as long as I could remember, but we've never had a chance to stop.

 John had the ribs with jojo potatoes. The ribs arrive with no sauce on them, and they don't really need it unless you want to add some spice. They offer six sauces from mild to Bad Boy Hot sauce. The jojos are similar to those at Ted Cook's BBQ and very good with some crisp and some softer potatoes.
 The cole slaw is on the saucy side and it was really good. 
 The bread is garlic buttered and very addictive. 
 I had the beef brisket and it was tender with excellent smoky flavor. 
The beans had quite a bit of brown sugar flavor with bits of meat mixed in as well. Quite good!

John Hardy's BBQ is definitely worth the stop if you are in the Rochester area. The service is quick and the food arrives quickly.

John Hardy BBQ
929 W Frontage Rd,
Rochester, MN 55901
Phone: (507) 288-3936

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

City Works

I had signed up for the birthday club for City Works some time ago, when considering going there before a downtown concert. So the coupon seemed like a good excuse to check it out. We went during an out of town Vikings game and it turned out to be a pretty fun place to watch a game. They had a ton of televisions and during the commercial breaks a DJ played music and funny videos.

I had the buffalo shrimp, which the waitress described as a City Works signature item. The shrimp were served atop blue cheese dressing, blue cheese crumbles with pickled carrots on the side. I’ve had the buffalo shrimp at Redstone a lot and so these were compared to their version. The City Works buffalo shrimp were not bad. The sauce buffalo sauce was certainly spicy and the blue cheese had great flavor. The shrimp were just a tad smaller than the Redstone shrimp, so overall, these were quite good. I do think Redstone’s buffalo sauce is less spicy and had a better smoky flavor.

John had the Carolina Fried Chicken sandwich with spicy bread and butter pickles, mustard BBQ sauce and lettuce on a brioche bun. The fries were piping hot and seasoned nicely.

We found the service to be excellent throughout our stay. Redeeming the birthday credit required a bit of footwork online, but the manager came by and explained the process to us clearly and was very helpful and friendly.

Our only gripe about City Works is probably the prices of the beer for the amount served. For example, all the beer was served in a tulip style glass, which holds fewer ounces, but the glassware did not make sense for the types of beer were ordered. I had a Lift Bridge Farm Girl and it was $7.00 (can be seen in background of my shrimp photo) for probably 10 ounces. Nothing was served in pint glasses at all. The beer selection was very lengthy and a lot of local and hard to find offerings were available, which is a plus.  

Overall, I think city Works is a solid choice for downtown Minneapolis. I don’t know that I would go out of my way to return, but it is a worthy place to stop if you are downtown for an event nearby.

City Works
600 Hennepin Ave 
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Phone: (612) 361-2900

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Baja Haus

We visited Baja Haus in Wayzata for my birthday. I have been wanting to try it but I had a feeling between the fresh fish on the menu and the cocktails, the bill would escalate quickly. Also, it looks like I forgot to take a few photos, so we will just have to go back again soon. The menu overall looked very interesting and delicious as we love fresh fish selections and the Mexico theme due to our many vacations there.

We started with the augachile ceviche with tortilla chips. I’ve forgotten what the fish was, some sort of tuna I think. It was very good with lots of fresh fish and quite filling as we also ordered chips and guacamole to start.

We both ordered tacos as we were getting full from all of the tortilla chips earlier. I had the tempura fish tacos topped with avocado crema, cabbage slaw and grilled pineapple salsa. John had the pasilla mole shrimp tacos topped with serrano cabbage slaw, pumpkin seeds and lime crema. 

We finished with a dessert of tres leches cake with pineapple on the side. It was very good and much lighter than I expected.

The service was excellent and we really enjoyed all of the food. One thin to note, all of the food has a good amount of spice to it, they do not shy away from flavor at all, which is just fine with us. They also have a  great happy hour we need to keep in mind for future visits. 

Baja Haus 
830 Lake St E 
Wayzata, MN 55391
Phone: (952) 476-0816

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cafe and Bar Lurcat

I visited Café Lurcat recently for a girls night out for dinner. We had a reservation and were seated immediately on arrival. The main dining room is in a separate room form the bar and quite open and airy with large windows overlooking Loring Park.

We started with the Lurcat crab cake to share. It was nicely seared and had nice flavorful sauce.

We also shared the baby greens salad with pear, smoked goat cheese, endive and walnut vinaigrette. They plated it individually, so the portion will be larger for a single order. It was perfect and oh how I love goat cheese!

Tonya had the miso sea bass. It was excellent and had a wonderful mild flavor.

Dawn had the beef tenderloin filet with roasted mushroom cambozola compote and red wine syrup. The meat was tender, seasoned well and cooked as ordered.

I had the sea scallops with charred brussels sprouts, frisee and hock glaze. The scallops were seared perfectly and the brussels sprouts and ham hock together game everything a mild smoky flavor.

Throughout our visit we found the service to be excellent. The server made great appetizer and entrée suggestions and was very knowledgeable about the menu overall. She even split the bill up for us as soon as she saw us trying to figure it out on our own. The prices are certainly in the higher ranges, but the quality of the food and service put café Lurcat in the finer dining category for good reason.

Café and Bar Lurcat
1624 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Phone: (612) 486-5500

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hibachi Daruma food truck

Hibachi Daruma is a food truck that has been around for quite some time, but I had never gotten around to trying it. I’ve never really noticed any press on it, but it always has a long line, so I figured it was time to give it a try.

I ordered the hibachi chicken with vegetable fried rice. A side of yum yum sauce is also included. The fried rice is delicious and comes with finely chopped vegetables as well. The fried rice tastes just like Benihana’s and that is perfect if you ask me! You can get your Benihana craving fix and the portion is a more reasonable amount for lunch time. The chicken was good quality and cooked perfectly.

Other menu items include lo mein, hibachi shrimp, hibachi beef and pork gyoza. I tried the hibachi shrimp on another visit and found it to be just as good as the hibachi chicken.

The truck can often be found in downtown Minneapolis or at assorted breweries around town on the weekends. They have even been out recently in mid-November for downtown lunches.

Hibachi Daruma
Twitter: @HibachiDaruma

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Las Vegas Trip Report 9.14-19, 2017 - The One Where John Did All the Winning

We decided to give Sun Country a try for this trip to Las Vegas. The price was right, so why not! The lines in Terminal 2 at MSP are always short, but TSA pre-check saves you from having to remove shoes, and separate liquids, which is nice no matter how you look at it.
We ate at the Barrio in Terminal 2. Looks like John had the torta.
I had tostadas, which were pretty good. 

Our bags came into the other terminal in LAS, Terminal 3, which was new and nice but lacked the character of Terminal 1. We took Uber from the airport to The D, our accommodations for the first two nights of our trip. We were quickly checked in to the hotel and we got changed and settled into the room and headed straight for the Golden Gate for a bit of blackjack. I think we stayed out until about 2am and called it a night.
Friday morning we headed over to the Downtown Grand for breakfast at Freedom Beat. We had been hearing some good things and wanted to check it out. They had a gamblers special breakfast deal. You had to run to the players club desk, but it was half off the basic breakfast, so a great price. I think we saw advertised it on the menu or a table tent.
The breakfast potatoes were not bad. Not my favorite of all time, but not bad.
Hallway at The D- very cute, very Vegas!
The Vegas Club demolition....
After breakfast we got some bottled water for the room at Walgreens, got ready to roll for the day and headed over to Main Street Station for some video poker. The session was pretty uneventful for both of us.
We decided to have lunch at Grotto at the Golden Nugget. 
Both pizzas were very good and a large portion. 

After lunch we played some assorted slots at the Golden Nugget, then went down to the El Cortez so John could make a deposit onto the Stations sports betting app. John took out cash from the ATM at El Co and got some free play out of the deal as well. I think you can only do that once a year or once you earn a certain number of points.

We played blackjack at the El Co for quite awhile with a fun group of guys from California on a guys weekend trip. One amazing addition to the El Co is beer tubs in the center of the gaming pits. If you need a beer, the server is ready and waiting all the time, you just let her know what you want, give her a tip and you have a beer in seconds. This is either fantastic or dangerous! Turned out OK for us this time as we did pretty well at blackjack and got quite a few drinks at the same time.
We decided to go back to Binion's Steakhouse for dinner again as we enjoyed it so much on our last trip. John had the ribeye, which was cooked as ordered.
I had the prime rib and it was excellent as well. The service is always great too. We also used a coupon form the Las Vegas Advisor coupon book for 25% off our meal.

After dinner we went over to The Golden Gate and played some blackjack. I think we both lost our buy ins very quickly and we were tired, so we called it a night kind of early, around midnight I think.
I forgot to take the before room pics at The D, so you get a messy room pic instead. Sorry!
The room is basic, but newly remodeled and for the price, not a bad place to stay at all. 

Saturday morning we went to Magnolia's at Four Queens for breakfast. We've been there on just about every trip for awhile now. The food is very solid and so is the service.

After breakfast we packed up our stuff and checked our bags with the valet. We went to The El Co, I took out cash and did the free play deal, no wins on that free play though.

We had lunch at American Coney at The D as we both had comps to use up, so it was super cheap. The food was better than I remembered though, I forgot to take photos.
Up next, a few nights at the Bellagio. We took an Uber from The D. This was our first time staying there. While I tried for an upgrade to fountain view, it was a busy weekend and I was not successful. We did get a nice pool view room though.
Had gotten a Hyatt credit card, so two of our three nights were free, Saturday and Sunday, I paid for Monday and paid the resort fees. Not bad redemption for a credit card sign up though.

The room was very clean and well cared for and quite spacious. 
Overall, we really like staying at the Bellagio. The location is fantastic and it is easy to get to a lot of our favorite places. We had good experiences with every employee we spoke to as well.
After settling in at the Bellagio we went over to Caesars and walked around a bit. We had a BOGO for Spago, so we had another meal. Making up for skipped meals on previous trips I guess! Bolognese for John.
I had the Spago chopped salad. It was really good and worthy of being on the menu since the dawn of time.
I think we went to the room and changed for the evening. Then we went down to Petrossian Bar by the lobby.
I do love that the fancy bars offer the bar snacks though. Makes the speedy drinks a bit easier to take. We sat at the bar, so it was interesting to watch the bartenders at work. I suspect most of them have been there for ages.
We both had some MyVegas free play to use. I had the $50 and $25 and no wins to report, and John had just the $50 free play. He had the huge win above on that, which was impressive.

Then he selected this machine and got a little more work done on a winning day. He got this up to $317 before the win storm ended!
Hello fountains....

Next, we headed over to the Cosmopolitan. We managed to find spots at the bar in the sports book so we could watch football and play video poker at the same time. John got something like 6-7 quads on double double bonus, so he had a good night. I was almost out of my buy in when I got four aces with a queen. 
So we decided to try the updated Blue Ribbon restaurant at the Cosmo for dinner. The food and drinks were still great and the service was perfect as well.
west coast oysters
hanger steak for John
wild mushrooms side
sashimi plate for me

After dinner we headed back to the Bellagio and called it a night around 11pm I think. We had to get up early for the Vikings game on Sunday anyway.

We tried to go to Tom's Urban at NYNY for breakfast and to watch the game, but there was a huge  line of people outside for some sort of private players club event. Rats, we missed the invitation! So we had to think fast and tried Double Barrel, but they were not open yet. We need up at Todd English Pub at Aria.
John had the standard breakfast plate
I had the breakfast sandwich with avocado. the food was all OK, but not anything we'd wish back for. It was serviceable and they had the Vikings game on TV at least. We left at halftime and went to the Cosmo to watch the rest.
I got bored with the game so I played slots a bit. 
We had lunch at Holstein's at the Cosmo. It was busy and we sat at a low table in the bar.
We got some bottled waters at Walgreens and went back to the Bellagio. I went to sit by the pool for awhile. I think John watched football in the casino. Then we went back to NYNY to use the MyVegas Bar at Times Square $50 comp for drinks, while watching a bit of football. Next, we went to Hooters for some blackjack. The power unexpectedly went out, which was strange, but we both lost our money, so we decided to head over to Gold Coast to play some blackjack and use some free slot play coupons. I think we did OK on blackjack, but drins service was sometime slow and they had a lot of new dealers being trained in.
We decided to have a super late dinner at Ping Pang Pong. 

Something or other with chicken. John liked the restaurant a lot, I thought it was OK. After eating, we grabbed a Lyft and headed back to the Bellagio and hit the hay.
Monday morning we went to the Cosmo for the Wicked Spoon buffet. We had a BOGO coupon to use. Luckily or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, I did not step on dog poo on the way to the buffet, unlike our last trip in May. The food was very good once again though!
After breakfast, we went down to the pool for some quality vitamin D time. The pool area was quite nice, not too crowded and the chairs had nice padding on them. This large pool was a nice temperature, the pool I sat by the day before was freezing cold, so only some of the pools are heated I guess.
After pool time, we were starving again and we went to Lago. It was too late for lunch so we sat at the bar and had some snacks basically.

After eating we went downtown to the El Co so John could cash out his sports betting app account. I think he did OK since he had money to get! After that we wandered down to the Golden Nugget and had a few more snacks at the Chart House.

After eating again, we went over to the Golden Gate for a bit of blackjack. I don't recall the results, so it must not have been that great. We grabbed an Uber and went to Paris for dinner at Mon Ami Gabi.
This drink looked great, but t was way too strong and generally terrible. 
I had the hanger steak and I don't think I'd get that again as it was not very tender steak.

Tuesday morning we had to be up hecking early to make our flight. We used a MyVegas comp for the buffet at Bellagio. It was OK, but the beverages are self service now and they did not yet have the yogurt with the berries and honey out yet. Boo. That is my favorite! Also, we did not find any hash browns. That should be some sort of potato crime!
A couple token Bellagio garden shots. It was closed off as we walked by for some reason so we could not walk inside.
We packed up our things after breakfast and took Lyft to the airport. Our flight home was uneventful. We paid a little extra to get the exit row on the way home. We had three seats all to ourselves so there was tons of space, which was really nice. 

I kept putting off this report thinking I had to comment on the tragic events that happened in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. The events made me extremely sad and then angry that something like that could happen in one of my favorite places to vacation. But I don't know that I have anything constructive to add to the discussion. I do know that it won't stop us from going to Las Vegas. We have another trip planned soon and are going as planned. So hopefully things will return to normal soon, especially for the sake of people that live and work in Las Vegas and depend on tourism to keep their jobs.