Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Young Joni

We finally went somewhere new shortly after it opened. I really wanted to try Young Joni, so I made a reservation about a month ahead of time. It was worth the wait.

We were seated right away. The room is very warm and inviting with open beams and lots of dark wood. The place was packed and buzzing and the sound levels were good, not too loud and not too quiet.

Our server greeted us pretty quickly and provided excellent service throughout our visit.

Paloma and sarsaparilla cocktails
We began with a couple starters- the first was the brussels sprouts. The sauce was a bit sweet and the onion added to the smoky flavor of the brussels sprouts.
The second starter was the grilled chili prawns. The sauce was definitely spicy and not in a Minnesota way. They were perfectly grilled and I could have eaten several more. 
We shared the Korean BBQ pizza. The crust was sturdy enough to support all of the topping and just the right amount of chewy and soft. The arugula was nicely dressed with sesame and soy vinaigrette and the short rib topping was tender and plentiful.
John had the sea salt and olive oil soft serve. It was surprisingly delicious, he was not sure it would be good, but it was in fact great. The olive oil almost tasted like caramel sauce.
My dessert was the church basement bars plate with a side of milk. The chocolate chip cookies were warm and perfect. The middle bar was a blueberry and lemon bar, which was sweet and light, like a cobbler. The chocolate bar on the left was super chocolatey, rich and sweet.
looking toward the bar
looking toward the front 

That reminds me, that the front door is a little tricky. All the windows and doors on the front look the same, the door is at an angle and has a very small lip to grab. 
restroom with giant lightbulb

I very highly recommend Young Joni. The experience was perfect from start to finish. It is not cheap, but worth every dime for the high quality food and service your receive.

Young Joni
165 13th Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
Phone: (612) 345-5719

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Third Street Tavern - St Peter, MN

Last time I was in Mankato I visited the Third Street Tavern for dinner one night with my Dad. We both like BBQ and had not checked it out yet.

The previous tenant was another BBQ place and the decor has not changed much, if at all. We were told there would be a 45 minute wait, but I think it was only 20 minutes or so that we waited at the bar.
I had a beef brisket sandwich and cole slaw. The brisket was OK, could have been a little more tender, but it was not dry at least. They have two house made BBQ sauces, the first is mild and very sweet and the second seems to be the same with just a bit of spice added. The cole slaw was freshly made and good.

I think I need to go back and try a few more menu items, but overall I think it has a lot of promise and potential as it is run by the people that own Tav on The Ave, Number 4 and other Mankato restaurants that are all very popular. Plus, there are not a lot of dining options in St Peter, so this is a good addition.

Third Street Tavern
408 S 3rd St
St Peter, MN 56082
Phone: (507) 934-3314

Friday, March 17, 2017

Giordano's Pizza

Just wanted to share a quick picture from Giordano's pizza in Uptown. We visited for early dinner on a Saturday afternoon recently. Since it was early, it didn't look that busy, and we scored a parking spot in the adjacent lot, but the only open spots were two stools at the bar. We took them and quickly made the decision to order a deep dish pepperoni and sausage pizza. The pizza takes 45 minutes to bake and I see why.

This is a heavy duty pizza and it is topped with tons of cheese. I liked this pizza, but I'm not sure it was the best deep dish I've ever had. The crust was very thick and sturdy, but I missed the cornmeal dusting that sometimes is used under the crust. The cheese had good flavor, as did the meat. The sauce was acceptable, but was missing the super fresh tomato flavor we were looking for. Overall, I'd say if you are missing authentic Chicago style deep dish pizza, this will meet your needs, but it is not the best ever.

We found the service to be brisk and quick. They do their best to get you in and out, though the cooking time slows things down considerably. There are two Minnesota locations now as well, in Minneapolis and Richfield.

Giordano's Pizza
2700 Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 444-3143

3000 W 66th St,
Richfield, MN 55423
(612) 444-3731

Friday, March 3, 2017

Puerto Vallarta trip report 2.7-15.2017

We decided to head back to Puerto Vallarta again this year since we had such a great time last year. The exchange rate is amazing right now and we also had a few things on the to do list we missed on previous trips. I think we calculated that we are at six PVR trips for John and seven for me. So I guess we've been bitten by the PVR bug.

Our flight out of MSP (booked with frequent flier miles) was on American Airlines at the crack of dawn. We departed on time and arrived in Dallas for our connection with plenty of time to spare. Our flight to PVR departed on time and arrived a bit early. The line for immigration went very quick and the long line for customs went fairly quickly as well. I also got my bag sniffed by the dog in the customs area. The handler asked if I had food in the bag and I pulled out the M&M's I had left over from the flight and he said they were OK. The dog looked disappointed though. Hope he got a treat anyway. 

We got some pesos out of the ATM and got a taxi to our hotel. The ride was uneventful and we arrived at the Tropicana pretty quickly. There was some issue with our room not being  ready quite yet, so they ended up putting us in a junior suite for one night and then we switched to the superior room we booked the second day. Not a huge issue.

There was a pub crawl going on with a Trip Advisor group so we joined them on the fourth stop at Nacho Daddy. 

We were starving by the next stop at Los Muertos Brewing and it was still early, so we both ordered the pizza special for a quick snack. The pizza was excellent and so was the Caesar salad on the side of mine, great garlic flavor. John said the fries were really good also. I think it was 70 pesos each, so about $3.50 in US dollars.
 pub crawl crowd
The pub crawl is always great fun and we enjoyed seeing Scott and Rena again (crawl organizers) and meeting a bunch of new people as well. Thanks to Scott and Rena for a fun pub crawl once again!
After the pub crawl we went to Cafe Roma for one of their great mango margaritas.
Next, we stopped at Bar La Playa for a couple drinks. The drinks were good once more, but the crowd was a bit different this year. We still went back, but not as much as last year.

It was getting late (for us who had been up since 3:30am) so we grabbed some tacos al pastor at Takos Panchos on Basilio Badillo and called it a night. Still excellent tacos!
On Wednesday morning we headed straight to our favorite breakfast place in Puerto Vallarta, Coco's Kitchen.
The Vallarta omelet is fantastic, the cornbread is required eating as well! 
Garden at Coco's kitchen. The service is always very good as well. I can not recommend it enough.

We took a walk after breakfast and went to make massage appointments for later in the week. We headed back to the hotel, packed up our stuff in order to change rooms and sat by the pool. Once our room was ready John took care of checking in to the new room and getting our bags delivered.
Around 1pm we decided we should find some lunch. We wandered down the beach and decided to give the Blue Shrimp a try as we had never tried it before. My tortilla soup is above.
John had arriero shrimp
I had tequila shrimp, which also came with the soup and a Pacifico. The shrimp was all quite good, but the prices were a bit on the higher side for lunch.
view from our room's balcony
                                                           view from our room's balcony

We sat by the pool for the afternoon and late afternoon went up to the room to unpack and move in. We went Cuates y Cuetes for happy hour and sunset. We went to No Way Jose for dinner. We probably should have made a reservation, but after a short wait we did get a table upstairs. 
complementary onion soup to start
We did the table side Caesar salad
chicken fajitas
another chicken fajitas
ice cream dessert for John
Table side Sexy Coffee for me for dessert. The food and service were all good once again, but I'd probably make sure to make a reservation next time. I think we called it a night after dinner. Might have had a beer on the patio at the room.
Thursday we started with breakfast at Freddy's Tucan. We got to sit in the garden area for the first time too. The food is always solid here. Luckily, we arrived on the early side, so there was not a wait for a table.
After breakfast we got massages at Venus Southside Massage. The massages were excellent and very affordable. We sat by the pool at the hotel for most of the day.

We had lunch at Coco's Kitchen. I think I had a chicken sandwich, which was good.
We went to the Marina to check out the lighthouse, El Faro and watch the sunset. Some buildings are kind of in the way right now, but the view is nice. There is an elevator to the top or stairs, whichever you prefer.
We enjoyed watching places take off and land at the airport from the lighthouse.
We wandered around the Marina Market for awhile. It had some of the same vendors at the Old Town Market actually, but it was pretty large.
We had made reservations for dinner at Tintoque in the Marina. It was definitely one of the more upscale dinners we had, but it did not disappoint. In fact, thinking back, we liked it far better than our dinner the next night at Barcelona Tapas.
Description of Tuba. The tuba was sweet with apple pieces in it, very good. 

The dessert we had was amazing, some sort of mousse with fruits and cake in it. The service was excellent as well.
After dinner we took a taxi back to Old Town and we went to Twisted Palms for drinks. We went to Bar La Playa for a drink also. I think we called it a night after that.
Friday we went to Memo's Pancake House for breakfast. 
the food is always excellent

All of the food at Memo's was good as always, we always seem to order far more food than we can eat!

After breakfast we walked around the Marisol Market at the Marisol Hotel a bit (the market is inside, in the lobby area). We sat on the beach in front of the Tropicana for the day. You have to get up pretty early to secure a palapa!
We took a beach break for lunch and went to Joe Jack's Fish Shack. It was very busy and we had a short wait for a table. Above is red snapper ceviche for a starter. It was very good in a citrus sauce.
fish and chips for John
A fish sandwich for me. The service was great and we were in and out pretty quickly actually.
Had to get a bucket of beer on the beach from Umberto the waiter at the hotel! 
We went to Barcelona Tapas for dinner. Above is a Spanish potato salad starter the was complementary and quite good.

view from our table

calamari was chewy as can be and not a lot of flavor
octopus was chewy with too much paprika
A couple of the entrees were disappointing, unfortunately. I'm not sure we would return. We seem to have bad luck at the view restaurants in general. Food quality is usually better at places with no view at all I'm beginning to think.
After dinner we walked down the hill to the Malecon and wandered in to Cerveceria Union to a couple drinks. It is kind of touristy and overpriced, but they have a lot of interesting Mexican beers available that we had not seen at other places.
cool bottle cap bar at Cerveceria Union
Stopped at Bar La Playa for a drink also and called it a night.
Apparently all of the beach clubs no longer take reservations, everything is first come first serve, so we arrived fairly early at La Palapa on Saturday morning to spend the day.
huge breakfasts!

much later we had lunch as well
We had to clear out at 3pm as they had a private event that evening, but we were probably ready to go by then anyway.
We stopped in at the Hungry Cougar for drinks and somehow ended up trying their tequila. A HUGE glass of tequila.
We finally found the churro guy and he was there and open! Very good churros too! 
We stopped in to Gringo Loco for drinks, made friends with a Canadian farmer who kept buying us beers and ended up hanging out to watch the band, which was very good, Trez Cuartoz. We ended up getting a couple sonora dogs from a street vendor for our dinner and calling it a night.
We went to the Iguana Restaurant at Casa Kimberly for Sunday brunch. The case was very nice and upscale and the brunch buffet had plenty of options.
churros here also! 
the famous bridge 
famous former resident

It was very neat to check out Casa Kimberly and Iguana Restaurant. I don't know that we would rush back, might be interesting to try it for dinner though.
I think we sat by the pool at the hotel for much of the day. We took a break for lunchtime and went to El Dorado for lunch.
shrimp empanadas were excellent 
We went to Polo's for dinner. Shrimp, shrimp, shrimp! 

After dinner Twisted Palms for some cocktails. 
Gotta have a beer at Sea Monkey at least once a trip

We wandered down to the Malecon for a Sunday night stroll before calling it a night. I'm aways amazed at how many people still turn out for this Sunday tradition.
Yes, we went to Coco's Kitchen again. I am not ashamed. I am happy! 

I think you need to see this cornbread close up. So buttery and fantastic. 
We met Scott and Rena at the bus stop and headed down to Mismaloya for some quality beach time.
They knew which beach club to go to and everything. I wish I could remember the guy's name. Maybe Scott will tell me in the comments.
rustic bridge over the river in Mismaloya
We hopped back on the bus and headed down to Boca de Tomatlan for late lunch reservations at Ocean Gill. Oh and I almost forgot, we saw whales just offshore as we were finishing our meal and then waiting for the boat to leave Ocean Grill.

we both had catch of the day mahi mahi in Ocean Grill sauce
the key lime pie should not be missed!
We are bad at selfies.....
After taking the bus back to town, stopping at the room to get cleaned up, we made it to Twisted Palms for Martini Madness Mondays.
We went to Archie's Wok for a late dinner. Only a very short wait to get in. 
fried rice

garlic shrimp

Tuesday morning we went to Coexist Cafe at Hotel Rio for breakfast. 

The food and service were all very good and we had a nice table right next to the pool.
People really went all out decorating their beach palaces along Los Meurtos beach for Valentine's Day. We were not up early enough to get a palapa so we sat by the pool.
We had lunch at Daiquiri Dick's.
Shrimp wontons- guess I was not very hungry, these were really good though. Service here is always excellent too.

We got massages again as well. John went back to Venus Southide and he said it was great. I had made an appointment at Metamorphosis and my massage was good as well. I think Venus Southside was cheaper and possibly better though.
We had made reservations for dinner Bistro Theresa since it was Valentine's day we figured things might be busy. The restaurant is more upscale than I expected, but the food was very good even though the view is nice. (As we seem to get not great good at view restaurants.)
red snapper crudo
seared tuna
John had catch of the day I think
strolling saxophonist-- he seriously played Careless Whisper, among others....
The service and food were all excellent. I think we'd return to Bistro Theresa. 
Cafe Roma for another round of mango margaritas!
We went to Twisted Palms again, bought some cookies from a lady selling them and giving samples first. Samples are key. I think Twisted Palms gets the award for our favorite bar on this trip, I think we went four times.
It was breakfast on our last day, where did you think we would go? Yup, Coco's Kitchen!
Vallarta omelet

Went into the Lounge before our flight home as we had tons of time to spare. 
We scored business class/first for our frequent flier award flights home. Goodness, it is nice to have the big seats. The TVs in the seats are even larger.
Bye PVR! 
The food on the flight wasn't amazing, but it wasn't terrible. Our flight attendant was definitely on the senior side, so the service was extremely slow. So that kind of dashed any expectations we had of great service in the front of the plane.   
Amazing sunset as we were coming in to land in Chicago. 
Tortas Frontera
One plus to connecting in Chicago was we got to try Tortas Frontera at O'Hare. The sandwiches were very good actually. I'd love to get to Chicago to go back to any Rick Bayless restaurant.

We had another excellent trip to Puerto Vallarta and we look forward to returning. Although, I think our 2018 winter trip may be Jamaica instead of Puerto Vallarta as it will be our 10th wedding anniversary and we'd love to go back to Couples Swept Away.