Sunday, April 26, 2009

Victor's 1959 Cafe

If you have never eaten at Victor's 1959 Cafe before, you are missing out on a treat of South Minneapolis. Especially now, you can celebrate Obama's lifting of travel restrictions on the island nation by finding your way to Grand and 38th street where this restaurant hides (I mention because I always miss it when I'm the one driving).

Inside it's not just Che memorabilia. Every which way possible, there is a table crammed into a corner or alcove. Then there is graffiti *everywhere* encouraged by the owners, and you can be entertained reading everything in the multitude of languages there from the typical Joanie loves Chachie commentary to illustrations saying "I am a Dude" to spanish love poems to the yuca.

I will admit, I'm typically here for breakfast, so I don't have my experience with the lunch or dinner menus. It is simple but very tasty food featuring a plethora of plantains and yuca and black beans on the cuban side. They also have options for the more americanized palate. Yesterday I treated myself to the sweet plantain omelette with creole sauce (like a cross between a salsa and a cocktail sauce really). PiC enjoyed his Basque Scrambler featuring chorizo, veggies and ham.

Both of us reveled in the excellent guava jam that they serve with their toast. Me, I'm also a fan of their cuban toast, which I think is bread that has been buttered and then cooked on a griddle. Like grilled cheese without the cheese.

Also, the mimosas are quite nice. Yesterday I started with a raspberry lemonade mimosa that was exceptionally refreshing, and a nice change from the run of the mill orange.

Breakfast is served all day, and their dinner menu is quite extensive as well, with a rotating beer and wine menu.

Travelling: Smalley's BBQ - Stillwater, MN

While on a day of wine tasting through vineyards in Minnesota, PiC and I stumbled across a rather interesting restaurant. Smalley's BBQ is a Pirate themed bar/eating establishment. It was at the end of the strip, I was ready to gnaw PiC's arm off, and I didn't want to walk all the way back to the bistro we had considered while looking for a particular cafe.

Now I have to admit, I was dubious. They claimed a "Caribbean theme" to their food but they didn't do much in the way of actual Caribbean style food as I have come to understand it. With the Pirate stuff everywhere, and the large collection of Rum options on the back of the menu, I was expecting something rather run of the mill.

We both ordered sandwiches, me the pulled pork, he the jerk chicken. They arrived stamped with a jolly rogers seared into the bun.

And then I bit in.

That was so much better than I was expecting. The BBQ flavors were bold, yet not overpowering. Smoky, but oddly for me not unpleasantly so. And the BBQ blended well with the jerk flavoring if you want to add that as well. They also came with a choice of sides and I went with a sweet potato and pork side that carried that same theme through.

PiC's jerk chicken was just as enjoyable, but the biggest hit was his chosen side of the curried and grilled vegetables. Crisp yet cooked and with just enough of the curry flavoring to know that it was there without overpowering the succulence of the fresh veggies.

And an amusing pirate theme to boot. The place could use at least one more waitress it seemed, but otherwise I would go there again. At least after I'd tried several other restaurants in Stillwater. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mairin's Table

Tucked away in a little corner of Northeast, is this little bistro that serves a "Morrocan/American cuisine". So ok, we were not going to expect a completely mono-authentic culinary experience here. But really, I'm okay with that.

We sat down and already the interior looked lush. Not too many tables, but I get the feeling that is on purpose so they can take the proper care with the food. Our waitress was incredibly knowledgeable about everything on the menu we asked about, and I settled on a Spanish wine made from a grape I had never tried before, Herencia Antica's Tempranillo. It was a pleasantly full red wine, similar in many ways to a Pinot Noir, though with a distinctly Spanish flair to it. Not sure I could describe it any other way.

We started with an appetizer of the hummus. I'm always intrigued by a place's expression of the simple hummus. This one I believe was a little lighter on the garlic than I usually get, but higher on the lemon, and still very refreshing and delightful. The pita comes warm, and the hummus is especially delicious on the tomatoes, I'm told by PiC.

Entree's are at the medium range, expect to pay $15-20. However, they are huge. It is completely reasonable to split the meal in half and it is plenty for both parties. There's a charge for splitting, but it is worth it.

We ordered a Tagine of Lamb with Figs. This had a perfectly balanced spiciness with the sweetness of the figs, and the color of both was so close if I wasn't paying attention I wouldn't know whether I was getting meat or fruit until I had bitten down. If the flavor is too spicy for you, you can add the buttermilk harissa which comes off to the side, but otherwise I'll admit I was at a loss as to what this would be used for and didn't feel it had much flavor.

Dessert was baklava made with almonds. Sometimes baklava can be overpowering. It was a not too sweet, incredibly light way to end our meal.

Other options for meals that they had here include Chicken Marsala, or Stroganoff. So you can bring the less adventurous here and still have an incredible meal.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

St Petersburg Restaurant and Vodka Bar

So, PiC is out of town for the weekend, and I had been looking for something to do. XG emails me out of the blue and says, hey, I know you're always super busy, but I feel like chatting, you feel like some sort of food thing some time? Amazingly, I have a free weekend, and lo, she suggests that she has an Entertainment book, and have I heard of a place called St Petersburg?

HAVE I? Last time I ate here was with PiC and OSO when OSO got her job last June. So I get a chance to go again and write the review that was sorely lacking.

I had forgotten the fact that the people who show up here really dress up. Because, you see, this seems to be the central gathering place of the entire Twin Cities Russian community. The wait staff barely speaks English. The food is amazing. And after a while, while we're in the midst of our meal, the band gets up on stage, speaking only in Russian, and there's entertainment and scads of people dancing. I think my favorite part was XG thinking there must be some sort of function going on, and I had to tell her, No, that's just what this place is LIKE on a Saturday night. :)

As for the food.... We started with a vodka flight each. Her the Polish flight, me the Russian flight. Out of the six vodkas I tried, I have to say that Belvedere really was my favorite, though the Stoli Gold was not bad. The others just didn't have the smoothness that those two did. :)

We completely forgot to trade tastes of dishes. At least I had had enough vodka that I wasn't thinking of that when it came time. My classic stroganoff was delightful however, and blended very nicely with the mashed potatoes that came with it. A cosmo for me and two more shots of Belvedere for XG later, and we enjoyed ourselves a tasty tasty cheesecake. Even though we'd ordered the blintzes. It was still fine; I think the waiter had a hard enough time understanding us. :)

Love that place. And I also know that I like Polish vodkas over Russian. At least tonight I did. :)

Uptown Diner

This place is one of my favorite places to go to when I'm up stupid early on a Saturday morning. I bring myself and a book and sit in a back corner.

There is a lovely 50's kitsch feel to the place. The food is good old fashioned diner food and the portions are in general HUGE. Even the half portions of their breakfast home specialties are good for two meals. In particular I like their treatment of the hashbrowns, though they do need additions of salt and pepper.

I've also enjoyed their wraps when I've been there on the rare lunch occasion. But I will admit my favorite thing to order when I get there is their biscuits and gravy. It's a very homestyle breakfast for me. And the eggs that come with it are always perfect for me.

It gets super crowded when it's time for regular brunch time. A tip, there WILL be a wait if the parking lot is full. The parking lot holds just about the number of people that can fit there.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


So lately, I've been stressed, and my food choices have reflected that. Lots of comfort foods, eating at home instead of going out, multitasking while I eat. Today PiC and I decided that what needed to happen was some good healthy eating.

So we headed down the street to Ecopolitan. Now, I had never managed to eat there, even when I was a vegetarian. But the idea of a raw foods vegetarian restaurant intrigued me to no end. And I always was thinking, you know, I should try that place as I drove past it, over and over. Let me say up front that it will definitely be a place I return to, and any skepticism about it has been assuaged now that I've actually been in for a meal. And I will refrain from quotes around the food descriptions, as they were fine on their own.

It's very much a house inside, looking like many an apartment in Uptown. And the decor is definitely of the rustic/reuse style, but it suits a place that charges a modest fee for take away containers.

First juice. Because if you're going to this place, you need to try at least one of their juices. This is no jamba juice. I ordered the Ginger Lemonade; it was uplifting and refreshing, a citrus drink with a definite tasty kick.

PiC went with a Coconut Supreme from the smoothie section, coconut mixed with dates and mint and cinnamon. I am not a coconut fan, but his report was that he loved it, and it was rather filling if one wanted something for on the go.

Dinner for me was the pasta with macadamia alfredo sauce. There were marinated mushrooms, pine nuts, and a few herbs mixed in the an alfredo sauce made from not only macadamia nuts but cashews as well, and all of this was topped a zucchini pasta and a bed of greens. I will admit the alfredo sauce was lacking in a little bit of salt to really make the flavor pop, but the texture was amazing, and the flavor was not bad, just not wow.

PiC's meal consisted of a spinach soup and a lasagna made from vegetables and nuts. There was many yummy noises coming from his side of the table, though I did not manage to try any of it. I did try the flax seed cracker that FoodieK had recommended. The balsamic reduction on top of that was incredible.

Afterwards, I feel full, but amazingly... lighter. And more awake. I think that their restaurant succeeded in what they aimed to do. I will be back.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Eat Street Round Up

Eat Street in Minneapolis has a lot of restaurants. Generally, it's Nicollet Street from about 13th or so down to behind the Lake Street KMart. There's a wide variety of cuisines, though by far the most popular is Vietnamese from what I can tell. Which is a little frustrating, because of all the various cuisines out there, I just haven't gotten behind Vietnamese as much as the others.

The offshoot is that many of the options here are pretty darned good and not too expensive. Unless it's one of the expensive restaurants. This means that I eat out a fair bit. I *love* living near Eat Street, but honestly it does not do fabulously for my wallet.

I've already covered a couple of the restaurants on this stretch, but I want to have a quick run down of the others, including ones that I eat at a fair bit, or have in the past. So in order of approximately cross street....

Ichiban - Japanese steak house that is essentially right across from the Hyatt and what I see as the beginning of Eat Street and the end of downtown. I used to eat all the time here with X, because not only is it teppanyaki and all the yumminess that is there, but you also have the option of Sushi Buffet.

When I first started eating meat, sushi was my second attempt for integration. I fell in love, though like a lover you spend too much time with I got very tired of it. And this was the place I was taken to try it for the first time.

I got very sick of this place.

Though I would go back for the teppanyaki, the sushi is passable, but just one step above supermarket sushi I have found. The pluses are that the sushi comes around on little boats on a water track, and everyone picks and chooses. I find this highly entertaining.

It's actually a great idea for someone to try all sorts of different kinds of sushi without paying a crazy amount for all the different nigiri and maki. It's also a fabulous idea if you're with someone who would otherwise eat $75 worth of sushi.

I stopped going there mostly because for as regular as X and I were, we weren't treated very well. In fact it seemed like they got tired of seeing us there, which doesn't make sense if you ask me. Maybe they thought he ate too much.

I did go with CK and a bunch of people for the teppanyaki experience though and that was a blast. Tasty food, artfully prepared right in front of you with flair.

New India/India House - Indeed, I tried this place originally because it is kitty corner to Ichiban and I just desperately didn't want sushi that night, but X insisted that's what he wanted. So we ate separately. It was an odd relationship. I'm not even sure what the place is called now, it was one name and the other but I can't remember the order.

The main benefits of this place are in order: 1) Location near me, 2) Space within, and uh.... No really, that's it. It's a standard enough Indian restaurant, but I cannot think of a single thing that makes this place stand out. The food is ok enough and when I got that curry craving, it means I don't have to go way the heck out there.

But they don't deliver 10 blocks away. I would order takeout from this place way more often if they had delivery that came to my house. And it would be good enough for that. I miss Indian delivery in this town. It is very sad; Indian is one of my favoritest cuisines ever.

Bali - In the space that was formerly held by Safari. Now it's a cute little Indonesian restaurant.

Indonesian seems to be on the spicy side of life. Their drinks have very cutesy names but are tasty (I had a Karma Sutra), and the wait staff seem to be a bit slow (Actually, I remember the bartender/waiter being from Fuji-Ya once upon a time, that might explain it).

The food however, YUM!! I had the Ayam Bakar, which is chicken in this sweetish yet spicy sauce, and I think PiC had Daging Rendang, a slow cooked beef in coconut milk an spices. We were both all Oh Wow about not only our meals, but each other's meals too. And I know it's on our list to go back; hopefully it will last longer than Safari did.

Pings - I know that some people really like Pings when it comes to Chinese food. They do deliver, and when it's a cold Minnesota night, that can be a plus. But my impression of this place was that it was a standard tun of the mill Chinese restaurant that has been Americanized in its flavors. I just wasn't impressed.

Gangchen - This is sort of a Pan-Asian restaurant it seems. At least I got Thai when PiC got Chinese, and I know that there's Tibetan and Vietnamese on there as well. It has a little bit of a retro look to it, I'm surprised it only opened in 2007.

I like to think of this place as good place to go when we can't make up our minds. The food is reasonably priced and all done fairly decently. And they have *momo*. Ok, it might not be yak momo, but it does make me happy.

Las Ranas - I'm not even sure what to say here. They got my order wrong; I wanted an enchilada and got a quesadilla. Which shouldn't be a big deal because, hello, both tortilla with cheese inside, but... I know that PiC likes it here for a cheap Mexican breakfast, and it certainly does have price going for it. The one time I've eaten here though I got a little ill. I'm not thrilled about going back.

Evergreen - Comfort food right across the alley. It's situated in the basement of a building, and serves up tasty Taiwanese cuisine. Which is like mainland China, but with more seafood options.

The thing is, this is *the* place in the Twin Cities that I've found for the fake meats as well. Not just Mock Duck, but Mock Chicken, Mock Pork, Mock Beef, and I think even Mock Shrimp. And they do it *well*. On top of that, they are very respectful for the vegan crowd and their vegan food is cooked on separate surfaces than the omnivore food. When you're vegan, this is a heaven sent because meat contamination can make you *ill* after not eating it for a while.

I love this place. And if I'm going for Chinese, this is the place I will most likely go on Eat Street.

Spyhouse Coffee - My neighborhood coffee shop. This place was here before they went and opened Bad Waitress. I really love this as a coffee shop, and it coddles my eclectic tastes in... most things. Including music. And I love their chai. I am much more likely to go here than the Bad Waitress, frankly.

Pho Hoa - Living in the space that used to hold Relax, and before that, Yummy. This is actually a Vietnamese chain restaurant from California and the Phillipines. I will admit - I don't like soup, so the allure of pho is lost on me. Their broken rice dishes aren't bad, and I like their hot tea, and they are cheap, so I eat here on a semi-regular basis, being between me and other restaurants in that direction.

Seafood Palace - See the review for Ping's and Jade, though without the delivery of Ping's. Not impressed. It's just passable and I can eat here if someone else wants to.

Pho 79 - I will admit this is one of the better Vietnamese places I've gone, though I was only there with PiC, and OSO once. I remember being more distracted by conversation than noticing the food however. I know people who have been going here for years though because they love it so.

It's possible that it's just the Vietnamese flavor palatte being lost on me.

Pancho Villa - If I'm wanting walking distance Mexican, this is the place that I tend to go. It has fun art all over the walls, two for one house margaritas that are *tasty* in the early evening, and large platters of authentic food for cheap. They also have the best flan I've ever had.

Not to mention if I'm wanting a higher shelf tequila, they do not charge an arm and a leg for it, like barrio downtown does. I eat here probably once every couple weeks or so. It looks a little... cheesy from the outside, but seriously, this is my favorite of the three Mexican restaurants that are right there. It is the only one that serves alcohol, so if you're wanting a cantina sort of feel, this would be the place for it.

Taco Morelos - This used to be my favorite of the three Mexican restaurants. The decor is certainly the cutest. And they have an awesome veggie quesadilla with many many veggies. Thing is, they stopped serving alcohol. Not really sure why. Still, it's really good food, I just don't make it there quiet so often anymore.

Little Tijuana's - Often called Little T's. Open super late, and good if what you want is a GINORMOUS plate of nachos for not expensive. Actually, most of their plates are large for the price. And the food is okay. Definitely a youth vibe to the place later in the evening.

Usually punk rock playing, and they give tootsie rolls instead of mints at the end of the meal. They also have the chocolate chimichanga. So while it's not exactly what I would call authentic Mexican, it has its place for the cravings.

Black Forest - It has been a very long time since I've eaten here, but I remember the spaetzle was over cooked. I really didn't have a desire to come back here again after that. I'm told that I need to be brought to some place with better German food, that it does exist. .

Rainbow - Chinese that I came to Eat Street for when I lived elsewhere in South Minneapolis. I have a definite fondness for this place. And as far as Chinese goes for Eat Street, probably the best I've had on here save for Evergreen. They also have a pomegranate martini and some very soothing decor that I love returning here. It's like an old friend when I come back.

Java - Middle-eastern; all I remember of the food here is that it's very oily. It's been around forever, and I know that PiC loves the hibiscus drink that he can get here. I'm wondering if my experience was colored by the fact that the first time I ate here, I was with X, and the second time I had food from here I was incredibly ill before the food got there and I found it unappetizing.

The thing I remember most though is that PiC and I have VERY different wants when we're sick: he wants to cook the sick out with spicy. I want starch and bland and nothing that will rock the boat of my delicate system. So his bringing this to me while I'm ill... Sweet for sure, but just not the right answer for me. I should poke him to go here again.

Pho Tau Bay - Hidden behind the Kmart on Lake Street, this was the first Vietnamese I ever went to. The prices are incredible, the menu extensive, and it's been voted the best Vietnamese in the Twin Cities at least once. You should listen to them. It's good, and the fact that it doesn't stir me is really what makes me think that I just am not a big fan of the Vietnamese food and that the flaw is with me and not with the restaurant.

Monday, February 2, 2009

French Meadow Cafe

One of my favorite restaurants, and is relatively close to me, is French Meadow Bakery and Cafe. This is a restaurant that loves to cook with organic ingredients and especially to support local farmers. They have gluten free, vegan, and kosher parve foods all available.

Every meal starts with a basket of a variety of their breads, the perfect appetizer for a bakery.

Some meals that I have had here:
  • Bison with mashed potatoes - where I was won over to bison as a most delightful upgrade from beef
  • Sweet corn arepas - vegan, but not lacking in flavor
  • Quiche - which is absurdly tall and served with salad for breakfast, a definite win
  • Butternut squash gnocchi - lighter than the traditional potato gnocchi

    I can't really say there was anything I've been disappointed with there. My experience with the wait staff has been varied when it came to their suggestions of a wine selection, but mostly the wait staff is knowledgeable.

    Also, their deserts are incredible. Especially the chocolate flourless torte. They're decadent enough though that I suggest if you go with someone you split them. Because they're not to be missed, but best to have in moderation.

    If you're there for breakfast or lunch, orders are taken at the counter and signs handed out for when the food is delivered. For dinner, starting at 5, French Meadow behaves as a traditional sit down restaurant. Weekend morning brunch gets rather packed by 10am.
  • Friday, January 30, 2009

    Welcome to my Journal, You're beautiful forever

    Hello and welcome to my foodie journal. See, I just started it today. However, I have a whole bunch of reviews of Twin Cities restaurants before this, however, they were previously on another journal.

    So if they're short, that's more the style of that journal. But they have my recommendations both for and against for the last year+ of trying all sorts of new things.

    There are definitely some restaurants that I have eaten at and missed in my reviews. That will change. In the coming days, especially when I don't manage to make it to anywhere new or interesting, I will be attempting to write down reviews that I missed writing. I think I remember most of the restaurants I have tried. :)

    What you need to remember, however, is that *all* food is ethnic. Food is steeped in its culture and sprinkled with our expectations.


    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Nala Pak

    Friday night I said to PiC that I wanted to go out to eat, but I wanted to definitely go out to eat somewhere that is not in my immediate neighborhood. To be honest, I'm a little tired of my neighborhood at the moment, and was wanting something... Well if not quite different, then just not here. I also wanted booze, and I wanted to do anything but think about work.

    His suggestion was that we drive up to Columbia Heights and try out Nala Pak, one of the vegetarian Indian restaurants in town. Perfect, says I, and we toodle on up Central to the restaurant. And what do you know, there's a Large Liquor Store right next to it. :)

    Sit down, look around, and at the menu, and there were three huge wins: 1) There were South Indian dishes on the menu, 2) there were large Indian families in the restaurant, and 3) they had sparkling wine by the glass.

    I order my standby, a palak paneer, and a glass of said sparkling wine. PiC goes for the dosai that's stuffed with cauliflower. And I soooooo pegged what he was going to get because he'd never had dosai and it wasn't stuffed with potatoes. :)

    OMG the palak paneer was incredible. Creamy, yet not over processed, and it was Palak AND Paneer. As in they took up about equal halves of the dish. So often palak paneer ends up being a green puree with a few lonely cheese cubes tossed in. Not only that, but the paneer was so clearly Fresh. Oh, I wish this place were not so far from my apartment. I'd be eating here weekly in no time.

    Also, I had Joy when seeing the bottle of sparkling wine Pop in back. I knew my wine was coming. It was kinda pedestrian, but I'm not going to complain too much about that when it was only $5/glass or so. It was lovely enough and it was fizzy and I was satisfied.

    The dosai was like this ginormous crepe made with lentils instead of wheat flour. Very thin, but I swear it was 18 inches across or something like that, and filed with curry. He was as happy with his dosai as I was with my palak paneer.

    And an interesting conversation ensued. We talked about how I seem to get a limited number of dishes, but I go to a wide variety of restaurants. I just have the things that I like in those cuisines. Where as he is a more adventurous type, trying that which he hasn't seen on a menu anywhere else.

    What we came to realize though through our conversation is that we have very different ways of "testing" a restaurant. He will judge a place by what he's never had before. Is it unique and interesting and well balanced. I, on the other hand, prefer to judge a place on my favorite dishes. For instance, I can compare this palak paneer to that one and judge them on their subtle differences in character. Thing is, so far we have hardly *ever* gone to the same restaurant twice. And so I haven't had the "okay, I've tested this, and I know they won't make me sick, now let's try something completely different" sort of experience that much with him.

    Yet. :)

    Thursday, January 1, 2009


    Started off the new year going to a new restaurant for dinner. Tonight PiC and I headed to Barbette, and all I can say is what the hell took me so long to go there?

    Delightful french bistro feel to is, complete with the french sounding music etc. $4 bubbly wine for their happy hour, and tried a bit of his white winter wheat beer (a hefeweizen). Another beer that I like; I believe that he's corrupting me.

    Dinner was two appetizers, a seared scallops in a molasses vinaigrette, and a small salad with it that was refreshing and lovely. With dried cherries in it. :) Second appetizer was fondue. YAY I got my fondue fix. :) They served it with baguette, green apples, and mushrooms. I went after the apple, he the mushroom and split the bread. All quite delightful.

    Dinner was ended with a panna cotta that had a blueberry/balsamic coulis. Smooth, sensual, exploding with tangy blueberry flavor it was a fantastic end.