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.