Nov 072011

Cuisine: Thai, Chinese, Asian Variety,
Restaurant Features:Lunch Buffet, On-Site Parking

Location: White Bear Lake, MN
Address: 4440 Highway 61 North  White Bear Lake, MN 55110  651-653-9781

Hours: Dine-In /Take out  Mon-Sat 11am-8pm Lunch Buffet M-F 11-2pm

Links: Sam Thai Cuisine Website  * Sam Thai on Facebook *   Google Map
Atmosphere: Located within a strip mall, Wild Ginger has just 10-12 tables available in the dining room (seats 24).  It is decorated with a variety of Thai art and sculptures.
Menu: Appetizers include Butterfly Shrimp, Thai Style Beef Jerky, Chicken Wings, Thai Spicy Wings, Cream Cheese Wontons, Steamed or Fried Dumplings, Egg Rolls, Fresh Spring Rolls, Fried Tofu, Thai Style Fried Wontons, Pork Toast, Chicken Satay, Tawd Mun (fish cakes), and Ka Nom Bueang (shrimp and coconut wrapped in an omelet).

Soups offered Egg Drop, Chicken Rice, Hot and Sour, Silver Thread Noodle, Spinach and Thai pork, Won Ton, Tom Kha (with choice of meat),  Tom Yum (choice of meat), Baa Mee Hmo Dang (noodles with BBQ Pork), and Rice Noodle Soup.

Salads offered at Sam Thai Cuisine include Laab, Steak Laab, Som Tum (shredded papaya with peanuts and dried shrimp), Yum Nua, and Yum Woon Sen.

Thai Curry Entrees include Gang Dang (red curry, coconut milk, basil, veggies), Gang Keow Wan (green curry), Gang Pah, and Pa Nang.

Thai Noodle Dishes include Pad Thai, Rad Na, Pad See Yew, and Pad Khee Mao.

Thai Entrees at Sam Thai Cuisine include Rama Long Srong, Pad Him Ma Parn, Pad Hoo Raa Pha, Pad Khing, Pad Priew Wan, Pad Prig, Pad Prig Khing, Pla Rad Prig.  Thai style rices include Thai Fried Rice, Pineapple Fried Rice, and Thai Curried Fried Rice.

Chinese Entrees include Fried Rice, Chow Mein, Subgum Chowmein, Egg Foo Young, Lomein, Chop Suey, Chicken Almond Ding, Chicken Cashew, Chicken Hung Shiu, Lemon Chicken, Chicken with Pea Pods, Sweet & Sour, Kung Pao, Mongolian, Sesame Chicken, Moo Goo Gai Pan, and Szechuan Beef, Chicken or Pork.

Price guide: Appetizers $4-8  Thai Entrees $9-15  Chinese Entrees $5-10
What we ordered: We started with an order of Chicken Wings which were excellent; lightly breaded and crispy but juicy inside.

We also tried the Pineapple Fried Rice, which might be one of my new favorite dishes.  The rice was seasoned perfectly and was much more savory than I expected.  The pineapple and raisins added a little bit of sweetness but perfectly complimented the savory.  An extra bonus in both texture and flavor were the cashews that topped the dish.

We also ordered the Pad Woon Sen with Beef, which is another of pur favorite Thai dishes.  The base of this dish is the translucent, skinny fat-free rice noodles that is piled with steamed broccoli, tomato, onion, egg, and thin slices of beef.  This dish is so simple yet packs so much flavor.  It is tossed with spicy red chili and Thai seasonings.

Green Curry (Gang Keow Wan ) A combination of coconut milk, Thai green curry paste, herbs, bamboo shoots, vegetables, and chicken. This is one of my favorite Thai dishes! It has a ton of kick and the vegetables soak up the flavor of the coconut milk just perfectly.

The rice that accompanied our entrees was served in the form of a heart which I thought was a nice touch.

One dish I tried that I have never had before was the Pad Khing.  This dish was very flavorful, with a blend of sliced peppers, onions, to different varieties of mushroom and tangy ginger in a ginger-based sauce.  The Pad Khing comes with choice of meat and I ordered shrimp.  There were 6-8 large shrimp in the order and they were perfectly cooked.  We both liked this dish very much and would definitely order it again.

Service: You can expect to be greeted by Sam, restaurant owner and sole server, who is friendly and personable with his customers.  All dishes are made-to-order but prepared in a reasonable amount of time.
Overall Impression: Sam Thai Cuisine is some of the best Thai food that you will find in the northeast suburbs, it is always a treat to eat there (dine-in or take out!).  Great lunch buffet

This is an original review of Sam Thai Cuisine on Twin Cities Restaurant Blog
Sam Thai Cuisine (formerly Wild Ginger) on Urbanspoon

May 122011

Cuisine: Japanese, Seafood, Sushi
Restaurant Features: AYCE Lunch Buffet, Bar, On-Site Parking
Location: Maplewood, MN
Addresses & Maps:

Coon Rapids– 12580 Riverdale Boulevard NW, Suite 101, Coon Rapids, MN 55448(763) 421-3356
Maplewood– 1900 County Road D East  #140    Maplewood, MN 55109 (651) 773 – 5258
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-2:30 4:30-10pm  * Fri-Sat 11am-11pm * Sun 11am-9pm
Links: Osaka Website *

Atmosphere: The Osaka location in Maplewood is inside a strip-mall across from Maplewood Mall and Toys R Us.  The inside of Osaka is much bigger inside than it looks from the outside.  There are several different dining areas, including the sushi bar  which is just behind the buffet.  This room has several booths in addition to seating at the bar.  Several Asian-Style lanterns hang from the ceiling, creating a cute look.

The bar area also has booths.

Osaka also has a room full of Hibachi tables. Get a party together and make a reservation!

The buffets at Osaka are set up in a central area near the sushi bar. All sushi and cold items are on the right side, hot items are on the left.  At the end of the hot items there is a cook manning a hibachi grill, with chicken, shrimp or beef to-order.  There is also another large dining room beyond the buffet to the left.

Menu: Seafood Appetizers include Yellowtail Jalapeno, Mago Lobster Tartar, Nigiri Appetizer, Sashimi Appetizer, Salmon & Salmon Roe, Tuna Dumplings, Jelly Fish and Spicy Scallop Tatasu.  Hot appetizers include edamame, squid yaki, Pork Gyoza, Beef Negimaki, Yakitori, Salt and Pepper Calamari, Shrimp Tempura, Vegetable Tempura, Tempura Combo.

Salads include Garden, Seaweed Salad, and Kani.  Soup options include Miso, Onion, and Dobin.

Sashimi and Nigiri sold a La Carte include Tuna (Maguro), Fatty Tuna (Toro), Spicy Tuna, Yellowtail (Hamachi), Shrimp (Ebi), Salmon (Sake), Smoked Salmon (Sake Kunsei), Salmon Roe (Ikura), Flounder (Hirame), Flying Fish Roe (Tobiko), Eel (Unagi), Scallop (Kaibashira), Red Sweet Shrimp (Ama Ebi), Egg Custard (Tamago), Crab Stick (Kani), Mackeral (Saba), Surf Clam (Mirugai), Sea Urchin (Uni), Squid (Ika), King Crab, Octopus (Tako), and Super White Tuna (Mutsu).

Maki and Tamaki Rolls include Acocado, Kappa Maki, Avocado Asparagus and Cucumber, Boston (shrimp, cucumber, lettuce and spicy mayo), Shrimp Tempura Roll, Philly Roll, Spicy Snow Crab, Lobster and Avocado, King Crab and Avocado, Dragon (smoked eel and cucumber), Spider (deep fried soft shell crab), Alaskan (salmon, avocado, cucumber), Rainbow, Tuna, Salmon, Spicy Salmon, Spicy Yellowtail, Spicy White Tuna, Tuna and Avocado, Salmon and Avocado, Futomaki (japanese vegetable), and Spciy Blue Crab Roll.

Specialty rolls include *Osaka (cucumber, tuna, salmon, yellowtail, crab meat and tobiko), *Scorpion (shrimp tempura, soft shell crab, crab, asparagus rolled in crunchy flakes), *Sumo (spicy tuna, avocado and cucumber), *Tom’s (shrimp, asparagus, crunchy flakes with spicy tuna on outside), *Sayuri (Spicy tuna inside with tuna and avocado outside), Spicy Girl (shrimp tempura and avocado with lobster salad on outside), *Christmas (shrimp tempura, spicy tuna and avocado), *Winter (tuna, salmon, yellowtail and avocado), *No-9 (shrimp tempura with salmon and avocado with spicy mayo and eel, *Osaka Dragon (shrimp tempura, avocado, spicy tuna and papaya), *Lisa Crunch (shrimp tempura, cream cheese and avocado), *Black Dragon (lobster and avocado with eel, avocado and tobiko with eel sauce), *Crazy (eel, crab stick, salmon and asparagus inside with salmon, salmon roe and avocado outside), *OC (spicy salmon and crunchy flakes inside with salmon, avocado and salmon roe outside) and the *Halloween Roll (spicy scallop and avocado inside and tuna, salmon, tobiko and spicy mayo outside).

Traditional Entrees include Teriyaki (chicken, beef, salmon or shrimp), Tempura (vegetable, shrimp or chicken), Yaki Udon, Yaki Soba, Nabe Yaki Udon, Seafood Noodle Soup, Miso Seabass, Pineapple Lobster, Hamachi Kama, and Grilled Saba Fish Filet.

Hibachi Entrees include Vegetable, Chicken, Salmon, Scallops, Shrimp, Seabass, Steak, Filet Mignon and Lobster Tail.

Price guide: Appetizers $4-12 Nigiri/Sashimi $4-15  Specialty Rolls $12-18 Entrees $12-29  Hibachi Entrees $15-31

Lunch Buffet:

  • Mon-Thurs 11am-2:30pm
  • Fri-Sun 11am-3:30pm
Happy Hour:
  • Mon-Thurs 8pm-Close
  • 20% off all Osaka Specialty Rolls
  • Appetizers $3-9
  • Rolls $3-8
  • Sashimi/Nigiri $1.50-5

What We Ate: My companion and I both had the all-you-can-eat weekend lunch buffet.  It was a chilly spring day so one of the first things I tried was the Hot and Sour Soup.  This was pretty good, it had a somewhat thick, somewhat spicy broth with a generous amount of tofu and all the other ingredients that typically go in this soup.

Once I was warmed up from the soup, I was all about the sushi.  There were at least 8-10 different types of sushi rolls and a couple varieties of sashimi.  One of the rolls that I tried was the Lisa Crunch, a tasty roll of rice, shrimp tempura, cream cheese and avocado.  The spicy tuna was decent, as were all the other rolls I tried, considering it was a buffet.  The rolls were heavy on the rice, light on the fish and veggies, somewhat loosely rolled but they all tasted great!  I am especially fond of the soft-shell crab, mmm.

We also tried a plate of Seafood from the hot serving line.  The mussels were very good, mostly tender and tossed in a savory yet slightly sweet black bean sauce.  The smaller clams were even better.  Extremely tender and slightly sweet.  Oh so good! I also tried one of their steamed crayfish, which wasn’t anything exciting.  It did not taste sweet like lobster, instead it tasted like what it eats at the bottom of the lake.  Would be so much better drenched in salted butter.

Another plate I tried came from the hot side of the Buffet.  I literally tried only one bite of each item, as none of it did anything for me in comparison to the sushi.  The fried pork in some kind of  spicy-sweet sesame sauce and was thickly breaded and extra hard and grisly, it looked much better than it tasted.  The fried rice was extremely boring, the chicken with broccoli was sogged out, as were the lomein noodles.  The spring roll was kind of boring with just a simple rice noodle filling and very little flavor.  My favorite thing on this plate was the Fried Potstickers which were small but filled with flavorful pork sausage.

The desserts were very undesirable for the most part.  I’d rather eat more sushi than waste the carbs on these stale cookies and pastries.  The  fruit was simply okay.

Service: Our server refilled our drinks when we asked, that was all the service we really got since we were eating the buffet.

Overall Impression: Osaka is the first sushi restaurant to hit the area, so it is a welcome sight to the many sushi-lovers like myself out in the eastern ‘burbs.  The restaurant is actually Chinese-owned so it isn’t authentic Japanese but the sushi lunch buffet is a great value if you can eat a lot of sushi.  (I definitely ate my money’s worth! )  I thought Osaka was a cute place and the buffet was decent, not to mention it is less than 15 min from my house.

Osaka Sushi and Hibachi on Urbanspoon

Apr 172011

Cuisine: American
Restaurant Features: Banquet, Bar, Free Wi-Fi, Games, Live Music, Waterfront
Location: Stillwater, MN
Address: 317 Main Street Stillwater, MN  651-342-1502
Kitchen Hours:
Mon-Thurs 11 am-8pm Fri-Sat 11am-10pm Sun 11am-8pm (Bar open later)

Links: Rafter’s Website * Rafters on Facebook *  Google Map

Atmosphere: Rafters Food & Spirits is located on the second level of 317 Main Street, near the heart of downtown Stillwater.  There are entrances into the building from the back (facing St Croix waterfront) and from Main Street.  This space has been occupied by several different restaurants over the years, with Rafter’s Food & Spirits being the newest as of January 2011.

The space is long and open, with large windows looking out onto the St Croix River which is just across the parking lot.  There is nothing fancy about Rafter’s, it definitely feels like a bar inside and there is nothing cozy about it.  They do offer live music late-nights on the weekend and they have a variety of entertaining bar games.

Menu: Appetizers at Rafter’s include Mozzarella Sticks, Potato Skins, Boneless Wings, Jalapeno Poppers, Cheddar Jack Buffalo Chips, Fried Pickles, Santa Fe Chicken Eggrolls, Bamboo Shrimp Skewers, Fried Ravioli, Chicken Wings (Jerk, Buffalo).

Salads include House, Caesar, and Southwest.

Burgers are all 1/3 lb and served with chips.  Options include Black Blue, California, Mushroom Swiss, BBQ Bacon Cheddar and the Rafter’s Burger (two 1/3 patties with bacon, three cheeses, sauteed mushrooms and onions).

Chicken Sandwiches include Buffalo Chicken, Chicken Club, Cajun Southwest Chicken, Citrus Grilled Chicken, Rafter’s Spicy Chicken Hoagie Melt.  Other sandwiches that Rafter’s offers are the Walleye, Reuben, Hot Beef & Cheddar, Beer Battered Fish, Meatball Marinara, Philly Beef, Burgandy Peppercorn Steak, Veggie Burger, and BLT.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-8  Burgers/Sandwiches $8-10

Happy Hour:
  • Monday-Thursday 3-6pm

Weekly Specials:
Monday- All You Can Eat Wings 5-8pm $4
Tuesday- All You Can Eat Taco Bar 5-8pm $5
Wednesday- All You Can Eat Pulled Pork & BBQ Chicken 5-8pm $5
Thursday- All You Can Eat Fettuccine Alfredo & Spaghetti/Meatballs 5-8 pm $5

What we ordered: We visited on a Monday night to discover that they had an all-you-can-eat wing bar for $4.  Score! They had three types of wings: Buffalo, Jerk, and Plain and several types of dipping sauces.  I started with the Jerk Wings.  Each wing was cooked in its entirety but they were soft and tender and very easy to remove from the bones.  The flavor on them was zesty and slightly spicy.

I also had a plate of the Buffalo Wings when a hot new batch was brought out. I love buffalo wings but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the sauce they used but at $4 for AYCE I wasn’t complaining!  The beer was also cheap at $2 for domestic taps so we washed a few down.

I really wasn’t sure what I was in the mind for, so I asked the server/bartender was he recommended.  He told me he wasn’t sure.??? That is usually a bad sign if your server can’t make a recommendation.  So next I asked him what he has served other people that looked good and he immediately said the Reuben.  You know I am a Reuben girl so I went with it.

I was immediately dumbfounded to be presented with a Reuben that looked like it had melted cheddar cheese.  Does this not look like Cheddar cheese? I hate to be picky but I did not want a reuben with cheddar cheese, so I alerted the server who asked if I would like a new one or for this one to be removed it from my bill. I opted for the latter and told him not to bother making me a new sandwich, I would just eat a few more wings from the wing buffet instead. A short time later the cook appeared at my table to apologize about the sandwich but also to explain that it was not, in fact, cheddar cheese on the Reuben.  It was thousand island dressing that had oozed over the edges when they put on the bread.  Honest mistake on my part!  Minutes later he brought me a new reuben without the thousand island.  I thought that was nice considering he didn’t charge me and I ended up getting two sandwiches out of the deal.  The sandwich was actually decent, but far from ranking with the best.  It was served with potato chips.

My companion ordered the Mushroom Swiss Burger, which was satisfactory but on the small side at just 1/3lb.

Service: We visited on a Monday night when it was not very busy, so the only employee working with customers was the bartender.  He was nice but didn’t have any recommendations from the menu and wasn’t in a hurry to check up on us.  However, he handled the situation with my food professionally when the problem was brought to his attention.

Overall Impression: I wasn’t terribly impressed with Rafter’s Food & Spirits.  The food, service and atmosphere were mediocre but $4 for all-you-can-eat wings and cheap beer make it an acceptable place to visit on a Monday night.  I see potential for this location but would love to see something more upscale with really good food.

Rafters Food & Spirits on Urbanspoon

Apr 102011

Cuisine: American, Asian, Dessert
Restaurant Features: All-You-Can-Eat, Lunch Buffet, Dinner Buffet, Hotel
Location: Hinckley, MN
Address: 777 Lady Luck Drive  Hinckley, MN 55037   800-472-6321

Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Monday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Thursday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 10 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. & 4 to 10 p.m.

Links: Grand Buffet Website * Grand Casino on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: The Buffet is sits in the back center, surrounded by a very large dining rooms.  The Buffet itself is divided into different sections: Grand Harvest, Oriental, Entree, International, American Bounty, Homestyle and Desserts.

The seating area


Menu: Items available during the Prime Rib Buffet on Saturday and Sunday nights include:

American Bounty Station: Fried Cod, Ham, Broasted Chicken, Sausage and Sauerkraut, Wild Rice, Corn Bread, Baked Beans, Pizza and Calzones.

Homestyle Station: Corn, Green Beans, Green Bean Casserole, Potatoes Au Gratin, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Gravy.

International Station: Fish, BBQ Ribs, Buffalo Wings, Sesame Wings, Garlic Wings, BBQ Wings, Baked Potato Bar

Oriental Station: Szechuan Beef, Noodle, Fried Rice, Chicken and Broccoli, Egg Rolls, Wontons, and Potstickers.

Desserts: Soft-Serve Ice Cream and Sundae Bar, Bananas Foster, Peach Cobbler, Bread Pudding, Apple Crisp, Churro, Cannoli, Cheesecake, Chocolate Mousse Pie, etc.

Full Salad Bar

Grand Buffet Weekly Specials

Lunch Buffet
Monday through Friday – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $8.99.
Always plenty of variety; hot and cold entrées, delectable side dishes, fresh salads, pizza, and great desserts. Breakfast items served until 1 p.m.

Weekend Brunch Buffet
Saturdays and Sundays – 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $10.99.
Pastries, fruit, chef-made omelets, waffles, breakfast meats, salad bar, chef-carved ham and turkey, chicken, fish, dessert, and more!

Crab Crackin Buffet
Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m. for $19.99
Opilio Crab highlights the Crab Crackin Buffet – other offerings include chef carved prime rib, BBQ Ribs, Peel & Eat Shrimp, smoked salmon. Full Salad bar with all the fixings, Asian station with house favorites and a dessert station that features a wide selection of cakes, pies, and sweet treats.

Classic Dinner Buffet
Mondays – 4 to 9 p.m. for $12.99.
Featuring traditional favorites such as chef-carved turkey and ham, broasted chicken, succulent ribs, baked cod, delicious and varied side dishes, our always loaded salad bar, and dessert options galore.

Seafood and Prime Rib Buffet
Tuesdays – 4 to 9 p.m. for $22.99.
Our lavish Seafood Buffet showcases sweet snow crab, shrimp, scallops, oysters on the half shell, mussels, clam strips, cod, salmon; along with shrimp scampi, prime rib, full soup and salad bar, and much more – it’s the ultimate feast for the seafood lover.

Smokehouse Buffet
Wednesdays – 4 to 9 p.m. for $14.99.
If you love barbecue, you’ll love this buffet! Featuring our St. Louis style ribs, smoked turkey, apple wood smoked chicken, pulled pork, Southern style brisket, smoked meatloaf, and Cajun cod; along with distinctive side dishes and regional favorites specially chosen to complement the barbecue theme.

International Buffet
Thursdays – 4 to 9 p.m. for $12.99.
Selections from around the world – carved corned beef brisket, jerk pork loin and our German sausage roll. Entrees included an assortment of Asian entrees, Italian favorites such as lasagna and straw and hay, and traditional items like Yankee pot roast and pan fried cod.

Prime Rib Buffet
Fridays and Saturdays – 4 to 10 p.m. for $15.99.
Our delectable, all-you-can-eat prime rib is hand-seasoned, slow-roasted to perfection, and then chef-carved to order. As always, you’ll find plenty more to choose from – a great variety of hot entrées and side dishes, peel & eat shrimp, our Wok station where all your choices are fresh-made as you watch, and of course, our wonderful handmade desserts.

Buffet menu and prices are subject to change. Grand Traditions Buffet is served on most holidays. Please contact the Buffet for more information.



What I ate: I visited on a Saturday night during the Prime Rub Buffet.  My first stop was at the American Bounty where I tried a calzone and a piece of pizza.  Nearby at another station I found marinara sauce and since I love tons of red sauce, I took a ton for my calzone.  Best idea ever, the calzone with the extra sauce was one of the things I liked the most.  I also tried one of the Buffalo Wings, pretty basic.

Next I tried a plate from the Oriental Station which included Szechuan Beef with Noodles, fried rice, fried potstickers, cream cheese wontons and an eggroll.  Typical mediocre chinese buffet food, nothing stood out as anything special.

I tried a few bites of the Tomato Basil Soup, which was creamy and flavorful.

I also tried some of the Prime Rib.  The initial cut I got was very well done, so I asked for a different piece.  The chef who was carving it then cut into a whole new roast so I could get a slice that was medium rare.  This cut was far better and while the slice wasn’t very thick, the meat was very tender.  It took me many years to get to the point of eating my steaks at a maximum of medium temperature but it tastes so much better when it is still tender and juicy. Cooking beef until it is well done is ruining the meat!

I piled up a plate of different desserts and took only a few bites.  The bananas foster and the bread pudding were both very good.

Service: We made it to the buffet after 9pm on a Saturday night, less than an hour before they closed.  Our server was a quite strange and made very weird comments to various members of my party, but drinks were refilled at record pace and dishes cleared almost as quick.
Overall Impression: The food at Grand Casino Buffet was decent but nothing special; not nearly as good as the Buffet at Mystic Lake.  I’d eat here again if I happened to be at the Casino but I wouldn’t drive out of my way just for the food.

Grand Casino Buffet on Urbanspoon

El Toro ~ St Paul, MN

 All-You-Can-Eat, Bar, Lunch Buffet, Mexican, On-Site Parking, St Paul  Comments Off on El Toro ~ St Paul, MN
Mar 062011

Cuisine: Mexican
Restaurant Features: Bar, Lunch Buffet, On-Site Parking,
Location: St Paul, MN (west side)
Address: 199 Plato Bvd. • St. Paul, MN 55107  (651) 222-2353
Hours: Sun – Thur 11am – 10 pm  Fri- Sat 11am – 11pm
Links: El Toro Website * El Toro on Facebook *  Google Map

Atmosphere: El Toro is located on the ‘west side’ of St Paul, at the corner of Plato Ave & Robert St, in a stand-alone building. There are a couple of different seating areas inside the restaurant, including this room where the lunch buffet is set up.  There are many tables as well as a few booths along the wall.

The bar area is slightly more festive than the dining room, with banners advertising Mexican beers hanging from the ceiling.  This area has several booths along two of the walls as well as seating around the bar.

Menu: Appetizers include a selection of Nachos, Shrimp Cocktail, Queso Fundido, Jalapeno Poppers, Mushroom Quesadilla,and Guacamole.

Soups include Tortilla and Fideo.  Salad options include Taco Salad (ground beef), Fajita Salad, Chicken Salad, Taco Loco, Chef and Guacamole Salad.

Enchilada choices include Enchiladas Rojo, Enchiladas Verde, Enchiladas Poblanas, Enchiladas Rancheras, Yolandas, Enchiladas Supremas and Seafood Enchiladas.  All come with guacamole salad and rice.

Quesadilla options include Shrimp, Ranchera, Veracruzanas, and Rellenas.

Burrito options include Mexicanas, Rancheras, Deluxe, Ruleta, Burritos Tipicos, Fiesta Burrito and Grande Burro.

Fajita options include Shrimp, Beef, Chicken, Texas Fajitas, Fajitas Vallarta, and Seafood Fajitas.

Special dinner entrees include Carne Asada, Steak Ranchero, Carnitas, Steak a la Tampiquena, T-Bone, Pollo Asado, Pollo al Lorito, Pollo Veracruzano, Chori Pollo, Chilaquiles Mexicanos, Taquitos Mexicanos, Chile Colorado, Chile Verde, Tacos de Chorizo, Chimichanga, Camarones de Diabla, Mojarra Frita, Tilapia, Shrimp.

You can also make-your-own plate with a large selection of A La Carte items including Tacos, Tostadas, Burritos, Enchiladas, Tamales, Rellenos and Quesadillas.

El Toro also serves Mexican Desserts including Tres Leches Cake, Flan, Fried Ice Cream and Sopapillas.

Price guide: Appetizers $6-10  Salad $4-8 Enchiladas $9-12  Entrees $9-14 Desserts $2-4

What we ordered: This was my first time to El Toro and we came for the Lunch Buffet which is suprisingly only $5.99 for all-you-can-eat.  They brought us complimentary chips, salsa and a creamy seasoned dip.  I have to admit I didn’t try any of these, my mind was set on the buffet.

My first plate at the buffet included beans, rice, a ground beef taco and a taquito.  I had just a taste of the beans and rice, both were decent.  The taco was good, with gringo-style seasoned ground beef which I topped with fresh tomato, shredded cheese and a heaping pile of fresh guacamole.  Very satisfying!  The taquito was also decent, a flour tortilla wrapped around shredded chicken then fried.

My intent with the Second Plate was to get a little bit of everything to try.  Unfortunately at least three of the items on the buffet were completely out and had not yet been replenished (various types of enchiladas, etc).  What I did have were the Chicken Quesadilla, Chicken Enchilada, and Huevos a la Mexicana (scrambled eggs with tomato, onion and chiles).  The eggs were the best thing on this plate, and would make  great breakfast tacos as well.  The grilled Quesadilla had big pieces of white-meat chicken along with some type of creamy Mexican cheese sauce (sort of like Mexican Velveeta).  The chicken was good but I wasn’t crazy about the cheese.  The enchilada was far from being fresh and was slightly dry.Eggs, Quesadilla & Enchilada at El Toro (lunch buffet) ~ St Paul, MN

Service: We had pretty good service and our server checked on us consistently which was nice, considering it was a buffet.
Overall Impression: El Toro has decent Mexican food and you really can’t beat $5.99 for all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.  It is not nearly as good at Boca Chica’s lunch buffet, but $3 less and they have just as much to choose from.

El Toro Mexican on Urbanspoon

Feb 032011

Cuisine: American, Steak, Chops, Ribs, Fish, Seafood, Pasta
Restaurant Features: Bar, Banquet, Buffet, Kids Menu, On-Site Parking, Pull-Tabs, Sunday Brunch
Location: Maplewood, MN
Address: 2999 Highway 61 North • Maplewood, MN • Phone: 651.482.0384
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am – 9pm  Fri- Sat 11am. – 10pm  Sun Brunch 10am. – 2pm   Sun Dinner  2pm -9pm
Links: Gulden’s Website * Gulden’s Facebook Page * Google Map

Atmosphere: Gulden’s is located on Hwy 61 (just south of 694) in Maplewood, near Maplewood Mall.   The upper level of the restaurant is separated into a couple of large rooms.  The main dining rooms are found to the left of the main entrance and the bar is located to the right/back.  The decor is very basic, with vinyl booths and plastic laminate tables.  The tables can conveniently be arranged to accommodate larger parties.  Gulden’s has been family owned and operated since 1934.

Gulden’s Lounge is in a separate space adjacent to the main dining room, with a full bar and plenty of tables to sit at.  They also offer pull-tabs.

Gulden’s also has a large lower-level that is used for banquets and weddings (up to 190 guests).

Menu: Appetizers at Gulden’s include Chicken Wings, Chicken Tenders, Onion Rings, Cheese Sticks, Potato Skins, Garlic Toast, Garlic Cheese Toast, Mini Tacos, Italian Fries, Frog Legs, Cheddar Jalapeno Poppers, Nachos Supreme, Chicken Nachos, Quesadilla and Jumbo Shrimp

Soup and Salad options include Caesar, Taco Salad and Salad Bar.  Soup changes daily

Gulden’s sandwiches are served with fries and include the Gulden’s Club, Reuben, Prime Rib Dip, Sirloin Sandwich, Fish Sandwich, Hamburger and Gulden’s Cheeseburger.

Prime Cuts include Top Sirloin, Texas Top Sirloin, Filet Mignon, Smoked Pork Chops, Porterhouse, Steak and Shrimp, Steak Oscar, Prime Rib (12 oz, 16oz, 20oz), and Pork Ribs.

Fish and Seafood dishes include Jumbo Shrimp, Scrod Oscar, Frog Legs, Broiled Walleye, and Seafood Combo.

Gulden’s also has a variety of chicken and pasta dishes including Chicken, Ribs or Steak Combo, Chicken Oscar, Texas Chicken, Marinated Chicken Breast, Ravioli, Fried Chicken, Chicken Parmesan, Fettuccine Alfredo, Tortellini Alfredo, Pasta Primavera, and Cajun Chicken Alfredo.

The Gulden Specials include  your choice of one entree, with choice of potato and soup or salad. Entree choices include Alaskan Pollack, Popcorn Shrimp, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Zander Filet with Almonds, Liver & Onions, 8oz Sirloin, 10oz Ground Sirloin with Mushrooms, BBQ Pork Ribs, Homemade Lasagna, Surf & Turf and Chicken Kiev.  All are $11.95

Kids menu items include hamburger, grilled cheese, mini corn dogs, chicken fingers, deep fried fish, spaghetti with meatballs, macaroni and cheese

Price guide: Appetizers $5-9  Salads $7-9   Sandwiches/Burgers $8-9  Prime Cuts$14-25  Seafood $15-18 Chicken/Pastas $10-16  Kids Meal $5

Early Bird Specials: Served between 11am-5pm, all come with choice of potato and soup or salad for $8.95: Spaghetti and Meatballs, Alaskan Pollack, 6 oz Sirloin, 8 oz Ground Sirloin with Mushrooms, Lasagna, 1/4 Fried Chicken,and  4 oz Chicken Kiev.

Happy Hour: Monday – Saturday 11:00am. – 7pm. Wing specials all the time in the lounge.

Sunday Brunch:

  • $12.95/ Adults   $9.95/Seniors  $6.95/ Kids 5-12    Free/ Kids 4 and Under
  • 10am-2pm
  • 2 kinds of Scrambled Eggs , Homemade Bread Pudding, Eggs Benedict, Roast Turkey,
    Sausage, Baked Ham, Bacon, Chefs Choice Entrée, Smoked Sausage , Au Gratin Potatoes, French Toast, Mashed Potatoes, Hashbrowns, Stuffing, Homemade Carmel Rolls , Hot Vegetable, Fresh Fruit, 20 Item Salad Bar, Pies/Bars/and all the other goodies

What we ordered: We started with this complimentary basket of French Rolls.  They were soft and warm on the inside, crusty on the outside.

The soup that was offered the night of our visit was Clam Chowder, which my companion and I shared.  The soup was pretty good, thick and full of chunky vegetables.

Even though I was tempted to order the Reuben, I ended up ordering the Prime Rib Dip. Excellent choice! This was real prime rib, thinly sliced and piled (PILED!) high on the toasted kaiser roll.  It was served with au jus and I also asked for a side of freshly grated horseradish.  The sandwich came with a pile of crispy shoestring potatoes.  I would definitely get this sandwich again, it was excellent (and only $8.95!)

My companion ordered the Fried Chicken Meal, which was also very good.  It had a thick, crispy batter on it and was fried until it was a perfect dark golden color.  Very juicy on the inside!

Service: We arrived long after the dinner hour and had to wait nearly five minutes at the host stand before we were acknowledged.  Once we were seated, our server was very friendly and had several recommendations.  Drinks were filled in a timely fashion and other requests were also quickly satisfied.

Overall Impression: I literally have driven by Gulden’s on 61 hundreds of times and had only been there one other time almost a decade ago.  Glad I finally stopped in and I will be back.  The decor at Gulden’s is nothing fancy but the food was pretty good and was reasonably priced.

Gulden's 61 Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Dec 282010

Disclosure: I was invited out to do this review and my meal was provided by the restaurant.

Have you been down to Mystic Lake Casino recently?  Have you tried their Buffet? The menu at the Buffet changes every couple of months with seasonal items, so it is always fun to try the plethora of food items no matter what time of year you visit.

Today I will highlight the Winter “Holiday” Around-the-World Buffet, which runs through December and January.  Mystic Lake is offering a special Buy-One-Get-One-Free Buffet Dinner throughout the month of January, get the printable coupon here on their website.

Cuisine: American, European, and Pacific
Restaurant Features: All-You-Can-Eat, Hotel
Location: Prior Lake, MN
Address: 2400 Mystic Lake Blvd., Prior Lake, MN, 55372 (Mystic Lake Casino)

  • Mon – Fri Lunch:  11:30am – 2:30pm $9.95
  • Saturday & Sunday Brunch:  10am – 2:30pm $13.95
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday Dinner:   4:30pm – 11:00pm $12.95
  • Wednesday  Seafood Night:  4:30pm – 11:00pm  $22.95
  • Saturday & Sunday  Dinner:  4:30pm – 11:00pm $16.95

Links: Buffet at Mystic Lake Website * Mystic Lake Facebook Page * Google Map

Atmosphere: The Buffet at Mystic Lake Casino is an International-Themed Buffet with three main stations: European, American and Pacific.  Each station is host to a variety of holiday foods found in that particular region of the world.  There are also two salad bars and a dessert station.

For the holiday season the Buffet is festively decorated with trees and lights but also displays these beautiful, elaborate Gingerbread creations by Marshall Rosenthal.

Menu: Salad Bar items include Mixed Greens, bean Sprouts, Mushrooms, Green peppers, Garbanzo beans, Broccoli, Shredded Carrots, Garden Peas, Julienne Red Peppers, Black Olives, Radish, Cucumber, Onion, Tomato Wedges, Chopped Eggs, Bleu Cheese Crumbles, Cheddar Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, and Sliced Beets.  Dressing include Caesar, Italian, Bleu Cheese, French, Ranch, 1000 Island and Parmesan Peppercorn.  Soups include Chicken Wild Rice, Asian Soup and a Soup of the Day

Other Salad Bar Items include Ham salad, Tropical Fruit Salad, Smoked Salmon, Pickled Herring, Green Olives, Grilled Vegetables, Baby Corn, Roasted Mushrooms, Cherry Peppers, Pepperjack, Cheddar, Swiss, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Oranges, Pears, Peaches, Strawberries, Cottage Cheese, and Yogurt.

Items found at the American Holiday Station include Waffle Fries, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Beef Enchiladas, Stuffed Peppers in Tomato sauce, Alaskan Cod with Mushroom Dill Sauce, Acorn Squash with Apple Bacon Crumble, Rotisserie Chicken, Chicken with Banana Mango Chutney, Macaroni and Cheese, Broasted Chicken, Smoky Cowboy Beans, Vegetable Medley, Roast Beef (lunch), Prime Rib (dinner), Mashed Potatoes, Oven Roasted Turkey, Sage Dressing, Corn Niblets and Blackened Atlantic Salmon.

Items found at the European Holiday Station include Pork Saltimbocca with Fresh Sage and Brown Sauce, Ziti with Sundried Tomato and Pancetta in Basil Cream Sauce, French Peas with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions, Potatoes Au Gratin, Mahi Mahi, Beef Stroganoff, Tomato Provencale, Buttered Egg Noodles, Garlic Cheese Bread, Assorted Hearth Baked Pizzas.

Items found at the Pacific Holiday Station include Cream Cheese Wontons, Sesame Sedd Balls, Pork Egg Rolls, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Vegetable Lo mein, Chow Mein with Pork, Chow Mein Noodles, Dan Dan Noodles with Bok Choy, Mongolian Meatballs, Chinese Spare Ribs, Egg Fu Yung, Honey Seared Pork with Peppers, Steamed Rice, Vegetable Fried Rice, and Grouper in Black Bean Sauce.

Dessert Station Items include Sugar-Free Carrot Cake, Sugar-Free Cheese Cake, Sugar-Free jello, Apple Spice Cake, Caramel Custard, Ice Cream Sundae Bar, and many more.

What we ordered: We first started at the Pacific Station where we tried a little bit of everything.  The Mongolian Meatballs were a spicy-sweet bite of meaty awesomeness, the Chinese Spare Ribs were very sweet and tender, the Dan Dan noodles were packed with flavor, and the sweet and sour chicken, fried rice, lo mein, eggrolls and cream cheese wontons were also very tasty.  My favorite item from the Pacific Station was the Grouper in Black Bean Sauce.  Yum!

Our next stop was the European Station where everything looked so good we tried it all!  The French Peas with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions was very tasty, as was the Tomato Provencale, which was stuffed with Parmesan Cheese and Italian Seasonings then baked.  The Mahi Mahi was decent and the Pork Saltimbocca was full of flavor from the sauce it was cooked in and the prosciutto baked on top.  The Garlic Cheese Bread was full of buttery-garlic goodness with bubbly baked cheese on top.  Delish! Our second plate from the European Station included the rich, meaty Beef Stroganoff, Ziti in Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Cream Sauce, Buffalo Chicken Pizza and the Stuffed Pizza.  Everything was very good.

We made a couple of trips to the American Station where we tried everything that was offered. I made a traditional “Thanksgiving” plate with Roasted Turkey, Rotisserie Chicken, Sage Dressing, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes. Everything was excellent, I must have eaten it all before I took a photo… sorry!
Feast your eyes on this gorgeous cut of Prime Rib from the American Station. Incredibly tender,  juicy and fairly lean.  I could eat at the Buffet for Prime Rib alone!

Other items we tried at the American Station were the Macaroni and Cheese which was very creamy and cheesy but not at all clumpy like mac and cheese can get sometimes.  The Smoky Cowboy Beans were as good as any I have had, and the Alaskan Cod may have been my favorite fish that I tried at the Mystic Lake Buffet, the sauce was flavorful and the fish was not at all fishy.  The Blackened Salmon was also good.

I didn’t have much room for dessert but wanted to see what the Sugar-Free Desserts were all about.  So glad I tried both the Carrot Cake and the Cheesecake because both were delicious, even sugar-free!

I tried one last dessert before I was too full too move, the Caramel Custard.  I love custard and thought this was delicious! It was smooth, creamy and the caramel was just the right touch without being too rich.

Service: We were able to get a table right away and were greeted almost immediately by our server who quickly took our drink order and kept the refills coming all night.  For a Buffet, I thought Mystic Lake did a great job with service.  The Manager stopped to greet us, as he did with nearly every other table of guests, to make sure the food was enjoyed by all.

Overall Impression: The Buffet at Mystic Lake is the perfect place to go if you want a HUGE selection of All-You-Can Eat International foods at a very reasonable price.  I highly recommend you take advantage of the January BOGO Buffet coupon offer! Print your coupon now. Even better would be to have lunch or dinner at the Buffet, then stay the night at Mystic Lake Hotel and try Il Premio Italian Steakhouse the following Night!
Buffet on Urbanspoon

Nov 062010

Disclosure: I was invited out to do this review and my meal was provided by the restaurant.

Cuisine: American, Dessert, Mongolian, Stir-Fry
Restaurant Features: All-You-Can-Eat, Bar, Dinner Buffet, Lunch Buffet, Patio, On-Site Parking
Location: Burnsville, MN
Address: 1025 County Road 42 West Burnsville MN  55306 (952) 435-0032
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11am-10pm  Friday-Saturday 11am-11pm
Links: * bd’s Mongolian Website bd’s Mongolian Facebook PageGoogle Map *

Atmosphere: bd’s Mongolian Grill is located off Co.Rd 42 on the frontage road that runs around Burnsville Center (across from Macy’s), in the location formerly occupied by Macaroni Grill.  The inside of the restaurant is very large, with a giant, open dining room and another  smaller dining area up front (pictured below).  There are tables as well as booths, with plenty of room to accommodate a larger party.  The walls are bright and colorful, with really cool abstract paintings adorning them.

Near the front there is also a cool bar area, the perfect place to get a drink while waiting for a table on a busy night.

Menu: Appetizers include Wham Bam Shrimp, Eggrolls, Mongolian Ginger Wings, Nachos and Pan-Fried Potstickers.

There is a Soup and Salad Bar, with a basic selection of fresh salad ingredients and dressings.  There are always two soups, one that is the seasonal soup and the other rotates.  The Seasonal Soup is currently Beer Cheese.

The experience at bd’s Mogolian Grill is completely custom as you Create-A-Bowl just the way you want, from a large selection of ingredients that are set up buffet-style.  Your server will give you a red bowl to fill before you hit the buffet line.

First you start with your meats and pasta. Options include Chicken, Lamb, Strip Steak, Ribeye, Pork, Sausage, Krab, Scallops, Shrimp, Calamari, Mahi Mahi, Beer Pork, Ham, Montreal Rubbed Steak, Meatballs, Italian Sausage, Bacon, Cheesy Brats.  Pastas include Rice Noodles, Penne and 3 Cheese Ravioli.

Next you have your choice of fresh veggies including Bean Sprouts, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Carrots, Cheddar Cheese, Cilantro, Baby Corn, Cabbage, Edamame, Fresh Jalapenos, Mushrooms, Onions, Green Onions, Pea Pods, Peppers, Pineapple, Red Potatoes, Tomatoes, Water Chestnuts, Egg, Tofu, Asparagus, Cottage Cheese, Kidney Beans, Capers, and Apples.

Once you have your bowl filled, you will make a little dish of sauce and dried spices.  Sauce options include Asian Black Bean, Buffalo, Chili Garlic, Fajita, Kung Pao, Mongolian Garlic, Lemon, Peanut Sauce, Mongo Marinara, Shanghai Barbeque, Shitake Mushroom Sauce, Soy, Sweet and Sour, Teriyaki, Ponzu, Mustard, Pad Thai, Olive Oil, Sweet Orange Peel, Horseradish, Alfredo, Beer Cheese, Sauerbraten, and Thousand Island.

You can top your dish of sauce with any of the following dried spices: Chopped Garlic, Cajun, Cayenne Pepper, Chili Powder, Cracked Black Pepper, Curry, Granulated Garlic, Ginger, Lemon Pepper, Mixed Herbs, Peanuts, Seasoning Salt, Sesame Seeds, Crushed Red Chili Pepper, and Caribbean Jerk.

After you create your Custom Bowl, you bring it to the Mongo Cooks who will cook your creation to perfection over this 500′ Mongolian Grill.  The meats and veggies are cooked first and then when they are near done, the sauce you created is added.  It takes under 5 minutes for most dishes to be cooked.

bd’s Mongolian Grill also offers a variety of desserts including a line of Mini Desserts for only $2 including Cherry Cheesecake, Cookies and Cream, and Peanut Butter Cup.  Other larger desserts include Caramel Apple Pie Sundae, Brownie Sundae, Mongolian Sundae, Root Beer Float, and Cheesecake.

Price guide: Appetizers $7  Unlimited Soup/Salad/Create-A-Bowl *Kids 3-6 yrs/$3.99 * Kids 7-11yrs/$5.99  *Adults/$14.99   Desserts $2-6

What we ate: We started with a trip to the complimentary Soup and Salad Bar while we waited for our appetizer.  I made a garden salad and tried the Chicken Chili, the soup du jour.  It had many ingredients and was pretty good, very mild.  I didn’t eat too much of this because I wanted to save room for all the other goodies.  My companion got the Beer Cheese Soup, which is one of the seasonal items they are promoting this autumn. YUM!! It was one of the better beer cheese soups I have had! It was savory and cheesy and you could definitely taste the hint of beer.

The appetizer we ordered was the Wham Bam Shrimp.  These crispy fried shrimp were tossed in a creamy buffalo style sauce with green onions, then served in a large margarita glass.  These were slightly spicy and very tasty! The breading on the shrimp was still crispy providing a delightful combo of textures.

I knew I was in the mood for Asian-flavors so the first bowl I made was with with strip steak, ribeye, rice noodles, broccoli, pineapple, mushrooms, tofu, onions, bell peppers and fresh jalapenos.  The sauce I used was a combo of Szechuan, Kung Pao, Chili Garlic, Cayenne and Chopped Garlic.  So good!

My companion’s first plate was made with ribeye, scallops, chicken, noodles, zucchini, and green onion.  The sauce was similar to mine with Mongolian Ginger and Kung Pao.  Very good!

With every meal comes white rice, brown rice, lettuce, or tortillas. You can also upgrade to Fried Rice for $3.99. I ordered the Brown Rice and my companion ordered the Fried Rice, which was basically brown rice with carrots, egg and onion tossed in. Nothing special about the fried rice.

I went for a second plate and this time I wanted to try something that wasn’t Asian. At the suggestion of the guy who was there to help customers with their creations, I made an Italian-inspired stir-fry of cheese ravioli, broccoli, mushrooms, marinated chicken, and green onion.  The sauce I used was alfredo, cajun, and garlic.  Quite tasty! I enjoyed the flavors and textures quite a bit but wish that I would’ve doubled the amount of Alfredo I had used because it wasn’t as saucy as I prefer.  I loved the grilled flavor of the chicken and other veggies with the alfredo and ravioli.  A great option to create for those who aren’t in the mood for Asian cuisine.

My companion made a second bowl as well, with mahi mahi, shrimp, beef, zucchini and peppers cooked with the shanghai barbeque sauce.  I tried this one too and thought the asian barbeque sauce gave it a wonderful smokey-sweet flavor.   The mahi mahi was delicious!BBQ Beef Stir Fry at bd's Mongolian Grill ~ Burnsville, MN

I was certainly too full to eat dessert but managed to try a few bites of the Caramel Apple Pie Sundae before taking the rest home.  The size of this dessert was HUGE! It actually comes in two sizes and I guess I chose gluttony! The pie had been warmed and placed in this dish and then topped with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream, drizzled with caramel and then a ton of whipped cream on top.  It looked and tasted wonderful, it was just overkill after eating so much!

Service: We had great service at bd’s Mongolian Grill.  We visited late on a weeknight which was great because we didn’t have to wait for a table.  Our server explained how it all worked and was helpful with ideas of dishes to create, as were other all the staff who helped customers working their way through the buffet line of ingredients.

Overall Impression: I enjoyed bd’s Mongolian Grill a lot!  They have a great selection of ingredients so just about everyone can Create a Bowl that they can be satisfied with, even if they aren’t in the mood for Asian.  I loved the variety compared to other Mongolian-Grill style restaurants, plus bd’s addition of a Soup & Salad Bar.  The seasonal options are fun to try, I look forward to seeing what they will come up with next!

I would love to share the opportunity to try bd’s Mongolian Grill, so here is a Printable Coupon for $5 Off your next visit.  Good until November 15th, so head down to Burnsville fast!

BD's Mongolian Grill on Urbanspoon