Apr 222012

Cuisine: Barbeque, Ice Cream
Restaurant Features: On-Site Parking, Patio, Waterfront, Boat Delivery
Location: White Bear Lake, MN
Address: 4441 Lake Avenue South, White Bear Lake, MN 55110   651-493-6763
Hours: Closed Monday and Tuesday  * Wed-Sat  11am-9pm * Sundays 11am-5pm
Links: CG Hooks Barbeque Website * CG Hooks on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: CG Hook is located across the street from Tally’s Dockside on White Bear Lake, in a stand-alone building.  There are a couple of entrances, the front leads you from the parking lot to the ice cream counter, where there are colorful T-Shirts and a giant wooden sculpture of a pig.

The main dining area has a handful of wooden tables and chairs, as well as a sit-up bar fashioned from an old surfboard that looks out the windows.  There is a beach-like feel to the place and overall I thought it was really cute.

Menu: Appetizers include BBQ Slider, Frito Burrito Pie, Barbeque Rib Smackers, and Southern Style Barbeque Pizza.

Salads include House Salad and Hook’s Salad.  Soups offered include Smoked Chicken and Wild Rice and Soup of the Day.

CG Hooks offers a variety of sandwiches including Smoked Ham, Smoked Turkey, Smoked Club, Reuben Panini, Rachel Panini, Brisket Reuben, Raspberry Ham and Brie Panini, BLT Panini, Hot Dog, Chicago Style Dog, Miss Piggy’s Nightmare (hot dog topped with pulled pork and bacon), Grilled Cheese, and Peanut Butter and Jelly.

Barbeques Meats are where its at! Pulled Pork, Pulled Pork topped with Bacon and Swiss, Beef Brisket, Pork Ribs, and Pit Smoked Chicken.

CG Hooks also offers 16 flavors of Chocolate Shoppe Old Fashioned Ice Cream.
Price guide: Appetizers $3-14  Sandwiches $3-8 Barbeque $8-23  Ice Cream $3-5
What we ordered: CG Hooks has a handful of beers of tap, just the right beverage to cool down the spicy barbeque

For my entree I had the Beef Brisket, a moist, tender and slightly marbled beef that had fantastic flavor.  There are two types of homemade barbeque, I tried the spicier of the two.  It had great kick to it and the flavor of peppers but when I asked which peppers they were, I was told it was a secret.  Bummer that this barbeque sauce is not yet available to buy.  It was served with three sides: Moist cornbread in the shape of a fish, baked beans and Memphis style coleslaw.  The beans were homemade with a couplf of types of beans and a sweet, savory sauce with the distinct flavors of garlic and brown sugar.  Yum! The coleslaw was Memphis style, which is more vinegary and less creamy than traditional coleslaw.

One of my companions had the Full Rack of Ribs, a huge pile of very meaty, moist ribs that were smoked until the meat was practically falling off the bones.  Served with corn bread, beans and coleslaw.

Another companion had the Pulled Pork Sandwich, a big pile of tender moist pork on a fresh bun. Looked great!

Another companion had the Smoked Turkey Sandwich.  The smoked turkey had good flavor but was slightly dry.  It was served on white bread with lettuce and tomato.  This wasn’t bad, just the least exciting of all the things we ordered.

Less than a week after my first visit I went back to CG Hooks and tried the Chicago Dog.  It was everything a perfect Chicago Dog should be: all-beef hot dog with a nice skin on it, topped with tomato, pickle spear, onions, relish and mustard served on a poppy seed bun.

I also tried a small dish of old fashioned ice cream. CG Hooks uses Chocolate Shoppe ice cream and has a selection of 16 flavors at all times.  I couldn’t resist the Fat Elvis, which was banana ice cream with chunks of peanut butter and dark chocolate.  Delish!

Service: The staff at CG Hooks are very friendly.  On both of our visits we were able to get a table and order as soon as we were ready.  The food is prepared reasonably fast and staff is very friendly.  On one of our visits we met the owner who came over to chat with us and see how we liked everything.  That is always a nice gesture in my book :)
Overall Impression: CG Hooks is a hidden gem on White Bear Lake, open year round.  It is the perfect place to order your favorite barbequed meats and old fashioned ice creams.  They also offer boat delivery to Tally’s Dockside.
C.G. Hooks on Urbanspoon

Apr 152012

Cuisine: American, Pizza, Pasta
Restaurant Features: Bar, Flat Panel TVs, On-Site Parking, Patio Dining
Locations: Apple Valley, Blaine, Eagan, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Roseville, Uptown, St Cloud, Duluth
Addresses and Maps:
Apple Valley ~ 14998 Glazier Ave Apple Valley, MN 55124 (952) 891-4600
Blaine~ 198 Northtown Dr Blaine, MN 55434 (763) 783-3414
Duluth ~ 327 Lake Avenue South  Duluth, MN 55802 (218) 720-2966
Eagan ~ 1312 Town Centre Dr Eagan, MN 55123 (651) 688-0882
Eden Prairie ~ 12300 Singletree Lane Suite 100 Eden Prairie, MN 55344 (952) 946-1400
Minnetonka ~ 17790 Highway 7 Minnetonka, MN 55345 (952) 401-0030
Plymouth ~ 3505 Vicksburg Lane  Plymouth, MN 55447 (763) 744-1221
Roseville ~ 2100 N Snelling Ave Roseville, MN 55113 (651) 639-0303
St Cloud ~ 4040 2nd Street South St Cloud, MN 56301 (320) 259-1103
Uptown ~ 2841 Hennepin Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55408 (612) 870-1918

Hours: Daily 11am-2am (food until 1am)
Links: Old Chicago Website * Old Chicago on Facebook

Atmosphere: The Roseville location of Old Chicago is located at Har Mar Mall,  facing Snelling Avenue.  The restaurant space has both tables and booths that are arranged to break up the space into smaller areas.  There are flat screen TVs tuned on to sports, as well as neon beer signs all over the restaurant and bar area.  There aren’t a whole lot of windows.

The Bar Area is adjacent to the dining area, just to the left of the main entrance.  Old Chicago is known for all the beers they carry; at least 30 on tap!  The Roseville location also has a large patio area facing Snelling Avenue.

Menu: Appetizers include Spicy Spinach Dip, Sampler Platter, Italian Nachos, Artichoke Dip, Nachos Grande, Chicken Tenders, Garlic Cheese Bread, Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls, Wings, and Mozzarella Sticks.

Small Plates include Mini Italian Meatballs, Mediterranean salad, Fried Spicy Pickles, Fried Mac N’ Cheese, and Tomato & Mozzarella Caprese.

Old Chicago also has Salads such as the Roasted Chicken Salad, Asian Chicken Salad, Harvest Salad with Balsamic Chicken, Classic Chicken Caesar, Mediterranean Salad, Crispy Chicken Salad, and House Salad.  Soups include Beef Chili and Potato Chowder.

Sandwiches and Burgers come with fries or coleslaw.  Options include Chicago Stromboli, Italian Sausage Stromboli, Classic Italian Melt, Spicy Chicago Beef, Prosciutto with Lettuce and Tomato, California Chicken Sandwich, Classic Club, and Chicken Wrap.  Burgers include Old Chicago Cheeseburgers, Guacamole Burger, and Bacon Cheeseburger.

Pasta options at Old C are Lasagna, Meatballs and Spaghetti, Chicken Alfredo, Chicken Mac N Cheese, and Classic Spaghetti.

You can also order Entrees such as Shrimp Basket, Fish & Chips, Crispy Chicken Tenders, Fisherman’s Catch, 8 oz Sirloin, and Grilled Sirloin with Shrimp.

Old Chicago is famous for their Pizzas which come with either Classic New York Style Crust, Deep Dish Chicago-Style, and Artisan Style.  Artisan options are Three Cheese with Tomato and Pepperoni, Proscuitto and Mushroom, and Roasted Chicken Pesto.  Specialty pizzas include “Chicago Seven”, Double Deckeroni, Meat Me, The Classic, Hawaiian, Thai Pie, Vegetarian Seven, and Malibu Veggie.

Old Chicago serves a variety of Calzones in addition to their famous Pizzas, including Italian Grinder, Monterey Chicken, Famous “Chicago Seven”, Meat Me, Spinach Artichoke, and Build Your Own.

Desserts offered include Famous Big Cookie, Little Big Cookie, Homemade Cheesecake, and Turtle Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream.
Price guide: Appetizers $3-10  Sandwiches $9-10  Entrees $8-16
Late Night Happy Hour: 9pm-Midnight

  • $1 off all pints, mini one-topping pizzas
  • $2 Miller Lite Pints and Grainbelt Nordeast pints
  • $3 Surly pints, wells, and house wines
  • $4 Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls
  • $5 Artichoke Dip, Italian Nachos and Nachos Grande
  • $.50 Wings (only on Wednesdays, min 4 per order)
    (all late night food specials require a minimum beverage purchase per person)

What we ordered: A couple of us ordered The Classic to share. I have had the pizza at Old Chicago many years earlier and I didn’t remember it standing out, so I had the preconceived notion that I wasn’t going to like it.  I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was, as was my companion.  We got the deep-dish crust that was about an inch thick with a crispy, dense crust.  Unlike most Chicago-style pizzas, the sauce on this pizza was under the cheese, rather than on top, yet it was still crispy.  It was topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and garlic.  Very good, I would definitely order this again.

One of my companions ordered the Spicy Chicago Beef sandwich which was an excellent choice.  This sandwich was served hot with a pile of tender, sliced roast beef, melted provolone cheese, spicy homemade pepper giardiniera and sweet red pepper mayo.  Served with french fries. It was so good that when I tried a bite, I ended up eating the entire half ;)

Another companion ordered the Fish and Chips.  The order came with four strips of fried cod, salt and vinegar fries, coleslaw and  a tangy tartar sauce.  The fish was very crispy but the fish within was hot and tasty.

Service: We arrived for a late dinner and the restaurant was still fairly busy.  Our server was attentive and our food was prepared in the appropriate amount of time for what we ordered (deep dish pizzas take a little longer).
Overall Impression: Old Chicago is a laid-back place to get a good pizza, sandwich or burger and a large selection of beers.  Yes, it is a big chain restaurant but the food is consistently good.
Old Chicago on Urbanspoon

Chimborazo ~ Minneapolis, MN

 Beer, Breakfast, Minneapolis, On-Site Parking, South American, Wine  Comments Off on Chimborazo ~ Minneapolis, MN
Apr 072012

Cuisine: Breakfast, South American
Restaurant Features: Beer & Wine, On-Site Parking,
Location: Northeast Minneapolis, MN
Address:  2851 Central Avenue NE  Minneapolis, MN 55418  612-788-1328
Hours: Mon-Thur: 11a–3p / 5p–10p Fri: 11a–11p  Sat: 8a–11p  Sun: 8a–9a
Links: Chimborazo Website * Chimborazo on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Chimborazo is located in Northeast Minneapolis on Central Ave at 29th Street.  The building is small and stands alone at the corner and the sign is easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for.  Inside the restaurant there are several tables running along the walls and a handful of round tables in the middle.  It is cozy, with warm yellow walls and framed woven tapestries in the style native to South America.  Each table had a little vase with cute fresh flowers that we thought was a nice touch.

Menu: Breakfast is available from 8am-2pm and includes Chimborazo (pancakes, roast pork and egg), Tungurahua (eggs, rice, beans), Cotopaxi, Llapingachos (potato pancakes with onion and cheese), Mote Pillo (Hominy with scrambled eggs), Tortilla de Puerco, Tortilla de Espinaca), Buttermilk Pancakes, Pancakes de Platanos, Empanada de Queso, Eggs, Chorizo, and Bacon.

Appetizers include Ceviche de Camaron, Muchin de Yuca (cassava croquettes filled with onion and cheese), Yuca Frita, Empanada de Queso, Empanada de Carne, Llapingachos, Patacones con Queso, and Platano Maduro.

Chimborazo has a selection of Sopas including Soup of the Day, Encebollado, Caldo de Bolas de Verde, and Caldo de Bagre.

Sandwiches offered include Roasted Pork, Grilled Chicken and Veggie.

Entrees at Chimborazo include Hornados con Papas, Seco de Carne, Seco de Pollo, Saltado, Milanesa de Pollo, Churrasco, Llapingachos con Chorizo, Chaulafan (Ecuadorian Fried Rice), Encocado de Mahi Mahi or Shrimp, Chupe de Pescado, and Ecuatoriano Vegetariano.

Desserts include Coconut Batido, Tres Leches Cake, and Higos con Queso
Price guide: Appetizers $2-10 Sandwiches $7-8  Entrees $9-12
What we ordered: Chimborazo does not have a bar but does serve beer and wine in addition to a couple of non-alcoholic drinks such as the Coconut Batido.  This was my first time trying this particular batido and I loved the toasted coconut flavor of the drink, it gave it a nice nutty taste that was quite pronounced in a very good way.  It was a frozen blend of coconut milk, ice, toasted coconut, (and perhaps other magical ingredients) then was topped with whipped cream and toasted coconut. It wasn’t overly sweet but would be great for dessert; I took me an hour to finish it but it was delicious.

My companion and I started off with a couple of different Appetizers, starting with the Platanos Maduros.  These were thick slices of sweet platanos (banana) fried and then topped with soft, mild, melted white cheese.  The platanos were served with the most delicious sauce called aji criollo, an Ecuadorian hot sauce made with hot peppers, cilantro, garlic, onion and lime.  The spicy, citrusy sauce worked well with the sweetness of the banana and creaminess of the cheese. Yum!

We also tried the Empanada de Queso.  This pocket of dough was filled with soft, mild white cheese then fried until golden brown and flaky.  It was dusted with powdered sugar that gave it a hint of sweetness.  This makes a good appetizer, snack or dessert!

We also tried the Empanada de Carne.  This was fantastic! Inside the beautiful crispy brown crust were bite-sized pieces of grilled steak, peas, red pepper and onions.  It was served with fresh diced tomatoes and I also dipped it in the aji criollo sauce which made it even better.

There were many dishes that sounded really good but I ended up ordering the Hornados con Papas for my entree.  The pork is slow roasted for 16 hours until it is extremely tender.  The pork was served with llapingachos, which were ‘pancakes’ of creamy seasoned mashed potatoes filled with cheese and then browned.  Very tasty! The dish was also served with salad and mote, which is what hominy is called in Spanish.  It is similar to corn but bigger and not nearly as sweet.

My companion ordered the Encocado with Mahi Mahi.  This dish was rich and full of flavor, the sauce made from coconut milk, coconut, lime juice, orange juice, garlic, onion, cumin, coriander, bell pepper and cilantro.  It was both sweet and savory at the same time, and went really well with the mild mahi mahi.  The rice was just the right accompaniment to soak up the rich sauce.

For dessert we shared the Tres Leches Cake, which was very good .  It wasn’t overly moist but the leches were still distinguishable.  It was topped with whipped cream and slices of fresh strawberries.  I wish I hadn’t been too full to have more than a bite or two.

Service: My companion and I met at Chimborazo on a weekday when it was just opening for dinner.  We had our pick of both parking spots and tables in the dining room.  Our server was nice and took time to explain various items from the menu and we were very happy with her suggestions.

Overall Impression:  We both enjoyed Chimborazo a lot and I am now very much turned on to South American food.  The food and service were both very good at Chimborazo and the prices were reasonable for the amount of food we got.  If you like coconut, there are many dishes you will likely enjoy at Chimborazo. We will be back!
Chimborazo on Urbanspoon

Feb 182012

Cuisine: American, Greek, Mediterranean,
Restaurant Features: Beer & Wine, Catering, Student Discount 10%
Location: Minneapolis, MN (Dinkytown)
Address: 421 14th Avenue Southeast  Minneapolis, MN 55414 612-623-4900

Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-9pm * Fri-Sat 11am-10pm * Sun 12-9pm

Links: Kafe 421 Website * Kafe 421 on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Located in Dinkytown at 14th Ave and 4th Street, Kafe 421 is a Wine Bar/Restaurant that serves Mediterranean-influenced cuisine.  The bar is just inside the entrance, with cute pendant lights hanging above and bottles of wine displayed on shelves.  The design is simple yet classy.  There are a handful of booths in the front, as well as a couple of tables and seating at the bar.

The main dining room is at the very back of the space.  The walls are lined with stained wood and hand-painted canvases.  Simple but cozy.

Menu: Appetizers include Baked Feta & Artichoke Dip, Mango Salsa with Pita Chips, Calamari, Crab Cakes, Dolmathakia, Eggplant Milanese, Spanakopita, and Meatballs.  Soup offerings include Creamy Tomato Basil and Beef Borscht.

Salads at Kafe 421 include Grilled Chicken Salad, Chopped Chicken Salad, Kafe 421 Salad Sampler, Grilled Salmon Salad, Steak Cobb, Greek, and Caesaer.

Kafe 421 also has a selection of Burgers and Sandwiches, which come with choice of Field Greens, Caesar Salad, Cup of Soup or Fresh Cut French Fries.  Burgers include Kafe 421 Burger, Mushroom and Swiss, Gorgonzola and Bacon, Lamb Burger, Gyros, Crab Cake Sandwich, Lechon (pork), Pavo (turkey breast), Fish Tacos, Kafe 421 Turkey Club, Chicken Panini, Chicken Wild Rice Burrito, Eggplant Milanese, Portabella Mushroom, Mediterranean Veggie Wrap and Chicken Salad Wrap.

Pasta dishes offered include Ravioli Bolognese, Shrimp Santorini, Blackened Salmon Fettuccine, Chicken Balsamico, Lemon Risotto, Artichoke and Portabella Penne, and Fettuccine Alfredo.

Dinner Entrees are served after 5 pm and include Lamb, Petite Beef Tenderloin, Souvlaki, Pollo, Gyros Platter, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Moules Frites, Cardel (scallops and coconut risotto), Bouillabaisse Provençal Fish Stew, and Vegetarian Moussaka .

Kafe 421 also offers desserts such as Tiramisu, Gooey Brownie, Baklava, Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, and Cheesecake.
Price guide: Appetizers $8-12  Salads $5-13  Sandwiches $8-11 Pastas $13-17 Entrees $14-20  Desserts $6-7

Happy Hour:

  • Monday – Friday, 3 PM – 6 PM
  • $5 Select Apps and $3 House Wine & Beer

Weekly Specials:

  • Monday After 5 PM- 1/2 Off Bottles of Wine
  • Tuesday – Cheap Dinner for Two  $25 gets you and a friend each a salad, a pasta entree and one dessert to share. View Cheap Dinner Menu.
  • Wednesday After 5 PM- 1/2 Off Bottles of Wine
  • Sunday’s Cheap Dinner For 2 Starting at 5 PM

What we ordered: We started with an order of Calamari, which was very good.  It was a huge portion of perfectly cooked calamari rings with crispy seasoned battering.  It was served with sides of Tzatziki Sauce and Sriracha mayo for dipping.
Calamari at Kafe 421 ~ Minneapolis, MN
I had the Fish Tacos, which came highly recommended by our server.  This came with my choice of side so I opted for the cup of Cream of Mushroom soup, which was wonderful.  It was thick, rich and creamy with the distinct taste of roasted mushrooms.  The Tacos came two to an order, with flour tortillas stuffed with pieces of chili and lime seasoned Mahi Mahi mixed together with Mozzarella, Tomato, Scallion, Avocado, and Cilantro.  I thought the tacos were decent but I prefer my fish tacos to have bigger pieces of fish.  The seasoning on the fish also didn’t hit the mark for me; it was light but just didn’t have the depth of flavor I was hoping for.  This is just my opinion; my companion tried my fish tacos and loved them, thought they were great.

My companion ordered the Lamb Burger and it was fantastic!! The ground lamb meat was seasoned just like a gyro and it was moist and delicious. It was topped with very thin slices of cucumber, red onion and feta cheese and a little bit of tzaziki sauce.  It was served on grilled toasted Vienna bread that was a pleasant crunchy compliment to the tender lamb. I also loved the thinly sliced cucumber, the burger was even better because of it! It was served with choice of side, my companion ended up ordering the fresh cut fries.

Service: We had excellent service at Kafe 421.  We happened to be in the Dinkytown area and stopped for an early dinner before the weekend dinner crowd and had no problem finding a metered parking on the street outside.  We were greeted as soon as we arrived and were quickly seated.  Our server was friendly and gave us some good suggestions from the menu.  The food was timed just right so that our entrees came out after we were finished with our appetizer.
Overall Impression: Kafe 421 is a cozy restaurant and wine bar that has very good service and really good food.  If you like a lamb, you must try the Lamb Burger.
Kafe 421 on Urbanspoon
Kafe 421 Reviews in Minneapolis

Oct 022011

Cuisine: American, Breakfast
Restaurant Features: Beer, Wine, On-Site Parking
Location: Chisago City, MN
Address: 11347 North Ave Suite #1  Chisago City, MN 55013 (651) 257-9144
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-8pm *Fri 11am-9pm * Sat 8am-9pm * Sun 8am-8pm
Links:Meredee’s Bistro Website * Meredee’s On Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Meredee’s Bistro is located in Chisago City, in a building next door to Brinks Market off of Hwy 8.  The dining room has many windows and has great natural lighting.  There is a beautiful stone fireplace surrounding a gas fireplace and paintings and other wall decor hung throughout.  It has quite a calm and relaxing atmosphere.  There are several square tables placed throughout the space, making it very easy to combine for larger parties.Dining Room at Meredee's Bistro ~ Chisago City, MN

This cute ‘gourmet’  sign along with giant fork and spoon wall hangings greet you upon entering.  I Adore this!

Menu: Breakfast items include Eggs, Toast, Hashbrowns, Skillet Breakfast, Omelettes, Biscuits and Gravy, French Toast, Oatmeal, and Pancakes.

Appetizers include Grilled Mushroom Caps, Chipotle Chicken Nachos, Chicken Strips, Hummus, Jalapeno Poppers, Cheese Curd and Onion Rings.

Meredee’s Sandwiches and Burgers include the Phillini, Cuban, Grilled Chipotle Chicken,  Turkey Club, Mediterranean Wrap, BBQ Ham Melt, Beef Melt, Hamburger, Cheeseburger, California Burger, and Bella Burger. All burgers and sandwiches come with choice of french fries, steamed veggie, or trip through the salad bar.

Pasta options are Fettuccini Alfredo, Mediterranean Capellini, and Marinara Pasta.

Entrees at Meredee’s incude 16oz Ribeye, Top Cut Sirloin, 10oz Filet, Shrimp Scampi, Bacon Wrapped Shrimp, Fried Shrimp, Fried Cod, Tilapia, Roasted Chicken, Pork Tenderloin and Pot Roast.

Desserts include Cheesecake, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Lava Cake, and Ice Cream Sandwich.
Price guide: Appetizers $7-10   Sandwiches $8-10
Weekly Specials:

  • Friday Night All You Can Eat Fish! – Grilled or broiled Tilapia or deep-fried Cod with potato and salad bar.
  • Saturday Night All you Can Eat Sirloin Steak – Fresh cut on site.

What we ordered: I started with a trip through the salad bar.  There were three types of lettuce (spinach, romaine, ice berg) a variety of veggies, hard boiled egg, croutons, nuts and dressings.

There were two varieties of soup at the salad bar, including this Lasagna Soup that I tried.  Delicious and very filling! This soup had a base of tomato with chunks of ground beef, onion, chunky tomatoes, and big lasagna noodles.

I had the Phillini Sandwich for lunch, which turned out to be an excellent choice.  Served on a thick, fresh ciabatta bun, this sandwich had several slices of beef roast topped with thick slices of sauteed peppers, onions, and provolone cheese.  It also came with a side of au jus for dipping.  I loved it and would definitely get it again.  The french fries were also pretty good.

Two of my companions ordered the Bacon Wrapped Shrimp.  The shrimp were thumb-sized and cooked just right, however I thought the bacon could be much crispier.

Another companion ordered the Cod Dinner with steamed veggies.  There were many pieces of cod, all of which had been battered with a light batter that was similar to tempura.  The cod was very good but the steamed veggie of the day was carrot sticks…. I would’ve liked to see a better effort with the veggies.

Another companion ordered the Buffalo Chicken Wrap (with a trip to the salad bar).  The tortilla was filled with buffalo-coated chicken strips, romaine, tomato and bleu cheese dressing.  This wrap was good but rather ordinary.  Would’ve been better with fries.

Service: We had pretty good service at Meredee’s Bistro.  Our visit was on a Saturday just before it started getting busy for lunch.  The salad bar tided us over while the food was being prepared, but ultimately the food was prepared in a reasonable amount of time.
Overall Impression: Meredee’s is a nice little place in Chisago City with a great atmosphere and pretty decent food.  I loved the Phillini sandwich and would definitely order it again!

Sep 302011

Cuisine: American, Pasta, Fish
Restaurant Features: Beer, Wine
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Address: 5607 Chicago Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55417 (612)825-6900
Hours: Sun-Thurs 5pm-9pm  Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm
Links: First Course Website * First Course on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: First Course is a small but lovely restaurant snuggled between  Mike’s Corner Store and Kowalskis Market on Chicago Ave at E 56th St.  The restaurant isn’t very big but it sure is cute! The bar at the back is really the focal point of the restaurant.

Another part of the the dining room has just a handful of tables widely spaced apart and big, colorful stripes of color on the walls.  There is also a small, basic patio area in the front of the building.

Menu: Tapas (small plates) at First Course include Honey Garlic Baby Back Ribs, Fried Green Olives Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Three Salami’s, Grilled Asparagus with Onion Straws, Calamari, Goat Cheese, First Course Shrimp, Warm Almond Manchego Cheese, and Beef Skewers.

Other Appetizers include Seared Ahi Tuna, Bruschetta, Mediterranean Mussels, Antipasti Platter, and a Pizza of the Day.

Salads offered at First Course include Caesar, Grilled Portabella and Asparagus, Mixed Green, and the Bistro Salad (with bacon, egg, tomato).

Sandwiches offered are the Croque Monsieur, Bison Blue Burger, Mini Burgers with Cheddar.

First Course Pasta selections include Penne Alfredo, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Linguine with Prosciutto, Lamb Ragu with Pappardelle, Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Cream, and Risotto.

Entrees at First Course include Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia, Halibut, Chicken Roulade, Bone-In Pork Chops, New York Strip, and Duck Breast.

Desserts include Flourless Chocolate Cake, Tres Leches Cake, Creme Brulee, German Chocolate Cake, and Ice Cream or Sorbet.
Price guide: Tapas $4-8 Apps $6-14  Pasta $14-18  Entrees $17-29

What we ordered: A large heaping plate of bread arrived shortly after we ordered drinks.  Soft, crusty, and still warm.

There are many different Small Plates (Tapas) and since we had a very large party, we ordered several items.  We tried the Calamari, which was excellent! It was breaded and fried, then served with some kind of smokey mayo.  Seriously good calamari.

We also ordered the Manchego Cheese, which was baked until slightly crispy and golden, then served on baguette and topped with sliced almonds.  The order came with four little slices slightly soaking in a mix of oil, vinegar, and sherry.  These were pretty awesome, full of  both flavor and texture.

We also ordered the ribs.  I did not try these but they came highly recommended by one of the servers.  They looked and smelled great.  The menu describes them as “Honey garlic baby back pork ribs with soy, ginger & chili oil”.

Another tapa we tried was the Bleu Cheese Stuffed Fried Olives.  Not being a fan of olives, I did not try these either but the others raved about them.

We also tried the Asparagus with Onion Straws.  The asparagus was cooked with balsamic vinegar which sweetened it up slightly, then was topped with a pile of thin onion straws.  I like asparagus quite a bit and this was good, but I think I enjoyed the onion straws the most :)

We ordered two large dishes of the Coconut Red Curry Mussels.  OMG, these were wonderful!!  The menu actually called these Mediterranean Mussels which I believe is a misnomer as they actually had more Asian influence than Mediterranean.  No matter what you call them, these mussels were very tender and soaked in a bath of coconut milk with red curry.  This is my favorite style of mussels and these ranked up there in my TCRB Editor’s Picks: Mussels (stay tuned for that post in the future!)

We also ordered the First Course Shrimp.  These giant Tiger Shrimp were served in a hot butter with fresh herbs and spices, very similar to shrimp scampi.  Excellent!

We also ordered Entrees. I wasn’t sure what to get, the menu had several items that sounded really good to me.  I wanted to try something that noone else in our group was going to order, so I ended up getting the Papperdelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu.  This was pretty good; it had big chunks of tomato, rosemary and several pieces of tender lamb meat on top of a bed of pappardelle pasta.  It was topped with grated pecorino cheese and parsley.  I liked this but it was almost too mild for my taste.  I’d personally like a little spice to it.

One of my companions ordered the Alaskan Halibut, which came with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette puree and fingerling potatoes.

Another companion ordered the New York Strip, a nice 16 oz cut cooked a perfect medium rare.  It was well seasoned, served with fingerling potatoes and red onions over a red wine jus.

One of my companions ordered the Butternut Squash Ravioli in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce.  I nearly ordered this myself because it sounded so intriguing.  I was lucky to try a bit of this and I thought it was very good.  The ravioli were handmade little pockets stuffed with sweet butternut squash that contrasted the sharpness of the gorgonzola and brandy cream sauce.  It was garnished with cooked carrot, pepper and swiss chard.

One of the specials of the evening was a King Ivory Salom with fresh salsa.  I didn’t try this but it looked wonderful.  There were two filets of the light colored salmon, covered with fresh salsa made with corn, tomatillo and radish.

Another companion ordered the Chicken Roulade.  This dish had little chicken roll-ups with gorgonzola in a salty shallot sauce.  It was topped with julienne veggies.

Two of my companions split the Risotto with Shrimp; pictured here is half the order.  The risotto was creamy and the shrimp was well seasoned and tender.

One of my companions was celebrating a birthday and received this complimentary Tres Leches Cake.  The piece was large enough to share with several and was very tasty.  It was moist as it should be but one of the best features of this dessert was the passion fruit lime syrup drizzled on the plate.  The tartness curbed the sweetness of the cake and really made this dessert stand out.

Service: We had excellent service at First Course. We had advance reservations for a large party on a Saturday night and a server almost all to ourselves.  Wine was poured with frequency and the tapas and entrees were brought out in waves.

Overall Impression: First Course is a fabulous little restaurant in South Minneapolis with great food and a relaxed atmosphere.  The prices are very reasonable for chef crafted dishes and the service is very good; First Course is a great place to visit for many different occasions.  Beer and Wine only.
First Course on Urbanspoon
First Course Reviews in Minneapolis

Aug 252011

*******Murasaki is now CLOSED************

Cuisine: Japanese, Sushi, Teppanyaki
Restaurant Features: Beer, Wine, On-Site Parking
Location: Stillwater, MN
Address: 1491 Stillwater Blvd N Stillwater, MN 55082  (651) 439-1376
Hours: Closed Mondays * Tues-Thurs 5-9pm * Fri-Sat 4:30-9:30pm  * Sun 4:30-8pm
Links: Murasaki Website * Google Map

Atmosphere: Murasaki is located in a strip mall on Stillwater Blvd, just off Hwy 36.  The restaurant is split into two distinct areas, one area for Teppanyaki , and one with the sushi bar.  The Sushi Bar seats about eight people, and then there are a handful of other tables for dining.  It is simply but stylishly decorated, with cool green paint and Japanese screens covering the windows and walls.

Menu:  Nigiri/Sashimi offered at Murasaki includes Maguro (tuna), Hamachi (yelowtail), Sake (salmon), Smoked Salmon, Hirame (Fliunder), Tai (snapper), Saba (mackerel), Ika (squid), Ebi (cooked shrimp), Unagi (cooked freshwater eel), Anago (cooked saltwater eel), Amaebi (sweet raw shrimp), Tamago (sweet egg omelet), Kani (crab), Hotategi (scallop), Hokkigai (surf clam), Tako (octopus), Masago (smelt roe), Uni (sea urchin), Tobiko (flying fish roe), Wasabi Masago, Ikura (salmon roe), Spicy Scallop, Suzuki (striped bass), and Inari (deep fried tofu).

Specialty Rolls include Spicy Tuna, Spicy Salmon, Salmon Skin, Caterpillar (eel, cucumber), Number Nine Roll (shrimp tempura, salmon, avocado), Philly Roll (salmon, cucumber, cream cheese), Murasaki (tuna, salmon and yellow tail), Crunchy Spicy Salmon, Rainbow Roll (crab, cucumber, avocado), Shrimp tempura Roll, Dynamite Roll (yellowtail, jalapeno), Spider Roll (fried soft shell crab), Dragon Roll (shrimp tempura, eel, avocado), Red Dragon Roll (shrimp tempura, tuna).

Cold Appetizers include Kaiso Salad, Go Mae, Tuna Tataki, Beef Tataki, Kani Su, Ika Sansai, Ika Miso, Tako Su, Ebi Su, Hiya Yako, Oshinko Pickles.

Hot Appetizers include Shrimp Shumai, Wasabi Pork Shumai, Edamame, Shrimp Tempura, Vegetable Tempura, Yaki Tori, Beef Kushi Yaki, Soft Shell Crab, Kai Bai Shra Age, Pan Fried Ika, Grilled Ika, Grilled Ika, Spicy Broiled Mussels, Age Dashi Tofu.

Dinner Entrees include Teriyaki (beef, chicken or salmon), Tempura (shrimp, seafood, chicken, vegetable), and Katsu (pork, chicken or shrimp). Bento Box options include Murasaki (pork katsu, steak teriyaki and tempura), Seafood (salmon teriyaki, shrimp tempura, sashimi), and Vegetable.

Hot Pot Dishes at Murasaki include Sukiyaki, Yose Nabe, and Nabe Yaki Udon.

Desserts include Tempura Ice Cream, Japanese Ice Cream and Vanilla Ice Cream.

Price guide: Sashimi $5-10/order Sushi Rolls $9-16

What we ordered: We started with an order of Calamari. These giant, tender pieces of calamari were so big you could almost mistake it for fish, it was cooked perfectly so that the calamari had the right texture and the panko was golden brown. It was served with a creamy dipping sauce.Calamari at Murasaki Japanese ~ Stillwater, MN

We also tried the Korean BBQ Short Ribs.  The taste of these ribs was sweet and the meat was tender…. what little meat there was, that is.  The ribs were very small and had more fat than meat, we both decided these are more work than they’re worth.

Our Sushi Chef also gave us bowl of Kaiso Salad to eat while our sushi was being prepared. Made with seaweed, shredded cucumber and carrots in a sweet sesame vinaigrette sauce.  Very light.

We ate a lot of sushi and fish at Murasaki. First up was the Hamachi and Hokkigai Sashimi.  Hamachi, also known as yellow tail, is my favorite fish to eat raw.  Murasaki served us some of the best hamachi either of us has ever eaten.  The slices were giant and cut to perfection because it was incredibly smooth and tender, none of that stringiness that raw fish sometimes has, it practically melted in my mouth.  It tasted fresh and wonderful as well, without any hint of fishiness.  The Hokkigai (surf clam) was also very fresh.

The first roll we tried was the Crunchy Spicy Tuna.  This roll had tuna covered with spicy mayo, then paired with cucumber.  The roll was covered with crunchy panko flakes then drizzled with unagi sauce and spicy mayo.  Very good, I really enjoy spicy tuna and the crunch just gives it the extra oomph.

We ordered another specialty roll, the Vegas Roll.  This roll had salmon, cream cheese and cucumber, fried in tempura batter and hen topped with slice of jalapeno, spicy mayo and sriracha. This roll had just a little kick to it, which was offset by the smooth, cream cheese.

We had some of more of the delicious hamachi in a simple roll.  Delish!

We couldn’t pass up on the Murasaki Roll, a fine roll with salmon, tuna, hamachi and tobiko, wrapped in rice then covered with panko flakes, spicy mayo and unagi sauce. This roll was also great, I loved the combo of flavors of smooth fish with the contrasting texture of the crunchy panko flakes and flying fish eggs.

Last but certainly not least, as it was my favorite of all the rolls we tried, was the Red Dragon roll. This roll had shrimp tempura, then rolled with rice which was then topped with tuna, avocado, spicy mayo and unagi sauce.

Service: We didn’t have a reservation and knowing that Murasaki gets busy on the weekend,  we made sure to arrive shortly after they opened on a Saturday night.  There were a few tables available, as well as many seats at the sushi bar, so we opted to sit at the sushi bar.  We had a server checking on us throughout the night to refill our drinks, but most of our interaction was with the Sushi Chef.  As the restaurant started to quickly fill up, the sushi chef served most of our rolls one at a time, giving himself time to fill other sushi orders.  The whole dinner process took awhile because we ordered so much food, but we enjoyed every minute.

Overall Impression: Murasaki was one of the best sushi experiences I have had in the Twin Cities.  It may be located in a  strip mall but don’t discredit it, definitely worth the drive out to Stillwater for some top quality sushi.
Sushi Murasaki on Urbanspoon
Sushi Murasaki Reviews in Stillwater

Mar 052011

Cuisine: Fish, Irish

Restaurant Features: Beer & Wine
Location: Northeast Minneapolis, MN
Address: 302 13th Ave Northeast Mpls, MN 55413    612-676-1300
Hours: Tues-Thurs 4pm – 12am Friday 4pm – 1am Sat 10am – 1am Sun 10am – 12am Closed Mondays.

Links: The Anchor Fish & Chips Website * The Anchor on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: The inside of The Anchor is very similar to other neighborhood restaurants around Minneapolis, with wooden floors, and exposed ductwork.  The walls are painted a rich red, the tables are all wooden and the chairs are all painted black and placed close together.  There is also a small bar-like seating area running along the wall below the semi-open kitchen.

Menu: Breakfast is served on Saturday and Sunday from 10am-12:30pm with items including Eggs, Rashers, Bangers, Black & White Pudding, Potato Bread, Grilled Tomatoes and Heinz Beans.

Meals include  chips or each item can be ordered a la carte including Fish, Shepherd’s Pie, Meat Pastie, Veggie Pastie, Battered Sausage, Burger, Helicopter Burger (cheddar, ham and a fried egg), Veggie Burger, and Toasty (ham and cheddar).

Side items include Curry, Gravy, Mushy Peas, and Heinz Beans

Price guide: Breakfast $ 4-12 Meals $5-11

What we ordered: Having been my first visit to The Anchor, I knew I must order the Fish & Chips, along with sides of mushy peas and curry for the fries.  The cod filet was served in one large piece, battered and crispy with a sprinkling of sea salt.  The fish was light and flaky and the addition of the salt was a really nice touch.  There was a generous amount of chips in the basket, thick-cut fries lightly fried.  The curry sauce was a nice accompaniment to the fries and kicked up the flavor  few notches.  I also enjoyed the mushy peas, which were mushy and buttery.

My companion had the Veggie Pastie with Chips.  The pastie was a mixture of potato, carrot, onions, then battered and fried.  The crispy, crunchy outside was a a splendid contrast in texture to the softer veggies inside.  The bite I had reminded me somewhat of a pierogie, it was tasty!

Service: We were able to get a small table after just a few minutes wait.  Our server quickly appeared to take drink orders and was ready for us to order just a few minutes later.  Food was prepared in less than ten minutes and brought to our table hot and fresh. My companion and I stayed much longer than our dinner took but we never felt like they were trying to rush us out the door.

Overall Impression: Limited menu but the prices are very reasonable; you can’t go wrong with the Fish & Chips.

The Anchor Fish & Chips on Urbanspoon