Sep 012012

Cuisine: Bakery, Breakfast, Scandinavian
Restaurant Features: Counter Service, Free Wi-Fi
Location: St Paul; (Saint Anthony Park neighborhood)
Address: 2264 Como Ave.  St Paul, MN 55108  651-645-9181
Hours: Monday-Saturday 6:30am-6:30pm  * Sunday 6:30am-4pm
Links: Finnish Bistro Website * Finnish Bistro on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Finnish Bistro is located in the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood of St Paul, on Como Ave at Carter Ave, (across the street from Muffuletta Cafe).  Inside, Finnish Bistro makes its home in a space shared by Dunn Bros Coffee.  The counters at Finnish Bistro are easily distinguishable, with a variety of delicious, freshly baked items on display.  There are a dozen or so small tables scattered across the room as well as a patio outside.

The patio area is a cute area around the side of the building, with a handful of umbrella-bearing tables and flower boxes full of flowers and other plants.

Menu: Breakfast items are served All DAY with items such as Yogurt Parfait, Finnish “Perinteiset”(traditional) Breakfast, Chilled Finnish Delight, House Aamiainen (Breakfast), Klassikko (Classic) Breakfast, Bacon & Muna (Egg) Sandwich, Pulla French Toast, Ham & Cheese or Veggie Quiche, Lefse Scramble, and Fresh Hedelmät (Fruit) Crepe. Omelets include Greek, Farmer, or Veggie.

Breakfast sides include Grilled Potatoes, Crisp Smoked Bacon, Grilled Kielbasa, Grilled Salmon, Smoked Salmon Lox, Grilled Lamb (Gyro), Fresh Fruit Plate, Side of Toast,  Sour Cream, and Guacamole.

Specialties offered at Finnish Bistro are the Finnish Beef Pasty, Daily Fish Special, Salmon Lefse and Spinach Pie.

Sandwiches offered include Caprese, Classic BLT, Classic Grilled Cheese, Lamb Gyro, Pulled Pork, Bistro Wrap, Bistro Club, and Spicy Quesadilla.

Flatbread Pizzas come with soup or salad with varieties such as The Baltic Special, The Favorite (Grilled chicken breast, crumbled Applewood bacon, onions, and mushrooms with cheddar and mozzarella cheeses on a creamy ranch based sauce,  Baked Potato Pizza ( mashed potatoes and topped with fresh onions, cheddar cheese, smoked Applewood bacon, sour cream), The Mediterranean Pizza – ( Fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, onions, Greek oregano and garlic with mozzarella cheese on pesto sauce. Add Gyro Meat for an extra charge), Finnish Vegetable ( fresh diced tomatoes, mushrooms, red peppers, onions, black olives, and mozzarella cheese on pesto or red sauce), and Chilled Finnish Delight (Lightly toasted pita bread topped with a fresh thick layer of cream cheese, topped with chilled smoked salmon, capers, onions and dill).
Price guide: Breakfast $4-11  Pizza $9-10 Specialties $10-12
What we ordered: The Mediterranean Pizza ($8.95) sounded really good, so I ordered that for my meal.  It came with choice of soup or salad, I went with the Tomato Basil soup, which was delicious.  Good thing it was delicious, as I never got my Mediterranean Pizza.  Read service section below for the full, disappointing story.

One of my companions had the Veggie Quiche ($8.50).  It looked delicious with flaky crust and a thick filling of egg, carrot, onion, spinach, and roasted red pepper.

Another companion had the Finnish Beef Pasty ($9.95).  This was a football-shaped pocket of flaky pastry filled with ground beef, carrots, onions, and rutabaga.  This was served with a side of cucumber sauce and colorful side salad.  The pasty itself was good but kind of boring in the flavor department.  It definitely needed the sour cream or some kind of sauce to add some flavor.

Another companion had the Caprese Sandwich ($8.95); toasted French bread stacked with sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella, onions & basil pesto.  It also had sweet balsamic drizzled on it; looked delicious!

We shared a Chocolate Chip cookie.  It was big and tasted very similar to the cookies at Panera.  Soft but not too chewy.

We also sampled a Chocolate Pastry that looked like a brownie but wasn’t.  It was actually somewhat light and crispy, not at all chewy.

Service: This was my first time visiting Finnish Bistro, which was a recommendation from the companions I dined with that day.  We ordered our meals and then took a seat at a table on the patio.  We were told our meals would be brought out to us.  About 15 minutes after we ordered, my soup came out, as did the meals of my companions. The menu says it takes about 15 minutes for a pizza, so I knew ahead of time that there would be a wait.  After 30 minutes of waiting and no pizza in sight, I went inside to check on it.  I was told it would be done in two minutes and they would bring it right out.  I was offered a free cookie for the inconvenience.  Ten minutes later…still no pizza! At this point I was pressed for time as we had another obligation to attend to right away.  I went back inside and requested my pizza to-go.  About five minutes later a server sheepishly appeared to tell me that they had mistakenly given my pizza to someone else and that there was no pizza for me!!  At this point I had waited 40 minutes and would have been starving had it not been for the small bowl of tomato basil soup, but I did not have any more time to wait for another pizza.  I requested my money back and left Finnish Bistro shortly thereafter, hungry and disappointed.  I hope this was just an honest mistake but I feel like they could have offered me something more than just a cookie and my money back.
Overall Impression: I will try it again because the food seemed good but I am hoping for a better experience next time that doesn’t involve me leaving hungry.
Finnish Bistro on Urbanspoon

Apr 272012

Cuisine: Breakfast, Deli, Pizza, Pasta, Pizza-by-the-Slice
Restaurant Features: Counter-Service, Flat Screen TVs, Patio
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 616 Como Avenue  St Paul, MN 55103 (651) 488-1922
Hours: Mon-Thursday 6:30am-10:30pm *  Friday 6:30-10:30 * Sun 10:30-9:30
Links: John’s Pizza Cafe Website * John’s Pizza Cafe on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: John’s Pizza Cafe is located on the wedge-shaped corner of Como Ave and Dale St in St Paul.  There are two entrances; one in front and one from the patio near the very small parking lot.  The back of the restaurant is where the service counter and kitchen is.  The main dining room has a number of booths as well as tables, live plants and a HUGE (70-80″) Flatscreen TV.

There is a second seating area adjacent to the main dining room that has beautiful natural lighting and live plants.  The tables are smaller but can be arranged to accommodate bigger parties.

There is also an enclosed patio facing Dale Street that has a handful of tables available for outdoor seating.

Menu: Breakfast items at John’s Pizza Cafe include two varieties of Breakfast Pizza9also sold by-the-slice),  English Muffin Egg Sandwich, Egg Sandwich, Omelettes, French Toast, Stuffed French Toast, Pancakes, Yogurt and Granola Parfait, Oatmeal, Caramel Nut Roll, and Cinnamon Roll.

Salads are made fresh throughout the day and include Pear-A-Dise, Garden, Antipasto, Caesar, Grilled Steak, Grilled Chicken, and Taco Salad.

John’s offers and number of fresh-baked Hoagies, all served with chips and pickle spear.  Sandwiches include Philly Hamburger, Works, Chick-A-Dilly, Tex-Mex, Envious Turkey, Turkey Florentine, and John’s Club.

Entrees offered include Spaghetti, Sausage Lasagna, Calzones, Mac-N-Cheese, Sloppy Dogs, Sloppy Meatball, Stromboli and Spaghetti.  Specialty Pastas include Chicken Parmigiano, Linguine Alfredo, Pasta Bolognese, Gnocchi, Pasta Primavera, Three Cheese Ravioli, Sausage Pappardelle, and the Mediterranean.

Pizza is, of course, John’s specialty.  Pies come in 10″, 12″, 14″ and 16″.  Varieties include Create-Your-Own, The Works, The King, Denver, The Hawaiian, Hog in the Bog (brat sausage, wild rice, mushrooms and garlic herb sauce), The Bandito, Chinese Fire Dragon (pepperoni, spicy peppers and pineapple), Mexican Extravaganza, BBQ Chicken or BBQ Pulled Pork, Club, Spicy Caribbean Chicken, Chick-A-Dilly, Reuben, Wisconsin Wonder, Veggie 2000, Meatless Wonder, California Dreamer, Farmer’s Fantasy, Popeye’s Pie, and It’s Not Easy Being Green (artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and basil pesto sauce).

Desserts include Cupcakes, Brownies, Cheesecake, and Cookies.
Price guide: Breakfast $2-7  Hoagies $7  Pizza $9-30 Pizza By Slice $2.50-3.50
What we ordered: I tried a slice of the Pepperoni Deep-Dish, which was great! The crust wasn’t as thick as a traditional Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, but it did have a ton of cheese directly on top of the crust with the sauce just drizzled on top. The piece was quite big and very filling for under $3.50.

I also tried the Chick-a-Dilly Pizza.  This pie starts with the hand-tossed crust topped with a creamy dill sauce ans then mozzarella, red bell pepper, onions, and bite-sized pieces of chicken.  This combination of flavors was delicious, I especially liked the creamy dill sauce which was  a nice change from red sauce.

One of my companions had a slice of the Works, which was topped with Italian sausage, pepperoni,  green pepper, onion, mushroom, and black olive.

My companion also had a slice of Sausage

Another companion ordered a slice of the Hawaiian Pizza, topped with a ton of pineapple tidbits and really good Canadian Bacon.  I need to try this one next time.

Service: I have been to John’s Pizza Cafe a few times now and have had very fast and friendly service each time.  From the hours 10:30-2:30pm they have ten varieties of pizzas that they offer by-the-slice and will get your order ready quickly.
Overall Impression: John’s Pizza Cafe has a large selection of pizzas and hoagies and everything is homemade.  The service is fast and friendly.  This is my new favorite local spot to grab a slice of tasty pizza over the lunch hour.
John's Pizza Cafe on Urbanspoon

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

Mar 132012

Cuisine: American, Bar & Grill, Breakfast
Restaurant Features: Bar, Kids Menu, On-Site Parking, Patio
Location: New Prague, MN
Address: 200 County Road 37 New Prague, MN 5607 (952) 758-8734
Hours: Mon 11am-8pm * Tues 1pm-4pm * Wed-Fri 11am-11pm * Sat – Sun 11am – 10pm

Links: Fishtale Grill Website * Fishtale Grill on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Located on County Rd 37 in New Prague, a giant metal fish statue near the main road beckons visitors to The Fishtale Grill .  The restaurant itself is a large, log building with vaulted peaks and large skylights.  The interior is rustic, with a collection of different northwoods and fishing-themed decor.

Menu: Breakfast items at Fishtale Grill include Buttermilk Pancakes, Homemade Waffles, French Toast, Oatmeal, Cinnamon or Caramel Roll, Apple , Prune or Poppy Kolacky, Ham, Bacon, Sausage, Wild Rice Sausage, Walleye, and Sirloin.  There are several combination plates as well as a handful of classic omelettes including Everything, Country, Denver and Veggie Omelette.

Appetizers include Artichoke Spinach Dip, Nachos, Cheese Quesadillas, Buffalo, Thai, Honey BBQ, Caribbean jerk, Teriyaki or Plain Chicken Wings, Onion Rings and Mozzarella Sticks.

Fishtale Grill also offers Chili, a Soup du Jour and a handful of sandwiches such as Caesar, Chef, Barbecue Chicken Chopped, Chicken Oriental, and Taco Salad.

Sandwiches come with french fries and include Turkey Bacon Ranch Wrap, French Dip, Cod Fillet, Reuben, Rachel, Tuna Melt, Chicken Breast, Turkey Club with Cheese, Walleye, BLT,  Tom Turkey Melt and Deluxe Grilled Cheese. Burgers are 1/2 lb and also include fries. Selections include Lake Superior Burger (bacon & cheese), Gunflint Trail (mushroom and swiss), or Lake of the Woods Burger (bacon, cheese and BBQ).

The Entrees at Fishtale Grill inlcude Walleye Filet, Broasted Chicken, Shrimp, Broiled Salmon Filet, BBQ Ribs, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Chicken Alfredo, Southwestern Penne Pasta, 14oz Ribeye, 6oz Sirloin,  and 10oz Hamburger Steak.  Also available are Basket Dinners: Chicken Strips, Chicken Drummies, Walleye Strips, and Popcorn Shrimpo

Dessert selections include Turtle Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake, Bread Pudding, French Silk Pie, Apple Pie, Jumbo Cookie, Ice Cream Sundae, and Root Beer Float.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-9 Breakfast $3-10 Salads $8-10  Sandwiches $9-12 Entrees $10-19

What we ordered: We started with a 20oz schooner of Grain Belt Nordeast, an every day value at just $3. Score!

My companion and I were very hungry and debated about getting an appetizer but decided to get a couple of sandwiches and the Prime Rib special to share between us. The Gunflint Trail Burger was delicious! The beef had just the right amount of fat content to make it juicy and flavorful. It had a heaping pile of sauteed mushrooms and Swiss cheese holding them in place on top of the burger.

We also ordered the Walleye Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries.  This was a long, thick fillet of walleye that was lightly breaded and served on a toasted hoagie roll.  It was just crispy enough to give it a nice crunch but the fish itself was very flaky.  One of the better walleye sandwiches around! We tried it with sweet potato fries which were thin and crispy.

My companion also ordered the Saturday Special, the Ace Prime Rib which came with a Dinner Salad.  The salad was pretty standard but the Thousand Island Dressing was very good and tasted homemade.

The Ace Prime Rib is the biggest size of this tender cut of beef, 20oz, to be exact.  It was served with choice of potato and green beans, my companion opted for the fries and they gave us plenty.  This was a tender cut that had very little fat, considering the size of it.   Quality cut, good flavor and texture, just the way prime rib should be.  The au jus was homemade and hearty and the horseradish had a real nice kick to it.  Overall it exceeded expectations.

We also ordered a Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce for dessert.  This was creamy and smooth yet dense, with the distinct flavor of vanilla.  We could’ve dressed it any way we wanted, we opted for the strawberry sauce.  It was very good, we both enjoyed it.

Service: We arrived near 7pm on a  very busy Saturday night to a full parking lot and a lobby full of waiting guests.  We asked how long the wait was and were told it was ten minutes.  Ten minutes turned into forty five minutes while we patiently waited for a table.  Once we were seated we were greeted by our server within minutes.  She was friendly and had a handful of suggestions from the menu when asked.  Our food took about 15-20 minutes to arrive after we placed our order, which seems fairly quick for how busy it was, but the main dinner rush was nearly over at that point.  The dining room cleared out within a half hour of us being seated
Overall Impression: From the moment we drove into New Prague and saw the giant metal fish along the road, we knew that Fishtale Grill & Bar would be a good place to try and we were spot on with that prediction.  Big portions, very good food.  We enjoyed everything we ordered and would go back again when in the area.  Gets very busy on the weekend, be prepared to wait awhile.
Fishtale Grill on Urbanspoon

Feb 052012

Cuisine: American, Breakfast
Restaurant Features: Cash-Only, On-Site Parking
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 1446 Rice St  St Pal, MN 55117 651-489-0020
Hours: Daily 5am-3pm
Links: Coffee Cup Website * Google Map

Atmosphere: This year celebrates the 60th Anniversary of Coffee Cup on Rice St, making it one of the oldest breakfast joints in the city.  The front room where you enter has booths as well as a couple of counter-top dining benches that seat six on each side.

The dining room swings around the corner where several wooden tables lead back into an atrium.

Menu: Breakfast Items are served all day at Coffee Cup.  Dishes include Steak &Eggs, Grilled Pork Chop and Eggs, Grilled Chicken and Eggs, Hamburger Steak & Eggs, Ranch Breakfast, French Toast, and Buttermilk Pancakes.

Specialty Omelets are made with three eggs and include Everything, vegetable, Denver, Ham & Cheese, Gyros, Mushroom & Cheese, Turkey & Cheese, Bacon & Cheese, Sausage & Cheese, and Feta Cheese.

Salads include Greek, Grilled Chicken Breast, and Combination Salad.

Sandwiches served Monday-Friday and come with choice of potato and cup of soup: Grilled Bacon  Cheese, Bacon Cheeseburger, Hamburger, Tuna Salad Sandwich, and Reuben.  Additional sandwiches include Bacon & Egg, Ham & Egg, Sausage & Egg, Grilled Cheese, Fish, Fried Ham, Denver, Club House, Pork Cutlet and Grilled Chicken.

Burgers served daily include Patty Melt, Hamburger, Jumbo Hamburger, Cheeseburger, California Burger, Bacon Cheeseburger, Jumbo Cheeseburger, Texas Melt, and California Hamburger Deluxe.

Entrees served daily include Roast Sirloin of Beef with Mashed Potatoes, Roast Turkey, Hot Turkey Sandwich, Hot Beef Sandwich, Breaded Pork Chops, Grilled Pork Chops, Gyro Sandwich, Sirloin Steak, Hamburger Steak, Beef with Onions or Bacon, Pork Cutlet, Fried Chicken, Boneless Chicken Strips, Breaded Cod, Steak & Shrimp, Fried Shrimp.

Coffee Cup also has desserts including Cheesecake, Ice Cream, Cake, Apple Pie, Banana Cream Pie, lemon Pie, Pumpkin Pie, and French Silk Pie.
Price guide: Breakfast $6-13
Weekly Specials:

  • Tuesdays: Baked Meatloaf

What we ordered: I started with a cup of Chicken Dumpling Soup.  It was delicious; hot and flavorful with a good amount of bite-sized dumplings and shredded chicken.

One of my companions and I decided to split the Reuben Sandwich. I knew better than to order a Reuben at a diner and the sandwich was about what I expected; cheap, processed corned beef and Swiss cheese. I did like the grilled bread and sauerkraut though, they were good, as were the steak cut fries.

Another companion ordered the Gyro, which contained pre-sliced strips of gyro meat layered onto pita bread.  The tomato and onion were thrown on top, Tzatziki sauce on the side.

Another companion ordered a Cheeseburger with Fries and a side of Coleslaw.  It looked like your basic 1/4lb frozen beef patty but I heard no complaints!

The coleslaw looked good and it was a really big portion.

The last of us ordered the Denver Omelet with Hashbrowns. This three-egg omelet had peppers, onion and ham and a lot of American cheese inside and out.  It was served with a giant pile of hashbrowns and buttered toast.

Service:   Our server was nice and our food was prepared quickly. Coffee Cup is CASH ONLY, so be prepared.
Overall Impression: I personally wasn’t impressed by the food at Coffee Cup but it is a St Paul breakfast institution with big portions at very reasonable prices.
Coffee Cup on Urbanspoon
Coffee Cup Reviews in St Paul

Nov 032011

Cuisine: American, Bakery, Breakfast,
Restaurant Features: Bakery, Counter Service
Locations: Bloomington, Little Canada and North Oaks
Addresses & Maps:
Bloomington- 401 West 98th Street  Bloomington, MN 55420 (952) 358-7490
Little Canada- 2900 Rice Street  Little Canada, MN 55113 (651) 482-8876
North Oaks- 845 Village Center Drive  North Oaks, MN 55127 (651) 482-8285
Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-8pm (LC until 7pm)  * Sun 7am-4pm
Links: Taste of Scandinavia Website * Taste of Scandinavia on Facebook

Atmosphere: Located at the end of a strip mall, the Little Canada location of Taste of Scandinavia offers counter service, so you will immediately see the bakery case and front counter upon entering.

The Little Canada location has a dining area tucked back in a windowless space with several wooden tables.

Menu: Cookies and Bars include Raspberry Lemonade, Scoop Cookies, Butter Pecan Sandwich, Ginger Heart Cookies, Lemon Zest Cookie, Norwegian Almond Kringler, Raspberry Sandwich Cookie, and Rugelach.

Pastries include Danish, Finnish Munkki, Pulla Roll, Cinnamon Pulla Roll, Ring Coffee Cake, and Blueberry Muffin.

Cheesecakes include Fresh Fruit, Lingonberry, Raspberry and Turtle.

Pies and Tarts include Caramel Apple Tart,  Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, and Pumpkin Pie.

Cakes and Tortes include Black Forest Torte, Carrot Cake, Celebrate Cake, Chocolate Heart Cake, Chocolate Raspberry Torte, Chocolate Symphony Torte, Creme de Menthe Torte, English Lemon Torte, Finlandia Torte, Italian Chocolate Almond, Kransekake, Mocha Toffee Torte, Princess Torte, Pumpkin Torte, Romanian Mocha Torte, Scandinavian Chocolate Torte, Soile’s Sinful Chocolate Cake, Tiramisu, Tri-Chocolate Torte, Turtle Torte, Austrian Walnut Torte, and Bailey’s Irish Cream Torte.

Rolls include Croissant, Norwegian Milk Dinner Rolls, and Spinach Parmesan Dinner Rolls.

Specialty breads include Apple Walnut, Asiago, Baguette, Cottage, Cranberry Nut Sour Dough, Finnish Sour Dough Rye, German Rye, Health Wheat, Honey Wheat, Multi-Grain, Onion Dill, Pumpernickel Rye, Sour Dough, Spinach Parmesan, Sun Dried Tomato Basil, Swedish Limpa, Swedish Rye, Vienna.

Breakfast items include a Norwegian Lefse with Ham & Eggs, Classic Breakfast, Breakfast Croissant, Finnish Breakfast Pasty, Three Egg Omelette, Swedish Farmer’s Omelette, Pulla French Toast, Sweet Scandinavian Lefse, Swedish Pancakes, Fresh Fruit Crepe, Swedish Pyttipanna, and Yogurt Parfait.

Salads offered include House Salad, Garden, Caesar, Chef and Greek Salad.

Sandwich options include Grilled Cheese and Deluxe Deli Sandwich (Choice of ham, turkey, roast beef or veggie).

Hot Meals include Finnish Pasties, Italian Pie, Taco Pie, Pot Roast, Grandma’s Meatloaf, Smothered Pot Roast or Meatloaf, Shepherd’s Pie, Reuben, Danish Salmon Sandwich, Hot Beef BBQ Sandwich, Open Face Swedish Roasted Pepper Chicken Sandwich, Lasagna, Crab Cakes, Swedish Meatballs, Spinach Pie, and Gyros.
Price guide: Breakfast $4-8  Salads $7-9  Sandwiches $5-7   Hot Entrees $7-9

What we ordered: I ordered the Open Face Swedish Roast Pepper Chicken Sandwich.  That is a mouthful to say and certainly more than a mouthful to eat.  As the name implies, this was a sandwich that was served open-faced atop two slices of tomato basil bread.  Diced grilled chicken, red onions,  spinach, lightly sauteed mushrooms, and shredded asiago cheese.  I thought this sandwich was pretty good; all of the flavors blended nicely but the asiago cheese with the roasted peppers are what really stand out.  The stronger flavor of the cheese makes up for the milder tastes of the chicken, spinach and mushrooms.  The peppers were very good, but the onions could have been more caramelized.

One of my companions ordered the Shepherd’s Pie, which is similar to a pot pie but has a mound of mashed potatoes on top instead of a crust and is then covered with gravy.  The pie crust was light and flaky and the beef, pea and carrot filling in savory beef gravy was very tasty.  I wasn’t as big of a fan of the mashed potato; it had a strange consistency that was sort of potato dumpling-like.   Quite possibly because it had been pre-made several hours before we ordered it? Either way, I enjoyed more than a couple bites.

Another companion ordered the Chef Salad, which was a large bed of mixed greens topped with hard boiled egg, red onion, tomato, cucumber, and rolled up slices of deli turkey and ham, ordered sans cheese.

I also bought a couple of cookies to take home. The chocolate chunk cookie was delicious; it was quite large yet it was still somewhat soft and had a generous amount of chocolate chunks.

I also tried the Hawaiian Cookie, with coconut and macademia nuts as well as a few white chocolate chips.  I loved it! The coconut was very finely shredded and there was a lot of it, giving the cookie a chewy texture, which I loved.  The macademia nuts were chopped into fine pieces but still gave it a nice crunch.

Service:  We perused the giant menu hanging on the wall behind the counter while we waited in line.  We efficiently placed our order and found a table.  The food was delivered about ten minutes after we ordered it.
Overall Impression:  Taste of Scandinavia has a wonderful selection of baked items but is also a good place to have lunch or an early dinner.

This is an original review of Taste of Scandinavia on Twin Cities Restaurant Blog
Taste of Scandinavia Bakery and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Oct 222011

Cuisine: Breakfast, American,  Fish, Irish
Restaurant Features: Banquet, Bar, Flat Screened TVs, Hotel, Live Music, Patio, Waterfront
Location: Stillwater, MN
Address: Water Street Inn  * 101 Water St South  Stillwater, MN 55082  651-439-6000
Hours:  Mon – Fri: 7 am-1am * Sat: 8am-1 am * Sun: 9am- 1am
Links: Water Street Inn Website * Water Street Inn on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Located on the street level of the Water Street Inn in Historic Downtown Stillwater,  Charlie’s Restaurant and Irish Pub encompasses a few different dining rooms, including the Red Room.  Old fashioned wallpaper and hand-painted murals on the ceiling emphasize the history of this building which was originally built in 1890 as the Lumber Exchange Building.

Another large sitting room can also be found nearby, with several velvet chairs basking in the natural sunlight that streams in through windows that run along two entire walls.

The Pub seemed to be the most popular place to be with a number of wooden tables as well as a few taller bistro tables.  There were a number of framed prints and posters on the walls as well as a couple of flat screened TVs displaying sporting events.  There is a self-serve popcorn machine near the entrance and the Pub often bears the aroma of the freshly popped kernels.

The bar in Charlie’s Irish Pub seats about six customers or so and is very inviting.  Overall the Pub is a lively place to be.

Menu: Breakfast items include Eggs O’Brien, Pancakes, Thick Cut French Toast, Fruit, Cinnamon Roll, Irish Country Breakfast, Traditional Irish Breakfast, Ham and Eggs, Ha and Gruyere French Toast, and Steak and Eggs.  Omelette choices include The Traditional (choice of meat and cheese), Apple Brie, The Victorian (ham and swiss), and The Baron (ham, sausage, bacon, onion and swiss).

Appetizers on the dinner menu include Antipasto Plate, Walleye Cakes, Smoked Chicken Quesadilla, Calamari, Mini Reuben Purses, Beer Battered Onion Rings, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Homemade Chips & Dip, Smoked BBQ Chicken Legs.

Salads at Charlie’s include Caesar, Cashew Chicken, Greek Salad and Traditional Cobb.

Charlie’s sandwiches are served with chips or upgrade to fries or fresh fruit for $2.50.  Options include Pulled Pork, BLT and Guacamole Wrap, Buffalo Chicken Wrap, Classic Reuben, Walleye, Chicken Jack Melt, Grilled 1/2lb Burger, Steak Sandwich, Roasted Portabella and Turkey Burger.

Entrees include Seafood Linguini, Chicken and Portabella Pasta, Mostaccioli, Fish & Chips, Honey Soy Grilled Salmon, Blackened Seafood Trio, Eggplant Parmesan, Almond Crusted Walleye, Twin Lobster Tails, Stuffed Center Cut Pork Loin, Stuffed Chicken Breast, New York Strip, 8oz Pub Steak and 11oz Ribeye Steak.

Desserts at Charlie’s includes Berry Bread Pudding, Charlie’s Big Brownie, and Flourless Sin Cake.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-11 Salads $5-12 Sandwiches $9-13  Entrees $17-31 Desserts $7

What we ordered: We started with an order of Calamari.  I didn’t take much notice of the menu description so the unexpected sweetness of the first bite caught me by surprise.  This calamari at Charlie’s is lightly breaded and  fried, yhen bathed in a sauce of honey, ginger and garlic.  The flavor of the honey sauce was delicious, but very sweet and almost too much for just two of us.  The green onions helped counter the sweetness but I would have loved some thin slices of red thai chili peppers to spice it up.

After much deliberation over the menu, I ordered the Reuben.  This sandwich was stacked with thinly sliced corned beef then topped with genuine aged Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing sandwiched between marbled rye bread.    The swiss and thousand island really made this sandwich; the corned beef tasted good but it was definitely deli-style.  I upgraded to fries for $2.50 and received a huge pile of the hot crinkle variety.

My companion ordered the Fish N Chips. This basket of crinkle fries was topped with one large fillet of walleye that was beer-battered and fried.  The fillet was impressive; not only was it long, it was also thick and meaty.  It was served with a homemade tartar that had dill rather than the traditional pickle.  Seriously good fish!

Service: Our visit was in the early evening on a Sunday but we easily found a spot in the the adjacent public parking lot.  We entered through a door on the patio that led us directly to the Irish Pub.  There wasn’t a hostess so rather than sitting in the dining room, we found a table in the Pub despite it being fairly busy.  We took our time ordering and the server had many suggestions from the menu.  There appeared to be only one server for the entire pub and she was constantly running out to the kitchen or perhaps to one of the other dining rooms.  Drinks took awhile to be filled but food was prepared in a reasonable amount of time.

Overall Impression: The food at Charlie’s was pretty good, the walleye was especially memorable and the calamari was also unique and excellent (albeit sweet!).  Great place to stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner while wandering around downtown Stillwater or as a romantic weekend date.

This is an original review of Charlie’s Restaurant and Irish Pub on Twin Cities Restaurant Blog
Charlie's Restaurant and Irish Pub at the Water Street Inn on Urbanspoon
Water Street Inn Reviews in Stillwater

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