Jul 272011

Cuisine: Caribbean, Creole, South American, Spanish, Fish, Seafood
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour, Nightclub
Location: Northeast Minneapolis, MN
Address: 501 East Hennepin Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55414  (612) 331-3360

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2am  Sat-Sun 4:30pm- 2am
Links: Conga Latin Bistro Website * Conga on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Conga Latin Bistro is located in Northeast Minneapolis, at Hennepin and Central Ave.  The dining room takes up about half the space, with a colorful mural of conga drums gracing the back wall and two large, floor-to-ceiling wooden conga drums at the entrance.  There are mostly tables but there a couple of round booths along the outer wall that can accommodate up to six people.  It was very comfortable and had a very clean feel to it.

The bar and dance floor area take up at least half of the space, a very popular place on weekend nights when it turns into a nightclub.

Menu: Appetizers at Conga Latin Bistro include Empanadas, Chicken Croquettes, Calamares a La Romana, Seafood Ceviche, Plantain and Shrimp in Garlic Sauce, Grilled Shrimp and Avocado Plaintain Tapas, Green Plantain Tapas, Chicken Wings, Habanero Chicken Wings, Fried Chicken, Chicken Tenders, Sweet Plantains with Queso Fresco, Yuca xon Mojo, Burrito Cubano, Tacos, Nachos and Cheese Platter, and French Fries in Garlic Butter.

Soups offered include Black Bean, Asopao de Mariscos, Asopao de Pollo, and Soup of the Day.

Salads offered are the House, Cesar, and Avocado Mango Salad.

Rice dishes at Conga Latin Bistro include Arroz con Pollo, Arroz con Camarones, Arroz con Vegetales, and Arroz con Mariscos.

Entrees include Jamaican Chicken, Pollo Al Ajillo, Pollo Isabel, Bistec Encebollado, Chicken Parmesan, Pork Tenderloin with Mofongo, Filet Mignon, Ropa Vieja, and Pernil (roast pork).

Seafood entrees include Tilapia in Curry and Coconut Sauce, Shrimp in Garlic Sauce, Spicy Shrimp Creole, Shrimp Victoria, Halibut in Garlic Sauce and Broiled Salmon in Brandy.

Specialty Dishes at Conga Latin Bistro include Churrasco Argentino, Parrillada Argentina, New York Steak with Shrimp in Garlic Sauce, Steak and Scallops, Halibut a la Mar, Seafood Stew, Paella Valenciana, Paella Marinera.

Desserts include Flan, Tres Leches Cake, and Rice Pudding.

Price guide: Appetizers $5-12  Entrees $10-20  Paella $40-50  Desserts $4-5

Happy Hour:

  • Mon-Fri  5-7pm

What we ordered: I visited on one of the hottest days we’ve had this summer and nothing sounded better than an icy, frozen drink so I ordered a Pina Colada (2 for 1 during Happy Hour).  It was refreshing and tasted like a non-alcoholic pina colada.  Seriously, I don’t think it had any rum, which was a shame.

One of my companions ordered a Mango Pineapple Margarita.  This drink was sweet and slightly tart, not too strong.

We started with the Ceviche appetizer.  This was a nice mix of chunks of shrimp, fish, clams marinated in lime juice then tossed with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and cilantro.  Light, refreshing and tangy, a perfect appetizer for a hot day.  Served with a side of tortilla chips that may have been Tostitos.

We also ordered the Habanero Chicken Wings.  There were six giant, breaded wings that were tossed in a spicy habanero sauce.  These wings were not saturated with sauce like buffalo wings often are, which is probably a good thing because they were much spicier!  Great if you like a lot of heat, if not, they were served with a side of ranch dressing to help cool them down.  The order was also served with a basket of french fries.

My companions and I ordered all of our entrees to share. One of the entrees we ordered was the Shrimp Victoria.  This was a delicious, but interesting dish consisting of 7-8 peeled shrimp swimming in a creamy sour cream and wine sauce with thinly sliced mushrooms.  It was served with white rice.

Another dish we ordered was the Pork Tenderloin with Mofongo, which came highly recommended by our server.  The center of this dish was the Mofongo, made of fried, crushed plantains with olive oil and garlic.  The pork tenderloin was cut into eight bite-sized pieces, then seared and served in a dark wine sauce with sauteed onions.

The last entree we tried was the Arroz con Mariscos.  The dish of rice was seasoned with Saffron, then tossed with bots of rice, peas, olives and onions.  The rice was tossed with small pieces of Mussels, Shrimp, Halibut, Clams, Crab and Calamari, which were all overcooked.  We all liked the flavor of the rice but wish the seafood would’ve been tender as it should be.

Service: We had no problem getting a parking space on the street outside the restaurant on a very hot weekday afternoon, nor did we have any problem getting a table.  In fact, we were a few of the only customers at the time we arrived and had our pick.  Our server was nice, but spoke with a strong accent and had a few problems communicating with us.  Our food and drinks were taken care of in a reasonable amount of time.

Overall Impression: We had a decent experience at Conga Latin Bistro.  The food we tried was good, and while I wouldn’t say it was great,  I would definitely get the ceviche again.
Conga Latin Bistro on Urbanspoon
Conga Latin Bistro Reviews in Minneapolis

Nov 092010

Cuisine: Cajun, Creole, Southern Style
Restaurant Features: Banquet Room, Bar, Catering, Dessert, Live Music, Patio, Sunday Brunch
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 695 Grand Ave. St. Paul, MN 55105 651-222-7345
Hours: Mon-Wed 11am-12am   Thur-Sat 11am-2am    Sun 10a-10pm
Links:*Dixie’s on Grand Website * Dixie’s Facebook Page * Google Map

Atmosphere: Dixie’s is located in the same building as Saji-Ya.  The dining room is toward the back of the space, with tables and booths located on two levels.  A street-lamp type decoration bearing a “Bourbon Street” sign reminds you that Dixie’s is a Louisiana-inspired restaurant.

There is a big bar area in the front of Dixie’s, complete with a dance floor. This is a very popular place every 2nd and 4th Friday of the month when they have Salsa Dancing.

Dixie’s also has a patio area in the front of the building, and despite being attached to the parking lot, it is a great place to have food & drinks when the weather is nice.

Menu: Appetizers at Dixie’s include Beef Jerky, Coconut Fried Shrimp, Dixie Wings, Deep-Fried Avocado Fries, Blacken Shrimp or Chicken Quesadilla, Cornmeal Catfish Nuggets, Soul Fries (fries with cheddar, bleu cheese, bacon and ranch), Chicken Nachos, Baby Back Ribs, Baby St Louis Style Ribs, Spicy Sesame Green Beans, Carolina Crab Cakes, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Baked Mushrooms.

Soups and Chilis at Dixie’s are the Carolina Crab Soup, Cuban Black Bean Vegetarian Chili, Louisiana Gumbo, Chicken Chili and Pecos Red River Chili.

The few salad options include Caesar, Key Largo (smoked turkey, pecans, gorgonzola), Grilled or Fried Chicken Salad, and Coconut Chicken Salad.

Dixie’s sandwiches and burgers include Pulled BBQ Pork, Pulled BBQ Chicken, BBQ Beef Brisket, Cajun BBQ Chicken, Blackened Chicken Deluxe, Sesame Chicken Mushroom Melt, Portobello Mushroom, Catfish Club, Pot Roast Cheeseburger, Dixie Burger, Cajun Burger, Blackened Bleu Burger, and Black Bean Veggie Stacker.  Po’ Boy sandwich options include Blackened Catfish, BBQ Pork Tenderloin, and Fried Gulf Shrimp.  All sandwiches and burgers come with choice of potato or vegetable.

Dixie’s House Smoked Specialty items are the Baby Back Ribs, St Louis Style Ribs, Barbeque Chicken, Thick-Cut Pork Chops, Rib Combo and BBQ Sampler Platter.

Dinner Entree options are Country Fried Steak, New York Strip Steak, Kentucky Bourbon Pot Roast, Pecos Pork Tenderloin, Veggie Black Bean Cakes, Honey Pecan Chicken, Bourbon Chicken, Jambalaya, Carolina Crab Cakes, Coconut Fried Shrimp, Blackened Catfish, Bleu Grass Chicken Breast, Almond Grouper, and Seafood Potpie.

Desserts at Dixie’s include Key Lime Pie, Butterscotch Pecan Pie, Fudge Cake, and Traditional Bread Pudding.

Price guide: Appetizers $10-14  Soups $5/cup $7/bowl  Sandwiches $11-15 Smoked Specialties $15-40  Entrees $14-25  Desserts $6-7

Happy Hour:
  • 7 Days 3-6pm
  • $3.50 Tap Beers
  • $2.50 Dom. Bottles  $3.50 Import Bottles
  • Many 1/2 price Appetizers

Sunday Brunch:

  • $19.95/ Adults     $12.95/ Kids 5+
  • 10am-1:30pm
  • Bottomless Champagne Flute, Made-to-Order Omelets and Egg Benedict, Fresh Fruits, Salads, Hot Biscuits, Brunch Potatoes, Red Beans & Rice, Country Scrambled Eggs, Specialty Entrees and Homemade Desserts.
  • Live Jazz Music (check calendar)

What we ordered: I started with a bowl of the Squash and Sausage Chowder, which I shared with one of my companions.  I really had no idea what to expect when I ordered this, because I had never had anything like it before.  It was delicious!! The consistency of the dish reminded me of sloppy joes, but replace the ground beef for the more flavorful ground sausage and replace the tomato with a sweet pureed squash.  What a great combination of flavors and textures together; slightly sweet and slightly spicy. It had toasted croutons on top which added a satisfying crunch to the mix.  This was a huge bowl of chowder….. my companion and I were both nearly full before the rest of our meals were brought out. What a sublime dish for Autumn!

Another companion started with a bowl of the Louisiana Gumbo.  I tried this and thought is was very good.  I know that authentic lousiana gumbo has many variations and since I haven’t had it before,  I am not sure how this compares.  It was a thick soup-like dish that had a hearty mix of shrimp, andouille sausage, and chicken.  It was flavorful but not spicy, not sure which spices Dixie’s uses.

We were given a basket of biscuits, which literally disappeared in seconds.  They were still warm!

I ordered the Catfish Club, which turned out to be a great choice! The large filet of catfish had been char-blackened and then layered with buttery-toasted bread, thick sliced crispy bacon, romaine lettuce, sliced tomato and mayo.  Each ingredient brought something to the table in both texture and taste.  I was happy that the catfish wasn’t at all fishy and was a thick enough cut that I could sink my teeth into it.    This sandwich really hit the spot! It was served with a lightly battered french fry.

One of my companions ordered the Pork Tenderloin Po’ Boy.  The tenderloin had been sliced thin so it was extremely tender, and blackened for that cajun flavor.  It was coved with melted pepper jack cheese and barbeque sauce, lettuce and mayo.  Very tasty!

Another companion had the Pecos Pork Tenderloin, which was well-seasoned and then char-broiled to give it a blackened texture and taste.  It was served with two dipping sauces, one was spicy peanut and the other was a mustard bbq.  Choice of potato or vegetable was offered and my companion chose the succotash, which was sauteed vegetables with corn (sorry, no photo)

Another companion tried to order the $39.95 Dixie’s BBQ Sampler but the server talked him out of it, saying it was too much food for one person.  After contemplating the menu and hearing other suggestions, my companion ordered the Pot Roast Dinner instead.    It was a large serving of pot roast that was covered with a Kentucky Bourbon sauce. This dish did not go over very well, my companion didn’t care for the sauce.  The server offered a free dessert for the trouble.  The BBQ Platter would have been a much better choice, even if it was too much food for one person!

My companion was given a free dessert to make up for the pot roast, and chose the Key Lime Pie.  This was very good, but very sweet.  It had a delicious, thick graham cracker crust and a lot of whipped cream.

Service: Our service at Dixie’s was decent, as far as spacing our courses, etc, but overall the service could have been a lot better.  Sodas were refilled in the proper amount of time but the server  forgot to put in a 2nd drink order from the bar, so we never received the cocktails we ordered with our meals.  There were a few other items we asked for that the server forgot as well, not to mention she talked my companion out of ordering what they really wanted.  At one point a large group that sat near us all stood up to leave after finishing their meal, but they continued to stand and talk for at least 5 minutes.  This wouldn’t normally bother me but they were practically hovering over our table, which made it very uncomfortable for us, not to mention they were blocking a major walkway through the restaurant.  I don’t know what Dixie’s could have done about that, other than gently asking them to stand somewhere else? I am hoping that service is better on a night that isn’t so busy.
Overall Impression: The service wasn’t that great but the food was very good.  I would go back at a less busy time and try some other items on the menu.  Dixie’s has a banquet room and also offers catering.

Dixie's on Grand on Urbanspoon

Sep 272010

Cuisine: Creole: (American and Caribbean)
Restaurant Features: Bar (Beer & Wine only), On-Site Parking
Locations: St Paul & Minneapolis, MN
Addresses & Maps:

St Paul– 777 Grand Avenue  St. Paul, MN. 55105  651-224-1302

Minneapolis-600 E. Hennepin Avenue   Minneapolis, MN 55414  612-379-3030

Hours: Sun – Thurs: 11am – 9pm  Fri- Sat: 11am – 10 pm
Links: Brasa Website * Brasa Facebook Page

Atmosphere: The St Paul location of Brasa is located on Grand Ave, near many other popular restaurants.  The inside of the restaurant is contemporary, with a mix of tables and booths.  The pendant-style lighting is comprised of long, skinny, transparent light bulbs.

Dining at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

The walls of windows inside Brasa are not actually windows, but rather garage doors that can be opened during nice weather.

I saw one little nook at Brasa that contained a large round table. Perfect, cozy little  place for a group to share a meal!

Menu: Sides of Vegetables and Salads at Brasa include Yams and Andouille, Collards with Smoked Turkey, Creamed Spinach with Jalapeno, Sweet Plantains, Fried Green Plantains with Garlic Oil, Crispy Yuca with Mojo, Romaine & Tomato Salad, Cabbage and Mozzarella Salad.

Grains and Beans include Yellow Rice and Beans, Rice and Pigeon Peas with Olives and Ham, Cornbread and Beans, Rustic Cheese Grits, Homemade Chips and Guacamole.

Side orders of bread include Cornbread with Honey Butter, Griddled Garlic Toast, and Masa Corn and Cheese Cake.

Sandwich options at Brasa are thePulled Chicken, Roasted Pork, Braised Beef, Vegetarian Bean Fritter, Smoked Sausage, Scrambled Egg and Chorizo, and Fried Catfish.

Meat & Fish Platters include Rotisserie Chicken, Pulled Chicken, Slow Roasted Pork, Braised Beef, Smoked Sausage (Mpls only), and Fried Catfish (St Paul only).

Dessert specialties include Pineapple Upside-down Cake, Chocolate Pudding, Rhubarb-Strawberry Shortcake, White Birthday Cupcake, and Big Cookie of the Day.
Price guide: Breads $2   Veggies $3.75/5/9.50   Grains/Beans $3.25/4.50/8.50   Sandwiches $6.50-9.50  Meat/Fish $5-20 (Served 1/4 lb, 1/2lb or 1 lb)    Desserts $2-5

What we ordered: We started with the Corn Bread Muffins with Honey Butter ($2/ea).  These were big muffins, moist and on the sweet-side from the honey butter glaze.  Very tasty!

The Pulled Pork at Brasa was delicious! It was seasoned with Mojo, which is a marinade of lime juice, garlic and olive oil.  The pork was tender and quite flavorful, the marinade was distinct yet subtle.

Pulled Pork at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

The Braised Beef was out of this world!  The meat was very rich, tender and moist, cooked in a sweet and flavorful red sauce (made with brown sugar).  A pound of this delicious beef might not go very far, depending on how hungry you are!

Braised Beef at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

I had never had Fried Yuca before, but so glad I tried these Crispy Yuca Fries!  They were thickly cut (like large steak fries) and then fried like potatoes.  The taste of them was similar to potato but with a hint of sweetness and more flavor! They were served with a delicious homemade cilantro-lime-garlic mayo for dipping.  So darn good!  I wish more restaurants would start serving these, they are a great change-up from the usual potato french fries.

Crispy Yucca at Brasa ~ St Paul, MN

Service: We were lucky to find a parking space that was relatively close, as parking on Grand Ave can be tricky sometimes!)  We sat ourselves as the sign indicated and were greeted by our server within just a few minutes.  Our server was very friendly and helpful with the ordering process; you could tell she genuinely enjoyed everything on the menu!  The food took awhile to be served but I have to admit I was starving and slightly impatient.  Everything was excellent.
Overall Impression: I had heard about Brasa long before I had the pleasure of eating there and can honestly say its reputation is well-deserved.  The ingredients are fresh, all natural and local.  The Roasted Pork is delicious and the Braised Beef is phenomenal.  Prices are a little high but the food is worth it!  Try the Crispy Yuca Fries!

Brasa Rotisserie on Urbanspoon