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

Feb 282010

This is an update to the original review I wrote in March 2007.  Time for an update!

Cuisine: Italian
Restaurant Features: Bar, Live Music, Nightclub, Sunday Brunch, Student Discount
Location: Minneapolis, MN (Dinkytown)
Address: 327 14th Av. SE. Minneapolis, MN 55414 612.378.4849
Hours: Mon – Thu: 11:30 a-9p      Fri – Sat: 11:30 a- 11p       Sunday: 11a-9p
Links: Loring Pasta Bar Website * Loring Pasta Bar on FacebookGoogle Map

Atmosphere: The inside of the Loring Pasta Bar is not only super cool, but breath-taking and romantic as well. Located inside a beautifully renovated building in Dinkytown (formerly known as Gray’s Drug Store) , the Loring Pasta Bar is an amazing site to see.  Ceilings are 2-3 stories high, with an upper-eating area overlooking the court-yard style main dining room.  Large trees and beautiful plants line the perimeter (glass windows are often opened or removed during summer months to really give you the feeling of eating outdoors.).  They also have live music every night from 6-9pm, usually in the form of a jazz band.

Besides having additional tables for dining in the upper level, there is also this cute little romantic lounge.

Menu: Appetizers include Artichoke Ramekin, Ciabatta Bruschetta, Fried Calamari, Pan Fried Potstickers, and Spicy Tuna Sushi Roll.

Salad options are the House Salad, Caesar Salad, and Salade Sauvage.

Pastas on the menu seem to change frequently and may include Beef Shortribs Farfalle, Fettuccini Carbonara, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Roasted Chicken and Mozzarella Ravioli, Linguini with Clam Sauce, Mushroom Penne, Cheese Tortellini Classico, Cheese Tortellini Nuovi, and Mac N Cheese.

Menu entrees also seem to change at least seasonally and may include items such as Seared Sea Scallops, South American Beef Tips, Grilled Salmon, New York Strip, Beef Tenderloin, Osso Buco (Braised Veal), Blackened Catfish, and Shrimp or Chicken Vegetable Stir-Fry.
Price guide: Appetizers $8-9 Salads $5-7  Pasta $13-17  Entrees $16-23

Student Discount of 30% with Valid Student I.D. (Excluded 6-9pm Fri & Sat)

Special Events:

  • Salsa Dancing every Friday and Saturday night 10pm $8/10  (18+)
  • Live Music from 6-9pm every day

Sunday Brunch Buffet: $10.95/Students $15.95/Adults

  • Items change weekly but always include a variety of breakfast items, lunch items, pastas, desserts and fresh fruits.

What we ordered: We started with an order of Bruschetta, a savory mix of  roasted red peppers, chopped golden tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella, topped with a balsamic sauce, all sitting on little toasts of ciabatta.  The four pieces didn’t go far but everyone enjoyed it.

I ordered the Cheese Tortellini Nuovi after much deliberation and asking the server for suggestions.  A pleasant choice!  The bowl-sized portion of tortellini was bathed in an enticing cream sauce, rich in flavor from a mix of spices.  The pasta was topped with sliced prosciutto and toasted pine nuts, a symphony of textures.  Oh Heavenly pasta!

One of my companions ordered the Spicy Tuna Roll, a large order of 9 pieces.  The roll had raw tuna, avocado, cucumber, spicy mayo, carrot and rice.  Served with a side of edamame ( wasabi and ginger too, of course!)

Another companion ordered the Roasted Chicken with Mozzarella Ravioli.  The raviolis are hand-made and tossed in a Napolitana sauce (concassed tomatoes, roasted garlic, basil, and extra virgin olive oil).  The bowl was topped with a serving of roasted chicken and freshly grated cheese.

We were celebrating a birthday that night and so one of my companions enjoyed this Chocolate Souffle with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Service: It was very busy on this Saturday night and parking can be scarce; options are metered parking or pay lots.  I ended up parking in a lot a few blocks away.  We had a reservation for a fairly large group and they were able to seat us all promptly.  Our server was really efficient at serving a large group.  Our visit extended over a couple of hours as we enjoyed our food and company, with food and drink served throughout the time.
Overall Impression: I enjoyed my visit to the Loring Pasta Bar just as much (if not more) than my first visit three years ago.  The atmosphere is really cool and they have a variety of pastas and entrees on the menu.  Seems like it would be a cool place to come for Salsa dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.
Lakeside Club on Urbanspoon

Apr 072007

***Click Here for New Review on Loring Pasta Bar written 2/28/10***

Cuisine: Italian with Asian influence, Pasta

Restaurant Features: Bar, Live-Music

Location: Minneapolis (Dinkytown)

Address: 327 14th Av. SE. Minneapolis, MN 55414 612.378.4849

Links: Loring Pasta Bar Website Google Map

Atmosphere: Breath-taking and romantic! Located inside a beautifully renovated building in Dinkytown (formerly known as Gray’s Drug Store) , the Loring Pasta Bar is an amazing site to see.  Ceilings are 2-3 stories high, with an upper-eating area overlooking the court-yard style main dining room.  Large trees and beautiful plants line the perimeter (glass windows are often opened or removed during summer months to really give you the feeling of eating outdoors.)


Soft candles and Live Jazz music really add to the romantic feeling of the Loring Pasta Bar during dinner hours.  Restaurant/Nightclub? Late night DJ’s have the place grooving throughout the week for local U of M students (and others!) to enjoy.


Menu: Appetizers include the infamous Artichoke Ramekin as well as Beef Skewers, Calamari, Shrimp and Spicy Tuna Sushi Roll. Pasta dishes include Fettuccine Carbonara, Goat Cheese Tortellini, Spaghetti, Portabello Ravioli, and Vegetarian Orzo.  Small selection of entrees include Grilled Salmon, Beef Tenderloin, New York Strip, Seared Raw Tuna, and Stir Fry

Loring Pasta Bar Menu

Price guide: Appetizers- $5-9, Pasta- $10-13, Entrees- $17-23

What I ordered: We were given a giant basket of bread while we looked over the menu, but also decided to order the Artichoke Ramekin (Came highly recommended)….Creamy, cheesy with big chunks of artichokes and a spicy kick.  Delicious!


I had a very difficult time deciding what to order off the menu, but finally decided to go with the Roasted Chicken and Mozzarella Ravioli.  I was given exactly seven raviolis, each stuffed with a bite-sized amount of strong-tasting Italian cheese.  The menu claimed it was mozzarella, but tasted very strongly like goat cheese to me.  Rather than incorporating the roasted chicken inside the pasta, the roasted chicken was mixed into the tomato and garlic mixture and placed atop the ravioli.  The dish was good, but nothing I’d be dying to go back for anytime soon.


My companions had better luck than I when it came to selecting from the menu.  This seared-raw tuna atop fresh spinach leaves and drizzled with a sesame-soy-ginger sauce was excellent, reminiscent of the Japanese dish, Tuna Tataki.  Very much Japanese-influenced.


Other companions ordered the Crusted Salmon and the Portabello Ravioli (topped with corn mixture).

Loringpastabar_0061000 Loringpastabar_0071000_2

The desserts at Loring Pasta Bar were awesome. Pictures on the left is the flourless chocolate cake.  This dessert was like no cake I have ever tried in my life, instead it was very creamy.  Reminded me of the filling to a truffle or a really thick & creamy, rich mousse. The dessert pictured on the right is the cheesecake with chocolate and cherries ala mode.  My companions and I were not expecting the cheesecake to be chocolate flavored, or we would have ordered a completely different dessert.  It was very good, but too much like the chocolate cake.

Loringpastabar_0211000 Loringpastabar_0231000

Service: The Loring Pasta Bar is always packed on the weekend, a reservation for any size party is a very good idea.

Overall Impression: Very swank!  I think “Pasta Bar” is a little bit misleading, as the Loring Pasta Bar is not your classic Italian restaurant, but the food is good and the prices are decent.  Definitely a cool place to take out-of-town guests, as it is very unique!

Vescio’s Cucina ~ Minneapolis, MN

 Dinkytown, Italian, Minneapolis  Comments Off on Vescio’s Cucina ~ Minneapolis, MN
Apr 062007

Cuisine: Italian

Location: Minneapolis (Dinkytown)

Address: 406 14th Ave SE Minneapolis, MN 55414 Phone: 612-378-1747

**Additional location in St Louis Park

Links: Vescio’s Cucina Website Google Map

Atmosphere: The Vescio’s Dinkytown location has a very laid-back atmosphere.  Wood-paneled walls give the restaurant a “Homey” feel.  There are three sections to the dining room, each with wooden tables that can easily accommodate large groups.  Seems to be very kid-friendly as well.











































Menu: Appetizers include Calamari, Mozzarella Sticks, Sausage Italiano, Shrimp Scampi and Vescio’s famous Breaded and Deep-Fried Ravioli and Tortellini.

On the lighter side, a variety of salads and antipastos also grace the menu.  What you really want to come to Vescio’s for is the PASTA!! Choose from Spaghetti, Rigatoni or Angelhair, Homemade Ravioli, Lasagna, Fettuccine, Manicotti etc.  Then choose from either Red, Cream or Garlic sauce.

Entrees include Chicken or Veal Parmesan, Marsala, Shrimp Scampi, Seafood Primavera, and Walleye Fillet.  View Vescio’s Menu

Price guide: Appetizers- $5-9, Salads– $5-10 (whole) Pasta Dishes– $9-13  Entrees– $16-18

What I ordered: To start off, my companions and I enjoyed the breaded-fried ravioli combo.  Some of them were filled with cheese and jalapenos, some were filled with cheese and spinach.  Both delicious, especially when dipped in Vescio’s spicy marinara sauce. You may have tried this at the Vescio’s stand at The MN State Fair!





















I was torn between which pasta I wanted to try and which sauce (red or garlic?).  Not a problem, one of the entree options is a ravioli/spaghetti combo.  I got the spicy marinara with spaghetti and the garlic/olive oil sauce with spinach and cheese ravioli.  Such a  good choice!  Tons of garlic and I also loved the cheese (with walnut) mixture that filled the ravioli.






















My companion ordered the Supreme Antipasto, loaded with meats, cheese and veggies.  This salad was so big it could easily feed several!




















Service: Our service was very good.  Note: All tickets are paid at the counter as you leave.

Overall Impression: Although it is not easy to find a parking spot in the heart of Dinkytown where Vescio’s is located, the food is excellent and much less expensive than other Italian restaurants.  Good place to bring  the kids or a large group.

Vescio's on Urbanspoon