Jul 072012
 

Cuisine: American, Bar & Grill
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour, Late-Night Dining, Live Music, Night Club
Locations: Bloomington, Plymouth, St Cloud,  and Downtown Minneapolis, MN
Addresses & Maps:
Bloomington ~ 2801 Southtown Drive Bloomington, MN 55431 (952) 955-8137
Downtown Minneapolis ~ 126 N 5th Street Minneapolis, MN 55403 (612)224-9950
Plymouth ~ 4120 Berkshire Ln N Plymouth, MN 55446 (763) 559-0257
St Cloud ~ 506 W Saint Germain St St Cloud, MN 56301 (320) 281-5205
Hours: Daily 10am-2am
Links: Cowboy Jack’s Website * Cowboy Jack’s on Facebook

Atmosphere: The Cowboy Jack’s in St Cloud is located in the downtown area across from the Rivers Edge Convention Center, at 5th Ave and W Saint Germain.  It is a large, open space that has an old west saloon feel to it.  There are a handful of wooden bistro tables places throughout the room as well as seating along the giant bar at the front of the room.

The Dining area is tucked back along the far side of the space, a mix of high-backed pine wooden booths and square tables.

Menu: Appetizers at Cowboy Jack’s include Blackened Fish Tacos, Walleye Fingers, Cowboy Jack’s Wings, Queso Deadwood Dip, Country Nachos, Calamari, po-Tater Skins, Sirloin Tips, Southwest Quesadilla, Jalapeno Cheese Curds, and Cornbread Skillet.  Mini Menu items include Meatloaf Sliders, Sloppy Jack Sliders, Mini Tator Tot Hot Dish, Mini Pulled Pork, Braised BBQ Chicken Sliders, Mini Braised Beef, and Mini Open Faced Chicken.

Soups include Country Cowboy Beef Stew and Soup of the Day.  Salads offered are House, House Caesar, Steak Salad, Cowboy’s Chop Salad,  Wedge, Santa Fe Chicken Salad, and Caesar.

Sandwiches at Cowboy Jack’s come with kettle chips or you can upgrade to fries or tator tots for $1.  Braised BBQ Chicken, Sloppy Cowboy Jack, Pulled Pork Sandwich, BBQ Braised Beef Sandwich, Open-Faced Chicken, Kobe Beef Philly, Country Reuben, Build Your Own Cowboy Burger/Bison Burger/Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Caesar Wrap, Buffalo Chicken Wrap, and Taco Wrap.

Saloon Specialties include Beef Ribs, Walleye, Flat Iron Steak, Braised Beef, Braised Chicken, Tator Tot Hit Dish, Ribeye, Slim’s Pot Pie, Pan-Fried Sunnies, Slow-Cooked Smoked Pork Skillet, and Country Meatloaf.

Sidekick Items include Waffle Fries, Onion Strings, Basket of Fries, Sweet Potato Fries, Baked Potato, Vegetable, Wild Rice Pilaf, and Mashed Potato.

Cowboy Jack’s Pizzas include Four Meat, BBQ Chicken, Garbage, Buffalo Chicken, Veggie, and Make Your Own.

Desserts include Turtle Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Jack’s Sundae, Mini Donuts, and Seasonal Cobbler.
Price guide: Appetizers $7-12 Sandwiches $5-12 Pizza $9+ Entrees $13-22

Happy Hour:

  • Daily 3-6pm 10pm-12am
  • $2 Select Drinks, Select Beers
  • Half Priced Select Appetizers

Weekly Specials:

  • Sunday ~ 10am-1pm Bottomless Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers $10; Brunch Buffet
  • Monday ~ All Day $2 Sloppy Joes
  • Tuesday ~ Wing Night 5-10pm Bucket of 24 Wings for $5
  • Wednesday ~ 5-10pm $2 Burgers

What we ordered: My party and I were making a Happy Hour stop at Cowboy Jack’s between a wedding and a reception on a very hot day.  I started with a $2 Nordeast tap.

My companions and I tried a handful of appetizers, half-priced during Happy Hour, including the Calamari.  The order came with a bowl full of deep-fried calamari rings, an impressive amount of food for $4.50.  It was served with a chipotle mayo.

We tried the Southwest Quesadilla with Chicken.  The order was served with four large wedges of flour tortilla stuffed full of meaty pieces of chicken breast, tomatoes, cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese.  It was served with mild salsa and sour cream. Only $5 during Happy Hour

We also tried the Jalapeno Cheese Curds, breaded with a cornmeal mixture and a subtle kick of jalapeno. Not very spicy but it comes with ranch in case you want to cool it down a tad.  Another great Happy Hour buy at just $4.

A few of my companions ordered the Potato Skins, five wedges of potato stuffed with jalapenos and bacon and then topped with cheddar and green onion.  Served with salsa and sour cream.  I didn’t try tis but it looked good!

Some of my companions also ordered the Queso Deadwood Dip, a homemade cheese dip served with multi-colored corn tortilla chips.

Service: Our visit was mid-afternoon on a hot Saturday in June.  We had a large party of 10-12, but the staff at Cowboy Jack’s was able to accommodate us within minutes of our arrival.  We ordered drinks and they were delivered about five minutes later.  Our server was friendly and explained that it was Happy Hour and that several appetizers were half-priced, and that is what we ended up ordering.  The appetizers also took the expected amount of time to come out.
Overall Impression:  Cowboy Jack’s has a very fun atmosphere and is a good place to catch a meal, have a cold drink or see a live music performance.  I am bummed this place wasn’t around 15+ years ago when I was living in St Cloud to attend SCSU, my friends and I would have been regulars ;)  I plan to try more of the menu on a visit to one of the Twin Cities locations in the near future.
Cowboy Jacks on Urbanspoon

Mar 172012
 

Cuisine: Tex-Mex, Mexican
Restaurant Features: Bar, Flat Screen TVs, Happy Hour, On-Site Parking

Locations: Coon Rapids. Columbia Heights, Roseville and Waite Park, MN

Addresses and Maps:
Columbia Heights– 5085 Central Avenue NE Columbia Heights, MN 55421  763-571-7784
Coon Rapids– 8955 Springbrook Dr Coon Rapids, MN 55433 763-432-2479
Roseville– 1925 Perimeter Rd Roseville, MN 55113  651-287-4055
Waite Park– 314 West Division St Waite Park, MN 56387 320- 230-8633

Hours: Sun 11am9pm * Mon-Thurs 11am-10pm * Fri-Sat 11am-11pm

Links: La Casita Website * La Casita on FacebookGoogle Map

Atmosphere: The Roseville location of La Casita is located on Perimeter Rd, just a few blocks west of Fairview Ave.  The restaurant is quite large and has many different dining areas, including a large indoor courtyard.  There are historic photographs and hand-painted murals on several of the walls, many of which are depicting Mexican soldiers.

The courtyard is well lit from the skylights overhead and the decor is bright and colorful.

The Bar Area is to the left when you walk in and is quite spacious, with several bistro tables as well as seating along the length of the bar.  There are a handful of flat screen TVs hung up over the bar.

Menu: Appetizers include Chili con Queso, Queso Blanco, Chicken Fiesta Flatbread, Nachos, Ultimate Nachos, Layered Bean Dip, Quesadilla, and Veggie Quesadilla.  Tortilla Soup also available.

Salads offered include Taco Salad, Mexican Grilled Chicken, Southwestern Chicken, Buffalo Chicken, Fajita Salad, and House Salad.

La Casita offers many Burritos including El Grande Burrito, Burrito Supreme, Shredded Beef Burrito, Burrito Colorado, Garden Burrito, Fajita Burrito, Chimichangas, Blanco Chimichanga, Grande Chimichanga, and Pollo Fundido.

Skillet Entrees offered at La Casita include Grilled Steak Fajitas, Grilled Chicken Breast Fajitas, Shrimp Fajitas, Garden Fajitas, and Fajitas Supremas.  Other Grilled items include Tacos Al Carbon, Grilled Chicken Breast, Carne Asada, Rancheros, Tex-Mex Chicken Sandwich, and Fiesta Burger.

Favorite Mexican Entrees include Chalupa, Mexican Club, Flautas, Baja Tacos, Mazatlan (spoinach and mushrooms in wheat tortilla), Arroz con Pollo, Carnitas, Chili Colorado, and Enchiladas.

Entrees with Seafood include Seafood Enchiladas, Cancun, Tacos de Dorado (Mahi Mahi) and Tortilla Crusted Tilapia.

There are a number of combination meals as well.
Price guide: Appetizers $6-10   Burritos $10-12 Skillets $12-16 Entrees $8-11

Happy Hour:

  • Daily 3-6pm
  • $1.00 off House Margaritas, Tap Beers, House Wines, and Rail Drinks.
  • Free Appetizer bar (Monday through Friday 3-6, 4.95 minimum purchase) featuring: chili con Queso dips, Bean dip, Fresh Veggies and dip, and more.
  • Late Night Happy Hour 9pm-Close = 2 for 1 House Margaritas, Tap Beers, Rail Drinks

Daily Specials:

  • Tuesday – ½ price house margaritas (open until close)
  • Wednesday – Tall tap domestic beer $3.00, Tall imports Specialties $4.00, Tacos $.99 (7 to close)
  • Thursday – Long Island Teas $4.00, Sauza Gold Margaritas $5.00
  • Sunday – Kids Eat Free Every Sunday – Your children (8 and younger) who accompany you on Sundays can select one item from our Children’s menu for FREE (beverage extra).  Children must be accompanied by parent who orders food of equal or greater value.

Birthday Special –Receive a FREE DINNER of your choice with purchase of entree of equal value.  Not valid with other offers or coupons.  (Drinks, appetizers and desserts are extra; I.D. required)

What we ordered: Our visit was during Happy Hour so I took advantage of the $3 House Margarita.  It was quite large for the price and was strong and tart.  Perfect for the price!

If you dine during Happy Hour you are welcome to the Chips and Salsa Bar, where this is quite a selection of different dips including Bean Dip, Carne con Queso, Salsa, Salsa Verde, Queso Blanco, and a Smoky Salsa.  All this for free, what a deal!

Another item on the Nacho Bar was a huge pan of hot, fresh Nachos Supreme.

This was my first visit to La Casita in nearly four years and I noticed immediately that they changed the menu in that time and as soon as I saw that they offered Fish Tacos, my decision was made. These “El Dorado” tacos came with two double-corn tortillas each piled with sauteed strips of mahi mahi, fresh cilantro, lettuce and tomato with a spicy chipotle mayo.  The plate was piled with salad, savory Mexican rice, and freshly sauteed peppers, red onions, zucchini, yellow squash, and broccoli.  I topped my taco with additional salsa and some of the chipotle mayo and they were awesome!

One of my companions ordered a Beef Enchilada and one Chicken Enchilada a la carte.  The beef enchilada was a corn tortilla stuffed with mildly seasoned ground beef and covered with a red chili sauce with melted monterey jack and cheddar.  This was enjoyed very much.

The Chicken Enchilada had shredded chicken stuffed inside a corn tortilla, smothered with salsa verde and melted cheddar jack cheeses.  This was decent but the beef enchilada was preferable.

Another companion ordered the Veggie Quesadilla, a large whole wheat tortilla was stuffed with cheeses and roasted peppers, onions, zucchini, broccoli, and yellow squash.  It was served with guacamole and a bed of lettuce.

Service: We had very good service at La Casita.  My companions and I met early on a Tuesday evening during Happy Hour before it started to get busy, and pretty much had our pick of tables.  Our server was friendly and attentive, yet left us alone to talk and eat.  We loved the complimentary Chips & Salsa Bar and another positive was the split checks.
Overall Impression: La Casita is one of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurants around, even more so now that they offer fish tacos! Big portions at very reasonable prices.
La Casita Mexican on Urbanspoon

Dec 282011
 

Cuisine: American, Barbeque, Caribbean
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour, Live Music, On-Site Parking, Patio Dining
Location: Stillwater, MN
Address:  423 Main Street South #A  Stillwater, MN 55082 (651) 439-5375
Hours: (Winter)Mon – Wed:  3pm – 9pm, Thurs:  11:30am – 9pm, Fri:  11:30am – 10pm,  Sat: 11:30am – 10pm Sun 11:30 – 9pm
Links: Smalley’s Barbeque Website * Smalley’s Caribbean on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Smalley’s Caribbean barbeque is located at the south end of Main Street in Stillwater, overlooking the St Croix River.   Once upon a time this location was an Esteban’s Restaurant, but it has definitely undergone a big makeover since.  If the wooden plank floors and knotty pine tables aren’t enough, the occasional model pirate ship and large selection of rums will surely bring the pirate theme to your dining experience.

The Pirate Bar is located in the same Plaza as the Caribbean Barbeque but is accessed through a different doorway at the back.  This is a happening place where Live Music is played most evenings all year long.

Menu: Appetizers at Smalley’s include Sweet Corn Fritters with Rum Butter Sauce, BBQ Shrimp with jalapeno Cornbread, Plantain and Tortilla Chips with Habanero Salsa and Queso, Sweet Potato Fries, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Shrimp Cocktail.

Salads include Ice Berg Wedge with Bleu Cheese and Pepper Bacon, Caesar, and Ginger-Jicama Slaw.  Chicken or shrimp can be added to any salad.

Sandwiches include Barbeque Pulled Pork, Pulled Smoked Chicken, Jerk Chicken Breast Sandwich, Clam Po’ Boy, and Carolina BBQ Pork Sandwich.  Jerk Tacos are also available with either Jerk Pork or Jerk Shrimp.

Barbeque entrees at Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque include Pork Spare Ribs, Smoked Beef Brisket, Roasted Pork Shoulder, Shrimp Skewers, and Jerk Ahi Tuna.

Sides offered include Fire Roasted Pork and Beans, Grilled Curried Veggies, Black Beans and Rice, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Creamy Coleslaw, Potato Salad with Bacon and Egg, Mac & Cheddar, and Beer Battered Plank Fries.

Desserts include Pecan Pie with Homemade Ice Cream, Coconut Flan with Rum Caramel, Key Lime Pie, and Drunken Chocolate Cake.

Price guide: Appetizers $6-11  Sandwiches $10-12  Entrees $12-20

Happy Hour: Sun-Mon:All Day Tues-Thurs:3-6pm & 9-11pm, Fri:3-6pm & 10- 12am, Sat:10pm-12am
What we ordered: We started with a couple of cocktails; I ordered the Sunsplash.  Just as it appears on the photo, it was a girly, fruity drink with rum and orange juice and a bit of cointreau.  Tastes just as good in the winter as the summer!

My companion ordered the Bloody Mary which was quite spicy (horseradish, hot sauce) but delicious.  It was served with a giant slice of thick cut bacon and giant olives.  It was served with a sidecar which was needed to cool the spice.

We started with the BBQ Shrimp, which is a complete misnomer for the dish we received, but we loved it all the same.  The sauce for these shrimp did not taste nor resemble a traditional barbeque because it was made with butter and rum and was slightly sweet and spicy from some type of chili peppers cooked into the sauce.  There were about eight shrimp in the order and it came with a wedge of cornbread with jalapenos baked right in.

For my entree I ordered the Beef Brisket which came with my choice of two sides.  The brisket was moist and delicious, smoked with authentic  Jamaican Pimento wood even more so with each of the house-made barbeque sauces.  The two sides I chose were the Potato Salad and the Mac & Cheddar, both of which were quite good.  The Potato Salad was especially delicious, with large chunks of hardboiled eggs and several crumbles  of crispy bacon.  It was cool and refreshing after a bite of barbeque with the Scotchie Sauce which is extra spicy.  The Mac & Cheddar came with an optional topping of spicy green chiles and bacon which made it spicy.  The noodles were flavorful but the sauce was already kind of pasty instead of creamy.

Smalley’s makes its own sauces and there are four to choose from including  Scotchies Sauce which is a very spicy Jerk sauce, the House-Made Barbaque, and 3 Dives Mild Jerk Sauce.

My companion ordered the Clam Po’ Boy, which was a delicious, giant sandwich layered with crispy golden fried clam strips, house-made pickles, thinly sliced red onion, bacon slaw and mayonnaise served on a grilled brioche bun.  This sandwich came with one side, so my companion ordered the beer-battered plank fries.  I ate almost half of this because I liked it so much! The just-pickled cucumber slices were the perfect touch with the bacon slaw.

Service: We sat ourselves as the sign indicated, and were greeted by our server about five minutes later.  Our server was friendly and had many great suggestions from the menu.  Food and drinks seemed to take some time but we were not in a hurry so we enjoyed the time while we waited.
Overall Impression: I was very happy to have discovered Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque, the food and drinks were both wonderful and the service was also pretty good.  The Pirate Bar is a pretty cool place to have a cocktail and listen to live music.

Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar on Urbanspoon

Oct 092011
 

Cuisine: American, Fish, Pasta, Steaks, Ribs, Pizza, Southwestern
Restaurant Features: Bar, Gluten-Free Menu, Happy Hour, Late Night Happy Hour
Locations: Blaine, Eagan, MSP Airport, Plymouth, Savage, St Paul, Woodbury
Addresses & Maps:
Blaine– 4365 Pheasant Ridge Dr NE Suite 102  Blaine, MN 55449  (763) 398-2475
Eagan– 1555 Cliff Road  Eagan, MN 55121 (651) 452-0200
Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport 4300 Gluemac Drive RMLT3256  St. Paul, MN 55111 (612) 726-5360 x4633
Plymouth– 3000 Harbor Lane  Plymouth, MN 55447  (763) 398-7408
St Paul– 850 Grand Ave.  Saint Paul, MN 55105 (651) 312-1299
Savage–  14120 South Highway 13  Savage, MN 55378  (952) 447-1122
Woodbury– 1424 Weir Dr.  Woodbury, MN 55125  (651) 735-0085
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-12am  Fri-Sat 11am-2am  Sun 10:30am-10pm
Links: Axel’s Bonfire Website * Axel’s Bonfire on Facebook

Atmosphere: The St Paul location of Axel’s Bonfire is at the intersection of Grand Ave and Victoria St, in the same building as Cafe Latte.  The restaurant is divided into a bar area and a dining room; the latter of which has several tables in the bigger, open section, as well as a number of booths off to the right side of the dining room.  The walls are painted a rich, deep red and the lighting is very soft.  Casual and somewhat trendy.

One feature of the decor that is hard to miss is the giant Bull sculpture hanging from the ceiling over the dining room near the hostess stand.

The bar is also a dominant space with Axel’s Bonfire, a giant island seating at least twenty guests with an additional number of tables near the windows looking out onto Grand Ave.

Menu: Appetizers at Bonfire include Axel’s signature Bullbites, Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Colossal trip (wings, bontons and teriyaki green beans), Tripe Dips and Chips, Alamo Nachos, Walleye Fingers, Chipotle Chicken Quesadillas, Bonfire Sticky Wings, Fire Roasted Peppers, Calamari and Bontons (chicken, gorgonzola and buffalo sauce in a wonton).

Soups include Tortilla, Chicken White Bean Chili, and a Soup du Jour.

Salads include House, Caesar, Bonfire Chopped, Blackened Walleye, Tempe Chicken Salad, Asian Chicken, and Baby Bleu.

Wood Fired Pizzas include Four Cheese, Three Sausages, Bella Roma (artichoke, spinach, tomato), Margherita, and BBQ Chicken.

Burger and Sandwich options at Bonfire include Cowboy Burger, Bacon Bleu, Be Bold Burger (two half-lb burgers with sauteed mushrooms, onions, peppers and four cheese, 1000 island dressing), and the Hickory Burger.  Sandwiches include Arizona Chicken Wrap, Chicago-Style French Dip, Mango Chicken, Bistro Chicken Club, Rotisserie Turkey Ciabatta, Texas Pulled Pork, and Walleye Sandwich.

Bonfire’s Southwestern items include Chicken Fajitas, Steak or Walleye Fajitas, Veggie Fajitas, Chicken Enchiladas, Walleye Tacos, Chimichanga and Baja Burrito.

Woodgrilled Meats include Bacon Wrapped Medallions, 8 oz Sirloin, 14 oz New York Strip, Drunk and Dirty Sirloin, and 8 oz Filet

Entrees include Rotisserie Chicken, St Louis Style Ribs, Prime Rib, BBQ Beef Brisket, and Brick Oven Kabobs, Blackened Grouper Tacos, Pan-Fried Walleye, Grilled Salon, Grilled Roughy, Fettuccine Alfredo and Broccoli, Fire-Roasted Baked Spaghetti, Cajun Chicken Penne, and Bonfire Fettuccine.

Dessert options at Axel’s Bonfire include Towering Carrot Cake, Death by Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Deep-Fried Cheesecake, Kids Sundae and Seasonal Dessert.

Price guide: Appetizers $8-13 Salads $6-14 Sandwiches $10-15 Entrees $12-27

Happy Hour:

  • Daily 3-6pm
  • Sun-Thurs 9pm-close
  • $2 off cocktails
  • 1/2 priced Appetizers

Weekly Specials:

Sunday Limited Brunch Menu 11am-2pm Brunch Menu with Hand-crafted Bloody Mary’s and Screwdrivers $4 and $.99 mimosas.
Sunday Night– 4-9pm Kids build their own pizza and sundae for FREE with the purchase of each adult entree.

Mondays- 1/2 Price Bottles of Wine (1/2 price on bottles that are sold by the glass & 20% off our reserve bottles)

Wednesday & Tuesday Evenings- Dinner for Two: Your four course culinary adventure includes an appetizer to share, two entrées with sides, shared dessert for $49 per couple

What we ordered: My visit happened to be during Happy Hour so I enjoyed the $2/off on cocktails and got myself a Margarita for just $4.  Just the right mix of tart and tangy with sweet and sour and Don Julio tequila.

A couple of my companions ordered the Dirty Martini, which came with a shaker full for $8 at the Happy Hour price.  Such a deal!

Dirty Martini at Axel's Bonfire ~ St Paul, MN

Appetizers were half off during Happy Hour so we started with the Spinach and Artichoke Dip.  I love artichokes and get this dip at many restaurants but Bonfire’s version was one of the most boring I have tried to date.  It had several decent sized chunks of artichoke but the sauce was very thin and didn’t have a lot of flavor.  It was served with tri-colored tortilla chips (which also happen to be my least favorite accompaniment to artichoke dip).  The good news is that we paid half-price for this during Happy Hour.

We also got the Triple Dips and Chips, which came with salsa, guacamole and jalapeno cheddar dip.  The salsa was very good, spicy and slightly sweet.  The guacamole was decent as well, but the serving was very small.  The third dip didn’t look very appetizing to me so I didn’t try it at all. The dips were served with tri-colored tortilla chips.

As usual, I had a hard time making up my mind about what I wanted to eat for dinner.  I was leaning toward fish tacos and since Axel’s has both Walleye or Grouper,  I asked the server his opinion.  He didn’t hesitate to recommend the walleye, so that is what I ended up getting.  There were three flour tortilla tacos, each piled with hand-battered Shore Lunch walleye fingers topped with pico de gallo, cilantro and shredded lettuce.  The walleye was good, crispy and not at all fishy.  One of the pieces of walleye still had a small bone in it which wasn’t very appealing but not unheard of.  I wish I would’ve asked for a side of salsa to spice up these tacos because while they were good, they were kind of bland.  The pico didn’t have as many jalapenos or cilantro as it could’ve. The order was served with burracho beans and tomatillo rice, both of which were full of flavor.

One of my companions ordered the Chicago French Dip.  This sandwich looked wonderful and was at least eight inches long, thinly shaved prime rib on top of a fresh ciabatta roll.  The beef was complimented by homemade giardiniera with spicy pickled peppers, onions, carrots, and caulifower.  My companion thought this sandwich was wonderful but wished there was more beef then what it came with.  Also, ketchup is preferred to be self-serve from a bottle instead of partitioned into a little dish.Chicago French Dip at Axel's Bonfire ~ St Paul, MN

Another companion ordered the Veggie Fajitas as a vegan option.  These were wonderful! There was a very large pile of seasoned and sauteed broccoli, green beans, baby carrots, portabella mushrooms and onions.  Hot tortillas, beans and rice were served on the side.

Another companion ordered the Mango Chicken Sandwich, a grilled chicken breast topped with fresh mango salsa served on a grilled bun with french fries on the side.

The last of us ordered the Margherita Pizza, light on the cheese.  This pizza looked really good but I think it would’ve been better with the standard amount of cheese.  It was topped with plenty of tomatoes and fresh basil.  This was also half price during Happy Hour.

Service: My five of us in my party all arrived at different times and met in the bar until we were all present.  We had made an advance reservation and our table was ready for us when we wanted to sit down.  Our server was patient with us while we perused the menu, and offered suggestions that were vegan-friendly for one of the members in our party.  The food was prepared reasonably fast so we decided to wait until our appetizers were served before ordering our entrees.  When presented with the bill, our server had taken the liberty of giving us separate checks with the appetizers split five ways…. so easy and convenient!

Overall Impression: This was my first visit to Axel’s Bonfire in many years and I had forgotten what a hassle it can be to park near Grand Ave.  I highly suggest parking in the ramp on the southwest corner of Grand and Victoria, as parking on the nearby residential streets is likely to get you a parking ticket for around $30.  You may also want to make a reservation, especially on the weekend evenings.  We had very good service during our visit.  The atmosphere is contemporary and somewhat artsy and the menu has a lot of variety.  The portion sizes were well sized.

This is an original review of Axel’s Bonfire on Twin Cities Restaurant Blog
Axel's Bonfire on Urbanspoon
Bonfire Wood Fire Cooking Reviews in St Paul

Aug 242011
 

Disclosure: I was invited out to do this review and my meal was provided by the restaurant. All opinions are my own.
Cuisine: American, Steaks, Ribs
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour, On-Site Parking
Locations: MN locations include Chanhassen, Eagan, Maple Grove, Richfield and MSP International Airport
Addresses & Maps:
Chanhassen– 530 Pond Promenade Chanhassen, MN 55317  (952) 974-3939
Eagan– 1294 Promenade Pl Eagan, MN 55121 (651)452-1001
Maple Grove– 12725 Elm Creek Blvd N Maple Grove, MN 55369 (763)494-5380
Richfield– 6601 Lyndale Ave S  Richfield, MN 55423 (612)243-9150
St Paul– 4300 Glumack Drive St. Paul, MN 55111 (612)727-1785 (MSP Airport)
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am – 12am *  Fri-Sat 11am – 1am * Sun 11am – 10pm
Links: Houlihan’s Website * Houlihan’s on Facebook

Atmosphere: The Eagan location of Houlihan’s has recently undergone a remodel, as have the Chanhassen, Maple Grove and Richfield locations. I had not been in this particular location prior to the remodel, but I love the look and feel of the new design.  Gone are the years worth of memorabilia that used to hang on the walls, replaced with much simpler and more sophisticated framed art prints.

The bar area at the Eagan location also has a new look, with this magnificent new wooden bar as its centerpiece.  There are also several booths around the outer part of the room to provide ample seating for busy nights.

The Eagan location also has a really nice enclosed patio area; part of the patio is under an overhang but there are also tables with umbrellas in the direct sun.

Menu: Houlihan’s Appetizers  include Spinach Dip & Chips, Vietnamese Shrimp Egg Rolls, Goat Cheese & Artichoke Poppers, Asian Style Ribs, Jumbo Stuffed ‘Shrooms, Fancy Spaghetti, Mac & Cheese, Chicken Wings, Lettuce Wraps, Chicken Fingers, Seared Rare Tuna Wontons, Bruschetta, and Blackened Catfish & Caramelized Onion Quesadilla.  Sliders include Mini Chicago Dog, Pot Roast Slider, Pulled Pork Slider, Creekstone Farms Mini Burger, and Mini Veggie Burger.  There are also a handful of special French Fries, including Disco Fries, Parmesan Fries, Truckstop Fries (cheesey), and Pickle Fries.

Flatbread Pizza options are the Wild Mushroom and Arugula, BBQ Chicken, Roasted Vegetable, and Italian Sausage.

Entree Salad options include the Spinach Salad, Seared Ahi Tuna, Prime Steak and Wedge, Heartland Grilled Chicken, Buffalo Bleu, Chicken Asian Chop, Chicken Caesar and Fire Grilled BBQ Salmon Salad.  Smaller salads are also available, including Tuscan White Bean Salad, Chop, Caesar and Spinach (with hazelnuts and berries).  Soups offered are the French Onion, Baked Potato and Soup du Jour.

Sandwich and Burger options at Houlihan’s include French Dip, So. Cal Fish Tacos, Southwest Chicken Wrap, Taos Chipotle Turkey Wrap, Farmhouse Club, Wild Canadian Walleye Sandwich, Veggie Burger, Build-Your-Own Burger, Burger 72 (topped with herb cream cheese mushroom), Spicy Fritos Burger, Cheesy Royale Burger, Grilled Chicken Sandwich and Brentwood Chicken Sandwich (with bacon and gouda).

Houlihan’s Entrees include Stuffed Chicken Breast, Grilled Rosemary Chicken, Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, Big Fancy Spaghetti, Basil Pesto Pasta, Down Home Pot Roast, Chipotle Smoked Chicken Enchiladas, Filet Mignon, New York Strip, Atlantic Salmon, Panko Breaded Shrimp, Chicken Finger Platter, Prime Top Sirloin, Sizzling Fajitas, Meatloaf No. 9, Seared Scallops, Jumbo Grilled Shrimp, Baby Back Ribs and Jambalaya.

Desserts include Strawberry Cheesecake, Bourbon Pecan Pie, and Chocolate Cappuchino Cake.  There are also a number of Mini Desserts

Price guide: Appetizers $3.50-9.50  Salads $5-15 Sandwich/Burgers $10-11 Entrees $14-25

Happy Hour:

  • Sunday 11am-Close
  • Monday-Saturday  3-6pm  9pm-close
  • 2-for-1’s  on Draft Beers and House Wines
  • Appetizers $7.95 – includes tuna wontons, bruschetta, chicken nachos, buffalo wings, ‘big’ shrooms, thai chicken wings,  spin dip lavosh, lettuce wraps, chicken fingers, calamari and quesadilla

Weekly Specials:

  • Monday- 1/2 off Bottles of Wine

What we ordered:  Our server had many great suggestions of appetizers and while I really wanted to try Houlihan’s famous Stuffed Mushrooms, we got a Mini Chicago Dog and some Poutine instead.  The Mini Chicago Dog was about the size of half a standard hot dog and fully loaded with everything you would expect on Chicago Dog- pickle, hot pepper, and chopped tomato and onions with mustard served on a poppy seed bun.  Don’t tell anyone but I liked it more than a Chicago Dog we had a few weeks ago in Chicago ;)

To pay my respects to our Canadian neighbors just north of us, I had to order the Poutine when I saw it on the menu. Houlihan’s calls their poutine ‘Disco Fries’, but they are very close to the Canadian version: crispy french fries loaded with mozzarella and then topped with gravy.  Since the gravy comes from the same stock as the pot roast, our order had a few bonus bites of tender meat on top.

We also had a couple of cocktails with our appetizers, I had the Naughty Margarita.  Yum! Made with Patron, X-Rated Fusion Liqueur, and sour mix, this margarita was as tart as most margaritas but the X-Rated gave it a hint of tropical sweetness.

My companion ordered the Supa Fly Sweet Tea, made with Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka.  Dangerously smooth!

The server had many great suggestions and while she talked up the fajitas that sounded wonderful, I went with her suggestion of the Chicken Parmesan.  What a great dish!  Two large pieces of breaded chicken breast sit on a bed of fettuccine alfredo, then it is covered with a hearty red sauce and melted Mozzarella.  This dish is the best of both worlds if you like both red and white sauce.

My companion ordered the Panko Breaded Shrimp.  There were seven or eight large shrimp, butterflied then heavily coated with Panko and fried to a crispy golden brown.  The shrimp were served with French fries and a peanut ginger slaw.  The slaw was very good, it had distinct Asian flavors and was lighter than mayo-based coleslaw.  Overall a very tasty meal.

After our meal we opted to try a trio of the Mini Martini Flights instead of desserts.  From left to right: Blue Moon Punch, Key Lime Pie, and Guavatini.  The Blue Moon Punch is made with Absolut Vanilia, DeKuyper Island Blue Pucker, and Sprite. Very good, tasted like Sweet Tarts candy.   The Key Lime Pie is made with Absolut Vanilia, a splash of key lime, sweet & sour, and half & half.  Mmm, this was our favorite.  The Guavatini is made with Absolut, shot of guava, fresh-squeezed lemonade.  Also good, but very very sweet.

Service: We had great service at Houlihan’s.  Our visit was late-afternoon on a Monday when we had no problem getting a table.  Our server was patient as we took time looking over the menu, and offered several suggestions.  The different courses we ate were reasonably spaced so that we could enjoy everything while it was hot and fresh, drinks were refilled as needed.

Overall Impression: Houlihan’s is a restaurant that can appeal to any audience, whether visiting for a family dinner, business lunch, romantic dinner, or having drinks with a group of friends.  They have a big menu with a variety of foods and a really great Drink Menu as well.  The recent renovations at all the Twin Cities locations have made a big improvement, make sure to check them out!
Houlihan's Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon
Houlihan's Reviews in Eagan

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

May 302011
 

Cuisine: American, Brunch Menu, Dessert, Fine-Dining
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour,  On-Site Parking, Patio,
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 374 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102  651-224-5715

Dining Room Hours:

  • Lunch: Mon – Fri 11am – 1:30pm
  • Brunch: Sat/Sun 10:30am – 2pm
  • Dinner: Mon – Sun 5pm – 10pm

Bar Hours: Sun – Thurs 11am – midnight  Fri/Sat 11am – 1am

Links: WA Frost Website * WA Frost on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: WA Frost & Company is located on Selby Ave at Western Ave, in the Dacotah Building just a few blocks from the Cathedral, its home since the mid 1970-s.  I came to sit on the patio so I never saw the main dining room but I did get a peek at the bar area, a nice sun-lit room with wooden floors and tables,  as well as seating along the bar.

WA Frost has a beautiful patio that sprawls out behind the building.  At the far end from the hostess stand is the Garden Bar.  This area is open for seating in the afternoon before the main dining room opens.  There are a number of little tables all over the patio, as well as cushioned sofas and sitting areas.

Another part of the garden patio is a sunken dining area with bigger, umbrella’ed tables and beautiful, lush green plants and flowers.  Gorgeous!

Menu: Small plates on the bar menu include Rye Pierogis, Artichoke Spinach Dip, Korean Barbeque Chicken Wings, Marinated Mediterranean Olives, Grilled Octopus, Pork Belly Fig Strudel, Steamed Blue Mussels, Trio of Pacific Coast Oysters, Roasted Amish Asparagus, Grilled Duck Confit Flatbread, Charcuterie Plate.  Additional plates found on the dinner menu include House Made Rabbit Sausage, and Torchon of Au Bon Canard Foie Gras.

Micro plates include Spring Vegetable Linguini, Crab Cake Salad, Roasted Pork Belly, Grilled Salmon, Housemade Lamb Sausage, Grilled Angus Filet.

Sandwiches on the bar menu include Reuben Panini, Lamb Burger, Grilled Black Angus Burger, Chef Burger, Fried Egg BLT, Cold Smoked Salmon Club, and Quinoa Falafel.

Salads include  House Green Salad, Strawberry Salad , and “BLT” Salad.  Soups include Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Soup and a Soup du Jour.

There is also an extensive number of domestic, regional and imported cheese plates.

Entrees on the Dinner Menu include Spring Vegetable Linguini, Crispy Barramundi, Pan Roasted Faroe Islands Scottish Salmon, Roasted Icelandic Cod, Grilled All Natural Dry Aged Top Sirloin, Moroccan Spiced Iowa Lamb Chops, Dry Aged Minnesota Duroc Pork Chop, and  Pan Roasted Wild Acres Half Chicken.

Desserts include “Kit Kat Bar”   house made Chai ice cream, Spumoni, Venezuelan Chocolate Torte, Stickney Hills Goat Cheese Panna Cotta,  Classic Crème Brûlée  and a Selection of Izzy’s Ice Cream.

There is also a Sunday Brunch menu that can be found here

Price guide: Small Plates $8-11 Micro Entrees $10-17 Sandwiches $11-12  Entrees $18-34 Desserts $6-8

Happy Hour:

  • Monday-Friday 4- 6p.m. and 9 – 11 p.m.served in bars/lounge only
  • $5.50 Appetizers:  Shishito “Poppers”, Artichoke Dip, French Fries – Trio of Sauce, Korean Barbecue Chicken Wings   Mini Cheeseburger and Fries
  • Select Wines by the Glass   5.00La Playa Chardonnay,    La Fiera Pinot Grigio99 Vines Pinot Noir,    Flaco Tempranillo Select Beer,   Rail Pour Cocktails  5.00 Featured Happy Hour Cocktail    5.00

Weekly Specials:

  • Early seating prix fixe menu Mon-Fri 5-6pm .  Three course meal $30 person$50 with select bottle of wine

What we ordered: My companion and I both started with cocktails.  I ordered a House Margarita, which was decent.

My companion ordered a Gimlet, a cocktail with gin and a splash of lime.

My companion also tried this sampler of Whiskeys.

Our visit was during Happy Hour so we sat in the Garden Bar area.  We started with the Artichoke Dip, one of the features on the HH menu.  The blend of cheese and artichoke was covered with cheese and baked to a crispy brown.  It was served with lavasch, a cracker-style flatbread.

We also ordered the Coconut Curry Blue Mussels which we both thought were amazing.  The mussels were on the small side but they were extremely tender and the flavor enhanced by the sweet, creamy and spicy coconut green curry broth with fresno chili and cilantro.  Delicious!  The order also came with grilled sourdough bread from Rustica Bakery.  I could eat a million of these!

We also shared the Reuben Panini, which is made with house-cured corned beef.  The beef was delicious and tender, but did not taste at all like any corned beef I’ve had (and by now you should know I am a huge fan of corned beef and anything Reuben).  The beef simply tasted like seasoned roast.  It was topped with cheese, sauerkraut, thousand island and marble rye then pressed on the panini grill to make it extra crispy and give it the customary panini lines.  Our server actually had the plates split for us so we each received a big portion of fries with our half of the panini.

When I ordered the sandwich I asked if they had any flavored mayonnaise (for dipping the fries), my server said he would  see what he could do.  He came back with the WA Frost  trio of sauces; a Sriracha Aioli, Watercress Ranch, and some other type of aioli.  They were all very good.

The server must have overheard that it was my companion’s birthday and brought out the Homemade Kit Kat Bar, compliments of WA Frost. This was very good and had an interesting texture.  The base of the bar was hazelnut praline with maldon sea salt caramel and was somewhat flaky yet more dense than I expected.  It was served with a creamy house made Chai ice cream.  The serving size was somewhat small, I suspect this was the sample size that is served with the dessert trio.

Service: We had really good service while at WA Frost.  I arrived early for Happy Hour and was able to get a spot in one of the parking lots and then a nice table in the Garden Bar area.  Our server was reasonably fast and went out of his way a few times to make sure we got what we needed and then some.

Overall Impression: This was my first time at WA Frost and I fell in love with the patio at first site.  Then one bite of the coconut curry mussels and I thought I might have died and gone to heaven!  I will definitely be back to WA Frost again this summer for what can only be another fabulous meal.

W.A. Frost & Company on Urbanspoon
W A Frost & Co Reviews in St Paul