Aug 212008

Cuisine: Mexican
Restaurant Features: Bar, Patio Dining, On-Site Parking

Location: Inver Grove Heights, MN
Address: 2922 Upper 55th Street  Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076 (651) 554-1111

Links: Baja-Sol Website  Google Map
Atmosphere: Fun, bright and colorful, Baja Sol Cantina is a good-sized restaurant located at the end of a strip mall.  There are several tables and booths to accommodate parties of various sizes.

There is a large Bar Area located at the front of the restaurant (you can kind of see it in the way back of the photo below), complete with several large-screen TVs.

There is also a nice patio area, a great place to enjoy one of the 18 specialty margaritas or other cold beverage.


Menu: Appetizers at Baja Sol Cantina include Sweet Corn Cakes, Chicken or Steak Quesadillas, Baja Wings, Baja Nachos, Avocado Empanadas, Del Rio Empanadas (grilled chicken, black bean and corn), Chicken or Beef Taquitos, and Chips with Guacamole or Queso.  There are also two Sampler Platters that each have 4-5 different appetizers. Soups offered are the Baja Chili and Cheesey Chicken Enchilada Soup.
There are also a number of salads, like the Tequila Honey Lime Shrimp, Painted Desert, Baja Tostada, Fajita Tostada Salad, Chicken Caesar, and Margarita Chopped Salad.

Taco plates come with three tacos, rice, and black or pinto beans.  Choose from the Primo Style Tacos (meat*, lettuce, cheese, sour cream), Baja Style Tacos (meat* with onions and cilantro), Fajita Tacos (meat, peppers, onions), and Fish Tacos (lightly fried fish, cabbage, onion and cilantro).

Burritos are also served with choice of meat*, rice and black or pinto beans and include the Grande Burrito, Smothered Burrito  (green chile sauce), Enchilada Burrito, Fajita Burrito, BBQ Burrito (Chipotle BBS sauce) or the Chicken Caesar Burrito.
Sierra Sandwiches are wraps that are served hot, and include Steak or Chicken Fajita, Chipotle BBQ Carnitas, Portabella Mushroom, and Grilled Veggies.
Entrees include Fajitas (Steak, Chicken, Shrimp, or Grilled Veggies), Peach Mango Tilapia, Margarita Chicken (marinated in Tequila Honey Lime dressing), Chicken Durango, Carne Asada, Inside Out Pork Tamale, Inside Out Chicken Tinga Tamale, Tequila Honey Lime Shrimp, Baja Burger, and Enchiladas (cheese & choice of meat and sauce- Red or Green).

**Meat choices include Grilled Chicken, Grilled Steak, Carnitas, Ground Beef, Shrimp, Pork Green Chile, Grilled Veggies and Chicken Tinga.

Desserts offered are the Mango Tango Mousse, White Chocolate Banana Quesadilla, Apple Flautas, Turtle Sundae and Sopapilla Sundae.
Baja Sol Cantina also has a $5.99 lunch menu that is offered from 11am-2pm daily, and also a $3.99 children's menu.

Price guide: Appetizers $6-15  Tacos $8 Salads $9-13 Sandwiches $8 Burritos $8-10 Entrees $9-15 Desserts $5-6
What I ordered: One of the very first things I noticed when I walked in the restaurant was this fabulous self-serve Salsa Bar with several specialty salsas including Peach-Mango, Caliente, Verde, Diablo, Corn, Fire Roasted, Pico de Gallo, Fresh Cilantro, Onions, and Pickled Jalapeños.


The chips were hot and freshly fried.  Thin, crispy and lightly salted.
I started with the Baja margarita and a generous helping of each of the Fresh Salsas.  I love margaritas and can be very critical about them, but the Baja Margarita is one of the best I've ever had! They use fresh lime juice, which is the key to perfectly tart margarita.  I enjoyed all of the salsas, but my favorite was the peach-mango.  I was particularly impressed with how fresh all of the ingredients were.


For an appetizer my companion and I tried the sweet corn cakes.  These were patties made of traditional Mexican corn meal mush, but with a exciting and fresh modern twist.  The patties are lightly fried and contain whole kernels of sweet corn, and served over salsa verde and then topped with fresh pico de gallo, cilantro, avocado, and sour cream.  These were very different, but very good! The texture of them was crispy on the outside, and softer on the inside.  The flavors and textures all complimented each other rather well.

We also tried the Baja Wings with Caribbean Jerk sauce.  The wings were big and fried crispy, the sauce was spicy and sweet. 


For the main course we tried the Smothered Burrito with Carnitas.  You can't really tell from this photo, but the burrito was as long as my arm! The pork carnitas was tender and very flavorful and I enjoyed the green chile sauce, it gae it a nice kick.  I liked the beans but the rice seemed slightly on the dry side, but that may just be a characteristic of the rice itself.


We also tried the Chicken Durango, which was three marinated chicken breasts that were extremely tender and flavorful.  The chicken was topped with salsa and melted cheese and served with grilled peppers, onions, and yellow squash.  I thought the grilled veggies made the perfect side to the chicken.


We were beyond stuffed after dinner, but had to try dessert! The white chocolate banana quesadilla is unlike anything I have ever had before and I loved every bite that I was able to eat! There were thinly-sliced bananas with shaved white chocolate folded inside a flour tortilla that had been grilled  to a golden brown.  If that wasn't heavenly enough, it had caramel drizzled on top and a scoop of cinnamon ice cream on the side! The warm bananas were soft and sweet from the melted white chocolate and the tortilla was nice and crispy.


We also tried the Mango Mousse, which I have a hard time describing because it was very different. It was light, but not too creamy or sweet.  It had a strawberry sauce and mango de gallo on top.  It was okay, but didn't hold a candle to the banana quesadilla!


Service: We were greeted as soon as we entered the Baja Sol Cantina, and had great service throughout our visit.  Our server was friendly and had a couple of good suggestions for us. 
Overall Impression: Everything was great! The salsa bar is the coolest feature I have encountered in a restaurant for awhile now, I could eat there everyday for that reason alone! The food was really tasty and it was apparent that all of the ingredients were really fresh.  Prices were very reasonable for the amount of food you get. 

Jul 012008

Cuisine: American, German, Steaks
Restaurant Features: Bar, On-Site Parking

Locations: White Bear Lake, Oakdale, Inver Grove Heights, Hastings, Red Wing
Addresses & Maps:
White Bear Lake 2670 E. County Road E,  White
Bear Lake, MN 55110 651-773-5854
Oakdale- 7121 10th Street N. Oakdale, MN 55128 (651) 731-8381
Inver Grove Heights–  6434 Cahill Ave. Inver Grove Heights, MN (651) 451-8073
Hastings- 109 W. 11th St. Hastings, MN 55033 (651) 437-8259
Red Wing–  233 Withers Harbor Dr. Red Wing, MN 55066 (651) 385-8852

Link: JJ Bierstube’s Website


Atmosphere: The White Bear Lake restaurant is located at the far end of a large strip mall on the south side of the city of White Bear Lake.  The restaurant itself is one large open room, with wooden tables throughout and a bar along one side of the room.  I believe there are also a handful of booths along the wall opposite the bar which provide a little more privacy than the other tables.


Menu: Appetizers include Wisconsin Cheese Curds, Ber Battered Onion Rings, Garlic Toast, Breaded Mushrooms or Cauliflower, Jalapeno Poppers, Breaded Cod Strips, Colossal Buffalo Shrimp, Chicken Drummies, Mozzarella Sticks, Reuben Bites, Brat Medallions, Mini Burgers, and Chicken Cordon Bleu Bites.
Sandwiches offered at the Bierstube include Filet Mignon, French Dip, Ham & Cheese, Pork Loin, Chicken Breast, Buffalo Chicken, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Turkey Club, Weiner Schnitzel, Cof Filet, Crispy Chicken, BLT , Deluxe Grilled Cheese, Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and the Reuben or Rachel.  There is also a selection of specialty burgers.

Authentic German Dishes include the Sauerbraten, Weiner Schnitzel, Schweine Haxen, German Meatballs, Bratwurst Platter, Gebratene Leber (Liver Steak), Jaeger Schnitzel or the Taste of Deutschland sampler platter.

Steaks include quality Sirloin, Angus Porterhouse, New York Strip, Rib Eye, Filet Mignon, as well as a small Hamburger Steak.  Baby Back Ribs are also a popular dinner feature.

Specials include: Half-priced Burgers on Monday, Surf & Turf on Saturday and Sunday is Family Day (Free soda to kids under 16 with purchase of burger or hot dog)

If you’re still hungry after your meal, try the Hot Fudge Choclate Volcano Cake  or the Bavarian Rhubarb Pie (both served with Raspberry Sauce), Vanilla Ice Cream served a la carte.

Price guide: Appetizers $ 6-8 Sandwiches and Burgers $6-8.50 (does not include fries) German Dishes $10-18 Steaks $10-22
What I ordered: I am a big fan of Reuben Sandwiches so I decided to start with the Reuben Bites.  I thought they were interesting and tasty with the inside a cheesy mixture of Swiss, Corned Beef and Sauerkraut while the outside was breaded and crispy.  The inside actually reminded me of the Reuben Dip that you often encounter at Potlucks, but much warmer.  The crispy outside was a nice compliment to the inside and I liked that the Thousand Island was served on the side for dipping. I would get these again! Although they aren’t exactly gourmet, I think it was a pretty tasty invention….I think I might need to try the Chicken Cordon Bleu Bites next!


My visit was on a Monday night, which happened to be half-price burger night! You can order any of the specialty burgers or build your own 50% off whatever you get.  I went with a 1/2 pounder with Swiss, bacon and fried onions.  Burgers and sandwiches do not come with fries, so I got a half-order of onion rings as well.  I was very pleased with the burger.  It had nice texture and rich flavor, without being too charred.  The bun was lightly buttered and grilled, which is always a thumb’s up in my book.  I thought the onion rings were also good but at an extra $3.50 for the half-order, I could have done without them.


My companion ordered the Wiener Schnitzel, which are breaded pork cutlets.  It was served with German Potato Salad, Fresh Asparagus and Garlic Toast.


Service: There weren’t many guests dining in the restaurant on the evening my companions and I visited, so we had our choice of tables, etc.  The service was good considering we were practically the only ones there, but the server tended to leave us alone.
Overall Impression: I was actually pleasantly surprised at how large the menu was.  I had driven by this restaurant many times without stopping because I was under the false impression that the Bierstube was just a bar serving basic bar food.  It was much more than I expected.  The prices were good and the food was good too, especially the half-priced burgers!