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.
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Mar 252011
 

Cuisine: American, Burgers
Restaurant Features: Bar,  Flat Screen TV’s, Games, Late-Night Dining (until 12:30am), On-Site Parking
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 857 Grand Ave St Paul, MN 55105  (651) 292-9140
Hours: Daily 11am-1am  Food served until 12:30am
Links: Billy’s On Grand Website * Billy’s on Facebook * Google Map
Atmosphere: Billy’s is on Grand Ave at Victoria, with entrances in the front (through the patio) and from the Victoria Crossing mall.  Billy’s is a pretty big place, with quite a few different rooms.  We sat in the bright and sunny atrium at the front of the restaurant.  This room has several tables, which are frequently pulled together to accommodate large parties.  There is also a cozy fireplace as well as live plants.

This is the main bar, which has seating around it, as well as booths along the wall. Not pictured is the large entertainment room in the back, complete with bistro tables, TV’s and dart boards.

The patio at Billy’s is a popular place when the weather turns nice around here.  Soon these tables will all be covered with umbrellas and filled with patrons.

Menu: Appetizers at Billy’s include Wings (Buffalo, Dry-Rub, Cajun, Honey-Chipotle and Jerk), Potato Skins, Mozzarella Sticks, Onion Rings, Vegetable Plate, Chips & Salsa, Chili Cheese Fries, Nachos, Chicken Fingers, Brie Amandine, Quesadillas, Southwest Eggrolls, Jerk Chicken Quesadilla,, Garlic Cheese Bread and Spinach Artichoke Dip.

Soups include Chili, Chicken Noodle and a Soup of the Day.  Salad options include Cobb, Chef, Grilled Chicken and Strawberry, Crispy Chicken, Taco Salad, Grilled Steak and Mixed Greens Salad.

Billy’s Burger options include Cajun, Billy the Kid (bacon & cheese), Guacamole, Patty Melt, Wild Bill (lettuce & tomato), The Firehouse (habanero sauce bleu cheese and bacon), and the Spicy Melt (stuffed with pepper jack and jalapenos).  All burgers come with chips and pickle.  Upgrade to fries for $1.50

Billy’s also has a large selection of sandwiches including the French Dip, Reuben, Southwest Chicken, Spicy Jerk Chicken Breast, Turkey Avocado, Walleye, Tuna Melt, Honey Chipotle Chicken, Wenglerwich (chicken with cheddar, bacon and mushrooms), Veggie Sandwich, Billy’s Club, and the BLT.  There are also a couple of wraps including Chicken Guacamole, and Buffalo Chicken.  All sandwiches and wraps come with chips or you can upgrade to fries.

Billy’s also serves 10″ pizzas, build-your-own from a selection of toppings.

Entrees include BBQ Ribs, Walleye, Rotisserie Chicken, 10oz NY Strip, 10oz Center Cut Sirloin, 6 oz Petite Sirloin.

Price guide: Appetizers $6-11  Salads $10-11  Burgers $8-9  Sandwiches $9-10  Entrees $10-20

Happy Hour:

  • All Appetizers are $5

Weekly Specials:

  • Sunday Brunch Buffet 11am-2pm  $9.95
  • Tuesday $3 Tacos 8-11pm

What we ordered: I really wanted something spicy but I wasn’t craving anything in particular.  I thought the Spicy Melt stuffed with pepper jack and jalapenos sounded like a good choice.  The burger was good but I was somewhat disappointed that it wasn’t spicy enough for me.  It did have a small amount of pepper jack stuffed inside, as well as the equivalent of two tiny slices of canned jalapenos chopped up.  I expected it to have a lot more flavor and would have liked some jalapenos on top of the burger as well.  I asked for a side of Billy’s cilantro mayo and that made it much better.   Burgers are always better with bacon, especially when it is thick and crispy like this was. The burger came with chips but I upgraded to the fresh cut fries for an extra charge.

My companion ordered the Buffalo Chicken Wrap with fresh cut fries.  There were several pieces of white meat chicken strips coated in the spicy buffalo sauce, then wrapped inside a tortilla along with lettuce, tomato and bleu cheese chunks.  It was also served with bleu cheese dressing on the side.  Very good!

Service: We arrived at Billy’s for lunch, shortly after they opened so we had no problem getting a table or parking spots in the side lot.  Our service was pretty good; our drinks were refilled when needed and the food came out reasonably fast.
Overall Impression: Billy’s on Grand is a good place to have drinks and a bite to eat; at any time of the day or night, rain or shine.

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Feb 052011
 

Cuisine: Russian
Restaurant Features: Bar, Banquet, Late-Night Dining (Fri-Sat until 12am)
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 371 Selby Ave St Paul, MN 55102
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11am-2pm  & 5-11pm  Friday 11am-2pm & 4pm-1am Saturday 4pm-1am
Links: Moscow on the Hill Website * Moscow on the Hill Facebook Page * Google Map

Atmosphere: Moscow on the Hill is located on Selby Avenue across the street from W.A. Frost.  I was somewhat surprised by the simple outside appearance of the restaurant, as I had been envisioning a building with Russian architecture, but I know not to judge a book by its cover.  One foot in the door on a Saturday night and you can tell this is a very lively place; there are people everywhere and accordion music can be heard somewhere in the near background.  The tables are somewhat close together and one thing that struck me was how loud it was inside.  It was all I could do to hear our soft-spoken waiter above all the people and accordion music.

A good portion of the space is made up of the bar and lounge area, a cool place to grab a drink while waiting for a table.

On the weekends this accordian player strolls by the tables, entertaining guests.

All of the lights are draped with these Russian Scarves in different colors.

Menu: Appetizers at Moscow on the Hill include Blini (buttered crepes), Blini with Caviar, Blini with Chicken, Escargot, Gravlax (cured salmon), Russian Herring (cured), Pate, Pickled Vegetables, Cheboureki (lamb stuffed fried pastry), Pirozhki (beef and cabbage pastries).

Soups include Borscht and Matza Ball.  Salad offerings are the Duck Prosciutto, Tea Smoked Chicken and Smoked Salmon.

The hearty Russian and European-influenced entrees at Moscow on the Hill include Siberian Style Pelmeni Dumplings, Vareniki Dumplings (filled with potato and caramelized onion), Givetch (sauteed veggies and rice pilaf), Walleye, Salmon Fillet with Vareniki, Duck Breast “Ekaterina”, Chicken Kiev , Chicken “Kolobok”, Beef Tenderloin Fillet, Beef Stroganoff, Lamb Kebob, and Czar’s Medallions.

Rice pilaf , Mashed Potato, Sautéed vegetables, Fried baby red potato with dill & garlic, mushrooms and onion are offered as side dishes.

Desserts include White Russian Tiramisu, Dark Chocolate Mousse, Truffles, and Napoleon pasty filled with fruit and vanilla custard.

Price guide: Appetizers $5-13  Salads $8-19 Entrees$14-22  Dessert $6-7

Happy Hour:
  • Monday-Thurs 5-6 & 9-10  Fri-Sun 4-6
  • Half Price Tap beers, House vodka shots, Rail vodka cocktails
  • $5 House Specialties: Marusya Gold, Bloody Russian, Cherry Gimlet
  • $3 Appetizers (or 3 for $7): Blini with Chicken, Creamy Mushrooms, Mushrooms in sour cream sauce, Pirozhki with Cabbage, Baked pastry served with creamy dill-garlic sauce, Chopped Liver Pate with Russian rye bread, Pelmeni dumplings, CheburekFried lamb stuffed pastry
  • $7 Pirozhki and Borscht Combo

What we ordered: We started out with cocktails, I had a Cherry Gimlet.  It was tart and strong, a nice combo.

One of my companions ordered the Bloody Russian, made with the horseradish vodka. I tried a sip of this and wished I had ordered one of these instead, I loved the flavor of the horseradish vodka. It had pickles and olives on a toothpick and a lot of spices mixed with the tomato juice.  If you like Bloody Marys, this is one you don’t want to miss.  Served with a beer chaser.

As soon as I saw Borscht on the menu, I knew I had to try this traditional soup made of beets, red cabbage and potato.  The soup was a distinct clear, dark pinkish-red color, and was somewhat sweet.  The dill and sour cream were nice compliments to the sweetness, which tasted a lot like the pickled red cabbage you find in German cuisine.  Very different but delicious.

One of my companions ordered the Matza Ball Soup, which was very good.  The Matza balls had the typical spongy texture and had soaked in the chicken flavor of the stock they were cooked in.

As usual, I had a hard time making up my mind about what to order, as many sounded very good. I decided on the Salmon Filet with Vareniki dumplings. This dish was really good! The bowl had several of the steamed dumplings, filled with mashed potato and caramelized onions. They reminded me a lot of pierogies.  The dumplings were covered with a sour cream and dill sauce, with a beautifully blacked salmon filet sitting on top.  I enjoyed this dish very much!  The salmon was purposely undercooked and had more flavor in the seasonings than I was expecting.  The combination of flavors between the salmon, sour cream and potato dumplings was a great change of pace from the dishes I typically order.  Very good!

Two of my companions both ordered the Czar’s Medallions, a large thinly sliced breaded pork cutlet topped with a creamy mushroom sauce and then baked cheeses on top.  It was served with mashed potatoes and sauteed veggies.  I thought this was also very tasty, a good dish for someone hesitant to step away from the familiar.  One of my companions liked this dish a lot, the other doesn’t care for mushrooms and hadn’t ordered it without.  I wouldn’t say it has a strong mushroom flavor by any means, but if you don’t like the texture of mushrooms, you’d probably want to order it without.

Another companion ordered the Siberian Pelmeni Dumplings.  I tried one of these and it honestly tasted a lot like a steamed Chinese dumpling, but was served with sour cream and vinegar instead of soy sauce.  They were filled with ground beef and pork then steamed.  The portion size was pretty big, very good.

Service: Knowing we would be visiting on a Saturday night during Winter Carnival, I had made a reservation earlier that day.  Despite being over an hour late for the reservation, they had saved a table for us and made us feel welcome.  Our server had good suggestions for us but was very soft spoken and hard to hear.  Drinks were brought out within 5 minutes and water was constantly refilled.  Entrees took around thirty minutes but soups were brought soon enough to tide us over.

Overall Impression: I had heard of Moscow on the Hill for years and after this first visit, I can finally say I have been there and tried Russian food.  The food is good and the service is decent, as long as you don’t mind how loud it is on a busy weekend evening.  Parking is on-street and having a reservation is a good idea.

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