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

May 272012
 

Cuisine: American
Restaurant Features: Bar, Live Music, Nightclub, Patio, Waterfront
Location: Stillwater, MN
Address: 305 S Water Street Stillwater, MN 55082 (651) 439-5718
Hours: (Restaurant) Sun-Thurs 11am-9pm    Fri-Sat 11am-10pm (Nightclub)  Fri -Sat 9pm-2am

Links: Freight House Website * Freight House on FacebookGoogle Map
Atmosphere: The Freight House restaurant is located near the St Croix River in downtown Stillwater, in a building that was originally built in 1883 as Stillwater’s freight depot.  The inside of the restaurant has been converted into a lovely two-story dining room, with a selection of booths and tables.

The decks at the Freight House are vast and spacious, running the entire length of the Restaurant and Adjacent Night Club. There are enough tables to seat several hundred people and also a couple of outdoor bars. Great view of the St Croix! Freighthouse-outsidedeck

Menu: Appetizers include Onion Rings, Artichoke Dip, Jumbo Buffalo Wings, Beer Pretzels, Seasoned Fries, Ginger Mustard Green Beans, Cheese Curds, Chips and Guac, and Deep Fried Pickles.

Salads that the Freight House offers are the Chicken Caesar, Bistro Salad, St Croix Cobb, Buffalo Chicken, and Chicken Taco Salad.  They also have Chicken Wild Rice Soup.

Burgers are served with chips or you can upgrade to french fries or sweet potato fries for $2.50.   Options include the Freight House Burger, Mushroom Swiss, Black N Blue, Wisconsin Cheddar, North Dakota Bison Burger, California Turkey Burger, and Black Bean Veggie Burger.

Sandwiches also come with chips. Options include Willy the Kid (chicken salad), BBQ Pulled Pork, Freight House Chicken, Walleye, Grilled Reuben, Atlantic Salmon BLT, Smoked Brisket, Cajun Chicken, Baja Tacos, Southwest Chicken Wrap, and the Chicken Caesar Wrap.

Freight House also has several Neapolitan style pizzas like the Margherita, The Works, Classic Pepperoni, Sausage, Wild Mushroom Brie and Chicken Pesto.

Entrees include Fish & Chips, Bacon Mac N Cheese, Chicken Cheese Tortellini, Salmon Filet and Top Sirloin.

Desserts include Homemade Apple Crisp, Layered Chocolate Cake, and New York Style Cheescake.

Kids Menu ~ All kid’s meals include a beverage, pickle spear, fries and oreo cookies…. $6.00
Kid’s Boneless Chicken Fingers, Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Kid’s Burger add cheese for .50 cents Mac & Cheese, Kid’s Pizza, Mini Corn Dogs

Price guide: Appetizers $7-11 Burgers/Sandwiches $10-15 Entrees $12-18
Weekly Specials:

  • Wednesday Fish Fry ~ Freight House Pilsner Beer Battered Fish Filet, Skinny-Cut Fries, Garden House Salad, Cornbread Mini Muffins.  Treat your family to a Complimentary basket of our Signature Freight House Onion Strings. $12.99 Adults    $6.99 Children (12 and under)

What we ordered: My companion and I started with an order of Cheese Curds ($8). The order came with a basket full of bite-sized golden brown cheese curds that were hot and filled with melted cheddar.  The batter had cornmeal that gave it a crispy, unique texture.  They were served with peppercorn ranch.

We also tried the Jumbo Buffalo Wings ($11).  The order came with four whole chicken wings, fried and covered with Buffalo sauce.  These tasted pretty good but the sauce was rather ordinary.  Overpriced.

For my entree I ordered the Chicken Tortellini ($13).  This dish was served in a bowl with three color cheese tortellini covered in a white wine sauce and served with sauteed chicken, red peppers, onions, and broccoli.  I opted to add the freshly grated parmigian that my server offered.  The sauce was creamy and simple, I enjoyed it with the veggies and tortellini.

My companion ordered the Mushroom and Brie Pizza ($12).  This was really good if you like mushrooms and brie! The crust was chewy and covered with a light layer of pesto, then piled with roasted wild mushrooms and pieces of brie and then mozzarella.  We liked this a lot and thought it was the best value of everything we ordered that night.

Service: It was a Friday night at dinner time and every restaurant in Stillwater was packed to the gills….. all it seems, except the Freight House.  We found parking in the attached lot and had no problem getting a table inside the restaurant.  A friendly hostess brought us to our table and we were greeted by our server within five minutes to take our drink orders.  We ordered two courses which were appropriately times.  Our server was attentive, no complaints.
Overall Impression: This was a follow-up visit to my review of Freight House in August 2009.  While the service was good and the the food was decent, it seemed rather overpriced.  The biggest draw to the Freight House is its premium waterfront location downtown Stillwater.

Jan 252012
 

Kozlak’s Royal Oak ~ 4785 Hodgson Road Shoreview, MN 55126 (651)-484-8484

  • $20/Adults     $10.95/ Kids 6-12   $6.95/ Kids 5 and Under
  • 10:30am-1:30pm
  • Live New Orleans Jazz
  • Full Salad Bar, Scrambled Eggs Carbonara , Fresh Baked Biscuits with Sausage Gravy, Featured Chicken item, Cajun Ribs, Pecan-Breaded Catfish Fingers, Jambalaya with sausage & chicken, Classic Eggs Benedict, Kozlak’s home made French Toast with Pecan Maple Syrup, Breakfast Bacon, Sausage, Chef’s Fresh Vegetable, Gumbo Soup, Potatoes Pontalba with Béarnaise Sauce, Made-to-order Omelettes, Dessert & Sundae Bar

Links: Kozlak’s Royal Oak Website * Kozlak’s Facebook Page *  Google Map

Atmosphere:  If you like New Orleans Jazz, you are in for a treat at the Sunday Brunch Buffet at Kozlak’s! They have a Jazz Trio who make their rounds through the dining room, playing for every table.  You may have seen these guys on the Andiamo dinner cruises, where they sometimes play on the St Croix Riverboats.

What we ate: We started with the unlimited Bloody Mary and Juice Bar ($5). Kozlak’s makes their own Bloody mix that is very good and slightly spicy from the horseradish. There is an bartender pouring the drinks and then they have a table with pickles, olives, limes, summer sausage, cheeses, Tobasco and Worchestershire  for you to dress up your drink. I did not see any cocktail skewers so all of my goodies sank to the bottom of my drink once I gave it a stir.

Since the champagne and juice are included in the $5 unlimited, I also tried a glass of bubbly and an orange/pineapple juice mix. I noticed that the guy making my drink only had small airplane-style cans of Pineapple juice. I know that is common at bars but you would think that at brunch they would opt for bigger jugs of juice? Doesn’t matter to me either way ;)

Shortly after we were seated our server brought us a plate of caramel rolls.  They looked good but I didn’t eat one.

My first big plate included a bunch of breakfast items, including the Scrambled Eggs Carbonara, Eggs Benedict and Cheesy Potatoes. The eggs carbonara were pretty good but nothing out of the ordinary; they had pieces of bacon and spinach scrambled in.  I liked the Eggs Benedict; the Hollandaise sauce was silky and somewhat tangy.  They cheesy potatoes were okay but didn’t really catch my attention.

I also tried some of the breakfast meats including Bacon and Andouille Sausage with Peppers and Onions.  The sausage was great and I loved it with the peppers and onions.  The bacon was thick-cut and smoky.

I had to try the Biscuits and gravy too.  The biscuit was pretty standard but the gravy was really tasty.  They key to good gravy is good sausage and this had really well seasoned sausage.  It had a slight kick to it from all the black pepper, which I loved.

The French Toast at Kozlak’s is made with baguette so the slices are very small and very crispy.  The bread didn’t have the egginess of a typical french toast and remained crispy even when soaked with syrup.  Ah, that syrup! It was real maple with toasted pecans.  I promise you I did not eat all of this ;)

The Sunday Brunch at Kozlak’s has a nice selection of desserts including Bananas Foster.  I tried it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and wow, this was so good! Mmm, there is just something I love about warm banana desserts and what could be better than cooking bananas in brown sugar, butter and rum? The sauce was pre-cooked so I did not get to see the chef make it.  Heavenly!! The vanilla ice cream was perfect with it.

I also tried a few bites of the Pecan Pie. Super delish! The crust was really good and there was a layer of toasted pecans on tip of the gooey pecan filling.  This would also be great with vanilla ice cream.

By this point I was too full to try the Ribs or the Jambalaya, but they Kozlak’s does have them.

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 222011
 

Cuisine: Breakfast, American,  Fish, Irish
Restaurant Features: Banquet, Bar, Flat Screened TVs, Hotel, Live Music, Patio, Waterfront
Location: Stillwater, MN
Address: Water Street Inn  * 101 Water St South  Stillwater, MN 55082  651-439-6000
Hours:  Mon – Fri: 7 am-1am * Sat: 8am-1 am * Sun: 9am- 1am
Links: Water Street Inn Website * Water Street Inn on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Located on the street level of the Water Street Inn in Historic Downtown Stillwater,  Charlie’s Restaurant and Irish Pub encompasses a few different dining rooms, including the Red Room.  Old fashioned wallpaper and hand-painted murals on the ceiling emphasize the history of this building which was originally built in 1890 as the Lumber Exchange Building.

Another large sitting room can also be found nearby, with several velvet chairs basking in the natural sunlight that streams in through windows that run along two entire walls.

The Pub seemed to be the most popular place to be with a number of wooden tables as well as a few taller bistro tables.  There were a number of framed prints and posters on the walls as well as a couple of flat screened TVs displaying sporting events.  There is a self-serve popcorn machine near the entrance and the Pub often bears the aroma of the freshly popped kernels.

The bar in Charlie’s Irish Pub seats about six customers or so and is very inviting.  Overall the Pub is a lively place to be.

Menu: Breakfast items include Eggs O’Brien, Pancakes, Thick Cut French Toast, Fruit, Cinnamon Roll, Irish Country Breakfast, Traditional Irish Breakfast, Ham and Eggs, Ha and Gruyere French Toast, and Steak and Eggs.  Omelette choices include The Traditional (choice of meat and cheese), Apple Brie, The Victorian (ham and swiss), and The Baron (ham, sausage, bacon, onion and swiss).

Appetizers on the dinner menu include Antipasto Plate, Walleye Cakes, Smoked Chicken Quesadilla, Calamari, Mini Reuben Purses, Beer Battered Onion Rings, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Homemade Chips & Dip, Smoked BBQ Chicken Legs.

Salads at Charlie’s include Caesar, Cashew Chicken, Greek Salad and Traditional Cobb.

Charlie’s sandwiches are served with chips or upgrade to fries or fresh fruit for $2.50.  Options include Pulled Pork, BLT and Guacamole Wrap, Buffalo Chicken Wrap, Classic Reuben, Walleye, Chicken Jack Melt, Grilled 1/2lb Burger, Steak Sandwich, Roasted Portabella and Turkey Burger.

Entrees include Seafood Linguini, Chicken and Portabella Pasta, Mostaccioli, Fish & Chips, Honey Soy Grilled Salmon, Blackened Seafood Trio, Eggplant Parmesan, Almond Crusted Walleye, Twin Lobster Tails, Stuffed Center Cut Pork Loin, Stuffed Chicken Breast, New York Strip, 8oz Pub Steak and 11oz Ribeye Steak.

Desserts at Charlie’s includes Berry Bread Pudding, Charlie’s Big Brownie, and Flourless Sin Cake.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-11 Salads $5-12 Sandwiches $9-13  Entrees $17-31 Desserts $7

What we ordered: We started with an order of Calamari.  I didn’t take much notice of the menu description so the unexpected sweetness of the first bite caught me by surprise.  This calamari at Charlie’s is lightly breaded and  fried, yhen bathed in a sauce of honey, ginger and garlic.  The flavor of the honey sauce was delicious, but very sweet and almost too much for just two of us.  The green onions helped counter the sweetness but I would have loved some thin slices of red thai chili peppers to spice it up.

After much deliberation over the menu, I ordered the Reuben.  This sandwich was stacked with thinly sliced corned beef then topped with genuine aged Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing sandwiched between marbled rye bread.    The swiss and thousand island really made this sandwich; the corned beef tasted good but it was definitely deli-style.  I upgraded to fries for $2.50 and received a huge pile of the hot crinkle variety.

My companion ordered the Fish N Chips. This basket of crinkle fries was topped with one large fillet of walleye that was beer-battered and fried.  The fillet was impressive; not only was it long, it was also thick and meaty.  It was served with a homemade tartar that had dill rather than the traditional pickle.  Seriously good fish!

Service: Our visit was in the early evening on a Sunday but we easily found a spot in the the adjacent public parking lot.  We entered through a door on the patio that led us directly to the Irish Pub.  There wasn’t a hostess so rather than sitting in the dining room, we found a table in the Pub despite it being fairly busy.  We took our time ordering and the server had many suggestions from the menu.  There appeared to be only one server for the entire pub and she was constantly running out to the kitchen or perhaps to one of the other dining rooms.  Drinks took awhile to be filled but food was prepared in a reasonable amount of time.

Overall Impression: The food at Charlie’s was pretty good, the walleye was especially memorable and the calamari was also unique and excellent (albeit sweet!).  Great place to stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner while wandering around downtown Stillwater or as a romantic weekend date.

This is an original review of Charlie’s Restaurant and Irish Pub on Twin Cities Restaurant Blog
Charlie's Restaurant and Irish Pub at the Water Street Inn on Urbanspoon
Water Street Inn Reviews in Stillwater

Aug 022011
 

Cuisine: American
Restaurant Features: Bar, Live Music, Night Club, On-Site Parking
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 1638 Rice Street  St Paul, MN 55117  651-331-0929
Hours: Daily 11am-
Links: Wilebski’s Website * Wilebski’s on Facebook * Google Map
Atmosphere: Located at Rice Street and Wheelock Parkway, Wilebski’s is located in a large building formerly occupied by Club Cancun.  Although they do serve food, the primary focus at Wilebski’s is the music and night life.  The center of the club is the stage and dance floor.  There are tables placed toward the back of the dance floor on evenings with live music performances.

There is another seating area upstairs, overlooking the dance floor.

There is also seating in the bar area.

Menu: Appetizers include French Fries, Onion Wings, Chicken Wings (BBQ, Buffalo, Dry Rub), and Mississippi Catfish Bites.  Chili is also available.

Caesar Salad is also available.

Sandwiches at Wilebski’s include B.L.T, Saucy Southern Chicken Breast, BBQ Pulled Pork, and Catfish Po’ Boy.

Burgers include Plain, California, Delta Burger (jalapenos and bacon) and VooDoo Burger (jalapenos, bacon, fried onions and fried egg).

Price guide: Appetizers $5-10  Sandwiches $7-10
What we ordered: My companions and I were at Wilebski’s to see a band play, and since we were hungry, we ordered some of the food.  Please excuse the terrible photos, I had no choice but to use flash.  The first item we ordered were the Mississippi Catfish Bites.  These were surprisingly really good! No doubt they were the frozen variety, but they were hot, thick and substantial.  The cornmeal breading on the outside was crispy and well-seasoned.

One of my companions ordered the BBQ Shredded Pork.  There was a substantial amount of pulled pork on the toasted sesame bun, slathered in barbeque sauce.  I did not try any of this sandwich but it looked good and my companion ate it quickly. Shredded BBQ Pork at Wilebski's Blues Saloon ~ St Paul, MN

We also got a couple of burgers, including the Delta Burger. This burger was thick, cooked medium, with fried onions, slices of fresh jalapeno, and chipotle mayo. According to the menu, the Delta Burger was supposed to have bacon on it, but mine came without. The french fries were hot and crispy, heavily seasoned.

Service: As I mentioned, we were at Wilbski’s to see a band play.  That being said, there was only one server covering the tables on the dance floor.  She was terrible and not because she was busy, it wasn’t a busy night.  She just didn’t seem to have a clue of how to wait on tables, like it was her first day ever doing such a thing.  Once, after flagging her down and ordering a beer, I waited 15+ minutes before getting my own beer at the bar.   I also ended up getting my own food from the food service window after seeing it sit there for nearly ten minutes.
Overall Impression: The food was actually much better than I was expecting, but I won’t be running back anytime soon.  Cool place to see a show but the sound system needs major improvement.
Wilbski's Blues Saloon on Urbanspoon

Apr 262011
 

Cuisine: American, Greek, Fish & Seafood, Pasta, Steaks, Chops, Ribs
Restaurant Features: Bar, Happy Hour, Live Music, Patio, On-Site Parking
Location: Fridley, MN
Address: 6161 Central Ave. N.E. (Hwy. 65) Fridley, MN  55432 763-398-0088
Kitchen Hours: Mon-Tues: 11am – 9pm  Wed-Thurs: 11am – 10pm  Fri- Sat: 11am – 11pm  Sun Brunch: 10am – 2pm  Sun Dinner: 4pm – 9pm

Links: Shorewood Grill Website * Shorewood on Facebook * Google Map
Atmosphere: The main dining room is a cozy space, with rich, warm colors and murals on the walls, along with a fireplace and big booths.

The bar/lounge area is an extra large room with the bar centrally located.  There are a number of large booths around the perimeter of the room, with several bistro tables spread throughout as well.  There was a small stage at the front of the room where a band played later in the evening.

There is a patio that can be accessed from both the dining room and the bar with views of the small lake nearby.

Menu: Appetizers at Shorewood include Calamari, Shorewood Meatballs, Spanakopita, Saginaki, Gyros, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Kalamata Bruschetta, Crab Cakes, Shrimp Cocktail, Stuffed Mushrooms, Pita Bread & Spreads, Ahi Tuna, and Hercules Bites.

Salads include Greek Village, Peasant, Chopped, Caesar and King Louie.  Soups include Chicken Orzo or a Soup du Jour.

Shorewood’s sandwich offers a handful of sandwiches such as Prime Rib Dip, Gyro, Black Angus Burger, Chicken Caesar Wrap, and Walleye Sandwich.

Entrees include Kebobs (chicken, beef or swordfish), Chicken in Phyllo, Athenian Lamb Chops, Gyros Dinner, Meatloaf, BBQ Ribs, Roasted Chicken, and Chicken Pot Pie.

Steak and Pork options include New York Strip, Steak de Greco, Grilled Ribeye, Filet Mignon, Prime Rib, Short Ribs, and Pork Chops.

Shorewood’s seafood options include Lobster Tail, Walleye,Grecian Shrimp, Crab Stuffed Salmon, and Jumbo Scallops.

Pasta offerings include Lobster Ravioli, Lime Chicken Tortellini, Theva Pasta with Lamb,  Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chicken Alfredo, and Mediterranean Pasta.

Children’s Menu has items such as Spaghetti and Meatballs, Chicken Tenders, Mini Pizza, Mini Prime Rib, Mini Burgers, and Mini Gyros.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-12  Salads $9-14  Sandwiches $10-14 Entrees $14-24 Steak $17-27 Seafood $18+

What we ordered: (In order of appearance) One of my companions ordered this Spinach Artichoke Dip, a creamy blend of cheeses baked in a ramekin and served with pita bread.  I tried a few bites of this and it was very good.  It had the rich flavor of artichoke, spinach, onions, parmesan and other cheeses and was baked until the cheese was a bubbly golden color.

My entree came with a salad, so I went with the Greek Salad, which was the basic salad with feta and pepperoncini.  Crisp and fresh.

One of my companions ordered the New York Strip, prepared medium.  This meal comes with both veggies and au gratin potatoes, but was ordered without veggies due to a food allergy; as you can see it was still served with a sauteed veggie medley.

Another companion ordered the Grecian Shrimp, a dish of shrimp baked with garlic butter and feta.  These were delicious; the shrimp were decent sized and covered with feta.  The meal was served with veggie medley and mashed potatoes.

My companions also ordered the Calamari, which came after their meals.  I tried this and thought it was some of the best calamari I have had; the squid was cooked perfectly yet the batter was still crispy.  It was served over a bed of sauteed banana and pepperoncini peppers, which was a nice tangy accompaniment.  I could also taste a hint of lemon and I loved that it had little squids in addition to the rings.  Served with a Crab Louie sauce, which was tangy and creamy.  Huge portion.

Another companion ordered the Chicken Tenders, which came with six large, ordinary pieces of white meat chicken.

The guest of honor had the Seared Ahi Tuna, which came with two thick pieces of tuna seared on the outside and raw in the middle.  The fish was served over thin slices of carrots and cucumbers and drizzled with wasabi mayo.

Another companion ordered the Stuffed Burger, which was still slightly pink in the middle along with the melted cheddar cheese.  For some reason it didn’t come with any fries?

One companion ordered the Phyllo Chicken.  I did not try this dish but it looked very good.  It had a chicken breast stuffed with spinach, feta and pine nuts, then wrapped in the light and flaky phyllo dough and baked to a golden color.  It was topped with a creamy sauce and served with veggie medley and mashed potatoes.

I ordered the Lobster Ravioli, which I liked very much.  The portion came with 4-5 large raviolis filled with a cheesy lobster mix, then topped with a creamy rosa sauce and a small about of lobster meat.  I loved every bite and was still hungry when it was all gone (and it is very rare that I finish my entree!)  It would’ve been great to have bread with this meal but it was not brought out until after we already ate.

Another companion ordered the Chicken Pot Pie, which I tried and thought was very good.  There was just the right amount of vegetables and chunky white chicken to the creamy chicken soup.  It had a flaky, buttery crust baked on top, then sprinkled with parmesan.  Total comfort food!

Another companion ordered the Gyro Appetizer.  I did not try this at all but it looked like standard gyro meat and fixings,

A couple of my companions ordered Flaming Cinnamon shots which were quite spectacular when set on fire (at the bar only).

Service: The service that we experienced at Shorewood Bar & Grill was beyond disappointing; it was downright appalling. Our party consisted of fifteen people, with a reservation made four weeks in advance.  We arrived on time to be seated in the lounge, with one large booth (seats 6-8)  and a handful of 2-person bistro tables for our party.  It was very awkward from the get-go, with there being no good way of arranging the tables so that everyone was included.  Our server was a new employee, having just started at Shorewood the week prior.  She was nice and sweet and I can cut her a little bit of slack because she was new, but Shorewood should know better than to put a newbie with a group so big on a busy weekend night.  I guess Shorewood’s mentality with new wait staff is “sink or swim”?

Our biggest problem of the night wasn’t necessarily with our server; it was more the bad timing of the food.  We all ordered within a half hour of our arrival, with the server starting at one end of the party and then finishing at the other end.  Logical, right? The first four people to order received their salads about 43 minutes after ordering.  Not even two minutes later their entrees showed up, but no sign of the calamari that was ordered as an appetizer.  The timing of the food was just totally off! Someone did bring the calamari right out to us after inquiring to its whereabouts and we were not charged for it.  This first group that got their food also had a serious problem: After requesting “no vegetables” to the server due to a food allergy, the steak entree showed up with vegetables.  This mistake could have turned into a scary and life-threatening situation real quick.  About twenty minutes later (an hour after ordering), the second wave of food arrived to those in the middle of the seating arrangement, myself included.  It was not for another 30 minutes beyond this point that the last section of our group received their food, approximately 90 minutes after ordering.  Our bread wasn’t served to us until the second time we requested it, and it came after the meal.

All the while we were waiting (and waiting!) for our food, the people who arranged the party spoke with the management to express their unhappiness with the chain of events.  I am not sure of how that situation was remedied but I personally never saw the management once that evening, nor did they come to check with the guests in our party.  I think that personal tough was warranted in this situation and being accustomed to good service most places I go, I expect it.  They did, however send in a few additional servers to check on us after the first two hours and these girls were very nice.  At the end of the evening someone in our party passed my card along to the management and let them know that I was there and I was doing a review for this blog; the management sent our server over to me and asked if he could by me a drink since he knew I was writing a review.  I find it kind of insulting that they thought maybe they could keep me quiet by buying me a margarita.

Overall Impression: Very mixed.  I thought the food was really good but the service was terrible.  As much as I liked the food, more importantly to me is how the service is and how the restaurant made us feel.  I know I personally never felt like my business was valued or appreciated and I think it is safe to say the same for the majority of the people in our large party.  The fact that our party was so big was a factor in the quality of service (I can only assume), but to me that shouldn’t matter.  I have been to plenty of restaurants as part of a large group and most have done a great job.  Shorewood has a long way to go with their service before I would  consider going back.

Shorewood Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Apr 172011
 

Cuisine: American
Restaurant Features: Banquet, Bar, Free Wi-Fi, Games, Live Music, Waterfront
Location: Stillwater, MN
Address: 317 Main Street Stillwater, MN  651-342-1502
Kitchen Hours:
Mon-Thurs 11 am-8pm Fri-Sat 11am-10pm Sun 11am-8pm (Bar open later)

Links: Rafter’s Website * Rafters on Facebook *  Google Map

Atmosphere: Rafters Food & Spirits is located on the second level of 317 Main Street, near the heart of downtown Stillwater.  There are entrances into the building from the back (facing St Croix waterfront) and from Main Street.  This space has been occupied by several different restaurants over the years, with Rafter’s Food & Spirits being the newest as of January 2011.

The space is long and open, with large windows looking out onto the St Croix River which is just across the parking lot.  There is nothing fancy about Rafter’s, it definitely feels like a bar inside and there is nothing cozy about it.  They do offer live music late-nights on the weekend and they have a variety of entertaining bar games.

Menu: Appetizers at Rafter’s include Mozzarella Sticks, Potato Skins, Boneless Wings, Jalapeno Poppers, Cheddar Jack Buffalo Chips, Fried Pickles, Santa Fe Chicken Eggrolls, Bamboo Shrimp Skewers, Fried Ravioli, Chicken Wings (Jerk, Buffalo).

Salads include House, Caesar, and Southwest.

Burgers are all 1/3 lb and served with chips.  Options include Black Blue, California, Mushroom Swiss, BBQ Bacon Cheddar and the Rafter’s Burger (two 1/3 patties with bacon, three cheeses, sauteed mushrooms and onions).

Chicken Sandwiches include Buffalo Chicken, Chicken Club, Cajun Southwest Chicken, Citrus Grilled Chicken, Rafter’s Spicy Chicken Hoagie Melt.  Other sandwiches that Rafter’s offers are the Walleye, Reuben, Hot Beef & Cheddar, Beer Battered Fish, Meatball Marinara, Philly Beef, Burgandy Peppercorn Steak, Veggie Burger, and BLT.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-8  Burgers/Sandwiches $8-10

Happy Hour:
  • Monday-Thursday 3-6pm

Weekly Specials:
Monday- All You Can Eat Wings 5-8pm $4
Tuesday- All You Can Eat Taco Bar 5-8pm $5
Wednesday- All You Can Eat Pulled Pork & BBQ Chicken 5-8pm $5
Thursday- All You Can Eat Fettuccine Alfredo & Spaghetti/Meatballs 5-8 pm $5

What we ordered: We visited on a Monday night to discover that they had an all-you-can-eat wing bar for $4.  Score! They had three types of wings: Buffalo, Jerk, and Plain and several types of dipping sauces.  I started with the Jerk Wings.  Each wing was cooked in its entirety but they were soft and tender and very easy to remove from the bones.  The flavor on them was zesty and slightly spicy.

I also had a plate of the Buffalo Wings when a hot new batch was brought out. I love buffalo wings but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the sauce they used but at $4 for AYCE I wasn’t complaining!  The beer was also cheap at $2 for domestic taps so we washed a few down.

I really wasn’t sure what I was in the mind for, so I asked the server/bartender was he recommended.  He told me he wasn’t sure.??? That is usually a bad sign if your server can’t make a recommendation.  So next I asked him what he has served other people that looked good and he immediately said the Reuben.  You know I am a Reuben girl so I went with it.

I was immediately dumbfounded to be presented with a Reuben that looked like it had melted cheddar cheese.  Does this not look like Cheddar cheese? I hate to be picky but I did not want a reuben with cheddar cheese, so I alerted the server who asked if I would like a new one or for this one to be removed it from my bill. I opted for the latter and told him not to bother making me a new sandwich, I would just eat a few more wings from the wing buffet instead. A short time later the cook appeared at my table to apologize about the sandwich but also to explain that it was not, in fact, cheddar cheese on the Reuben.  It was thousand island dressing that had oozed over the edges when they put on the bread.  Honest mistake on my part!  Minutes later he brought me a new reuben without the thousand island.  I thought that was nice considering he didn’t charge me and I ended up getting two sandwiches out of the deal.  The sandwich was actually decent, but far from ranking with the best.  It was served with potato chips.

My companion ordered the Mushroom Swiss Burger, which was satisfactory but on the small side at just 1/3lb.


Service: We visited on a Monday night when it was not very busy, so the only employee working with customers was the bartender.  He was nice but didn’t have any recommendations from the menu and wasn’t in a hurry to check up on us.  However, he handled the situation with my food professionally when the problem was brought to his attention.

Overall Impression: I wasn’t terribly impressed with Rafter’s Food & Spirits.  The food, service and atmosphere were mediocre but $4 for all-you-can-eat wings and cheap beer make it an acceptable place to visit on a Monday night.  I see potential for this location but would love to see something more upscale with really good food.

Rafters Food & Spirits on Urbanspoon