Apr 272012
 

Cuisine: Breakfast, Deli, Pizza, Pasta, Pizza-by-the-Slice
Restaurant Features: Counter-Service, Flat Screen TVs, Patio
Location: St Paul, MN
Address: 616 Como Avenue  St Paul, MN 55103 (651) 488-1922
Hours: Mon-Thursday 6:30am-10:30pm *  Friday 6:30-10:30 * Sun 10:30-9:30
Links: John’s Pizza Cafe Website * John’s Pizza Cafe on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: John’s Pizza Cafe is located on the wedge-shaped corner of Como Ave and Dale St in St Paul.  There are two entrances; one in front and one from the patio near the very small parking lot.  The back of the restaurant is where the service counter and kitchen is.  The main dining room has a number of booths as well as tables, live plants and a HUGE (70-80″) Flatscreen TV.

There is a second seating area adjacent to the main dining room that has beautiful natural lighting and live plants.  The tables are smaller but can be arranged to accommodate bigger parties.

There is also an enclosed patio facing Dale Street that has a handful of tables available for outdoor seating.

Menu: Breakfast items at John’s Pizza Cafe include two varieties of Breakfast Pizza9also sold by-the-slice),  English Muffin Egg Sandwich, Egg Sandwich, Omelettes, French Toast, Stuffed French Toast, Pancakes, Yogurt and Granola Parfait, Oatmeal, Caramel Nut Roll, and Cinnamon Roll.

Salads are made fresh throughout the day and include Pear-A-Dise, Garden, Antipasto, Caesar, Grilled Steak, Grilled Chicken, and Taco Salad.

John’s offers and number of fresh-baked Hoagies, all served with chips and pickle spear.  Sandwiches include Philly Hamburger, Works, Chick-A-Dilly, Tex-Mex, Envious Turkey, Turkey Florentine, and John’s Club.

Entrees offered include Spaghetti, Sausage Lasagna, Calzones, Mac-N-Cheese, Sloppy Dogs, Sloppy Meatball, Stromboli and Spaghetti.  Specialty Pastas include Chicken Parmigiano, Linguine Alfredo, Pasta Bolognese, Gnocchi, Pasta Primavera, Three Cheese Ravioli, Sausage Pappardelle, and the Mediterranean.

Pizza is, of course, John’s specialty.  Pies come in 10″, 12″, 14″ and 16″.  Varieties include Create-Your-Own, The Works, The King, Denver, The Hawaiian, Hog in the Bog (brat sausage, wild rice, mushrooms and garlic herb sauce), The Bandito, Chinese Fire Dragon (pepperoni, spicy peppers and pineapple), Mexican Extravaganza, BBQ Chicken or BBQ Pulled Pork, Club, Spicy Caribbean Chicken, Chick-A-Dilly, Reuben, Wisconsin Wonder, Veggie 2000, Meatless Wonder, California Dreamer, Farmer’s Fantasy, Popeye’s Pie, and It’s Not Easy Being Green (artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and basil pesto sauce).

Desserts include Cupcakes, Brownies, Cheesecake, and Cookies.
Price guide: Breakfast $2-7  Hoagies $7  Pizza $9-30 Pizza By Slice $2.50-3.50
What we ordered: I tried a slice of the Pepperoni Deep-Dish, which was great! The crust wasn’t as thick as a traditional Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, but it did have a ton of cheese directly on top of the crust with the sauce just drizzled on top. The piece was quite big and very filling for under $3.50.

I also tried the Chick-a-Dilly Pizza.  This pie starts with the hand-tossed crust topped with a creamy dill sauce ans then mozzarella, red bell pepper, onions, and bite-sized pieces of chicken.  This combination of flavors was delicious, I especially liked the creamy dill sauce which was  a nice change from red sauce.

One of my companions had a slice of the Works, which was topped with Italian sausage, pepperoni,  green pepper, onion, mushroom, and black olive.

My companion also had a slice of Sausage

Another companion ordered a slice of the Hawaiian Pizza, topped with a ton of pineapple tidbits and really good Canadian Bacon.  I need to try this one next time.

Service: I have been to John’s Pizza Cafe a few times now and have had very fast and friendly service each time.  From the hours 10:30-2:30pm they have ten varieties of pizzas that they offer by-the-slice and will get your order ready quickly.
Overall Impression: John’s Pizza Cafe has a large selection of pizzas and hoagies and everything is homemade.  The service is fast and friendly.  This is my new favorite local spot to grab a slice of tasty pizza over the lunch hour.
John's Pizza Cafe on Urbanspoon

Apr 152012
 

Cuisine: American, Pizza, Pasta
Restaurant Features: Bar, Flat Panel TVs, On-Site Parking, Patio Dining
Locations: Apple Valley, Blaine, Eagan, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Roseville, Uptown, St Cloud, Duluth
Addresses and Maps:
Apple Valley ~ 14998 Glazier Ave Apple Valley, MN 55124 (952) 891-4600
Blaine~ 198 Northtown Dr Blaine, MN 55434 (763) 783-3414
Duluth ~ 327 Lake Avenue South  Duluth, MN 55802 (218) 720-2966
Eagan ~ 1312 Town Centre Dr Eagan, MN 55123 (651) 688-0882
Eden Prairie ~ 12300 Singletree Lane Suite 100 Eden Prairie, MN 55344 (952) 946-1400
Minnetonka ~ 17790 Highway 7 Minnetonka, MN 55345 (952) 401-0030
Plymouth ~ 3505 Vicksburg Lane  Plymouth, MN 55447 (763) 744-1221
Roseville ~ 2100 N Snelling Ave Roseville, MN 55113 (651) 639-0303
St Cloud ~ 4040 2nd Street South St Cloud, MN 56301 (320) 259-1103
Uptown ~ 2841 Hennepin Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55408 (612) 870-1918

Hours: Daily 11am-2am (food until 1am)
Links: Old Chicago Website * Old Chicago on Facebook

Atmosphere: The Roseville location of Old Chicago is located at Har Mar Mall,  facing Snelling Avenue.  The restaurant space has both tables and booths that are arranged to break up the space into smaller areas.  There are flat screen TVs tuned on to sports, as well as neon beer signs all over the restaurant and bar area.  There aren’t a whole lot of windows.

The Bar Area is adjacent to the dining area, just to the left of the main entrance.  Old Chicago is known for all the beers they carry; at least 30 on tap!  The Roseville location also has a large patio area facing Snelling Avenue.

Menu: Appetizers include Spicy Spinach Dip, Sampler Platter, Italian Nachos, Artichoke Dip, Nachos Grande, Chicken Tenders, Garlic Cheese Bread, Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls, Wings, and Mozzarella Sticks.

Small Plates include Mini Italian Meatballs, Mediterranean salad, Fried Spicy Pickles, Fried Mac N’ Cheese, and Tomato & Mozzarella Caprese.

Old Chicago also has Salads such as the Roasted Chicken Salad, Asian Chicken Salad, Harvest Salad with Balsamic Chicken, Classic Chicken Caesar, Mediterranean Salad, Crispy Chicken Salad, and House Salad.  Soups include Beef Chili and Potato Chowder.

Sandwiches and Burgers come with fries or coleslaw.  Options include Chicago Stromboli, Italian Sausage Stromboli, Classic Italian Melt, Spicy Chicago Beef, Prosciutto with Lettuce and Tomato, California Chicken Sandwich, Classic Club, and Chicken Wrap.  Burgers include Old Chicago Cheeseburgers, Guacamole Burger, and Bacon Cheeseburger.

Pasta options at Old C are Lasagna, Meatballs and Spaghetti, Chicken Alfredo, Chicken Mac N Cheese, and Classic Spaghetti.

You can also order Entrees such as Shrimp Basket, Fish & Chips, Crispy Chicken Tenders, Fisherman’s Catch, 8 oz Sirloin, and Grilled Sirloin with Shrimp.

Old Chicago is famous for their Pizzas which come with either Classic New York Style Crust, Deep Dish Chicago-Style, and Artisan Style.  Artisan options are Three Cheese with Tomato and Pepperoni, Proscuitto and Mushroom, and Roasted Chicken Pesto.  Specialty pizzas include “Chicago Seven”, Double Deckeroni, Meat Me, The Classic, Hawaiian, Thai Pie, Vegetarian Seven, and Malibu Veggie.

Old Chicago serves a variety of Calzones in addition to their famous Pizzas, including Italian Grinder, Monterey Chicken, Famous “Chicago Seven”, Meat Me, Spinach Artichoke, and Build Your Own.

Desserts offered include Famous Big Cookie, Little Big Cookie, Homemade Cheesecake, and Turtle Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream.
Price guide: Appetizers $3-10  Sandwiches $9-10  Entrees $8-16
Late Night Happy Hour: 9pm-Midnight

  • $1 off all pints, mini one-topping pizzas
  • $2 Miller Lite Pints and Grainbelt Nordeast pints
  • $3 Surly pints, wells, and house wines
  • $4 Sicilian Pepperoni Rolls
  • $5 Artichoke Dip, Italian Nachos and Nachos Grande
  • $.50 Wings (only on Wednesdays, min 4 per order)
    (all late night food specials require a minimum beverage purchase per person)

What we ordered: A couple of us ordered The Classic to share. I have had the pizza at Old Chicago many years earlier and I didn’t remember it standing out, so I had the preconceived notion that I wasn’t going to like it.  I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was, as was my companion.  We got the deep-dish crust that was about an inch thick with a crispy, dense crust.  Unlike most Chicago-style pizzas, the sauce on this pizza was under the cheese, rather than on top, yet it was still crispy.  It was topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and garlic.  Very good, I would definitely order this again.

One of my companions ordered the Spicy Chicago Beef sandwich which was an excellent choice.  This sandwich was served hot with a pile of tender, sliced roast beef, melted provolone cheese, spicy homemade pepper giardiniera and sweet red pepper mayo.  Served with french fries. It was so good that when I tried a bite, I ended up eating the entire half ;)

Another companion ordered the Fish and Chips.  The order came with four strips of fried cod, salt and vinegar fries, coleslaw and  a tangy tartar sauce.  The fish was very crispy but the fish within was hot and tasty.

Service: We arrived for a late dinner and the restaurant was still fairly busy.  Our server was attentive and our food was prepared in the appropriate amount of time for what we ordered (deep dish pizzas take a little longer).
Overall Impression: Old Chicago is a laid-back place to get a good pizza, sandwich or burger and a large selection of beers.  Yes, it is a big chain restaurant but the food is consistently good.
Old Chicago on Urbanspoon

Oct 232011
 

Cuisine: American, Italian, Pizza, Pasta, Ice Cream, Dessert
Restaurant Features: On-Site Parking, Gluten-Free Menu
Location: White Bear Lake, MN
Address: 2692 East County Road E  White Bear Lake, MN 55110 651-777-9199
Links: Donatelli’s Website * Donatelli’s on FacebookGoogle Map

Atmosphere: Donatelli’s is a popular family restaurant located within a strip mall on the south end of White Bear, right next to JJ’s Bierstube.  The restaurant itself is long and narrow, with a main dining room and a smaller dining area used for bigger parties or on busy nights.  Along the outer walls of the dining area there are several private booths (topped with seasonal decorations), with tables in the middle of the restaurant which can easily be adjoined for larger parties.

Menu: Appetizers include Bruschetta, Chicken Strips, Chicken Wings, White Cheddar Cheese Curds, Onion Rings, Donatelli’s Caprese, Cheesy Fries, Bread Sticks, Garlic Toast, Donatelli’s Haystack Fries (covered with cheese and bacon), Fried Ravioli, Hot Chips, Seasoned Fries, Meatball Sliders, Italian Fries and Italian Dunkers.

Salads at Donatellis include Antipasta, Chef Salad, Oriental Chicken, NLT Grilled Chicken Breast, Spinach Salad, Caesar, Blue Apple, Blue Burger, Grilled Veggie Salad, and Crispy Chicken Salad.

Soups offered are Chili and Minestrone.

Donatelli’s also has a number of Sandwiches, all are served with chips or you can upgrade to seasoned fries for $1.  Options include Chicken or Veal Parmigiana, Meatball, Italian Sausage, Hot Dago, Submarine Sandwich, Grilled Chicken, Beer Battered Fish, Turkey, Donatelli Reuben, Grilled Ham and Cheese, BLT, Turkey Club, Club Wrap, Steak or Chicken Caesar Wrap, BLT Chicken Wrap, and Grilled Salmon Caesar Wrap.

Donatelli’s also has a number of Specialty Burgers  including Plain Burger, Luigi Burger, Cheeseburger, Pizza Burger, Mama Mia Burger, Honey Mustard Ham Burger, Jack Burger, One Eyed Jack, Patty Melt, Chili Cheese Burger, Donatelli Burger, Philly Burger, Blue Bacon Burger and Red Portabella Burger

Pasta selections are numerous and include Spaghetti, Spaghetti Supreme, Rigatoni, Linguini with Marinara, Fettuccine Alfredo, Chicken or Veal Parmigiana, Baked Mostaccioli, Baked Manicotti, Baked Tortellini, Baked Ravioli, Baked Gnocchi, Baked Spaghetti, Baked Lasagna, Baked Rigatoni,  and Baked Linguini Carbonara, Tortellini Alfredo, Butternut Squash Ravioli with Asparagus, Spinach and Roasted Garlic Tortelloni, Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli, Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni, Stuffed Shells, Seafood Cannelloni, Linguini with Shrimp and Pesto, Cajun Chicken Alfredo, Fettuccine with Steak and Alfredo, Italian Jambalaya, Linguini with Chicken and Pesto, and Spaghetti Pie.

Donatelli’s also has a variety of Pizza Turnovers (stuffed pizza pockets) and Specialty Pizzas (deep-dish or thin crust) including Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted Tomato, Veggie Delight, Heartburn Deluxe, Super Heartburn Deluxe, Heart Stopper, Bacon Cheeseburger, Taco, Donatelli’s White Pizza, Margherita, BBQ Chicken, and the Upside Down Pizza.

**Gluten-Free Menu*** Items include Gluten Free versions of all of the following: Caprese, Italian Fries, Blue Apple Salad, Spinach Salad, Chicken and Pesto, Baked Cheese Ravioli, Stuffed Shells, Ravioli, Baked Rigatoni, and Gluten-Free Pizza.

Donatelli’s also has a selection of Old-Fashioned Ice Creams.  Other Desserts include Milk Shake, Malts, Ice Cream Soda, Turtle Sundae, Root Beer Float, Hot Fudge Sundae, Scrumptious Sundae, Old Fashioned Banana Split, Hot Fudge Cake, Turtle Fudge Cake, Black Forest Cake, Tiramisu, Berramisu, Chocolate Flourless Torte, and Death by Chocolate Peanut Butter.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-11 Sandwiches $7-12 Pasta $8-17 Desserts $3-7

What we ordered: Our party was dining on borrow time on the night of our visit, so we went straight to our entrees instead of ordering an appetizer as I normally would. Although I didn’t order Italian Fries on this visit, I highly recommend them.

There are so many awesome past choices at Donatelli’s and I have had the pleasure of sampling many of them over the years but on this night I ordered the Spaghetti with Meatballs.  I typically never order spaghetti at restaurants but Donatelli’s makes their spaghetti from scratch and it is perfect.  The noodles are fresh and cooked slightly al dente with a generous amount of the hearty house red sauce.

One of my companions had the Seafood Cannelloni.  This was delicious, but extremely rich.  There were three shells stuffed with a blend of lobster, scallops, and shrimp in a lobster sherry cream sauce.  It had several cheeses baked on top until just melted.  It was served with a slice of garlic toast that was great for dunking in the sauce.  Take the cannelloni shells out of this dish and you have yourself a wonderful seafood dip.

Another companion ordered the Cajun Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, which was fettuccine mixed with several bite sized pieces of grilled Cajun chicken breast, and sauteed green and red bell peppers.

Another companion started with the Antipasto Salad followed by the Rigatoni.  The Antipasta salad looked wonderful with ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, cheddar, onions, mushrooms and black olives.  Tossed in Donatelli’s homemade Italian dressing.

The Rigatoni was a bowl of standard rigatoni topped with Donatelli’s red sauce.

One person in our party had the Steak Caesar Wrap.  This wrap had a substantial amount of beef in relation to lettuce.  Tasty and filling.

Service: Our visit was early evening on a Saturday night and it was already busy at Donatelli’s.  We were able to get a table big enough for the six of us with a few minutes of arriving and were greeted by our server shortly thereafter.  Drinks were refilled quickly and food was prepared reasonably fast for how busy it was. Six of us were in and out in about an hour.  Our server, as well as the staff in general,  seemed very friendly.

Overall Impression: A true institution in the White Bear Lake area, Donatelli’s has something that will appeal to everyone.  The menu is huge and the service is very friendly.

This was a review of Donatelli’s Restaurant originally published on Twin Cities Restaurant Blog
Donatelli's on Urbanspoon
Donatelli Bros Family Rstrnt Reviews in White Bear Lake

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

Sep 302011
 

Cuisine: American, Pasta, Fish
Restaurant Features: Beer, Wine
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Address: 5607 Chicago Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55417 (612)825-6900
Hours: Sun-Thurs 5pm-9pm  Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm
Links: First Course Website * First Course on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: First Course is a small but lovely restaurant snuggled between  Mike’s Corner Store and Kowalskis Market on Chicago Ave at E 56th St.  The restaurant isn’t very big but it sure is cute! The bar at the back is really the focal point of the restaurant.

Another part of the the dining room has just a handful of tables widely spaced apart and big, colorful stripes of color on the walls.  There is also a small, basic patio area in the front of the building.

Menu: Tapas (small plates) at First Course include Honey Garlic Baby Back Ribs, Fried Green Olives Stuffed with Blue Cheese, Three Salami’s, Grilled Asparagus with Onion Straws, Calamari, Goat Cheese, First Course Shrimp, Warm Almond Manchego Cheese, and Beef Skewers.

Other Appetizers include Seared Ahi Tuna, Bruschetta, Mediterranean Mussels, Antipasti Platter, and a Pizza of the Day.

Salads offered at First Course include Caesar, Grilled Portabella and Asparagus, Mixed Green, and the Bistro Salad (with bacon, egg, tomato).

Sandwiches offered are the Croque Monsieur, Bison Blue Burger, Mini Burgers with Cheddar.

First Course Pasta selections include Penne Alfredo, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Linguine with Prosciutto, Lamb Ragu with Pappardelle, Gnocchi in Gorgonzola Cream, and Risotto.

Entrees at First Course include Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia, Halibut, Chicken Roulade, Bone-In Pork Chops, New York Strip, and Duck Breast.

Desserts include Flourless Chocolate Cake, Tres Leches Cake, Creme Brulee, German Chocolate Cake, and Ice Cream or Sorbet.
Price guide: Tapas $4-8 Apps $6-14  Pasta $14-18  Entrees $17-29

What we ordered: A large heaping plate of bread arrived shortly after we ordered drinks.  Soft, crusty, and still warm.

There are many different Small Plates (Tapas) and since we had a very large party, we ordered several items.  We tried the Calamari, which was excellent! It was breaded and fried, then served with some kind of smokey mayo.  Seriously good calamari.

We also ordered the Manchego Cheese, which was baked until slightly crispy and golden, then served on baguette and topped with sliced almonds.  The order came with four little slices slightly soaking in a mix of oil, vinegar, and sherry.  These were pretty awesome, full of  both flavor and texture.

We also ordered the ribs.  I did not try these but they came highly recommended by one of the servers.  They looked and smelled great.  The menu describes them as “Honey garlic baby back pork ribs with soy, ginger & chili oil”.

Another tapa we tried was the Bleu Cheese Stuffed Fried Olives.  Not being a fan of olives, I did not try these either but the others raved about them.

We also tried the Asparagus with Onion Straws.  The asparagus was cooked with balsamic vinegar which sweetened it up slightly, then was topped with a pile of thin onion straws.  I like asparagus quite a bit and this was good, but I think I enjoyed the onion straws the most :)

We ordered two large dishes of the Coconut Red Curry Mussels.  OMG, these were wonderful!!  The menu actually called these Mediterranean Mussels which I believe is a misnomer as they actually had more Asian influence than Mediterranean.  No matter what you call them, these mussels were very tender and soaked in a bath of coconut milk with red curry.  This is my favorite style of mussels and these ranked up there in my TCRB Editor’s Picks: Mussels (stay tuned for that post in the future!)

We also ordered the First Course Shrimp.  These giant Tiger Shrimp were served in a hot butter with fresh herbs and spices, very similar to shrimp scampi.  Excellent!

We also ordered Entrees. I wasn’t sure what to get, the menu had several items that sounded really good to me.  I wanted to try something that noone else in our group was going to order, so I ended up getting the Papperdelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu.  This was pretty good; it had big chunks of tomato, rosemary and several pieces of tender lamb meat on top of a bed of pappardelle pasta.  It was topped with grated pecorino cheese and parsley.  I liked this but it was almost too mild for my taste.  I’d personally like a little spice to it.

One of my companions ordered the Alaskan Halibut, which came with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette puree and fingerling potatoes.

Another companion ordered the New York Strip, a nice 16 oz cut cooked a perfect medium rare.  It was well seasoned, served with fingerling potatoes and red onions over a red wine jus.

One of my companions ordered the Butternut Squash Ravioli in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce.  I nearly ordered this myself because it sounded so intriguing.  I was lucky to try a bit of this and I thought it was very good.  The ravioli were handmade little pockets stuffed with sweet butternut squash that contrasted the sharpness of the gorgonzola and brandy cream sauce.  It was garnished with cooked carrot, pepper and swiss chard.

One of the specials of the evening was a King Ivory Salom with fresh salsa.  I didn’t try this but it looked wonderful.  There were two filets of the light colored salmon, covered with fresh salsa made with corn, tomatillo and radish.

Another companion ordered the Chicken Roulade.  This dish had little chicken roll-ups with gorgonzola in a salty shallot sauce.  It was topped with julienne veggies.

Two of my companions split the Risotto with Shrimp; pictured here is half the order.  The risotto was creamy and the shrimp was well seasoned and tender.

One of my companions was celebrating a birthday and received this complimentary Tres Leches Cake.  The piece was large enough to share with several and was very tasty.  It was moist as it should be but one of the best features of this dessert was the passion fruit lime syrup drizzled on the plate.  The tartness curbed the sweetness of the cake and really made this dessert stand out.

Service: We had excellent service at First Course. We had advance reservations for a large party on a Saturday night and a server almost all to ourselves.  Wine was poured with frequency and the tapas and entrees were brought out in waves.

Overall Impression: First Course is a fabulous little restaurant in South Minneapolis with great food and a relaxed atmosphere.  The prices are very reasonable for chef crafted dishes and the service is very good; First Course is a great place to visit for many different occasions.  Beer and Wine only.
First Course on Urbanspoon
First Course Reviews in Minneapolis

Sep 052011
 

Cuisine: Pizza, Pasta, Sandwiches, Salads
Restaurant Features: Counter Service, On-Site Parking
Location: Roseville, MN
Address: 1607 County Road C  Roseville, MN 55113   (651)633-3131
Hours: Daily 11am-9pm
Links: ZPizza Website * ZPizza on Facebook * Google Map
Atmosphere: The Roseville location of ZPizza is just off Co. Rd C and Snelling Ave, in the strip mall right next door to Byerly’s.  The inside of the restaurant is bright, colorful and modern.

ZPizza offers counter service, with the counter conveniently located just inside the entrance.  There are menu boards hanging above, but I found the wording to be too small to read.  Like super tiny!! Luckily I was able to look-over one of the take-out menus that was sitting there.

Menu: Appetizers include Garlic Bread, Mediterranean Plate (hummus, feta, Greek olives, roasted peppers, cucumber slices, bread), and Parmesan Flatbread Sticks.

Salads include Arugula with Candied Walnuts, Chicken Caesar, California, Greek, Mixed Greens, Pear & Gorgonzola, Strawberry Goat Cheese, and ZBQ Chicken.

ZPizza also has many sandwiches like the Curry Chicken on Wheat, Meatball Sub, Pollo Latino (chicken with avocado and salsa), Sausage Calzone, Veggie Calzone, Super Sub, Tuna, Yuppie Veggie, and Turkey on Wheat.

Pastas offered are the Chicken Penne Pesto and Penne with Meatballs.

ZPizza Creations come in three sizes: small, large and extra large.  Options include the Berkley Vegan, California (organic tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh rounds of tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, black olives), Casablanca (roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, parmesan), Provence (garlic sauce, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, capers, tomatoes, fresh basil), Napoli (homemade roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella, fresh rounds of tomatoes, parmesan, fresh basil),  Greek (feta, mozzarella, red onions, Greek olives, fresh rounds of tomatoes, oregano),  Italian (basil pesto, mozzarella, ham, artichoke hearts, fresh rounds of tomatoes, black olives), Santa Fe (chipotle pesto, mozzarella, chicken sausage, red onions, corn, serrano chilies, tomatoes, cilantro), Mexican (salsa, mozzarella, spicy lime chicken, green onions, red onions, fresh avocado, sour cream, cilantro), Thai (peanut sauce, mozzarella, spicy chicken, red onions, cilantro, carrots, bean sprouts, serrano chilies), Tuscan (roasted garlic sauce, mozzarella, cremini, shiitake and button mushrooms, caramelized onions, feta, truffle oil, thyme), and ZBQ (bbq sauce, mozzarella, bbq chicken, roasted peppers, red onions, fresh rounds of tomatoes, cilantro, sweet corn)

Rustica Pizzas include the Mediterranean (mozzarella, feta, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, Greek olives, oregano, pili pili oil), Curry Chicken & Yam (mozzarella, curry chicken, yams, mango chutney, raisins, fresh cilantro), Chicken Sausage (marinara sauce, mozzarella, arugula, chicken sausage), Moroccan (basil pesto, mozzarella, roasted eggplant, feta, caramelized onions, pine nuts), and Pear & Gorgonzola.

Price guide: Appetizers $3-8   Salads $5-9  Sandwiches $6-7  Pizzas $8-21

What we ordered:My companion and I ordered two pizzas to share, the first was the Italian.  This pizza started with a chewy hand-tossed crust made of 100% organic wheat then topped with basil pesto, mozzarella, ham, artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes, and black olives.  It is baked in the wood-fired oven.  This was delicious!  The crust was light and chewy, with the pesto slightly absorbed into it then covered with mozzarella. I was impressed by how many artichokes were piled on top, it really added great flavor to the pizza.

We also ordered a small Mexican pizza.  This pizza had salsa, mozzarella, spicy lime chicken, green onions, red onions, fresh avocado, sour cream, cilantro.  The salsa was hardly noticeable but all of the the other ingredients were fresh and plentiful.  I really liked it but wish it was a little more spicy or had more salsa.

Service: ZPizza offers counter service.  The staff working were really friendly and patient while we were trying to decide what to order.  The pizzas took approximately 15-20 minutes.

Overall Impression: ZPizza is a fast, healthy option for pizzas, salads and sandwiches.  The service is reasonably fast and there are many delicious pizza options.
Zpizza 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 072011
 

 

Address: Eden Prairie Center #2320 8251 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie, MN 55344

Pasta Zola is a fun, new restaurant located in the Food Court at Eden Prairie Center.

Menu: Ordering is a as simple as:

  1. Picking a Pasta- (Corkscrews, Rigatoni, Whole Wheat Penne or Cheese Tortellini)
  2. Picking a Sauce- (Creamy Alfredo, Mac & Cheese, Bolo, Marinara, Smooth Red, or Pesto Fusions)
  3. Adding Goodies- (Meatballs, Italian Sausage, Chicken, Ham & Peas, Smokey Bacon, Veggies)

I have not yet been out to Pasta Zola myself but love the concept and wanted to share it with ya’ll.  Make sure to try it next time you’re in Eden Prairie and let me know what you think!