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Best Twin Cities Restaurants to Take Out-of-Town Guests

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This post was inspired by a friend who has family in town this weekend. She wanted ideas for where to take them. And while she came up with her own answer, it did get us to thinking where we’ve taken our out-of-town guests.

I feel a little guilty writing this one.

Why? Because I know that there will be some opinions out there. I may sound like I’m dogging some Mpls-St. Paul institutions. Let’s just say that these are not necessarily the best restaurants in the Twin Cities to take your out-of-town guests. Of course, that all depends on you and your guests. Your tastes might be completely different from ours.

So, instead, let’s label this list as our favorite places to take guests who come in from out of town. We want them to experience restaurants that we not only love, but that are also either unique, capture a piece of Minnesota or offer a bit of fun. They are listed in no particular order. At the time of this writing, Restaurant Impressions might not be written on all restaurants listed yet. But you can always hop over there to check!

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Cossetta’s – St. Paul

I have to admit that Rob has never been to Cossetta’s {the original eatery} and I haven’t eaten there in years. However, after a trip to the newly renovated/expanded Alimentari, including the eatery/pizzeria, Pasticceria, Italian grocery and restaurant with my parents this past May, it’s worth a trip… if only for the pastry/gelato/supermarket experience. Most would notice how grand the paticceria and rest of the building looks. But instead, my dad noticed what kind of light bulbs were used. He’s cute like that.

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Buffalo Tap – Savage

Forget Matt’s.

Forget the 5-8 Club.

Get your Juicy Lucy here – the Parmesan Patty Melt to be exact. Matt’s Lucy is a good dive bar burger that is worth trying, but our burgers at the 5-8 Club were absolutely horrible. On the other hand, the Parmesan Patty Melt Juicy Lucy at the Buffalo Tap is heaven. For those of you who don’t know what a Juicy Lucy is, think of an inside-out burger. It’s one with the yummy, gooey cheese right in the middle. This one is served on Parmesan Encrusted Bread. Need I say more? You just need a little patience because you don’t want to bite into it right away, that cheese will squirt out and burn you. Give it some time to set. Then cut it in half. Drag the chips through any melty cheese that oozes out.

This photo doesn't do this perfect Juicy Lucy justice!

This photo doesn’t do this perfect Juicy Lucy justice!

If that’s not enough of a reason, the bar has a rustic, Minnesota northwoods cabin feel that makes the perfect setting for out-of-town guests. The menu is large with something for everyone. They also serve buffalo, hence the name. And fried cheese curds. As a cheesehead myself, I like to show guests from back home where I watch Packer games when they aren’t on regular TV here in Viking Country. Yep, it’s right here at “The Tap.”

A plus: There are some excellent beers on tap!
A minus: Said beers are often way overpriced.
A plus: You can still get a bottle of Mondavi Cab for $11.95. Not kidding. As my husband would say, “Cheap at the price.”
A plus: They make some of the best Bloody Marys – perfect for game day.

Three pluses over one minus? We’ll take it.

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The Happy Gnome – St. Paul

This is an easy pick for your guests who may have an affinity for beer like we do. Rob stole my brother away on one visit, leaving his other half behind with the kids. They sipped fresh brews and devoured poutine. Oh yeah, this was all just a few days after my back surgery. Maybe he needed to get out, too. 😉

If you’ve had a late night, I’d say get the delectable breakfast sammy the next morning. Best in the Twin Cities! But the folks at this gourmet gastropub change the menu often, so who knows if it’ll be available when you read this. No matter what you order, you should always wash it down with a beer or two that you’ve never had and perhaps may never have again.

Jared's Beer Flight

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Forepaugh’s – St. Paul

Rob likes to describe this experience as “taking someone to your rich uncle’s house.Forepaugh’s is housed in a 19th century Victorian Mansion. You can make it an expensive, fancy evening out, if you’d like. {A lot of special occasion events are held here.} Or you can do what we do: Drop by during happy hour in the bar area and let Joey or Victor wait on you. The bar menu is less expensive and quite good. In fact, we voted them as having best “Toast” in the Twin Cities. You’ll just need to go to find out what that means. And The Double Double Bacon Cheeseburger is on Rob’s Top 10 list. Furthermore, the Deconstructed Banana Cream Pie is a dessert for which you’ll return. It’s an impressive place. Have your guests take a walk around the mansion and check out all levels. Ask the staff about the ghosts.

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Sul Lago – Prior Lake

Perron’s Sul Lago is a no brainer for us, being one of our favorite restaurants and all. Forget Manny’s. Forget Murray’s. {And, yes, we’ve had both.} If you want a steak, come here instead. That being said, let me preface that statement with this: I like filet mignons. The best I’ve ever had in Minnesota is here. My mom said it was the best steak of her life. But I tried a friend’s sirloin and wasn’t as pleased. Maybe that’s because I know how much more I love the filet. Still, the steak sandwich gives Murray’s a run for its money.

It’s a place where the service is great because they leave you alone to linger for hours if you wish, just like they would in Italy. Rob’s favorite pasta – the Sausage and White Truffle Oil – is back on the menu! The food is fantastic, as is the ambiance. And, you’ll find our favorite Bartender, Billy, there, too. He makes the best French Pear.

French Pear Martini: Elderflower liqueur, pear vodka, sparkling wine, lime juice

French Pear Martini: Elderflower liqueur, pear vodka, sparkling wine, lime juice

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Nicollet Mall – Minneapolis

While this technically isn’t a restaurant, it’s a great area in downtown Minneapolis where you can stroll and hop from place to place to try a little bits of what Minneapolis has to offer. We recommend going on a Saturday afternoon when it’s not crazy-busy. Just be sure that there isn’t a Twins game or a big event when you go or that whole lazy-Saturday-afternoon plan will be blown out of the water. We do this because we aim to get a seat for our guests.

Our favorite stops? The Local Irish Pub (duh!), the News Room (especially for the brie cheese curds), Devil’s Advocate (tap beer selection) and Brit’s Pub (rooftop lawn bowling). My husband also found this great map of the Mall and printed out menus for each location for his parents when they were in town. In the evening, The Dakota Jazz Club is recommended for something swanky. We often pop in when they open for a cocktail and some frites before venturing somewhere else down The Mall. Other evening faves include Vincent (French) and Zelo (Italian).

BRIE CURDS DEEP FRIED BRIE, HOMEMADE BLUEBERRY KETCHUP 11.95

Brie Curds – The News Room

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So those are our current picks. And after yesterday’s post, I realize that I should be taking peeps to The Bulldog NE more often. I think we’ve only done that once. Whether they are beer and burger lovers or just like sweets, I’m sure they’ll love it as much as we do.

What are your favorite places to take out-of-town guests where you live?

Cheers~
Carrie

FACES mears park

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My friend Jared and I bought a Groupon deal for a five-course dinner at FACES Mears Park in St. Paul. I had never been there and the menu looked exceptional. Not knowing what is going to be offered at these types of dinners, I have never been able to do these with Rob. You just never know if he’ll be allergic to something that ends up on the plate. We know that they can sometimes accommodate, but Rob never wants to inconvenience anyone with too many exceptions.

Since Jared and I are wineaux friends, this was a perfect night out for us because each course was going to be accompanied by a Wine Pairing!

The service here was fantastic. And what I really loved is that the chef creating our meal that evening came out to explain each and every course.

First Course

Scaloop

Scallop served with a glass of Brut Cava {read: Spanish bubbly}

I absolutely love scallops. And I love it even more when they’re done in an interesting way. The whole bacon-wrapped scallops trend is way overdone. In fact, any bacon and scallop dish has me rolling my eyes. This lone scallop was sandwiched between two flaky pastry-like puffs and a wonderful sauce.

Second Course

Mac & Cheese w/Tempura Shrimp

Mac & Cheese with Tempura Shrimp served with a Vinho Verde from Portugal

I voted this the best Mac & Cheese in the Twin Cities. While this particular dish is not on their menu, it’s a version of their Lobster Mac & Cheese. Whole wheat pasta is used to impart more flavor. Chef also told us that it’s made in the same style as risotto, adding a little at a time and mixing until incorporated, thus giving the dish a richer, creamier texture. Done. I’d order this again in a heartbeat. And while I also roll my eyes at Lobster Mac & Cheese, I’d probably overlook that here just to have this style of Mac & Cheese again!

Third Course

Filet En Croute

Filet en Croute served with a Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon from California

Think Beef Wellington here, but perhaps with a flakier outer crust. If my memory serves me, the meat was a little more well done than either of us were used to, but the sauce was rich and flavorful. By the time I finished, I was stuffed. I knew we had two courses left, but I had no idea one of them was another entrée!

Fourth Course

Seafood Tagine

Seafood Tagine served with a Pinot Noir

Isn’t this one of the most beautiful dishes you’ve ever seen?! Upon the lifting of the lid, the aromas were powerful and tantalizing. This was one dish of which I could tell that our Moroccan chef was most proud. I believe the seafood that day included salmon, halibut and mussels. The broth was intensely flavored with a Moroccan Chermoula. I was so full, but managed to enjoy a few bites. I could sit there and inhale those aromas all day!

Fifth Course

Moscato

Tuxedo, Truffle & Napoleon served with Moscato

This was probably the least satisfying pairing, but I always love me a rich truffle or a flaky, yet creamy Napoleon. I was so full at this point that I was glad these little desserts were only bite-sized.

I was very impressed by this restaurant and hope to return soon. I’m still a little unsure of why this place is called FACES mears park. Is it because the restaurant actually faces Mears Park? Or is it because there is a face as part of the logo? Or is FACES an acronym for something? It could be a combination of these, too. Whatever it may be, I think people would love to know that little tidbit of information. Usually a restaurant name is pretty understandable. But I’m unsure about this one.

The restaurant is run by Executive Chef David Fhima. Fhima’s was a Minneapolis restaurant that was on my wish list years back. But I never made it before it closed. Luckily, I was able to try his food here! Something else I love? From their website:

We source our products mostly from local farms, utilize organic produce and dairy whenever possible and use only grass-fed meats. Our breads, pastries and desserts are made from 100% unbleached, whole wheat flours, honey and turbinado sugar. We never use ANY preservatives or additives.

Gotta love that.

Have you ever wanted to dine somewhere, but learned that it closed before you got the chance?

Cheers~

Carrie

Top 10 Restaurants with the Best Tap Beer Selections in the Twin Cities

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The availability of craft brews has increased throughout the Twin Cities in the last couple of years. It is much less expensive to get a good craft brew these days than it is to get a decent glass of wine!

To round off American Craft Beer Week, Rob and I would like to list our Top 10 Restaurants in the Twin Cities with the Best Tap Beer Selections.

Because we couldn’t even begin to rank these, I’ve put them in alpha order instead.

1) Acadia CafeMinneapolis | Part coffee shop, part restaurant, part bar, this joint is about as eclectic as they get. The motto here: “NO CRAP ON TAP!” And they live by that. There are even a couple on cask. They have a nice selection of local (home), domestic (away) and international (far away) beers. Your favorite isn’t on tap? Not to worry, there’s many more in the bottle.

2) Devil’s AdvocateMinneapolis | While meatballs are the name of the game here, the selection of brews is just as impressive. A bartender told us that they get only one keg of each beer, so they are constantly changing things up! With 40 tap beers, you can’t go wrong. It’s the first time I’ve had a Lambic not out of a bottle.

3) Groveland TapSt. Paul | This is where we first discovered Lucid! They put old tap handles on the wall and ceiling. There were a lot that I hadn’t seen before!

4) Happy GnomeSt. Paul | If we had to name one place the best-of-the-best for tap beer selection in all of the Twin Cities, it would be the Happy Gnome. A new beer menu is printed every day. And sometimes, by the time you get that menu, something will be sold out. It’s not just the fact that they have a large beer menu, it’s the wide variety that makes it stand out from the rest. Seriously, a Guajillo Chile Cocoa Mole beer? Yes, please! If you come visit and like beer, don’t let us forget to take you here.

5) LowryMinneapolis (Uptown) | Excellent Happy Hour prices found here! Beer Selection varied and changing. {I’ve tried some new ones here!} But this hipster place can get busy and doesn’t take reservation.

6) NE BulldogMinneapolis | What doesn’t this place have? Fantastic beer selection {including a rotational firkin!}, food that includes parmesan truffle tater tots and the best cupcakes you’ve never had. Seriously.

7) Pig & FiddleMinneapolis | Truthfully P&F’s older sister restaurant, the Muddy Pig in St. Paul, should be listed here. It was where we were told to go before the Twin Cities knew what craft beer was. However, we haven’t been there since the Surly Bill passed and our palates evolved. So P&F wins. Check out yesterday’s post.

8) RepublicMinneapolis | Republic has two locations. We’ve only been to the newer one in Uptown. It probably has one of the best selections of local beers on tap. Can’t decide what to order? The flight options are very reasonably priced and, in my opinion, the way to go!

9) Town Hall BreweryMinneapolis | Town Hall is the first real brewpub in Minneapolis. {Well, since we’ve lived here.} They not only brew their own beer on the premises, but also offer some others that you probably haven’t had many other places. Can we say Blackthorne Cider from England on tap? It’s where I experienced my first cask beer, too!

10) Lone Oak Grill Eagan |Yes! We’ve got one “South of the River.” Pair that with the Happy Hour burger {which Rob likes better than their regular burger} or the Mac & Cheese with blackened chicken or smoked pork and you are golden…

Where can you find the best craft or local beer selection on tap where you live?

Cheers~

Carrie & Rob

Favorites of the Year…

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If you are looking for some easy Sparkling Wine Cocktails for New Year’s Eve, click here. But because we are closing out one year and opening another, I thought it was only appropriate to recap my “best ofs” on New Year’s Eve. Above, you’ll find a few of my favorite photos of the year.

And soon, I’ll be adding a new tab to the blog. It’ll be one listing our favorite dishes/restaurants in the Twin Cities. However, I won’t put that up until I post Rob’s Top 10 Burger List, which will accompany the Top 10 Fries posted last week.

Until then, here is a list of some of my favorites for the year…

Fave Birch Box Sample: 

Stainiac 2-in-1 Lip & Cheek StainDual purpose – perfect for travel!

Fave New Breakfast:

Magic Smoothie inspired by Kim at Living, Laughing and Losing. Nothing fills me with fruit, veggies and protein so satisfyingly that I feel refreshed than this smoothie!

Magic Smoothie

Magic Smoothie ingredients

90 Second Breakfast Sandwich inspired by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean. Every since I’ve discovered them, I’ve been devouring them on a Thomas Everything Bagel Thin.

After taking a bite of my 90-second breakfast sandwich, Benny Bear appeared.

After taking a bite of my 90-second breakfast sandwich, Benny Bear appeared.

Fave BarkBox Sample:

Fruitables Healthy Dog TreatsPumpkin & Blueberry Flavor – Really? Dog treats can smell this good? {For the record, the dogs loved them, too.}

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Fave Love with Food Box Sample:

San Franola Granola with Raisins – I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this stuff since I tried it. It wasn’t available on the LWF website the last time I checked. So I just checked now. It’s there and on sale! Yup. I bought some. Note: I’m not even a granola nor a raisin girl!

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Fave Goodies Box Sample:

Biscoff Spread – Just read my post to find out why I love this so much. Note: This does not pack the protein like peanut butter. It is truly an indulgent junk food to enjoy in moderation.

Fave Race:

Since I ran my very first race this year, it’s really tough to choose. While the races I did didn’t differ in length {all 5ks and one 5-miler}, I loved that the variety of locations, weather, styles and terrain kept things from getting boring. I loved all of the races that I did for different reasons. I can’t name one that I wouldn’t do again. But if I had to pick one that was a favorite, I guess it would be the Run for the Apples 5 mile race.

That’s right. My longest race was my favorite. Why? I have nothing else to compare it to! I didn’t fret about  my time. I took things slowly and just enjoyed the scenery. I had never run that far for a race. Getting a little cider afterward didn’t hurt either. 😉

I ran for these apples: Haralson Apple + cider

I ran for these apples: Haralson Apple + cider

Fave Restaurant I Tried in 2012:

Naha in Chicago – A real birthday treat.

Fave Local Brewery:

It’s a tie! This year I fell in love with Lucid Brewing out of Minnetonka and Steel Toe Brewing out of St. Louis Park. Check ’em out!

Fave Wine:

I’m still stuck on two faves and haven’t found anything to top them yet. {Feel free to send me some others if you think they will! 😉 }  Topping my list are Opolo Mountain Zinfandel from Paso Robles, California {Thank you, Madeline and Sally!} and Davis Family Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir. Guy Davis knows his Pinot. Period.

Fave Traveling Vineyard Wine:

While there were so many good artisan wines that came and went this year, I’m basing this on what is currently in stock at the time of this writing. And I’m going to surprise those of you who know me well. The Traveling Vineyard has carried this wine before, but this vintage is exceptional:

I rarely drink white wine, nor Chardonnays... But when I do, this will be it!

I rarely drink white wine, nor Chardonnays… But when I do, this will be it!

Fave Liqueur:

This was an easy one! When ordering cocktails, I’ve never gone wrong if there’s some St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur in the glass. This liqueur is floral and fruity without being too sweet.

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Worst Overused Word or Phrase in 2012 that Needs to be Retired:

EPIC – I’m so done with this word. If everything is “epic”, nothing is.

Fave Concert:

This is a tie between my first ever Shovels & Rope show at the 400 Bar and the 10th Anniversary Thanksgiving Eve concert by the Ike Reilly Assassination at First Ave, both in Minneapolis. I’ve been to many Ike shows, but he and his posse played more songs that I’ve never seen live before. This was one of their best performances yet. I will profess that both of these bands are some of the best music you are not listening to.

Best Dinner Out on a Budget:

Technique in Mendota Heights. Three to five-course meals made by Le Cordon Bleu Student Chefs for under $20 – $35 per person? No brainer.

What are your “best ofs” of 2012?

Feel free to use these categories or write your own.

Have a safe and Happy new Year!

Cheers~
Carrie