Tag Archives: dining out

How to Choose a Restaurant for Restaurant Week


Restaurant Week is happening soon in the Twin Cities! 

July 20th – 25th

And while passing through my hometown this weekend, we learned that Green Bay is hosting a Restaurant Week soon as well: July 10th – 17th. Check it out at GBRestaurantWeek.com.

Restaurant Week is offered a few times per year in many cities throughout the U.S. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy three-course lunches or dinners at $15 – $30 per person.

We’ve taken advantage of  Restaurant Week a time or two, sometimes multiple times in one week! In the Twin Cities, there are so many options. How do you choose!? Here are some tips on how to narrow them down. Most of us can only afford to take advantage of one or two. So, let’s make the most of it!

How to Choose a Restaurant for Restaurant Week:

Dates and Locations

What dates are you available? Do you want to have lunch or dinner? Restaurants all over the Twin Cities Metro area participate in Restaurant Week. Living South of the River, I’m not going to want to dine in the northern suburbs and fight rush hour traffic on a weeknight. Are you available for lunch during the week? This is a time for a real deal!

Try Something New (or stick with a favorite!)

One of our rules when choosing a restaurant for Restaurant Week is that it must be a place where we’ve never dined before. This is a restaurant’s opportunity to showcase its signature dishes and win you over! On the other hand, if your favorite restaurant is participating in Restaurant Week and offering your favorite dish, by all means, take advantage.


This is by the far the biggest determinant for us when choosing where to dine. It is important that you look at the Restaurant Week Menu online before deciding. Many chefs choose their most popular dishes or items that represent them the best to introduce you to their cuisine and give you a true taste of what makes them unique.

However, for some reason, other restaurants seem to offer boring selections. For example:

Appetizer: Caesar Salad or French Onion Soup

Entrée: Sirloin or Spaghetti & Meatballs

Dessert: Chocolate Cake or Strawberry Cheesecake

Really? That’s all you’ve got?

While these menu items certainly can be made really well, I want to taste the creativity and the character of the restaurant. When it comes to showcasing your menu, spice it up. In fact, SEASON IT ALREADY!

We don’t even bother with the restaurants who don’t list their menus. And of course, if you have any dietary restrictions, make sure that you can eat what is offered. Most restaurants won’t deviate from the three-course menu during Restaurant Week, but it doesn’t hurt to call and ask for substitutions if it’s a place you really want to try.

Make Reservations

Due to the extreme value and the popularity of Restaurant Week, it’s highly recommended that you make reservations. Not all restaurants will accept them, though. In those cases, call ahead, arrive during “off” hours or prepare to wait.

Then, enjoy a truly memorable experience dining out that you may not have otherwise!

Which restaurant would you try during Twin Cities Restaurant Week?

Which restaurant do you think we are going to try? 😉


It Feels Like Vacation…


You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been participating in the Food & Fitness linkup the last couple of weeks. That’s because we haven’t been home!

Well, actually, we are at home.

We aren’t on vacation, but it feels like we are on vacation. {Well, except for going to work 7:30am – 4pm weekdays.}

People, we have been out every night for the last week and a half. But I’m not complaining! I was looking back this weekend, wondering how I could get a hold of this runaway season and realized that this feels sort of like vacation. We are going out to dinner, meeting friends {old and new} and discovering new parts of our cities.

Instead of being stressed about when I’ll get those holiday cards out {sometime this week} and when I’ll finish Christmas shopping {almost done}, I’ve decided to embrace and relish in every moment I have with all of these friends we’ve made time to see. That’s the reason we planned it, isn’t it?! ‘Tis the season to be grateful for all of those important people in our lives.

In the past week, I have:

And it isn’t ending. My husband and I have something planned every night up until we leave for Green Bay for Christmas. And then I have planned to meet up with long {but not lost!} friends and family while we are there.

And I’m very happy about it!

Unfortunately, I haven’t been getting any fitness into my routine. Surely, there is no excuse. But I’m grateful that it’s making me realize that I need to make it a priority once “vacation” is over.


Because I won’t be home even one night this week, I made lunches on Sunday and plans for potential breakfasts throughout the week:

  • Breakfasts: PB Toast OR granola with milk OR protein bar OR scrambled eggs with spinach
  • Lunch: Every lunch this week will consist of: cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, two halos, applesauce and a piece of dark chocolate
  • Dinner: This means that at dinner, my plan is to get in as many veggies as possible.

What do you slow down to embrace and enjoy the holiday season?


Don’t Order the House Wine!


Seriously. Don’t do it.


Well, unless, of course, it’s one you like. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Still, you may think you are saving by ordering the cheapest wine on the menu; but did you know that the cheapest wine is usually the most marked up?

Knowing that many people order the least expensive wine available, restaurants often make sure that their house wine is the cheapest they can get and sell it for the highest price possible. So it’s the worst value on the menu.

You are paying extra for the lowest quality.

If I’m going to spend calories on wine, I want it to be good stuff. I’m not talking about $100 bottles here. I’m talking about a decent value. As you may know, I’m all about quality over quantity!

House wines are generally ordered in bulk and come from those large 1.5 liter bottles or even a box. {To be honest, the stuff coming from the box is often better because you know it’ll be fresh!}

Of course, there are some exceptions.

For example, the house wine in a former Twin Cities restaurant was a blend that came directly from the Francis Ford Coppola winery. They got the wine by the barrel and tapped it. It was pretty decent for a house wine.

I know it’s tough to shell out money for wine in restaurants these days with such high prices. However, if you want a better bang for your buck, I’d like to offer you the following advice:

Choose the 2nd or 3rd least expensive wine on the menu.

It’s almost always a better value. Sometimes, the wine at this price point is such a good value that the owner or sommelier drinks it at home as their every day wine or offers it as their own “house wine” when company drops by.

Of course, if you really enjoy the house wine on a particular restaurant’s menu, by all means, order it. I won’t judge.

Just know that you’ll be getting the least quality wine on the menu for the most amount of money. The fact that it’s the restaurant’s least expensive wine is deceiving. For an extra dollar or two per glass, trying something else is worth the splurge.

How do you choose a wine on a menu when you are dining at a restaurant?

Do you have a “House Wine” you serve to guests at your own home?

If so, what is it?


Wine vs. Beer


Things sure have changed in the Twin Cities since I moved here in 2002 and met my husband-to-be in 2003. He had moved here, too, from Seattle. It was quite a change for him not having a bunch of craft brews on tap. His best bet for local beer in the Twin Cities at the time was Summit.

I was more of a wine girl teaching him about wine and he was beer guy turning me into a beer snob.

Carrie meets Rob.

Carrie meets Rob.

Then came the Surly Bill.

Surly is a local craft brewery established right around 2005/2006. The vision to expand into a brewery/restaraunt where they would serve their own pints challenged Minnesota laws. But the bill passed in the spring of 2011.

And many local artisan and craft breweries have been popping up all over the Twin Cities since.

We are so spoiled now!

It used to be that when we’d dine out, we’d order a bottle of wine. However, over the past few years, I’ve learned that the quality has gone down. It’s really hard to find a good value when enjoying wine with a meal.

You all know that I prefer quality over quantity. However, finding a quality wine by the glass is virtually unheard of {more detail on this in the coming weeks}. But most “value” wines by the bottle average about $40 in a restaurant. That’s about $8 to $10 per glass. And buying by the bottle is always the better way to go because you know that the wine hasn’t been sitting around open for days or weeks on end. Besides, most wines by the glass average $7 {if you’re lucky} to $12.

Here in the Twin Cities, local tap beers are a much better value. Well, it’s always been a better value if you are Michelob Golden Draft Light drinker. However, if you want an adult beverage with character to go with your meal, go for a pint of something different.

Ales, nut browns, IPAs, porters and stouts can be intimidating to those who haven’t tried them before. But when you are in a restaurant, there is no better opportunity to try them out, especially here in the Twin Cities. Why?

  • I’ve never had a bar nor restaurant not allow we to have a sample {just a taste} of a beer from the tap before ordering it. In fact, I often forget about it and they offer me one if I inquire about a beer.
  • It’s cheap. Pints these days run about $4 to $7 each. This is much cheaper than a mediocre glass of wine. Some higher alcohol beers will come in smaller glasses, but there’s no complaining as to why.
  • They may not advertise it, but a many bars/restaurants will offer a half-pint.
  • Furthermore, if there are lot of different kinds of beers on taps, a flight or a beer sampler is often offered for a surprisingly low price. Try many styles at once. It’s great for people like me who just can’t decide!
  • Whenever possible, support the locals.

Since beer can be confusing, I will be talking about specific beer types and maybe even reviewing local breweries over the coming months.

But don’t worry, my heart still lies with the wine. It’s just that there’s lots of local crafts to choose from on tap right now when I’m out. And for four pints of excellent local beer, we’ll pay $16 – $28 versus $40 for a bottle of mediocre wine sporting four glasses? It’s kind of a no brainer.

Right now, I’m in beer country… and I’ve learned well that I should drink wine in wine countries and beer in beer countries.

How ’bout you? Beer or Wine? Why?