Tag Archives: Groupon

Devil’s Advocate {Closed}

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This one is long overdue.

We first heard about Devil’s Advocate via a Groupon about a year ago. We’ve been back probably a half of a dozen times since and we don’t live anywhere near downtown Minneapolis. What impressed us first was their rotating tap selection. It’s one of the best in the Twin Cities. On our first visit, the bartender told us that they only get one keg of each beer. So once it’s gone, they switch it up. It’s constantly changing.

Devil's Advocate is the first place where I've had a lambic (frit beer) on tap.

Devil’s Advocate – the 1st place where I’ve had a lambic fruit beer on tap.

We’ve returned on a few occasions, like when we had company in town and wanted to walk around Nicollet Mall {DA is located just a block off Nicollet on 10th Street} and for a late lunch/early dinner reward after our LOST 15k walk. We love to go on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon when there aren’t any big events going on downtown, like a Twins game.

The thing is, I didn’t post on this gem before they changed their menu!

It used to be a nearly all-meatball menu, where you’d choose the protein source of your balls and then the sauce:

Balls & SauceThen you’d choose the number of balls. You could opt for a bowl of balls or ball(s) on a bun.

Number of BallsIt’s one of the few restaurants in the Twin Cities that I know of where you can find my beloved pretzel bun!

That is why I always find myself ordering triple balls:

Pork Balls on a Pretzel BunAfter determining the pork balls were my favorite on the first visit, I continued to order them each time. They are well-seasoned with a nice little kick of spice on the finish. However, my in-laws found them a tad spicy. While I didn’t consider them spicy the first time I had them, I see what they mean. A word of caution for those of you who don’t like too much spice: These meatballs may be considered a bit spicy for Minnesotans. I think that it’s the mushroom sauce that I liked best, too. The sandwich is finished with melted mozzarella. I can’t tell you how satisfying this is. And I never order meatball sandwiches. In fact, it’s not something I ever think of ordering and I probably never would have if they wouldn’t have started out as a meatball joint.

And if you couldn’t make up your mind, they also gave some combo suggestions for their balls:

CombosAnd if you weren’t particularly in the mood for meatballs, there were always appetizers and daily specials:

C-Appetizers

We’ve tried the poutine and mac and cheese

…neither of which were particularly impressive. However, the meat covering the fries is the same meat that is used for their pork balls. That’s a plus.

Rob has also ordered the burger, which he described as “average.”

Burger~

But then, earlier this month, I received an email in my inbox with a link to an article entitled:

“Devil’s Advocate:

This is the Best Philly Cheesesteak in all the Twin Cities”

I didn’t even remember seeing a Philly Cheesesteak on their menu. Then I read the article and learned that their menu had changed. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I liked those meatballs! I sent the article to Rob. He was excited about the new menu and was determined to be the judge of the Philly Cheesesteak himself.

So we did the research…

On a couple of occasions, we had thought that maybe the beer selection at Devil’s Advocate was going downhill. But on this visit, we realized it was our palates that didn’t match the selection on those occasions. Because on this visit, we fell back in love…

Here's one side of the ever-changing beer mendu

This is just the front side of the ever-changing beer menu…

Beers are listed in alpha order by brewery. Let’s zoom in.

Glass SizeYou’ll find the beer listed this way:

Brewer, Name and type and/or style of beerorigin price

Then you get a nice description, which we’ve found, while subjective, is generally pretty accurate. The % ABV is the percentage of Alcohol By Volume. Then they list the style or size of glass in which the beer is served.

Hint: Higher alcohol beers are often served in smaller glasses.

Tip: If you aren’t sure if you are going to like a beer, ask for a taste before you order.

There were so many beers that suited us this time around!

Here’s Rob’s first choice:

Jubilation

Avery, Old Jubilation (Strong Ale) – Boulder, CO

I started with:

Slop Bucket

McNeill’s, Slop Bucket (Double Brown Ale) – Brattleboro, VT

We ordered those before we had a chance to peruse the entire beer menu. And before we even took our first sips, we spotted something on tap that we completely missed!

Then we PumKing

Southern Tier, Pumking (Imperial Pumpkin Ale) – Lakewood, NY

By now, you should know how much we adore this beer. The funny thing is that we aren’t huge into pumpkin-flavored things normally. In fact, I get a little pumpkin-ed out in the blogosphere by winter.

And while there are still meatballs incorporated into the menu, they are no longer the focus:

DAnew1I was looking at ordering the Meatball Hero, but the descriptions are pretty vague. So I asked about the pork balls I loved and if they still had the pretzel bun.

“Yes!” the bartended exclaimed. “That’s our Holy Grail!” I hadn’t even noticed that on the menu. Somehow, I overlooked it. And there is no way I would have known it was on a pretzel bun by that description.

It was heaven.

asdas

HOLY GRAIL – pork meatballs, mushroom, sunday gravy {on a pretzel bun!}

I’m not sure how many meatball sandwiches there are in the Twin Cities, nor do I think I’ve ever ordered one anywhere else. But I’d still have to say this is the best. I was so completely satisfied after this meal. It was near perfection. And that side salad up there? One of the best I’ve had. I subbed it for the fries, which are currently on Rob’s Top 10 Fries List, but I think he may be changing that soon.

And now, what you’ve really been waiting for…

DAnew

Philly Cheesesteak – “South Street Real Deal”

Rob actually let me have a couple of bites of this Philly Cheesesteak, which he agrees is the Best in All the Twin Cities. I concur myself. The bread is crusty on the outside, chewy on the inside and it seems that some of the cheese sauce is poured down on the bread before the meat is laid upon it. Then the meat is topped with the cheese sauce. Even if that isn’t how it’s done, the cheese is so well-distributed that that’s how it tastes like it’s done.

Rob loved the Cheesesteak at the Bulldog in St. Paul just the week before, but this one is even better. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s perfection.

It was either Groupon or another deal site that introduced us to Devil’s Advocate; but it’s the satisfying food and excellent beer selection that keep us coming back.

What meal do you find comforting and satisfying?

Cheers~
Carrie

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The Power of the “Groupon”

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I use the term Groupon rather loosely.

In fact, I use it to describe all dining deals that we buy and use, just like one calls a tissue Kleenex, whether it is that brand or not. So my apologies in advance to all of these Deal Sites that are just as worthy.

Not sure what a Groupon is?

Well, where have you been?! These are deals posted daily that allow you to get half-price or more off of gift certificates to restaurants, salons, gyms, spas, services, etc. For example, restaurant XYZ may have an offer where you can buy a $50 gift certificate to their restaurant for only $25. And boy do these gift certificates hold a ton of power!

What’s the catch? Well, you generally can’t combine them with any other offers, specials or promotions. However, the purpose is to bring you into their restaurant by a specific date. {The promotional value almost always has an expiration date, although the value that you paid for the certificate never expires.}

We love these deals! And while I’ve read some arguments on how they can do more harm than good for businesses, I think it is up to the restaurant to decide where they want to spend their advertising dollars. Because that is what the deal truly is – advertising. People become more aware of these businesses whether they buy the deal or not. For example, I received an email announcing a deal for the Amsterdam Bar and Hall. However, I forgot about it after I got busy doing something else and never decided to buy it. Still, I had never heard of this new establishment before and it intrigued me. So the next time we were in downtown St. Paul, we decided to check it out. And we did. The advertising worked.

That’s Power #1 of the Groupon: Introducing me to new places.

Power #2: Getting me there sooner than later. There are several establishments on our restaurant bucket list that we’d really like to try soon. However, our list of Groupons is extensive and we want to use those up before they expire. Sorry, La Belle Vie, while we do have a grand desire to try you out,  you are on the back burner for now. By buying a Groupon, I’ve essentially already invested in a meal there and I’ve committed to them for redemption!

Power #3: Exposing me to different neighborhoods. Living in a south of the river suburb of the Twin Cities makes it easy to frequent the same nearby places when we want to grab a quick bite. But a Groupon often draws us to other parts of the Twin Cities which we may have never visited otherwise. We are quite the fans of Northeast Minneapolis now! We even have a few places in St. Paul where we’ve become “regulars”.

Do you really buy that many of these, Carrie?

And how do you keep track of them all?

Why, yes. Yes, we do. We have over 30 pending right now. And yes, we use them all before they expire. I do want to offer you some key tips on how to decide which ones to buy {and when to pass}, how to organize and use them before the  promotional period expires and how to use them to splurge a little. {The following tips refer specifically to dining deals, but you can use similar techniques for spa, fitness, household and other deals as well.}

There are so many! Which ones do I buy?

First, sign up to receive the daily deals in your inbox. A list of deal sites in the Twin Cities can be found here. You can set up a “junk” email address, if you’d like. I have an email address that I use when I sign up for newsletters, deals, offers, and when I buy something online. That way, they don’t clutter my regular inbox. However, I do check this email once or twice a day.

If the deal appeals to you, click on it and study the following:

  • Location – Would you be willing to drive to this location?
  • Expiration Date – Check your calendar. Do you have time to get to this location before the expiration date?
  • Menu – Go to the restaurant’s website. Check out the menu. Does anything appeal to you? If not, there is no reason to buy it! A deal has no value if it’s not something you’ll use. {For example, I won’t buy deals from Italian restaurants that only offer spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan and fettucine alfredo. They don’t impress me.}
  • Have you been there before? If not, just buy ONE deal. Nothing’s worse than finding out that a place wasn’t as you had expected and then being stuck with another gift certificate to use there. On the flip side, ff you’ve been there and love the place, only buy as many as you can fit into your schedule before the expiration date.
  • Look at the fine print and exclusions:
    • Most deals state that you can’t use them in conjunction with any other offer or promotion. That’s normal and makes sense for the restaurant’s benefit. However, if you love to go to a place for their happy hour and aren’t excited about anything else on their regular menu, the deal may not be worth it to you.
    • Does the deal exclude alcohol or particular dishes? Some do. When a $50 gift certificate is good for food only, it’s sometimes hard to get to that amount when it’s just my husband and me. To be sure, go back to the menu and check the pricing to make sure you’d be able to spend enough to cover the gift certificate.
    • Some deals are only good Sunday through Thursday. If you can’t get to the other side of town on a weeknight, don’t buy it!
    • Check when the restaurant is open. Sundays and Mondays are the days of the week many restaurants are closed. Make sure that the restaurant is open on the day and during the hours you are planning to visit. Keep in mind that some restaurants serve only brunch on Sundays, too.
    • Is there a minimum purchase? While I don’t see this much with many of the daily deals such as Groupon or Living Social, it is quite common on Restaurant.com. For example, you might need to spend $35 or $50 in order to use your $25 gift certificate. Again, analyze the menu.

Keep your deals organized!

Some people keep track of their deals on their phone with apps for each deal site. I need all of my Groupons in one place. We print out each deal as soon as they become available and put them in an accordion file:

Deals filed by month to use the ones expiring first!

We keep our file o’ deals locked in my car. That way, if for some reason we don’t do our homework and we find a place is closed {we learned this the hard way!} or we want to pop over somewhere else, we can just thumb through our trusty accordion file to see what we have available.

Use your deals before they expire!  {They aren’t deals otherwise.}

  • I keep a spreadsheet. Yes, I’m geeky like that. My spreadsheet includes the name, location, dollar amount, exclusions and expiration date. I keep them sorted by expiration date. However, if I want to use one in a particular city, I can sort that way, too.
  • Use those that expire soonest first. {Both the spreadsheet and file accordion file help with this!}
  • Schedule them on your calendar! We like to put the date we’d tentatively like to visit, but include the expiration date in case we need to change. Some prefer instead to put a reminder on the calendar about a month or two before they are about to expire. Again, remember to watch for holidays when the deal may not be valid and days that the restaurant may not be open.

There are some fun ways to use your dining deals!

  • Dining deals can make your night out seem much less expensive, especially when giving a new place a try.
  • If you normally would order a sandwich, you might want to use your deal to order some higher priced options such as steak or seafood.
  • You could use it to add an appetizer or try a more expensive bottle of wine. My sweet spot for restaurant wines is between $30 – $45. However, when my friend Ceci and I dined at Solera, we got a $65 bottle of Spanish wine when our server’s description had us drooling. We had a $25 gift certificate and since we are fellow wine lovers, splurged in the right place. We found one of our favorite restaurant wines ever! That bottle and that night out is unforgettable.

And of course, always tip on the pre-discounted total of your bill. Your server isn’t working any less for you and gratuity is not included. We try to leave our tips in cash whenever possible.

Dining deals can be worth it if you devise a system for buying and organizing them. Organization is key. In fact, we have at least two Groupons per week “scheduled” in our calendar through the end of July. I’m a geek. I know. But it’s fun. And it works.

What do you love about Groupons and other dining deals?

How do you use them?