Tag Archives: minneapolis restaurant

The Most Highly Anticipated Restaurant in Minneapolis

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As long as I’ve lived here {OMG, has it been 13 years!?}, I’ve never heard so much hype about an upcoming restaurant as I have Spoon & Stable. Naturally, with my love of dining out, I was anxious to try it. My expectations were high!

However, the wait list for reservations was about three months! What is this, New York City? Minneapolis does have an excellent restaurant scene, especially for being the Minne-Apple; but this is generally unheard of in our Twin Cities.

So you can imagine my excitement when my friend Kim picked Spoon & Stable as her choice of restaurant for our monthly Girls Dinner Night Out in January.

We had no reservations, but we had heard that if you arrive at opening, you can get a seat in the bar area. And you know that’s what I prefer!

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We arrived right before opening and there was already a small line. They opened the door to let us in out of the cold. A minute or two later, a few people came in and tried to walk right past us, rather than standing in line. They were trying to get to the bar, thinking we were waiting to be seated for our reservations. I stopped them in their tracks! HA!

It felt like there were 1700 people at the door waiting to greet us. When that happened to Rob and me at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, it felt like we had stepped back in time. It was all part of an experience. Here, it felt overdone. Perhaps it was just because new restaurants tend to be overstaffed at first. Spoon & Stable had only been open a couple of months. Not having worked in the restaurant industry, I’m not sure what the average time frame is to iron out the wrinkles.

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As you know, I’m not expert restaurant reviewer, I just give my impressions. To be quite honest, my posts on restaurants are often just to assist my memory on what we liked or didn’t like… or remind us what we thought looked good so we can order upon return.

Spoon & Stable incorporates a menu that changes with the seasons, which is concept of which I’ve always been fond.

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The night we visited Spoon & Stable was amidst my 10-day Not-a-Detox. This is when I was abstaining from alcohol, cheese, sugar and refined carbs. Normally, I will let things slide for an experience like this. I am a true believer that anything has its place in a healthy diet, as long as it is in moderation. The trouble was, at this point, I wasn’t practicing such moderation. So my 10-day Not-a-Detox was meant to prove to myself that I could live without these trigger foods of mine for 10 days.

While there are no guarantees that what I’d be eating would be without these ingredients, I was going to try my best to work with this menu. This also meant that I was not partaking in any adult beverages. I did scan the wine list, which was quite pleasing. I believe Jen and Kim split a bottle of Pinot Gris from Oregon.

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Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

When the warm bread arrived to our table, I was not going to partake. Then Jen reminded me that it was whole wheat! I ripped off a small piece and indulged.

We assumed that this would be the type of meal where we would want more than an entree. I considered the side order of broccolini, as a healthy choice. {I know, right?!!!} But decided it probably wouldn’t be worth it for $8.

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Instead, we all got starters of some sort. Jen went with a salad.

Belgian Endive Salad pears, stilton cheese, pecans, sherry vinaigrette 9

Belgian Endive Saladpears, stilton cheese, pecans, sherry vinaigrette $9

Kim and I both went with choices from the “Chilled” section of the menu.

Dill Cured Salmon* roasted beets, horseradish, pumpernickel 14

Dill Cured Salmon roasted beets, horseradish, pumpernickel $14

That Dill Cured Salmon dish was so beautifully plated. However, it wasn’t what Kim was expecting. I remember her saying that there was something bizarre about the dish. With our menus gone, it would have helped for the servers to describe the ingredients in the dish when they were delivered to the table. There are always additional, often intriguing, ingredients that aren’t listed on the menu at innovative restaurants like this.

My dish was also a plate of beauty!

Day Boat Scallop Carpaccio* green apple, shiso, chilies, scallion vinaigrette 16

Day Boat Scallop Carpaccio – green apple, shiso, chilies, scallion vinaigrette $16

I am a lover of scallops and can honestly say that I’ve never had them prepared this way before! I was very excited about it; but when I dug in, it took several bites before I got any flavor. “Where are the chilies?” I thought. Well, a few minutes in, I tasted them, but that lasted about two bites. That was kind of a bummer.

As a side note, I love this beautifully written review of Spoon & Stable by Paige from Alcohol by Volume. Although she compares her bar experience to Sitting in Coach, I didn’t exactly feel that way. But maybe I was caught up in my conversation with my girlies. The service was fine; however, I do agree that a bit more dish description would have been nice. I remember us commenting about that while eating. I would say that Tongue in Cheek does a much better job on this front.

Then onto our main entrees. Jen’s was another beautiful plate.

Slow Cooked Atlantic Cod* black garlic, za'atar spice, couscous 25

Slow Cooked Atlantic Cod – black garlic, za’atar spice, couscous $25

Kim and I ordered the same dish:

Grilled Heritage Pork* savoy cabbage, pork crackling, papaya salad, thai chilies 28

Grilled Heritage Pork – savoy cabbage, pork crackling, papaya salad, thai chilies – $28

I have one thing to say about this dish – BORING. It was devoid of all flavor. I wouldn’t order this again. What’s funny is that after we started eating, a server brought this out:

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She said, “You can choose to do what you wish with that! Eat it or not!”

What a strange thing to say. If I remember correctly, she said something about it being the piece off the bone. Huh?! This was the most flavorful meat of the whole dish! If I had a plate of that pork, I’d be recounting my meal differently. Maybe I don’t know what part of the pig it is. Of course, the crackling tasted like pork rinds.

When it was time for dessert, I ordered coffee.  Because of that, I don’t remember what these desserts are that the girls ordered.

I believe Jen really enjoyed hers and Kim wasn’t that impressed. Beautiful, but not memorable. To be honest, none of us were very impressed with our food at Spoon & Stable. So what’s all the hype? We dropped a bunch of dough for some food that hadn’t much flavor.

One of my favorite reviews of Spoon & Stable is by Mpls St. Paul Magazine food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl. She tries very hard to remain honest and neutral in this review.

One particular quote that stuck with me because it mirrored my own thoughts, “But there were more dull dishes than magical ones.” Yeah, that pretty much sums it up for us.

I also love how she says everyone has a different context by which to judge Spoon & Stable. It’s true. I’m not sure what I expected, but I assumed there’d be flavor. That was my context.

A few weeks later, Rob and I used a deal voucher for another restaurant in downtown Minneapolis:

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The voucher included a three-course meal for two at Workshop. Every dish blew me away. It was one of the best meals I had had in a really long time. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos that night. So I can’t give you a true Restaurant Impression. {Their menu changes, too!}

Interestingly, Spoon and Stable has been nominated for a James Beard Award for best new restaurant. That can’t come without merit. But in my world, both the food at Tongue & Cheek and Workshop rank higher than Spoon & Stable. Still, is it fair of me to judge on one visit?

That all being said, I’d go back. I hear that there is a great cocktail program. I’d bring my husband at opening, we’d sit at the bar and maybe order an app or two. That’s what I’d do.

What’s been the most highly anticipated or hyped restaurant where you live?

What were your thoughts?

Cheers~
Carrie

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The Best Wine Bar in Minneapolis

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

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Let’s get right to it. In June, I met up with a Wineaux friend I hadn’t seen in a while. When we were trying to decide where to go, I somehow remembered reading about a wine bar that was deemed “The Best” in Minneapolis. I think I remembered Terzo Vino Bar  because I heard about it from more than one source. It was even cited as one of the “Hottest Wine Bars Across the Country.” Who better to try out a wine bar with than a fellow wine lover?

What I love about Terzo is that not only they do take reservations, but they also “reserve” half of their tables for walk-ins. Anyone wanting to enjoy a glass of wine and some nibbles should be able to do it on a whim, not require a reservation! I love that.

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While waiting for Jaime, I sipped on a glass of Prosecco. I always love to start with a little bubbly when it’s offered by the glass. It was not served in a flute, but a regular wine glass, which may becoming the norm these days. While I’m not sure it’s actually the case, it made me feel like I was getting more vino!

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As I sipped, I perused their menu of small plates to get some ideas for dinner. I always like to check out a restaurant’s menu online before I arrive, but Terzo only posts a sample menu. Their menu can change daily based on what’s fresh, available and in season. That’s another thing I love!

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Then I looked over the wine list. It’s all Italian and very extensive! It’s also not listed online. But Terzo does boast a 1000-bottle cellar and around 40 wines by the glass on any given day. I like to think I know a thing or two about wine; but this list made my head spin! There was so much that was new and unfamiliar to me. It’s another reason why I love wine. There is always something new to learn, try and taste! Here are just a few pages of the list:

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There was also a list of beers that I knew would please my husband. And at this point, this was the first time I found my beloved local Indeed LSD Honey Ale on a restaurant menu! {I later found it on tap at Red Cow!}

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When Jaime arrived, she was just as overwhelmed as me by the wine list. Since I had the chance to overhear the servers tending to other guests while I was waiting, I knew how knowledgeable they’d be. They answered difficult questions about wines on the list and used descriptors that I wouldn’t have even thought to use before! I was impressed.

We chose a bottle at our price point and asked our server, who probably could have passed as Ryan Gosling’s brother, for some advice based on our usual preferences. Jaime and I tend to like big, bold reds best. Ryan’s brother recommended a wine just around $40. Of course, I thought I took a photo of the label, but Jaime’s beautiful mug is as close as we’ll get. 😉

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I believe it was a Super Tuscan called Lagone Aia Vecchia. And if I remember correctly, it was a blend of cabernet, merlot and sangiovese.

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Honestly, it is the best wine I’ve had in a restaurant at this price point! I am generally disappointed when spending that much money on a bottle when dining because it usually means I’ve chosen something something mediocre, sweet or without character. But, this time, our server nailed it.

We decided to order as we went, sharing plates. It was perfect! And it was something that’s not always easy to get Rob to do with me. But one thing Rob would like, is the placement of the silverware. He doesn’t like his touching the table. He always moves them to his napkin. But look at this!

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We started with the trio of bruschetta, which was just divine:

{bruschetta trio}
tomato & egg yolk, truffle mushroom,
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I didn’t get photos of everything because I was too busy sipping wine and catching up with Miss Jaime! We did enjoy another small plate of asparagus with burrata, though. You know they had me at burrata.

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And finally, we split an entree. When it comes to steak, I prefer a medium-rare filet. But I was feeling all adventurous, so I agreed to share the flat iron steak cooked to Jaime’s (less rare) liking. The steak was exquisite and I was surprised how much I loved it. It would be really difficult not to order that next time!

Our entire shared meal seemed seamless. Because the kitchen knew we were sharing everything, each dish came out with the food cut at a nice angle for easy splitting. It didn’t ruin the presentation nor did we have to massacre the beautiful dishes ourselves.

Of course, we couldn’t help but end with dessert. I took no notes, so who knows what flavors these were back in June. But who can go wrong with chocolate! All I remember is that we loved it. Terzo 17

So is this the Best Wine Bar in Minneapolis? I would have to say…

Absolutely, YES!

No, it doesn’t have the variety of wines from all around the world. But then again, by specializing in one area, they can focus on doing it right. And they do. The staff is well-trained and the I felt absolutely spoiled. Jaime and I spent way more money than we had expected to; but we had no complaints about the food, wine, nor service. In fact, it was perfect.

Terzo is also where I chose for my birthday dinner this year. You’ll have to wait to hear all about that Next Wine Wednesday.

What is the best wine bar you’ve been to?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Chili & Burgers at The Loon Café

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About a month ago, Rob and I were off to a concert in downtown Minneapolis and were looking for a place to dine pre-show that was within walking distance of the venue.

Enter The Loon Café

I’d been there probably ten years back, but only stopped for drinks. I don’t even think I lived in Minnesota quite yet. Perhaps I was visiting a friend? I didn’t really remember much about it, except that it was one of those really packed bars you go to… like when you’re in college.

I believe this place has been around since the 80s. By the looks of the interior, I don’t think much has changed. But that shouldn’t keep you from going there. In fact, one of the reasons Rob and I chose The Loon {which it is affectionately called here in Mpls} was that it has earned awards for its chili and burgers!

We decided to be the judge of that.

I checked out the menu online prior to our visit. If we had the Internet in the 80s, then this is probably what the website would look like! No, that’s not quite right. An 80s website would be all DOS and dot matrix, right?! But their website (like my blog) does need a bit of an overhaul. {Any takers!?} I don’t think it’s a priority for them, though. Based on their downtown Minneapolis location, within easy walking distance of the Target Center and Target Field, they’ll get traffic whether they updat their website or not.

Still, there was no online beer or drink menu.

We arrived pretty early before our show, but the place was already pretty busy due to the NCHC Frozen Faceoff taking place at the Target Center that evening. {That’s the National Collegiate Hockey Conference Tournament, for those of you who are wondering.} Many of those sporting their University of North Dakota apparel were already half in the bag having a good time. Despite the fact that The Loon is by no means tiny, the crowd made me feel kind of like we were at a small town bar. Good people watching, for sure.

Luckily, we were able to pull up two seats to the bar.

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Drinks

The first thing we had to figure out was what to order to drink. There are no lists of beer selection online, so we weren’t sure what to expect. Due to the growing American craft beer movement in Minnesota, many bars and restaurants in Minneapolis have a  pretty decent selection. Such is not the case at The Loon. If you are visiting Minnesota or Minneapolis for that reason and only have a bit of time, this is not the place to stop. Here, you will find the local Summit EPA and Grainbelt Nordeast, which are proper, somewhat-historic local representations in their own right. They just really aren’t my style, nor what I would consider “craft” brews.

For those of you looking for that online beer or drink menu, here is what was offered on March 21, 2014:

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The Loon Drink Menu – March 2014

I see now that they had Fulton {an excellent Minneapolis craft brewery} on tap! It must have been the Lonely Blonde, because if it were the Sweet Child of Vine IPA, Rob would have ordered it. {Besides, there is no way Rob is going to order a “Lonely Blonde” at a bar with me sitting right next to him! Tee hee.}

As an aside, The Loon is the home of The Grape Ape, a shot made with vodka and a Minnesota grape soda. As much as Rob loves grape soda, he refused to order one. I mean, as a Packer fan, who would drink that purple stuff? 😉 I love that man.

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Food

I knew that I’d be getting the chili that night. {And it was the perfect night for it.} But my biggest question was which one to get! Decisions, decisions. Really, when you offer five different chilies on a menu, there should be something else you offer:

A Chili Flight!

Am I right?!

Because that is what I would have ordered! I love that there are so many different, regional styles of chili in the U.S. and that everyone is so passionate about how chili is supposed to made. To be honest, I’ve never really found a chili that I didn’t like. In Northeast Wisconsin, I grew up with spaghetti noodles in my chili. I didn’t know that noodles weren’t always in chili until I moved just a few hours west to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to go to college. My Minnesota friends laughed at me that this was the trend that I knew!

I believe the chili that won the most awards for The Loon is the Pecos River Red Chili. They even serve it over at Target Field now. I’m going to have to remember that if I ever end up at a game there on a chilly {get it!?} or rainy day. I felt like that’s the chili I should have ordered at The Loon that night. But I wasn’t feeling it. I know that traditional Texas-style chili calls for it, but there’s something about cubed steak in my chili that turns me off. Maybe it’s the chance that the meat can be tough?

So here were my chili options:

Pecos River Red (Served at Target Field) Their only chili that can be ordered mild, medium or hot. “Lean cubed sirloin steak and onions along with Tex-Mex spices and chile peppers. A classic Texas-style chili.”

Dirty Pork Stew A green chili pork stew loaded with onions, chiles, tomatoes, lean hand-cut chunks of pork in a delicious spicy garlic sauce. As served at the LaTolteca Tortelleria in Azusa, California for over forty years. We top it with cheese, green onions and sour cream. Served with flour tortillas.”

Pinto’s Diablo ChiliA Minnesota-born chili, created by Pinto, “this is a ground beef, kidney bean and veggie chili that is very hearty and pleasantly spiced.”

Veggie Chili A wonderful medley of veggies and beans simmered in a sweet-hot tomato base. Topped with green onions. Served with jalapeño corn bread & tortilla chips.”

Chicken Chili ala Ski-Dad A thick, rich, spicy blend of chicken, peppers, onions and green chiles served with jalapeño cream cheese, green onions and fresh warm tortillas.”

All chilis are $5.75 for a cup and $8.95 for a bowl.

I was having one of those days when I couldn’t make up my mind {aka most days}. I requested the advice of the bartender. He raved about all of them; but the one that stuck out when he was describing them was the Chicken Chili. And I’m so glad I ordered it!

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Chicken Chili ala Ski-Dad

This chili hit the spot for me, especially with the yummy jalapeno cream cheese. I would get it again in a heartbeat! But I still wish I could have tried them all. Should we start a petition for a chili flight? Who’s in with me?

Rob’s mission was to judge the Loon Burger – “Our unique, large, lean ground beef patty served on either a Sourdough or Black Russian Rye bun. Specify add-ons of mayonnaise, tomato, onion, lettuce and cheese (American, Swiss, cheddar or hot pepper). Great with cajun spices!”

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Burger Loon on sourdough with cheddar, onion, mayo and cajun spices.

I was surprised when Rob chose to have his burger served on sourdough, as much as he loves rye. But it was like a sourdough baguette! The burger was pretty darn good. Not Top 10 good, but very good enough that either of us would order them again. Rob said that the meat quality was excellent and obviously shaped to the baguette. But overall, he found the flavor pretty bland. I didn’t realize this until I remembered that he ordered Cajun spices. I didn’t taste those at all. And fries? Just average, according to the fry-master.

Overall, The Loon offers mostly bar-style food. But I think the chili and burgers are the way to go here. If you are in from out of town and want to try a little “Minnesota Cuisine,” you might want to go with some creamy Wild Rice Soup. It’s perfect on a cold day. And if you’ve never had walleye before, give that a try, too.

What is the traditional style of chili where you live?

What is your favorite style of chili?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

The Most Underrated Pizza in the Twin Cities

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While we were gallivanting about Nordeast Minneapolis one beautiful Saturday afternoon, we were in such of some grub. As we passed by Element Wood Fire Pizza, I wondered why I hadn’t heard of it before. As Rob drove, I looked up Element’s menu online. It sounded delicious. So tell me again, Why hadn’t I heard of this place before?

In the Twin Cities, we all know about Punch, about Black Sheep, about Pizzeria Lola, about Pizza Lucé. I’d never heard of Element. Maybe you have. Maybe I’m just clueless.

But when Rob’s first choice to dine didn’t pan out, I began reading him the menu from Element. He conceded {either because it sounded good to him, too, or he just wanted to shut me up.}

It’s a tiny joint with maybe a half of a dozen tables. I imagine that they get more to-go and Bite Squad orders. It’s located in a part of Nordeast where lots of condos and apartments are situated. I can imagine taking a short walk to pick up a wood-fired pizza like this any day!

You order at the counter. Once your pizza is assembled, they put it in the wood-fire oven. If you are eating in, take a seat. They’ll bring your pizza out when it’s ready.

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There are a few beers on tap, but we ordered a bottle of wine because their prices were very reasonable.

I loved the simple names of the types of pizzas on their menu. They follow the Element theme, too:

  • Element
  • Water
  • Fire
  • Wind
  • Earth
  • Nordeast – They had to make one of these, of course!

And there are many more. It was hard to choose. Rob first considered the Primo which was made with olive oil, mushrooms, garlic and mozzarella. He then decided against it because he thought that to make that one work, a pizzeria would have to do it really well and he wasn’t sure about this place yet. Instead, he chose the Nordeast.

Nordeast - sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms & oregano

Nordeast – sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms & oregano

The crust was perfectly done, especially for Rob, who doesn’t like the burnt bubbles on the crust edges found on many wood-fired pizzas. Everything had very good flavor! But then we tried mine…

Earth - artichokes, salami, garlic & basil

Earth – artichokes, salami, garlic & basil

I ordered this one because I fell in love with salami on pizzas when we were on The Honeymoon in Italy. I don’t see salami as a pizza topping option very often in the U.S.

Rob immediately had pizza remorse.

This one had even more flavor! The garlic and fresh basil did it. Rob was kicking himself because why on Earth {ha ha!} would he order a pizza without garlic?! I offered to share my pizza and all was right with the world. The salami was a little different and not as flavorful as I’ve had in Italy, but I wasn’t complaining. The pizza here is still underrated!

Of course, we took leftovers home. And I didn’t do the pizza the injustice of putting it in the microwave when we ate them. Instead, I set the oven to 350, brushed the crust with garlic olive oil and baked the slices for about five minutes or so. It was devine. And Rob got his garlic after all.

Sure, Pizzeria Lola is still our favorite. Punch still makes a killer classic Neapolitan. But Element is a pizzeria that shouldn’t be left in the dust. They use fresh ingredients and have pizzas with flavor. That impromptu visit was worth every morsel. Our only gripe? The wine was warm, almost hot. It’s hot in there with that pizza oven! A wine fridge may be in order.

In your opinion, what’s the most underrated restaurant where you live?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

Pizzeria Lola

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In December, I chose Pizzeria Lola for our girls’ dinner night out. The girls were kind enough to let my husband crash, too. I’d wanted to try Pizzeria Lola for a while, but I knew that I didn’t want to go with just Rob. A pizza place like this calls for a group so that you can try several pies!

*A special thanks to my friend Jen for the photos. I forgot my iPhone that night, so we used hers instead.*

We arrived pretty early on a weekend night and the place was already packed. Lola does not accept reservations nor call ahead seating. But they do deliver! We were led to the bar area where we could order a drink while we waited.

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There wasn’t a seat available, otherwise we would have eaten at the bar. The tap selection isn’t big, but the majority offered that night were local brews!
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There’s a very nice selection of wines, too.

It was hot in there with the pizza oven going full force in the middle of the room. At least we had a ledge to set our beer and/or water down while holding our jackets.

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Quarters were cramped standing near the bar as people made their way down this hallway to get to the photo booth:

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For $3, you can get a ticket for a three-shot strip printed in duplicate – one to keep and one to hang on the wll at the pizzeria:

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We really didn’t wait that long. But even if we had, it’d be worth the wait! As we perused the menu, all of the pizzas sounded absolutely delicious. We finally decided that we would each select a different pizza, so we would have the opportunity to try four different ones.

I loved that we all had different mismatched plates, like the coffee mugs at The Lowry:

 

And now the reason we were there – The Pizzas:

My Sha-Roni!* house red sauce, mozzarella, natural-casing pepperoni & house-made fennel sausage 15

My Sha-Roni! – house red sauce, mozzarella, natural-casing pepperoni & house-made fennel sausage – $15

The Forager crimini, shitake, and portabella mushrooms, taleggio, fontina, tarragon & truffle oil 15.5

The Forager – crimini, shitake, and portabella mushrooms, taleggio, fontina, tarragon & truffle oil – $15.50

The Iowan La Quercia prosciutto, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic confit & arugula 15.5

The Iowan – La Quercia prosciutto, ricotta, mozzarella, garlic confit & arugula – $15.50

La Creme Italian red sauce, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream, olive oil & basil 11

La Creme – Italian red sauce, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream, olive oil & basil – $11

Every pizza was excellent and worth the price {unlike the ones we tried at The Mason Jar}. But, by the far, the favorite of the group was the La Creme. You can’t go wrong with that one!

We loved Pizzeria Lola so much that when Rob and I hosted New Year’s Eve at our place, Kim had the brilliant idea of ordering some Lola and picking up the pizzas to-go on the way over to our place. GENIUS! Happy New Year to us.

Oh… and don’t forget dessert. Kim was recommended the house-made soft serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil by a friend. I thought it sounded weird…

 

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House-made Soft Serve – Featured Flavor – Mexican Chocolate (left) and Vanilla with extra virgin olive oil and fleur de sel (right)

But it was soooo good! You must order it!

You won’t be disappointed if you visit Pizzeria Lola, even if you have to wait. Which, undoubtedly, you will.

Tip: It’s hot in there. But I’m sure the “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service” policy applies. So dress in layers. I’m a freeze baby. But even I would consider wearing a tank top here in winter.

Over the few years it’s been in business, Pizzeria Lola has receive quite a few accolades. Best pizza in the Twin Cities? It has my vote. It doesn’t hurt that owner Ann Kim named it for her dog, too. 😉

What’s your favorite specialty pizza?

Ever have olive oil on your ice cream?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Spooning the River…

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I never did post on the time we had a girls’ night dining at Sea Change, a restaurant known for its sustainable seafood and one of the Top Chefs in America last year. Maybe it’s because I was savoring a rare evening dining at a seafood restaurant. Or maybe it’s just a given to dine there. It’s a well-known, top Minneapolis restaurant and perfect if you are seeing a show at The Guthrie Theater {affectionately just called The Guthrie around these parts} and want a nice, swanky night out.

But if you are looking for a place that is just as tasty, but more casual, head yourself across the street to Spoonriver. Located just next to the Mill City Farmers Market, Spoonriver is a restaurant serving local, organic and sustainable fare with lots of options for vegetarians.

Even after the few times I’ve walked past the place, it took us a Groupon Living Social deal to get us there. Truth be told, I wasn’t really sure what the place was about. The deal prompted me to visit their website to read more about them and check out the menu online. I was sold.

What really took me by surprise was the list of craft cocktails at Spoonriver. I knew I’d be ordering one, but which one to choose? I narrowed it down to two: the Pear Ginger Martini (house infused ginger vodka, La Poire Grey Goose, Cointreau, Domaine Canton, Prosecco) and the Elderberry Negroni (Miller’s Gin, MN Elderberry juice, Campari, sweet vermouth.) {Yes, I bypassed all of those St. Germain cocktails on the menu. I wanted something different!}

Our knowledgeable bartender noted that the Pear Ginger Martini would be a sweeter and the Elderberry Negroni would be tart. So what did I do? Since Rob was driving, I sipped on the Elderberry Negroni before dinner and had the Pear Ginger as dessert! {At the advice of our bartender again, of course. I know, she twisted my arm.}

Elderberry Negroni

Elderberry Negroni

I have to say that the drinks were beautiful! Since we were sitting at the bar, we had the opportunity not only to see all of the cocktails being made, but also smell them! I kept thinking, “I wonder what that is? It smells so good!”

Rob’s choice was the Ophelia – Tanqueray Gin, Grand Marnier, Creme de Violette, lemon.

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Ophelia

Have you ever had Creme de Violette before? We’ve tried it once, in an Aviation at the old Nick & Eddie. {Oh how we miss that place!} Creme de Violette made from very specific violets and is very hard to find. So when Rob saw a cocktail with it on the menu, it was an easy choice.

We got to Spoonriver early, but the place started getting busy quickly. The restaurant is long and narrow, which gave me the impression, at first, that it was bigger than it really is. Make sure you either get there early or make a reservation.

For a moment, I felt like I was at the airport, because I noticed a kiosk with items available to-go. These are perfect for impromptu picnics along the river! What a fantastic idea. But who knows about these?

The food really does shine here, too. Rob found his Grass-Fed Burger quite tasty and impressive, despite the tortilla chips on the side. Not only did I find my Savory Crêpe Special of the Day delicious, but beautiful, too. Inside was warm goat cheese goodness with some veggies and flavorful herbs. I didn’t think to snap a picture until I already dug into this delight that reminded me of France:

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Apparently, during the Farmers Market hours, Spoonriver has an outdoor stand where they offer their sweet and savory crêpes as well. I wouldn’t turn one of those down.

One of the things I like about Living Social, is that sometimes after you’ve redeemed a voucher, they send an email asking what you thought of the restaurant. I gave the restaurant a “Thumbs Up” and commented, “The most colorful plates I’ve ever seen. The food was superb and love the cocktail menu! Thanks.”

I think this is the first time I ever got a reply from the restaurant!

Thank you for your kind words, Carrie! We’re happy to hear you had a positive experience dining at Spoonriver & enjoyed our creative plating :). I’ll pass along the compliments about our cocktails list to our Bartenders as well. We hope to see you again soon! Sincerely, Katie, Manager  

I don’t know whether the name Spoonriver was given because the restaurant is off the Mississippi {just a short walk!} or because you’ll be  spooning up some yummy goodness along said river in Minneapolis. Or maybe it’s for another reason entirely. All I know is that high quality, affordable, delicious meals and cocktails can be had here, whether you are taking a walk along the river, enjoying the Farmers Market or are off to a show.

Tip: Arrive early for dinner and then take your chances on “rush” tickets at The Guthrie!

 Question for you:

Crêpes – Sweet or Savory?

Cheers~
Carrie

The Tangiers & The Martini

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I have no photos for today’s post because, frankly, the photos I’d take of The Tangiers would not do this gorgeous venue any justice. It was dark when we arrived, too, which created the perfect ambiance. But I do highly recommend that you click here and take the “Tour” of The Tangiers to see how beautiful it truly is…

What drew us to this place? A Groupon… for dinner. But it definitely has a more lounge-like vibe to it. In fact, on Saturdays, it doesn’t open until 6pm. We had no idea what to expect or how busy it would be, so we arrived at opening.

The extravagant decor absolutely wowed us.

I felt like we were stepping back into the 20s. Rob commented how there had to be a lot of money in the leather alone. The lighting created the perfect ambiance for a backdrop of a romantic date. Although, I have no idea what the place is like during the busiest hours… Is it calm and relaxed? Does the music change to something more upbeat that would turn this lounge into more of a club?

But we were there for the food.

At first glance,  when walking in to such gorgeously stunning space with luscious red velvet curtains, sparkling chandeliers, rich leather couches, you’d think the food here was an afterthought.

But it’s not.

As usual, we pulled a couple of seats up to the bar. And because I felt like I was entering the era of The Great Gatsby, I knew this was a place for a cocktail. {They call these “potions” during Happy Hour. I love that!}  In fact, there is even a martini on the menu called The James Gatsby made with Maker’s Mark, simple syrup and mint leaves. I chose the signature cocktail – The Tangiers with vodka, prosecco and, yes, you guessed it – St. Germain.

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A little sidebar here… Speaking of St. Germain and speaking of the 20s, a couple of weeks ago we got The Great Gatsby on Netflix. Rob surprised me by picking up ingredients and making cocktails to complement the film. My man really knows me, because this is what he made:

Left Bank Martini

1½ parts Gin
1 part St-Germain
1 part Sauvignon Blanc

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a lime zest twist, if desired.

Well, I loves me a dirty martini from time to time, too. But sometimes, they are just a little too dangerous. The Left Bank was, too, if only because they were so delicious! But the room wasn’t spinning. That was Baz Luhrmann‘s camera work.

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The menu at The Tangiers is very small. When I looked for it online, I thought that what I found was maybe just their bar menu or a sampling of their dishes. But that was it. It didn’t matter to me. There was only one thing I was looking to try:

Burrata Salad

“Heirloom tomatoes and avocado tossed with basil served with a rich cream-infused mozzarella ball”

Now I absolutely adore Burrata, but the way that this was presented and the marriage of flavors made me fall in love with it all over again. For being in the middle of winter, I was quite impressed by the ripeness and flavor of the tomatoes, too.

Rob ordered The Tangiers Flatbread – pulled pork, diced onions, housemade barbecue sauce drizzled with Sriracha aioli – which he thought would be just an appetizer before going elsewhere. But he found it so delicious that it filled him up. And he didn’t even eat all of it!

Have I mentioned yet how much I loved the decor and ambiance here? I kind of wanted to stay to find out what the place ended up like as it got busier… But that would be way, too many martinis. In any case, it was a cool place to feel like we stepped back in time and that we were experiencing a little bit of elegance, even if only for a little while.

The Tangiers would make a lovely stop for a romantic date. It might also be fun to treat some out-of-town guests for a cocktail. But I’m not sure I could walk in The Tangiers for just a drink.

There’s no doubt that I would have to get the Burrata.

What is your favorite kind of martini?

Cheers~
Carrie