Tag Archives: restaurants

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?


Old Town Temecula


We arrived in Temecula on a late Monday afternoon and checked into our suite at South Coast Winery. It was too late to begin Wine Tasting. Most wineries close at 5pm. So we took the time to pick up a few provisions at Baron’s Market {We love this place and wish we had one near us!} and then headed down to Old Town for some dinner. We had originally planned to drive down to Escondido to visit Stone Brewery and try out some recommended Carne Asada there, but we were just too beat from the L.A. traffic to drive anywhere further. We liked feeling settled at home base.

I don’t know why I never thought of Temecula as reminding me of the Old Southwest. But, duh, we were in the Southwestern part of the U.S.

And I definitely got that vibe when we ventured into Old Town. While I doubt (m)any of the buildings date back to those days, the architecture of the quarter still retains that character.

And because all of my California vacation posts are going to be out of order, you won’t mind if I tell you about the end of our evening in Old Town first, right? As we were driving away in the night, I noticed a building on the hill, that was lit up, almost glowing, in a pink hue.

“That must be something an important!” I said. I made a detour to drive past it. It was such a grand building. We came to learn that it was the Temecula City Hall/Civic Center and the pink was lit up for October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was absolutely beautiful. {And I don’t even like pink!} 

Here is a photo from the City of Temecula’s Facebook page:

In Old Town, there is an assortment of independently owned shops and restaurants to discover. That night, we had a hankering for some Italian. But we weren’t yielding the results that suited us on Trip Advisor and Yelp. So we found a place to park and walked Front Street. We happened upon…

Crush & Brew

Crush & Brew is bar/restaurant specializing in local wine and beer. Everything on their beverage menu hails from Southern California! This place was right up our alley. Because I didn’t know what to choose, I started with a Wine Flight. It was delivered to me in this little wine tree!


The wines I tried:

037The bartender didn’t put them in the order that they should be tasted. {All wines should be tasted white to red, lightest bodied to fullest bodied, dry to sweet.} So I tasted them in the order I thought they might go. The favorite of the bunch for both of us was hands down the Leoness Zin. It was then that we decided that we should probably put that on our winery list for the next day.

The beer list was incredible. While I sipped my wines, Rob enjoyed a couple of brews from this list, one which included the Aftershock Jess Y James:


Rob really enjoyed talking with our bartender about the brews. He noticed Rob’s interest and pulled out a map for us in which he started to mark up the nearby breweries! This is how we started to plan for our own Temecula Brewery Self-Tour.

While we were at it… “Could you please recommend some wineries!? We are tasting tomorrow and are too overwhelmed by all of the options.”

And so began the process for mapping out our wine route, too. 😉

We had fully intended to dine here as well, until we took a look at the food menu. Nothing was speaking to us. So I did another little Smartphone search to see if there were some other options in Old Town. I found a couple and told Rob to hang tight and enjoy his brew while I walked around the block. Palumbo’s, the Italian place, was closed on Monday nights. But Blackbird Tavern sure looked inviting! There was no menu outside the door, so when I returned to Crush & Brew, Rob and I pulled the menu up on our Smartphones.


The only problem? We walked right in. Their door was literally openIt was a beautiful night.

“Uh. Sorry. We have a private party only tonight,” I was told as I pulled a seat up to the bar.

Boo hoo.

So we walked to the corner and stepped into…

The Edge

At The Edge, we took a seat at the rounded bar and ordered some great local beers on tap – the Wiens Type 3 IPA and Refuge Blood Orange Wit, not knowing that we would be visiting those breweries not too far down the road within two day’s time! Because it was still Happy Hour for the Monday Night Football game, we ordered a few apps to split.

As we waited for our food, an older gentleman (who I thought was the owner) saw that we had a map and promptly came over to give us advice on where to stop for wine tastings the following day. This is the man who asked:

“What kind of wines do you like?”

“We tend to like big Cabs and Zins,” Rob told him.

This question, I learned, was key. At first, while I appreciated his suggestions, I wondered if he was just giving us names of those people who were his friends and telling us to steer clear of people he didn’t like. Some of his recommendations were the same as those from the younger server at Crush & Brew. But he also told us to skip a couple that were recommended. Truth be told, he was spot on with his recommendations!

Then our Happy Hour apps arrived:


Black n Blue Sliders, Garlic Fries and Fried Pickles

Those just aren’t any sliders there! They are two beautiful medium-rare, perfectly-seasoned mini burgers with a special melty blue cheese sauce, and topped with shoestring onions with julienned beets and carrots on the side as additional toppings. They were so good that I don’t remember much about the fries (except that I ate them), that I ate one pickle and passed on the rest and that we put in a second order for sliders!

The funny thing is, that we weren’t the only ones! Our bartender said a couple on the patio did the same thing after trying their first round.

The menu online doesn’t seem to be up-to-date because none of the items we ordered appear on the menu. But I will tell you, that Rob and I agree that these are…

The best sliders we ever had!


Truth be told, we did get our Italian fix at Palumbo’s on Wednesday night, post-brewery tour. However, I’d consider it more of an Italian family joint. The food was good, but nothing too refined. We were so tired and in need of nourishment that it didn’t even occur to me to take photos there. And we ordered an excellent bottle of local Sangiovese (Renzoni) for only $28. That’s a steal for a great bottle at a restaurant!

There’s one more place I want to talk about in Old Town, but you’ll have to wait until next week…

To learn where we tasted wine, click here.

To learn which breweries we visited, click here.

Is there a place near you that only serves local beer, wine or food?

If so, what do you like best about it?


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


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!


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.

photo 3(3)~

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.


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


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.


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


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 – The News Room


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?


The Bulldog Northeast


Who knew that I could get the best burger, the best cupcakes and an excellent tap beer selection all under one roof?


As many times as we’d been to Northeast Minneapolis with Groupons to Butcher Block, a couple trips to Nye’s Polonaise Room, a pint or two of cider at Keegan’s and even a food tour of the area, we never stopped to check out the Bulldog NE.

I did step inside the joint once, just to get some change for the parking meter out front. I remember it being very busy and thought of it as nothing more than a college sports bar, despite the fact that I don’t even think there is a college in walking distance of the place.

Then a friend recommended it. We were surprised. Rumor had it that the tap selection was good if we liked beer. And guess what? We do. So we decided to check it out.

Now it’s one of our favorite places to go in the Twin Cities.

While this is the Bulldog in Northeast Minneapolis, a mural of Amsterdam {where the original is located} is proudly displayed. It’s large enough that, if I zoomed in, it could have appeared that this person was sitting right inside the window of a café on the streets of Amsterdam along a canal.


There are a few “Bulldog” restaurants throughout the Twin Cities; however, my understanding is that they are no longer owned by the same entities and thus are not affiliated at all. Tap selection styles and menus are different. {Although, I will say that I had some satisfying food at the St. Paul location. But that’s for another post.}

I find the menu here at the Bulldog NE to be, well, gourmet. Well, maybe pub food, even sports-bar food gone gourmet. The burger here makes Rob’s Top 10 Burgers in the Twin Cities list. The burger apparently made the City Pages‘ Top 10 Burgers list as well.

NE5Nearly every time we’ve ordered a burger here, the lighting has been too dimly lit to do it justice. But when we finally captured the shot, it still doesn’t scream how nearly perfect this burger is. Top it off with some truffle tots on the side and you’ve got yourself a gourmet meal in a basket:

Truffle Burger - topped with brie and truffle oil on an English muffin with Parmesan truffle tater tots

Truffle Burger – topped with brie and truffle oil on an English muffin with Parmesan Truffle Tater Tots

Of course, as suggested by our friend, the tap selection is fantastic, focusing on Belgians. You can read all about them in their menu book.

Still, there’s a lot of variety, including local brews, with several taps with rotating offerings to change it up for you.

And even though Rob’s least favorite style of beer is probably Belgian, he has found one he adores!

(For the record, I love it, too!)

Kasteel Rouge

Kasteel Rouge

They also offer firkins, which are often limited release, specialty beers. We almost always try the firkin, even if it sounds strange. We’ve found that it’s usually the strange ones we love {Green Tea!} more than the ones we think we’ll love {pomegranate ale}.

And who doesn’t love a patio that allows dogs?


Your pooch will get a water bowl and some treats to snack on while you linger…

Not only have we been to the Bulldog NE for dinner, but we’ve also shown up during brunch and lunch on the weekend.


This basic Bloody Mary was okay, but it was nice to have a decent beer chaser!

I found the Chicken and Waffles to be too rich for my blood on one occasion, but I had a fantastic breakfast sandwich and salad after our LOST Station 4 – Flame 16k virtual race.

 Ham and Egg Sandwich Alemar's Camembert style cheese, Canadian bacon, Egg and Gruyére mornay on croissant bun. $12.00

Ham and Egg Sandwich – Alemar’s Camembert style cheese, Canadian bacon, egg and Gruyére mornay on a croissant bun

It was completely satisfying, but not as wonderful and perfect as the breakfast sandwich at The Happy Gnome. But you can’t beat the beer selection there either.

But lastly, would you expect the best cupcakes to be served at a place that serves beer and killer burgers? Not me. On a whim, on one visit, I inquired what the Cupcake of the Day was. It was called the Elvis – something with chocolate and bananas.

It was one of the best cupcakes I could ever remember.

I’ve since tried several unique flavors. I mean the Lemon Lavender Blueberry Cupcake? Come On! Crazy good. The cupcakes are almost always filled. And the frosting is perfect – never overly sweet and gritty, but more creamy and luscious.

I would say that they have the best cupcakes in all of the Twin Cities, but it wouldn’t be fair because I haven’t been to any cupcake shops nor have I ordered them at any bakeries in the area. I don’t care, though. I rarely eat cupcakes and if I’m going to have one, I want to have one I know I’ll love. So it’ll be at the Bulldog NE.

Tell me about the best Beer, Burger or Cupcake you’ve ever had…


Gladwin Menus


It’s finally time for me to recap our Restaurant Impressions of our Michigan travels this past July when I felt like a kid again. A couple may be repeats from last year – but with a twist. And if you don’t live in Michigan or don’t plan on going anytime soon, please… stick with me these next couple weeks while I throw these posts in here and there.

You just may be inspired to do or make something!

Or you just might find our experiences funny.

Laugh if you want, but many people find my blog by searching for a menu of restaurants in Gladwin, Michigan. Why? Many restaurants in Gladwin County do not post their menus online. Some don’t even have a website or online presence! It seems sooooo 1980s. But it some ways, it’s refreshing. In other ways, it’s just darn annoying when you want to remember what you ate there or what was in a dish you had when you are trying to blog about it. {Oh wait, am I am the only one?}

But for those looking, you may have come to the right place today!

If you live in Gladwin, you can actually find a whole slew of menus in the local Buyers Guide!


While I tried to photograph as many menus as I could before ordering without being looked at too strangely, I felt like this guide was a good supplement to anything I may have missed.

And so we begin…

Mr. M’s.

Mr. M’s is a restaurant we visit at least once each time we are in Gladwin. The food is comforting. You can’t really go wrong. But their menu is HUGE!

Menu3Yeah. A bit hard to read in that photo of the Buyers Guide menu. Here are some closeup photos:

Although, for some reason, I didn’t take a photo of the pizza menu! We love the Mini Pizzas here. They remind me of the Personal Pan pizzas I’d get for free as a kid from Pizza Hut during the Book It! program. The crust and topping ratios are perfect. So is the size!

Finally got photos of those pizzas because I didn’t last year. However, I didn’t get a photo of that salad I love there because we didn’t go back this time. But I did find a description of the contents! It’s the Mr. M’s Chicken Signature. Yum!

Menu - M's Salad

And they have a nice pile of nachos!

Plug for the Gladwin County Carriage Festival! Woot! Woot!

Plug for the Gladwin County Carriage Festival! Woot! Woot!

Despite this note on the menu below, we don’t go to Mr. M’s for the drinks. Read more about why here from last year.

Mr M's Menu2We did stop for drink for fun one afternoon… on the bar side. Which also seems stuck in the 80s and still reeks of smoke despite the fact that smoking has been banned in restaurants in Michigan for a few years now. At the bar, I saw a sign that kind of confused me:


Pale-o Beer?

With all of the Paleo-hype these days, I was thinking that this was a Paleo-friendly beer, which I did not know existed. And it actually sounded strange to me in a small town where you hardly even see things advertised as gluten-free. Then I realized what they were trying to advertise…

A PAIL o’ beer!

A bucket of five bottles of beer for just $10. It’s a deal, but it’s funny how a little spelling error can confuse little old moi. I told you that you’d see some funnies if you kept on reading!

Instead, I think we’ll cross the road for a beer

Which restaurant do you prefer to dine, but not really drink?


Red Cow – Minneapolis


Last night, my husband and I dined at the Red Cow. He just arrived back in town from a weekend up north and I was craving a burger. {What’s with this burger craving lately?} We’ve been wanting to go there for a while after hearing about it on Heavy Table, via Thrillist and through friends. And it’s in South Minneapolis near Edina, which means it’s a closer drive for us than say, Downtown, Uptown or Nordeast Minneapolis.

Arriving at about 7 or 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday, we walked right in and found a seat at the bar. I noticed on a promotional ad sitting atop the bar that there is a wine glass cleverly inserted into the Red Cow logo. Underneath the logo read:

Red Cow *Fine Burgers & Wine*

I’m wondering now if this was the original concept because everything else now reads:

Red Cow *Fine Burgers, Beer & Wine*

My thought is that with the growing craft beer industry in the Twin Cities metro, there is no way to leave the brews out. And most people associate beer with a good burger, after all.

Side note: There are some great burger and wine pairings that are sensational, but I’ll save that for a Wine Wednesday.

Nevertheless, the list of beer and wines available here is a long one. Our bartender, Grant, was knowledgeable about the beers. When the Nitro beer we were curious about was out, he told us that the replacement wasn’t pouring quite properly. I love an honest bartender! There are more than just a few beers on tap and several in a bottle, too.

As for the wine, there are 35 different ones offered by the glass. And after perusing the menu, I was happy to find that they aren’t your “usual suspects”. I find that sooooo incredibly boring. I’d rather try new wines when I’m out. Red Cow uses the same style wine dispenser system as Scusi.

Also, the menu also offered a Burger and Champagne special – Two Burgers and a bottle of Bollinger for something like $125. {I don’t see it online.} I love that! It reminded me of our favorite steakhouse in Pensacola, Florida, McGuire’s Irish Pub:

‘Tis Grand. Our Grand Filet Mignon, custom ground and Chargrilled, served
with a side of Caviar, chopped Red Onions and a Grand Magnum of imported Moët Impérial Champagne. …………

I’ve always wanted to try it… just once.

But back to the burgers at Red Cow. They make some interesting burgers with more elevated toppings. I had a hard time to deciding. When I asked Grant about whether I should order the Barcelona or the Royale, he hesitated, stating both were very, very good. Rob cut us off, though and said, “Well, I’d like the Barcelona.” {Of course, he told me he was going to order something else before our order was taken.} That made my decision easy. I could always have a bite of Rob’s burger, right?

Barcelona 11.50    angus burger, manchego, prosciutto, piquillo pepper & smoked aioli [GF]

Barcelona – 11.50
angus burger, manchego, prosciutto, piquillo pepper & smoked aioli

Rob loved his burger and he isn’t generally a Manchego fan. I took a bite and enjoyed it to. However, I did like mine a wee bit better… 😉

Royale 11.00 angus burger, pork belly, brie, arugula & tomato jam [GF]

Royale – 11.00
angus burger, pork belly, brie, arugula & tomato jam

It’s gotta be the brie with the combination of arugula and tomato “jam”. {They were more like big chunks of roasted tomato, which I loved!} I didn’t think it really needed the pork belly though. Although I’m not really a bacon-on-my-burger fan, that wasn’t why I didn’t need it on the burger. It just added a bit of weird, unneeded texture.

We realized after ordering that they never asked how we wanted the burgers. That seemed strange to me at a burger joint. With all of those toppings, it was really hard to tell if there was any pink inside, which is how we prefer our burgers. But the burger was so juicy, that it didn’t even matter to me how they cooked it!

Each burger came with a side of fries. We had a choice of the original or the Truffle-Parmesan. DUH! You know what we chose. And actually, the fries by themselves, really weren’t good at all. While at Burger Jones, we like to order a side of fries because they don’t come with the burger, I wouldn’t order them if that were the case here. The Truffle-Parmesan fries are sprinkled with a little shredded parmesan and served with a side of truffle aioli. The truffle aioli was what made the fries!

But the burgers here are pretty darn good. I’d have to put them ahead of Burger Jones. {Now if we could combine Red Cow’s burgers with Burger Jone’s fries…} It hit the spot for me that night. And while I don’t think they’ll make Rob’s Top 10 Burger List {which I still need to update!}, I have a feeling, we’ll be back.

What do you like to drink with your burger?


Surdyk’s Flights – Getting to the Airport


We like to get to the airport early. I’m talking, at the very least, two hours before flight time. It’s not just to give us time to go through security. We know there’s plenty of time for that. But we don’t want to feel rushed. When we are going on vacation, we want to start our vacation right away. And for us, it starts at the airport, before we even leave the soil of our resident state.

I know a lot of people don’t like to dine at airports because they think it is too expensive. And it is. But there is something to be said about starting your vacation the minute you get through security. Sure, if I have a morning flight, I generally do eat ahead of time or bring a banana or Fiber One Bar or some nuts of some sort along with me for some a.m. fuel. Then, when I find the nearest coffee shop (be it Starbucks or Caribou Coffee), I get myself a nice, warm and happy medium Americano. {I especially do this if said flight is 7am or earlier!}

However if we are going to have a little lunch or dinner at the MSP airport, I insist that we go here:

Surdyk's Flights (source shopmsp.com)

Surdyk’s Flights (source shopatmsp.com)

Surdyk’s Liquor and Cheese Shop is located in Northeast Minneapolis and has been an institution since 1934. Not too long ago, Surdyk’s put a wine market and bar in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (Terminal 1, aka the Lindbergh Terminal). Cleverly named Surdyk’s Flights, it’s where I like to get a flight or glass of wine pre-departure… and not to mention, a little bit of grub!

The first time I discovered Surdyk’s Flights, I enjoyed a flight of wines with a salami sandwich. It was simple and delicious. This isn’t a fancy wine bar. There’s just a handful of two-person booths and a side counter that serves as a bar. The food menu is simple: cheeses, meats, antipasti, salads and sandwiches. That’s it. And if you are on the run, you can grab one of their pre-made sandwiches to go. And these aren’t your average airport-to-go sandwiches. These are made with high quality, fresh ingredients. Grab one for your flight and your seatmate will be soooo jealous.

I’ve forced Rob to try Surdyk’s Flights when we travel together. After the first time, I haven’t needed to twist his arm again.

When we flew to Las Vegas this past winter, we sat at the bar for lunch. After perusing the beverage menus, we decided on wine flights. I went with the Tiny Bubbles because bubbly is something that’s not often served by the glass. And getting Rob to share a bottle with me is rare.

Tiny Bubbles

Flight of Tiny Bubbles: Vinho Verde, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti

Rob went with a flight of reds:

red flight

The Robust Reds: Desert Wind “Ruah”, Klinker Brick Farrah Syrah, Kenwood Jack London Zinfandel

I love the tomatoes behind the glass in that photo! Among that flight of wines, Rob actually ended up finding a new favorite that day…

Klinker Brick

Klinker Brick Farrah Syrah from Lodi, California

If you aren’t in the mood for wine, they do offer beer by the bottle and some fun cocktails…


I like the idea of the MSP Overshot! Remember when that happened? I love that they made a drink named after it.

That day, we ordered a cheese and meat platter:

meat and cheeses

Selection of Three Cheeses & Three Salumi – $16
with olives, cornichon, fruits, nuts and marinated vegetables

It may not look like much, but it was the perfect amount of food for two. Really.

On our next trip to Surdky’s Flights, Rob really wanted to get the wine he adored on the previous visit, since he hadn’t seen it since:


Here’s the cool thing… Since Surdyk’s Flights is also a wine shop {you’ve already gone through security, so you can purchase wine to take aboard your flight}, when you order a bottle of wine, you pay for the shop price of the bottle – not the double or triple retail price you see at most restaurants! SF-Klinker BrickTherefore, the cost of this bottle was only $17.99! That’s virtually unheard of in a restaurant. However, if you want to order a glass of this wine at Surdyk’s, you’ll pay $11. No kidding.

passport book and cigs. drress

I love that your check comes in a little passport book with some candy cigarettes…

On this occasion, we decided to on just the cheese:


Selection of Three/Five Cheeses – $12/$16
with quince paste, fruits and nuts

And although they aren’t pictured, I’d highly recommend the sandwiches… especially if you don’t get to the airport early enough to sit down and have a pre-vacay beverage.

I adore Surdyk’s Flights. And there’s got to be a reason why it’s rated one of the best airport wine bars, even though it doesn’t really have a bar feel.

How early do you get to the airport?