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A Dozen Reasons Why I Love The Lowry

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We’ve been to The Lowry in Uptown Minneapolis countless times now. I’ve been collecting photos from each visit for probably the past year and a half. Yeah, I know I’ve said it before, but this post is long overdue.

I didn’t really hit me until recently, but The Lowry is probably one of my favorite places to eat in Minneapolis when it’s just the two of us. When Rob suggests it, I never turn him down. It’s casual, there is an excellent beer selection, the food is comforting and the service is great, too. We always try to get a seat at the bar in possible. This means though, that we have to go at “off” times of the day. It can get pretty busy.

The Lowry,

Oh, how I love you… Let me count a dozen ways….

1) The LOCATION ~ We’ve timed it and even living South of the River, it takes us only approximately 15 to 17 minutes to get there sans traffic. 

2) The BEER ~ The beer selection is superb. The Lowry has made our Top 10 Beer Selections in the Twin Cities list.

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Even if we don’t love everything on the list at a given time, there is always a good selection and wide variety to please pretty much any palate. The taps are ever changing. When we sit down at the bar, we get the lastest list on a clipboard like this:

The every-changing tap menu is updated often

The every-changing tap menu is updated often…

We enjoyed quite a few Pumkings here this past season!

We enjoyed quite a few Pumkings here this past season.

3) The WINE ~ There are not a lot of wine options, but it’s not usually why we’re here. In fact, the number of wines on the list has decreased since we started visiting The Lowry. Like its sister Blue Plate restaurant, Scusi, they once used a wine dispenser system:

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It is no longer used for wine, but for their Whiskeys! {Learn more about the different styles of whiskey here.} However, the wines offered are decent if you are not a beer fan or are just in the mood for a glass. But for me, its the Mimosa Service that takes the cake.

Mimosa Service = bottle of Proseco + carafe of OJ

{mix your own to your liking!}

4) The FUN COCKTAILS – If you aren’t really in the mood for beer or wine, there are some unique cocktails as well, including a cocktail of the day. Of course, I love anything with St. Germain. But Rob was draw in by the eggnog-type drink over the holidays!

5) The HAPPY HOUR – The Lowry has an incredible Happy Hour. It’s also one of the only places we go to that allows us to order from the Happy Hour Menu when using a voucher or gift certificate.

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While we usually go for the entrees, we have had a few of the appetizers off their Happy Hour Menu. The Chicken Potstickers I only ordered on a whim… Because the people next to me at the bar ordered them and they smelled so good! And they are…

And nearly all of the beers on the incredible and ever-changing beer menu are $3 – $4. You can tell if a beer is available at Happy Hour pricing by the HH at the end, followed by the Happy Hour price:

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6 ) The PEOPLE – This is a place for Hipsters, although we don’t consider ourselves such. Take a look around at the clientele. It makes for great people-watching! But you’ll find people of all ages and types here, too. Don’t be afraid to stop in if you don’t think you’re hip enough… 😉

7) The SERVICE – We love sitting at the bar because of the exceptional service. It just feels like home to me. Is that weird? It doesn’t feel like I’m at home, just comfortable and relaxed.

9) The SALMON – I am so sad that they are replacing one of my favorite preparations of salmon EVER. It reminded me of the Mediterranean.

Salmon - with fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, olives, asparagus and olive oil

Salmon – with fingerling potatoes, tomatoes, olives, asparagus and olive oil

I have yet to try the replacement, but with “artichoke, tomato, asparagus, pickled onion, arugula and basil oil,” it’s not likely that I’ll be disappointed!

9) The STEAK – On our very first visit, I ordered the Steak Salad. It was highly seasoned and oh-so-good!

STEAK ancho-rubbed, charred corn, tomato, red onion, queso fresco, avocado, tortilla, creamy chipotle dressing

Steak Salad – ancho-rubbed, charred corn, tomato, red onion, queso fresco, avocado, tortilla, creamy chipotle dressing

Every time Rob orders the Steak and Pierogies, he declares his love for them and asks me to remind him to order them again next time:

STEAK & PIEROGIES marinated steak medallions, onion- cheddar pierogies, fried shallots, horseradish sauce

Steak & Pierogiesmarinated steak medallions, onion-cheddar pierogies, fried shallots, horseradish sauce

One item of note: I usually order my steak medium rare. At The Lowry, I’ve learned to order it medium to get my desired doneness. Please know that Sul Lago is still my absolute favorite for steak in the Twin Cities. But The Lowry prepares their steak comfort-food style… with flavor. And I think the steak dishes are a a steal for the price.

10) The BREAKFAST – Many of the breakfast items on The Lowry’s menu are served all day. But go early because it can be hard to get a seat if you are wanting brunch. They do not take reservations, but you can call ahead to get your name on the waiting list. But don’t arrive too early either, or you won’t be able to take advantage of the Mimosa Service, a Bloody Mary or the exceptional beer list.

I believe that in Minneapolis, restaurants can only serve alcohol after 8am Monday through Saturday and after 10am on Sunday. If you do arrive earlier than that, you’ll probably need some coffee anyway.

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I love that The Lowry uses a collection of mismatched mugs. It makes me feel like I’m having coffee at a friend’s place.

When the time comes, you can order that Bloody Mary with your chosen beer chaser:

Bloody Mary and an IPA - my perfect combo

Bloody Mary and an IPA – my perfect combo

I love eggs, so there’s not much that can go wrong with a breakfast menu like theirs. Rob found a favorite in the Shirred Eggs!

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11) The HOURS – The Lowry is open 6:30am until 2:30am every day. Seriously. We love that you can go there during pretty much any waking hour! And many menu items are available all day. Since it gets very busy on the weekends at brunch-ish time, we like to go earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon.

Happy Hour is from 4p – 7p and 10p – close every day. And the kitchen is open until 1am! There is also a Breakfast Happy Hour on weekdays from 8a – 11a. Not sure there are many individuals who have the freedom to partake in that, though.

What really impressed us, though, was that The Lowry opened on Christmas Day at 5pm. We had just returned from Green Bay and didn’t have anything nor want to cook. Upon arrival, we ordered one of the most comforting dishes on the menu:

BEEF STROGANOFF chive sour cream, fried shallots, pappardelle noodle

Beef Stroganoff – chive sour cream, fried shallots, pappardelle noodle

That dish is seriously good. It’s not a traditional stroganoff to me, but the fresh herbs in the dish drive me wild!

12) The FOOD – There are so many great items on the menu that make our bellies happy. There’s always something new to try, especially now that they changing up their menu a bit. We’ve very rarely been disappointed. Here are some thoughts on a few of the other dishes:

Lowry12Grilled Cheese – It has great cheese, but the sauce inside was weird. It is described as a tomato chutney, but it tasted more like you put ketchup on my grilled cheese! NOOOOO!!!  But the tomato soup shooter with pesto was to die for.

Lowry3Burgers – Guru Rob was not a huge fan of the burgers and fries here, rating them as average. But there are plenty of other places where we can find stellar burgers and fries. Besides, there is too much other yummy goodness on these menus.

Turkey Burger – On the other hand, I love the turkey burger here. It’s essentially the same as the one at their sister restaurant, Groveland Tap.

Mac & Cheese Lowry7Rob described it as having great flavors of swiss and smoked gouda. He thought it was creamy and cheesy and said he’d definitely get it again. I took a taste and thought there was a hint of bacon, although there was no bacon in the dish. I think it’s the smoked gouda that gives it the smokiness reminiscent of bacon. You can order this with ham and tomato, if you so desire, but Rob would never do that.

Oysters – Well, these are a no brainer. If you like oysters, knock some back. They’ve recently added fried oysters and an oyster sandwich to the menu!

Poutine Lowry8– Rob absolutely adored the poutine here, when it was made with beef. They recently changed  it up to pork belly. He was worried that it just wouldn’t be the same. Truth is, I think he liked it even more!

Lowry11Cheese Curds – These went away for a brief period of time and Rob was so bummed! But they are back on the menu. They are jalapeno cheese curbs with a side of blueberry ketchup. Sound strange? Maybe. But it really works! The sweetness in the blueberry flavor balances out the spice.

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When The Lowry first opened it was advertised as:

The LowryBurgers | Whiskey | Oysters | Eggs

I thought the combination sounded odd the first time I heard about this restaurant. And now that we’ve visited, I’m not sure that I’d describe it that way. Sure, all of those things have a presence on the menu, but not a big one (except maybe the eggs). And there is no mention of beer with their great beer selection! I have noticed that on their makeover menu, they how describe it this way:

The LowryAn Urban Diner

I think that fits a little bit better.

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What are your favorite comfort foods?

Has a restaurant ever taken one of your favorite comfort food classics and made it even better?

Cheers~
Carrie

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The Mason Jar

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You may have thought this post was going to be about Mason Jar Salads… or all of the non-traditional uses of a Mason jar.

But it’s not.

Au revoir, Pardon My FrenchCupcake has taken your place. And who knew that inside a Cupcake, you’d find a Mason Jar?

I came upon The Mason Jar by accident, so I decided to surprise Rob with dinner there before our movie on Friday. Usually it’s he who surprises me with new-to-us restaurants like he did here and here.

My turn!

The space in Eagan which once housed Pardon My French has not changed a whole lot. But they do try to distinguish somewhat of a separation between Cupcake and The Mason Jar. Cupcake is adorned with whisks, while you’ll find at The Mason Jar… Yeah, you guessed it… Mason Jars.

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Mason jars line are found on every table and it’s how you’ll receive your silverware:

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But I’m not sure what else Mason Jars have to do with the place. They menu includes a lot of comfort foods. Perhaps they are connecting Mason jars with comfort food?

Speaking of the menu, there are absolutely none online for The Mason Jar at the time of this writing. Cupcake’s first location, which opened in 2004, has exploded into four after its exposure on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. The Cupcake-Mason Jar location in Eagan, though, has only been open about a month or so.

Also, at the time of this writing, there is only a Facebook page for The Mason Jar. But there is no official website, nor is there any mention of it on the Cupcake website. So there was not a menu to be found! I snapped a few shots of the menus put in front of us to share with you here.

We arrived during Happy Hour and took a seat at the bar.

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There were a few craft beers on tap, including a selection of local beers, as well as wines on tap sold by glass, carafe and decanter.

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They also have a liquor license, so cocktails are offered as well.

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We had to take them up on their 1/2 off beer and wine Happy Hour! They were out of the Bad Weather Ominous (a new local fave of ours, but only on tap), so we decided to try the tap wine.

What I like about the wine here is that it isn’t as generic as you find other places when it comes to house or bulk wines. All of the wines come from specific regions, not just a particular state. Generally speaking, it means the wines are better quality than a wine, say, just from California or Washington.

In the Midwest, it’s hard to find a wine from the Finger Lakes region of New York. So I had to opt for that wine when I saw it on the menu:

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I tend to prefer drier, Alsatian Rieslings and I knew this would be nothing of the sort. But I had no idea when I’d have the next opportunity to try a Finger Lakes Riesling! My next glass was the Cab from Monterrey County, which I have to say that for a wine-by-the-glass, was pretty darn good.

We learned of the four pizza specials of the day and decided to go with that $6 Happy Hour pizza deal. It was only after we ordered that we discovered this menu for even more Happy Hour snacks:

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Our pizzas arrived and they were pretty good. However, we thought they were worth about the $6 we paid, not $10 – $13 quoted on the regular menu. Save those pizza dollars for Pizzeria Lola.

Toadstool – mushrooms, mozzarella, thyme, cream sauce, kale, basil oil

Blue Cheese Burger – seasoned ground beef, blue cheese crumbles, red sauce, blue cheese dressing

Rob liked the mushroom one better, but the mixture of fresh and rehydrated mushrooms threw me off a bit. I thought the blue cheese on the burger pizza was good. But to me, it seemed like the meat was unseasoned, despite that I could see what looked like a sprinkle of oregano on top.

Rob’s crust ended up in the crust graveyard…

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Personally, I liked the doughy crust; but it would be even better if it was brushed with olive oil and/ or some seasonings. Or if diners were given a little of dish of olive oil for dipping, like one is given for bread at some restaurants. We probably wouldn’t get the pizza again. There is so much comfort food to try on the Late Night menu!

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And although The Mason Jar claims to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, they weren’t seating tables until 5pm. Huh? It also appeared that those who were seated at tables after we arrived may have received different menus. Much to learn!

And despite the fact that we had this dessert menu in front of us…

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We couldn’t possibly order from that… Especially when meany these cupcakes were at our disposal.

My choice compared with Rob’s choice:

I loved my cupcake and so did Rob. We tried each others’ found that neither had cupcake remorse because we liked our own cupcakes better!

Although I loved my cupcake, I personally think I like the cupcakes at The Bulldog NE better. When I said this to Rob, he looked at me with wide-eyes and said, “Uh… I doooon’t knoowww…”

Here are the differences:

  • I kind of like the fact that the cupcakes at Cupcake are a bit smaller because they don’t make you feel so guilty.
  • But the Bulldog NE cupcakes are always filled, so they need to be bigger to get a taste of that filling.
  • Cupcake has many, many flavors, so you  have a lot of options!
  • Whereas, NE Bulldog only has two to three flavors each day.

That being said, I would try another of Cupcake’s cupcakes, without a doubt. It’s kind of dangerous how close we live to this place…

What is your favorite cupcake flavor or the best cupcake you’ve ever had?

Cheers~
Carrie

Relevé

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relevé – in French it can mean elevated, sophisticated

Remember when I was excited to try out the new and only Champagne bar in Minneapolis? The Relevé Champagne Lounge is aptly named given the reputation this expensive, world-famous bubbly has.

Well, I think I set my expectations were too high.

I knew that Relevé was part of the Graves Hotel. But what I didn’t know was that it was now just the name of the bar inside Cosmos, the restaurant in the hotel.

We had been to Cosmos once, during Restaurant Week; and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Cosmos is already a swanky little place, so it’s only fitting to combine the two. But this space was nothing new-to-me. And it’s all about me, right? Kidding.

When we walked in, I was surprised that, from what I remembered, there didn’t seem to be any renovation to create this “new” Champagne lounge

It was Just. The Bar. Of The Restaurant.

If anything, some of the seating may have been rearranged and a makeshift extra bar added. Although it looked more like a display/cocktail waitress stand than anything inviting you to order a glass of bubbly.

So we just took a seat at the regular bar.

The Champagne menu was small; well at least by Pops’ standards. But there were more offerings than you’d usually find elsewhere in the Twin Cities, both by the glass and the bottle. So it’s got that.

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Although he didn’t say so, I knew Rob dreaded going to this Champagne Bar. But he really had no choice since I was driving, buying and taking him to see Pentatonix perform live. {Seriously, one of the most incredible concerts ever! Even despite the fact that we among the oldest of fans. 😉

We both decided to go with a cocktail instead of the straight bubbly:

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Rob kind of boycotted the whole Champagne experience by ordering a cocktail sans Champagne…

Nicollet Punch

Nicollet Punch – Captain Morgan 100, Fresh Orange, St-Germain, Pomegranate

Rob thought it was so good that he ordered a second one. I went with the Passion Forward. Only they were out of the passion fruit sorbet. I didn’t mind, the alternative was blood orange sorbet!

Passion Forward - Mionetto Prosecco, Passion Fruit Sorbet

Passion Forward – Mionetto Prosecco, Passion Fruit Blood Orange Sorbet

I loooooved this cocktail! I may make some on my own when I have friends over sometime. I liked how the fruity sorbet slowly fizzed and melted into the dry Prosecco. My sorbet didn’t melt completely, so I ordered a second glass of Prosecco to pour over the top. 😉 I know. I’m a genius.

They have a nice small bar menu with some upscale dishes as well as a few more approachable items. Rob, of course, ordered some sliders:

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Prime Sirloin Sliders – preserved tomato, caramelized onion, garlic mayo & fries

Rob loved them. He also loved the fries so much that they have now made it on his Top 10 Fries in the Twin Cities list. {Which still needs to be updated, especially because there is a new burger that has recently bumped another out of the ranks!} What is it about Champagne Bars and Fries?

I had to go with the Walleye Sliders! They were raved about and it’s just the Midwestern thing to do, especially in a Minnesotan Champagne bar, right?

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Walleye Sliders – spicy tartar sauce & fries

These weren’t what I was expecting! I had envisioned a fried piece of walleye on a bun. But they were more like patties, like you’d find a salmon burger or a tuna cake.

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I had never had walleye like this before. They were very good and unique. I think it’s a great menu item for a hotel hosting out-of-town guests!

So overall, while pricey, we did like the food and the cocktails at the Relevé Champagne Lounge. I was just expecting more in terms of newness. Others may be impressed by the posh interior if dining there for the first time. And it might be quite different later in the evening if the place gets hopping.

Still, next time, we’d forego Relevé and instead go to the Bradstreet Crafthouse on the first floor of the hotel. It’s where we like to take out-of-town guests for a cocktail if we happen to be in downtown Minneapolis. Although, we never did mention that here.

Name a unique cocktail that you’ve enjoyed.

Cheers~
Carrie

Eating & Drinking in St. Augustine

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Yes we did make it to the Old Town on the days that we didn’t golf while we were vacationing in St. Augustine.  Those were some chilly and cloudy days for Florida. Take a look!

And just like when we were in Las Vegas and Kaua’i, I didn’t snap photos at every place where we ate or imbibed. But I’ll list some of the places we tried anyway. When we go back one day, we’ll have an account of where we’d like to return {and what to order!} and where we can skip.

A1A Rail Works

A1A – Beach Front Avenue!” Did I just do that? Oh, yes, I did! And we did it all trip, too. I mentioned that the only real craft brewery in St. Augustine is the one we visited – Mile Marker. However, when Rob inquired about places with lots of tap brews at check-in, A1A was mentioned. It’s actually a brewpub and they do brew their own beer. But they do not distribute. Think Rock Bottom Brewery, or for those of you in the TC Metro, Town Hall Brewery. It was late afternoon of the day of our arrival. And it was chilly.

We settled in for some of the best beer cheese soup we’ve tasted: A1A Ale & Cheese Soup – Red Brick Ale blended with aged cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, caramelized onions and roasted barley.

And these didn’t suck either. {Actually, rather addicting!}–>: Blue Cheese Chips – Fresh, housemade chips and blue cheese cream sauce topped with scallions, smoked bacon and blue cheese crumbles.

The beer was good, but not outstanding. It’s what we expected. But I’d like to give a shout out to Terri’s Skinny Cocktail {under 125 calories}: Strawberry Soda – Cruzan strawberry rum, sugar-free triple sec, fresh-muddled mint and strawberry topped with soda. Mmmm…
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JP Henley’s

Just behind A1A is JP Henley’s, which boasts over 70 beers and many wines by the glass. We loved the selection and ordered a couple of apps. We were served plastic forks and knives, so I felt like we were in an airport. And the food wasn’t anything special. If I were to visit JP Henley’s again, I’d go for the beer and then head over to A1A for the food! It’s smallish inside, so I can only imagine what it’d be like when it’s packed.

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Murray Bros. Caddyshack

Yes, you guessed it. Bill Murray and his five brothers opened this place. And the location was perfect in that we had finished a day golfing and happened to be staying at the World Golf Village. But the food – not so much. Between our Cheeseburger Pizza, Pork Chops and Fiesta Salad, nothing was that great. There isn’t really a reason to go back when there’s so many other places to try in St. Augustine. However, if you are a Caddyshack fan, check it out. This place could be a museum with all of the memorabilia on the walls!

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Milltop Tavern

After our stops at Mile Marker Brewing and the San Sebastian Winery, we parked near the old town. As we were walking around, we stopped for a coffee to warm ourselves up. Were we really in Florida?

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Then we made our way down the pedestrian-only St. George Street.

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It was late afternoon and time for some food! We hadn’t had lunch so we w climbed the stairs of the Milltop Tavern to the second floor where live music was thriving. We found a seat at a little table top against the wall. The heaters were on, but this place has to be open to the outside in nicer weather. This is a great place for local music, but the food was so-so. I had some black bean nachos while Steve & Terri ordered the black bean soup. They must like their black beans there! {For the record, I do, too.}

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The Prince of Wales

We wandered off St. George Street hoping to explore further and maybe find another place to stop. And it was this “Taste of England” joint that was chosen. It’s basically a very small one-room restaurant with a handful of tables inside an old house. The bar seated maybe two people. When I walked through the door, my face felt instantly greasy. Maybe this is the British Equivalent to a greasy spoon? We stopped for a drink. Then Rob decided to order some onion rings, which the group seemed to love; but I was too full from my earlier nachos. The room was small enough that you could talk with everyone in it. And we kind of did… Someone was looking for prime rib in town for later that evening. We couldn’t give any advice, but the locals on the other side of the room overheard and offered theirs.

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Barley Republic

We found an Irish Pub! This is a tradition Rob and I have that my friend Jen and I started when we spent ten weeks backpacking Europe after college. We just had to stop. And we are so glad we did. They offer over 70 beers, ten of which are on tap.

Rob peruses the menu, while Steve checks out the malt vinegar while the musician sets up for set!

Rob peruses the menu, while Steve checks out the malt vinegar while the musician sets up for set!

But the best find? They had the Southern Tier Pumking on tap! Rob and I spotted it at the same time. But we were worried. How could they still have it on tap? Would it have gone bad? We decided to chance it. We were still teaching Terri about beer outside of the light stuff! A round was ordered. We found out later that they’ve had it for a while, but just tapped it the week prior for the first time.

With the Pumking, Irish music and good friends, we felt like we were home. Well, not at home, but relaxed and content. We stayed for quite a while, some of us enjoying Pumking after Pumking {10 ouncers were only $4.50!} But Steve was eyeing the Bangers and Mash that others tables were ordering. Let’s just say he ended up getting a to-go order. And he loved it. Good food, good beer and good times. Win-win-win.

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King’s Head British Pub

On our last day, after a long day golfing at King & Bear, we weren’t really up for going back to Old Town, so we did a little search for something not too far from the World Golf Village. We ended up at another pub! Who knew there were so many in St. Augustine? I was really not feeling like going for more greasy food, but I had no other options to offer.

Adorned with twinkle lights, it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, except for the fact that it was right off of a highway.  When we walked in, it immediately felt like a traditional British Pub to me with its dark wood, patterned red carpeting and tap handles. And despite the fact that I was originally looking for something a lot healthier, I opted for the Fish and Chips. I know. Grease. What I said I Didn’t Want. But they were the best I’ve had since Anchor Fish & Chips in the Twin Cities. I was fulfilled. And the guys enjoyed the Pasties they ordered, too.

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It was kind of cool that we didn’t always have a real lunch so that we could jump around and have a few apps here and there to try a bunch of different places. Next time, I’d love to try some St. Augustine restaurants on this list and give the Savory Faire Food Tour a try…

What’s your favorite item on an Irish or British Pub menu?

Cheers~
Carrie

Gold Nugget Tavern and Grille

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Our “Man’s Best Friend” Painting Class through Art and Elixir brought us to the Gold Nugget in Minnetonka. We went early so that we could have a bite to eat before class. You can order food during class. People often do. But I find that there is not much room for the food. It’s just not ideal for me to be eating and painting at the same time.

Something I thought would really please Rob is that this little neightborhood restaurant and bar, located in a strip mall, has a burger battle! There are 52 different burgers to try every year! Each week, a new burger goes up against the burger from the week before. The winner moves on to the following week. One burger could reign for several weeks, but there will still be a new burger up against it each week.

I love this concept!

Another thing I knew he’d love is the beer selection – about twenty or so brewery offerings with almost half from Minnesota. In fact, we got to try something new…

Bent Brewstillery's Dark Fatha - American Emperial Stout

Bent Brewstillery’s Dark Fatha – American Emperial Stout

This was our first beer from Bent Brewstillery, which is out of Roseville, Minnesota. The company gets it’s name

because most of the beers are not made strictly to style: they’re “bent” a little bit away from the norm. This sometimes comes from combining the best parts of two different styles.

This is probably why the Dark Fatha doesn’t show such great ratings on Beer Advocate. But we liked it and would order it again. It’s got a lot of the qualities of a nice Imperial Stout, but with an unexpected slight hoppiness.

There is a pretty sweet happy hour, too, at the Gold Nugget. But we opted for some signature items instead. I mean, how could you go to a place called the Gold Nugget and not order the Gold Nugget Tots!?

 Cheddar filled homemade tater tots served piping hot with a side of bacon-chive dipping sauce. 7.95

Gold Nugget Tots
Cheddar filled homemade tater tots served with a side of bacon-chive dipping sauce. $7.95

To be honest, we were a little disappointed. We like ourselves some good crispy tots and we were expecting those kind, but with a cheesy center. These were bigger, browner and softer. I liked them a little better than Rob just because I love potatoes in general. But one was enough for him.

Then we opted to split the Weekly Burger Special. We wanted to try the burger that was battling! They were kind enough to split it in back and bring it out on separate plates for us.

Quattro Formaggi Burger
Four cheeses – American, provolone, Swiss and feta cheese on a grilled burger patty topped with a lemon chive mayo, served on a brioche bun

The burger was cooked perfectly medium-rare to our liking and had an excellent flavor. I wouldn’t say it was Top 10 Burger worthy, but it was good enough that we’d get it again! Splitting the burger was the perfect amount of food that I was satisfied, but not stuffed. And Rob enjoyed the fries {we chose the truffle salt ones} a little more than I did, so I didn’t eat many.

If we lived in this neighborhood, I have a feeling that this is a bar where we’d be regulars. Rob would have to come back to try all of the new burgers and the ever-changing taps. We loved the ambiance as well. It’s no wonder it was hard trying to find a parking spot. It’s a popular place!

Have you ever been to a restaurant with a weekly battle with a reigning champion every week?

Cheers~
Carrie

Baby, It’s Cold Outside…

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Looks like we’ll be getting another Arctic Blast soon… And I was just starting to enjoy this 30+ degree weather. Really. It felt balmy. Time to put on the PARKA again!

That is, we used our last Living Social voucher to PARKA. This time, we went for lunch. To read about our first impression of PARKA on Rob’s birthday, click here.

At PARKA, you order at the register and wait for your food to be delivered to your table.

Parka

I find it a bit awkward to tip in the jar on the counter. I feel like I need to make sure someone sees me do it! The food has such creativity and artistry as you’d find on Top Chef and is delivered to your table by course. It just feels strange to get up and leave after you finish your meal, not wait for the bill or leave a tip on the table.

I also noticed something new this time around:

Thirsty Fish

That fish is thirsty for some PBR!

We ordered the Seasonal Indeed local beer on tap:

Indeed Stir Crazy Winter Ale -

Indeed Stir Crazy Winter Ale – ale brewed with cocoa nibs, vanilla, raisins and brown sugar

There was no throwback North Stars Hockey playing on the old television like last time, but I did take a look at the coffee menu, which also illustrated a love, or at least an interest, in hockey:

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What’s great is now they have short descriptions of the food on their menu both in the restaurant and online! But I still liked that they described each dish as it came out. It makes it more personable.

For our appetizer, we couldn’t pass up the Devils on Horseback we ordered last time. They were as good as we remembered!

Devils on Horseback

Devils on Horseback – $8
Bacon-wrapped, blue-cheese-filled dates with blue cheese whizz, ginger-date puree & almond brittle

We chose different main dishes this time around.

Rob selected:

Braised Brisket 11 Roasted sunchoke, pickled pear, watercress

Braised Brisket – $11
Roasted sunchoke, pickled pear, watercress

We were explained that the brisket is braised for 12 to 16 hours and that the sunchokes are actually prepared four ways in this dish – roasted, sunchoke chips, a sunchoke puree and another that I don’t recall. We liked them and decided that we may have to try to find sunchokes to roast on our own! Rob said that the meat was so tender that it fell apart in his mouth; but it didn’t have much flavor. It actually seemed like a pretty healthy dish. Which you don’t always think of when you think of a brisket covered in gravy or a sweet, sugary barbecue sauce.

My choice:

Maple Grilled Cheese 11 Bacon, pickled apple, maple syrup

Maple Grilled Cheese – $11
Bacon, pickled apple, maple syrup

So much food! I only had a couple fries because they aren’t my favorite and I gave half of the sandwich to Rob. But it was so good! There was very little bacon flavor {which you know I liked}, so it didn’t overpower the dish. The cheeses were so gooey and melty and worked beautifully with the onions and apples. I recall being told that there was fontina and cheddar, but missed the third cheese. Perhaps Swiss? The apple slices didn’t taste pickled, but a little sweet and cinnamon-dusted. But I think what really made this sandwich was the maple syrup! It sounded strange to me at first, but it was just this light sweetness, not overpowering nor saturating. And it worked perfectly on the outside of the crusty bread.

Rob said this is what he’d get the next time we come back to PARKA. He also said that it almost beats the The Lowbrow out for best grilled cheese!

We had originally planned to get the chocolate cake we adored so much last time for dessert. But now that there were descriptions, we just had to order the apple pie!

Apple Pie 7 Apple streusel, apple compote, sharp cheddar ice cream

Apple Pie – $7
Apple streusel, apple compote, sharp cheddar ice cream

This was a deconstructed able pie of sorts made with a shortbread-style cookie topped with the apple filling and pecan crumble with a swipe of caramel sauce. We were intrigued by the sharp cheddar ice cream on the side! It didn’t taste sharp, but it was very good. Our only complaint with this dessert? More caramel, please! But everything should have more caramel, shouldn’t it?

We loved this dessert, but think we really loved the chocolate cake we has last time even more.

However, this past week, Rob found this article which states that Chef Erick Harcey “will no longer be acting Executive Chef for Stock & Badge, which includes Parka…” Although “He plans to stay on as a partner,” I’m not sure what this means for the creative menu at Parka. Will it remain the same?

How do you like your grilled cheese?

Cheers~
Carrie

The Pear & Half-Priced Wine

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

I heard on Robert Irvine’s Restaurant Impossible that the slowest night of the week for restaurants is Monday. It makes perfect sense. Weekends will be busy. When it comes to the start of the week, people get back to their routines and often reconnect with health or financial goals.

In Europe, you’ll often find restaurants closed on Mondays. You may even see that where you live.

But for those that are open, one way to get people inside…

Half Price Wine Nights

Monday just happens to be Half Price Wine Night at one of the most convenient restaurants for us South of the River – Roasted Pear. And this post is long overdue.

We’ve been frequenting this place for quite some time. In fact, The Pear (as we affectionately call it) has been in business for about ten years now – just as long as Rob and I have been together!

For us, this place is an easy choice. We can always get a seat, even if it’s just at the bar. We know what we like {and don’t like} to eat there. And the service is great. {Shout outs to The Michelles, Olaf and Dan!}

The Wine

So the wine list isn’t stellar, but it’s inexpensive. Actually, even when it’s not half-price, it’s affordable. My only beef? Reds are not usually the right temperature. They have what looks like a cellar where they house the wines, but it is not temperature controlled. Red wines should not be warm. They should not even be room temperature. Go for cellar/basement temperature and you are usually golden. To rectify this? I ask for a wine chiller to bring it down a few degrees.

My absolute favorite wine to order on half-price wine night is the Edmeades Zinfandel:

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This is a flavorful wine for any restaurant. It’s any wonder why I choose any other wine when we go there on Mondays. I do like to vary things a bit and try new things. But a lot of the other reds on the menu, I have found, have that “sweet” generic taste to me.

Because we’d easily spend $25 or more elsewhere on a crappy bottle of wine any given night, we decided to try The Pear’s highest price wine ($50) on a half-priced one night. We knew it would be a much better value.

Decoy

Only that wine really was a Decoy! The menu (shown below) said that the wine was from Napa Valley (most known for its cabs), but the one we received was from Sonoma. But it’s a region I love anyway!

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One Monday not too long ago, the lights went out while we were dining at The Pear. In fact, the entire block of businesses had a power outage. Michelle was bartending and brought out flashlights for her guests. And some of us lit up our tables with our cell phones. However, when one diner left, the headlights of his car shown through the window illuminating our half-price wine bottle like this:

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Actually, we see a lot of people who are dining alone ordering a bottle on half price wine night. I’ve even seen one couple who ordered a red for him and a white for her. Yes, they had two bottles of wine at their table. Why on earth? Because you can doggie bag it! Why not get what you like?

The Food

We honestly don’t love everything at The Pear. But we do have a few favorites that never do us wrong! First, you can always start off with a good bowl of soup.

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Tomato Basil Soup

This is the best tomato soup I’ve had in the entire Twin Cities. {Sul Lago takes a close second.} When they finally put this soup on the menu full-time, I felt that it was the best thing they ever did. For just $5, you can get a filling BOWL {they don’t serve it by the cup} of Tomato Basil Soup topped with a grilled-cheese crouton. It is served with of a triangle of their yummy bread topped with herbs and served with a composed butter:

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But at dinner time, you can’t order a grilled cheese with their tomato soup. 😦 Instead, I opt for the Cheesy Garlic Bread. Dip it right in the tomato soup. I’m not telling you that this is low-calorie or healthy by any means; but you won’t be disappointed! During Happy Hour, you can get the Cheesy Garlic Bread for just $4, making your entire dinner just $9 when you add the soup.

We are nearly always pleasantly surprised with their pizzas. {Note: We hear that you won’t find pizzas at the Brooklyn Park location. As I understand it, they don’t have a pizza oven.}

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Reuben Pizza – $13.50
Thousand island dressing, corned beef, sauerkraut, five cheese blend and swiss cheese

The Reuben is Rob’s favorite pizza. It’s what he orders the majority of the time. The Thousand Island you see above is not how the pizza arrives though. While the crust is absolutely perfect, the pizza doesn’t always turn out consistently the way he wants. So he orders an side of Thousand Island, just in case. Before we boxed up and took this half of the pizza home, he poured the remaining dressing on top.

If I’m to order a pizza at The Pear, it’s often this one:

Margherita Fresh basil, garlic, mozzarella, and roma tomatoes 11.5 - See more at: http://www.roastedpear.com/Burnsville-Menu/Dinner#sthash.5tmnwn2W.dpuf

Margherita Pizza$11.50
Fresh basil, garlic, mozzarella, and roma tomatoes

During Happy Hour, you can get a mini version of the Margherita Pizza for just 5 smackaroos.

There is a signature item on the menu that cannot be missed:

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Roasted Pear Spinach Salad – $11
Spinach, roasted pears, caramelized pecans, gorgonzola cheese and balsamic vinaigrette, Add grilled chicken – $3

I adore this salad! But I love spinach and always add grilled chicken. So, it makes me happy. The salad, I’ve found, hasn’t been consistent either. Sometimes it’s under or overdressed or there is a limited amount of blue cheese. You can always ask for the dressing on the side. But somehow, I think that’s wrong here.

We also have liked:

~ Cajun Tenderloin Bites – $10.50 – Spicy sauteed tenderloin tips with bearnaise and horseradish sauce

~ Roasted Pear Baked Brie (though it’s been years since I’ve had it!) – $10.50 – Caramelized onions and roasted pears wrapped in puff pastry

~ Rotisserie Chicken – $15.50 – Rubbed with a house spice blend and served with vegetables and choice of potato, as well as a salad to start

~ French Dip – $9.75 – Slow roasted beef and swiss cheese on a french roll with au jus (Ask for a side of horseradish sauce to give it more of a kick.)

What we have tried a few times at The Pear and haven’t really enjoyed are the steaks {minus the cajun tenderloin bites app} and the burgers. The fries aren’t memorable either. But we know we can get our favorites of those elsewhere and know what we really come to The Pear for that we can’t get anywhere else!

Brunch

The Roasted Pear has a very nice Sunday brunch, something I’m usually not a fan of when it means a buffet. Not included in the brunch, but something I like to order is a Bloody Mary. It was my fave Bloody Mary for a while. It’s still good, I just have a few others that have topped it since.

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Roasted Pear Blood Mary {meaning it belongs to the RP, not that there are roasted pears in it!} with beer chaser

Brunch is reasonably priced and includes the choice of sparkling wine or mimosa, their brunch buffet {which I normally won’t do!}, and your choice of a made-to-order Eggs Benedict on an English muffin. Once I get my complimentary beverage, I’ve got quite a variety in front of me. {Sometimes there is even coffee, too!}

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What I like about the Roasted Pear Brunch is that I can put a teensy bit of everything on my plate. They even have their Roasted Pear Salad on the line! One thing I never order off of any menu is lasagna. But The Pear’s is to die for. So I can nab just a bit at brunch time, without ever having to order it as a heavy meal in and of itself.

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And then there is dessert. I usually am filled up on my Eggs Benedict and one plate of food; but if there is room, I might try a couple of mini desserts to enjoy with my remaining bubbly.

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We rarely get dessert on any given night. But if you do, you must try their signature Roasted Pear and Craisin Crisp. Per their website, it’s “Pears and cranberries baked with a crunch topping served warm with vanilla ice cream.” It’s not something I’d normally ever order; but our table split it once and I was won over immediately!

I love that The Roasted Pear incorporates pears, especially roasted ones, in so many dishes on their menu. We love The Pear for it’s location, friendly staff, casual atmosphere and the signature dishes that you can’t really find elsewhere.

Happy Wine Wednesday! Twin Cities peeps, stay tuned in the next week or two… I have a Half-Priced Wine gift for you… 🙂

What’s your favorite signature dish at a restaurant?

Do you go out for half-price wine nights?

Cheers~
Carrie