Tag Archives: St. Paul restaurant

Cheeky Monkey! {Closed}

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I would have never known about Cheeky Monkey in St. Paul if it hadn’t been for a half-off deal that made its way into my inbox. Even if I had would have driven by Cheeky Monkey and noticed it was there, I probably wouldn’t have stopped when The Happy Gnome is practically right across the street. {It’s perhaps The Best Place for tap beer selection in all of the Twin Cities.}

Cheeky Monkey is British slang used for someone who is a smart ass. Their Facebook page indicates that they are an “American Restaurant · British Restaurant · Bakery.” However, they seem to have a little bit of everything, focusing mostly on comfort foods. Cheeky Monkey appropriately describes itself as a “Deli by Day” {counter service} and “Bistro by Night” {table service}.

You’ll find Cheeky Monkey in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood of St. Paul. For those of you not local to the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul cover a huge area, so we like to refer to specific neighborhoods.

Inside, Cheeky Monkey’s walls are adorned with a list of the neighborhoods of London and one of those of St. Paul. I am guessing you can figure out which is which in this photo. 😉

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We did not visit the Deli by Day, but opted for the Bistro by Night on both of our visits. Cheeky Monkey offers a selection of wines by the glass and bottle as well as bottled beers and other non-alcoholic beverages. Some wines are even offered by the half-bottle.

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We got there a bit early on our first visit. Dinner wasn’t quite ready to be served yet. So we settled in with an appetizer.

Here is what I put on my plate:

Housemade Salt & Pepper Chips 4.5 bleu cheese dipping sauce

Housemade Salt & Pepper Chips with bleu cheese dipping sauce

Housemade chips and dip have sort of become popular all over the Twin Cities. We are rarely disappointed! These chips hit the mark… and that blue cheese sauce is over-the-moon delicious. Do not skip the blue cheese sauce if you are going to Cheeky Monkey. You can thank me later.

Rob got the burger. (Are you surprised?)

Cheeky Burger 12 grass-fed beef, caramelized onion, brie, toasted ciabatta roll, bistro fries

Cheeky Burger – grass-fed beef, caramelized onion, brie, toasted ciabatta roll, bistro fries – $12

I do remember that he enjoyed this burger; but it wasn’t quite seasoned enough to his liking. Who doesn’t like some good melty brie on a burger?! That’s some nice crusty bread there, too. The fries were just okay in his book. So there is really no reason to to upgrade. Stick with the housemade chips!

My comfort food choice:

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Mac & Cheese – chicken, montchevré goat cheese, rosemary – $12

What a nice flavorful crock of mac and cheese! Next time, I’d get it without the chicken because it tasted like it came out of a can. I don’t mind canned chicken for certain purposes. It just didn’t work for me here.

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Just before our second visit, I read somewhere that Cheeky Monkey had one of the best Cubans in the Twin Cities. I knew before our arrival that that is what I’d be getting!

Cubano Sandwich – cumin pork, smoked ham, swiss, pickles, mustard, mayo, ciabatta roll, pressed warm – $13

Forgetting all about CM’s chips, I upgraded my side to the Herb Roasted Mushrooms with butter and chives. They were a delightful alternative to the normal side, but somewhat rich that I could not finish them all.

Maybe I didn’t get the same sammy that others rave above because I was not all that impressed with my Cuban. There was crusty pressed bread, yes; but the sandwich itself wasn’t very well balanced overall. IMHO, they overdid it on the mustard. But here is why CM’s should be a great Cuban, according to Heavy Table:

…they cure and smoke their own meats, bake their own breads, and make their own mayonnaise and mustard.

Perhaps I don’t have the palate for a good Cuban. But I keep trying them anyway! I swear I had one I loved once. But that was pre-blog, so how should I remember where!?

Surprisingly, though, this was the star of the show for us that night:

Meatloaf 12 cheddar, bacon, spicy mustard, giardiniera, english muffin toast

Meatloaf Sandwich – cheddar, bacon, spicy mustard, giardiniera, english muffin toast – $12

We both wouldn’t consider that English Muffin toast; but truly, what would we know? What we did know is that, English Muffin toast or not, it was perfectly buttered and toasted, the meatloaf a nice little change from the normal sandwich filling. I thought I tasted a hint of horseradish, though the menu says this sammie is spread with mustard. So while I wanted less mustard on my Cuban, I would have gladly taken more on Rob’s sandwich!

While you are at Cheeky Monkey, you need to stop in the restrooms to check out the wall paper:

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The walls are lined with pages of old books, most of them British. Since these loos are one-stallers, that wallpaper has the potential to hold up a line if someone really wanted to start reading the walls in depth. 😉

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Cheeky Monkey describes itself as a “chef-driven restaurant” with “fresh, local, seasonal fare”. Many items on their menu are already gluten-free or can be made gluten-free, too. CM boast’s a patio in the back which I didn’t know existed until I read their website. It’s tucked away from the street, which is always nice. Even when it’s a nice day, Rob refuses to eat outdoors if a restaurant’s patio is just a little sidewalk off a noisy street.

If you do get to Cheeky Monkey, I’d recommend the Meatloaf Sandwich with Housemade Chips. Ever since the Burnsville Ale House closed, we hadn’t found anything close to their Meatloaf Sliders. Until Now. Oh! And don’t forget to ask for a side of the Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce, you little Cheeky Monkey!

What’s your favorite meatloaf recipe or way to eat meatloaf leftovers?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

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Thirsty Thursday – Tongue in Cheek

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As part of our Thanksgiving Staycation, we had a lazy day that Sunday. We had breakfast, sipped coffee and hung out in our pjs catching up on the DVR. {Well, that’s pretty much every Sunday morning for us.} 

We never did eat lunch, so we opted for an early dinner. There was only one problem: The Packer game was on at 3:25pm.

That just would not work. I didn’t want to go to a Sports Bar to watch the game for three hours when it was on local television and could watch it in the comfort of my own home.

But I had an idea. I scanned through our Groupons and looked up each restaurant. Finally, I chose one that did not look like it had an TVs:

Tongue in Cheek – in St. Paul

We would DVR the game and watch it afterward, sans commercials. This also meant Rob couldn’t be on his smartphone during dinner to check scores. Win for me!

The bar at Tongue in Cheek opens at 4pm. Since our tummies were empty, we took full advantage of that! We also took advantage of their Happy Hour.

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We started by splitting the flight of Cock(tail) Teasers. I don’t believe you can order these teasers outside of Happy Hour. I didn’t see them on the regular menu. Rob said that he couldn’t imagine having to create these miniature cocktails for just $2 each. He thought, “How annoying for the bartender!” But they’ve thought of everything here. They make the teasers ahead of time, so that they are ready-to-serve with only a garnish needed.

Flight of Cock(tail) Teasers - $12

Flight of Cock(tail) Teasers – $12

The cocktails are pictured in order as they are on the menu, only from right to left. And that’s how we tasted them. Then we ranked them. Surprisingly, both Rob and I ranked them in the exact same order!

  1. Jack’s Pool – This one surprised me because I’m not a huge rum fan!
  2. Mother of Dragons – Another surprise for both of us. The jalapeno was subtle and the flavors were well-balanced. Who knew I’d like a Jim Beam cocktail?
  3. Cross Eyed Mary – Oh yeah. I love me a good bloody and I actually prefer gin to vodka.
  4. Tickle My Tiny Pickle – What you’d expect by the menu description.
  5. When in Rome – I thought this would be my fave. It wasn’t. But I didn’t not like it! Bottoms up!
  6. Why Not Minot? – Not memorable because, you know, I don’t even remember this one.

Each of these cocktail teasers came from each of their six sensory categories of all of the craft cocktails that they offer. Check them out on the main menu:

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Looking back at that menu, it does look like you can get a flight of cocktails, if you’d like, outside of during Happy Hour. It’s just more expensive. I’m not sure if you get to choose which drinks come in your flight though.

We arrived in our Packer gear and the bartender commented. Rob told him that we were taping the game, so dining here was perfect because we wouldn’t have access to the score. We come to find out that Mike The Bartender is from Milwaukee and it was killing him not to keep us updated!

Mike gave us a ton of menu recommendations, including items that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Like this, for example:

Goldi-Lox - gravlox, horseradish, dill, salmon roe - $2

Goldi-Lox – gravlox, horseradish, dill, salmon roe – $2

All of the teasers on the menu are meant to be one or two bites. This one was much more! The teeny, tiny spoon probably helped with that. And for just $2, this teaser packed a ton of flavor! Not listed on the menu is the avocado puree on top, along with some crispy fried shallots that add a little extra crunch. {Mike did an excellent job describing each dish as he delivered them to our table.} I thought that this taste was perfection!

At this point Rob checked out the beers on tap. I found it to be a nice varied selection of mostly Midwestern origin:

  • New Holland Dragon’s Milk (MI)
  • Summit Winter Warmer (MN)
  • Indeed Sweet Yamma Jamma (MN)
  • Rush River Double Bubble IPA (WI)
  • Cuvée des Jacobins (Belgium)

While Mike poured him a Dragon’s Milk, I sipped on a $3-Happy-Hour Sangria.

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I thought it was pretty good; but the more I drank it, the less I liked it. Not sure if that was because of the oncoming cold or because it needed to be stirred before I started drinking it.

We also ordered a cheese plate:

Artisan Cheese Trifecta - $9

Artisan Cheese Trifecta – $9

There was a blue, a semi-soft goat {which Rob loved until I told him it was goat cheese} and the Wisconsin Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Those little dollops are of apple puree, mango puree and balsamic. It was divine to drag a little cheese through it, despite the fact that purees like this always make me think of baby food! {In a good way.}

But the plain crackers to accompany the cheeses left a bit to be desired – like some fresh bread. Yes, I desired that.

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 Rob ordered us another $2 Teaser:

Charred Feta - strawberry & black pepper jam - $2

Charred Feta – strawberry & black pepper jam – $2

If you think that looks huge, it was really only about two to three bites. Here’s a photo with a fork to give you some perspective.

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But the bites were tasty! The salty… with the char… with the sweet… This was perfect for a taste! Any more than that would probably be too much.

I was originally planning to just order some more teasers for my dinner because a Heavy Table article I read suggested that was the best way to go. But Mike suggested the salmon. And who could argue with Mike?

Wild Salmon - goat cheese risotto, zucchini, tomato-gin consommé - $25

Wild Salmon – goat cheese risotto, zucchini, tomato-gin consommé – $25

Mike was right to recommend this. It’s probably some of the best salmon I’ve had! It was well-seasoned, the goat cheese wasn’t too overpowering and the zucchini ribbons had the perfect texture. My only gripe is that the salmon was just a tad under-cooked for my liking. But I still sopped up every bite!

And you know already that Rob got the burger.

The Cheeseburger - Cheddar, House Pickles, Arugla, Aioli - $12

The Cheeseburger – cheddar, house pickles, arugla, aioli – $12

 This burger will move to Rob’s Top 10!

{Which reminds me, he still needs to update that.}

I think there are three things that generally make Rob burger- happy:

  1. The quality of the meat.
  2. Seasoning the meat.
  3. The quality and use of the bun and toppings.

It’s places like this, where quality rules. Tongue in Cheek’s Mission:

We are devoted to only using animal products that are raised or caught in a humane and sustainable manner. This is something we are passionate about and it will never be compromised. We believe living a good life tastes better.

Amen! Oh and for the record, Rob thought the fries were just fine at first, but later said that they kept getting better with every bite!

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We loved Tongue in Cheek so much that we bought another voucher when we got home. The East Side of St. Paul is an up-and-coming culinary hot spot. When I walked in to Tongue in Cheek, it reminded me a bit of Ward 6, also located in the area. Then the quality craft cocktails reminded me of Ward 6, too. However, these two restaurants are different enough that you need to experience both.

I love the concept of the Teasers on the menu at Tongue in Cheek. It gives people a chance to step out of their comfort zones to sample some things they maybe normally wouldn’t, without the worry of wasting money or a meal. I’d come here just to try all of the little different bites they have to offer!

Have you dined at a restaurant that offers small bites or teasers on the menu?

If so, what were your favorites or what did you try that you maybe would not have otherwise?

Cheers~
Carrie

Ward 6

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My husband says that he really misses my Restaurant Impression posts. So I’ll to crank a few long overdue ones out for you all.

Ward 6 was my chosen brunch spot after Rob’s first 5k last month. I remember that after my first 5k, we had trouble finding an open restaurant nearby serving lunch or brunch. To avoid all of the driving around when we’d be hungry, I did my research in advance this time. I found two or three new-to-us brunch places within just a few miles of the race site that also had items on the menu that Rob would enjoy.

I’d seen the name of this restaurant buzzing about the web for a while now; so I was naturally curious to find out what we were missing.

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Ward 6 is located on the east side of St. Paul in a neighborhood to which I’d never been. Per our usual, we pulled a couple of seats up to the bar. It’s a cozy little place and I immediately loved the vibe. Then we received the menus.

Oh the menus!

First let’s start with the Morning Drinks:

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I love that they make espresso drinks! Too often, I’ve been disappointed by sludgy coffee when I’m out when all I want is a good cuppa joe. And Ward 6 gets extra points for serving our local Surly Coffee Bender beer for breakfast. And adding an extra dose of espresso to it is just pure genius.

In addition to the Surly Coffee Bender, they have a nice varied selection of Minnesota brews on tap:

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In fact, they strive for all local beers on tap! I love the philosophy.

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I also love a beer list with a date at the top. This means that the establishment changes their beer selection often. Both The Happy Gnome and The Lowry do this. To me, it’s a sign of a great place to enjoy craft beer.

They also have a well-stocked bar, with some unique and even house-made liqueurs:

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The brunch menu suggests some breakfast cocktails:

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But I chose to order outside the box as soon as I saw the regular cocktail menu:

Bayona – Absolut Hibiskus, St. Germain, Creme d’Yvette, lime and prosecco

You know how I love my St. Germain! Let me tell you, the cocktails at Ward 6 can give any craft cocktail joint a run for their money. I was so impressed that I later ordered another off the cocktail menu – The Ward 6.

The Ward 6 - With cilantro, ginger, vodka, St. Germain, lime juice, chili and lychee juice

The Ward 6 – With cilantro, ginger, vodka, St. Germain, lime juice, chili and lychee juice

The combo sounded a little strange to me, especially with the chili. But I was feeling adventurous! It ended up being an utterly sublime cocktail. It was well-balanced in every respect; but you could still taste a little bit of every flavor. It didn’t sound good to Rob, but I forced him to taste it. And he concurred that it was not only unique, but very tasty. It’s a cocktail that I can’t imagine you can find anywhere else, so we’ll have to come back! {I have a feeling trying to recreate this cocktail might be more than a tad difficult.}

But we didn’t spend the entire morning boozing! We needed to refuel after the 5k. Whether or not it was appropriate refueling food is another matter.

I had heard that the burger at Ward 6 was sensational. So when I was doing my brunch research and found that the burger was on their brunch menu, I knew it would be a perfect post-race brunch spot for Rob.

And I was right. He ordered the burger:

Burger 10 Local grass-fed ground beef; cheese if you like ($1). - See more at: http://ward6stpaul.com/content/breakfast#sthash.WIJeAAvN.dpuf

Burger – Local grass-fed ground beef with cheddar added

Of course, that photo does not do this burger any justice. Rob absolutely loved it. The quality of all the ingredients was top notch. Learn why in the box on this menu:

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Do you remember my first time at Groveland Tap when I skimmed over the Welsh Rarebit, thinking that it was made of rabbit? Well, Ward 6 has actually named this dish Welsh Rabbit. See the listing in the in the box above!

And that is exactly what I ordered:

Welsh Rabbit 6 No rabbits are harmed in the making of this tavern dish-- cheese sauce on toast, simple and satisfying. Served with a slice of tomato and a fried egg.  Eric likes his with bacon (+$2). - See more at: http://ward6stpaul.com/content/breakfast#sthash.WIJeAAvN.dpuf

Welsh Rabbit – Cheese sauce on toast, served with a slice of tomato and a fried egg

I was a little leery about the “cheese sauce” when ordering, picturing nacho cheese from a can. But I was pleasantly surprised. This tasted a bit like a Croque Madame with more of a béchamel sauce. It was a small dish (and only $6); but it was very filling with plenty of caloric value!

Before we left, I had to check out the dessert list. I had been considering an espresso drink to-go. But I loved the listing of after dinner drinks, as well as the descriptions!

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But what caught my eye was the Affogato. That’s just right up my alley. And homemade soft serve? SOLD!

House-made soft serve ice cream “drowned” in a shot of espresso. - See more at: http://ward6stpaul.com/content/dessert#sthash.Iafu14Oa.dpuf

Affogato – House-made soft serve ice cream “drowned” in a shot of espresso

We absolutely adored Ward 6. Rob and I decided that this is a place we’d like to take out-of-town guests. We’d also like to go back in the evening to try their dinner menu. But really, you can come any time of day. They begin serving coffee and espresso drinks at 7am on weekdays, then start breakfast at 8am. And they serve food straight through lunch and dinner, generally closing between 11pm and midnight.

Or just stop by for an Adult Milkshake!

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I loved the how laid-back this place was, while sporting a varied and entertainingly unique menu. The cuisine we tried was above-average diner fare that left us satisfied. The drinks – perfect. The servers were even taste-testing a few of the new wines on their menu and discussing them. I like an informed waitstaff. I tend to ask a lot of questions. 😉

What’s your favorite espresso drink or dish?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Patty Melts & PumpKing

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One late Sunday afternoon, Rob and I decided to have an early dinner at one of our favorite Hipster joints – The Lowry. {Yes, I know. We’ve been there soooo many times and I still need to post about it.} However, forgetting that the Vikings’ game was in town, we ended up in the throes of traffic. Before we got stuck amidst it all, I called an audible {get the football reference?!} and told Rob to exit. We headed over to St. Paul to another Blue Plate restaurant – the Groveland Tap.

We had only been there once before. This time, we were able to pull a seat up to the bar. We were happy to see that one of our favorite Twin Cities breweries – Steel Toe – was featured on tap with their Size 7 IPA. And it’s always nice to see the local Surly representing, too.

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But we just had to have a bit of PumpKing since it is our favorite pumpkin ale and it was on tap. We wanted to make sure we didn’t miss out on the last of it. It’s probably one of my Top Ten Favorite Beers, if I were to have such a list… Hmmm…

We also tried a the local Lucid Seasonal which was pretty good, too. If I remember correctly, it was even on Cask. Wait, it was! I just found a photo I took of the board that listed all of the beers: Lucid Amber with Pumpkin Spice & Clove.

002I was indecisive on what I wanted to eat and eventually ordered the Turkey Burger because it sounded similar to the one I love over at the Lowry, a sister restaurant. There’s no photo here, but rest assured I devoured it and a had few of the Cajun fries that came with it. It was very good, but not exactly the same as what I remembered from Lowry. But here’s the other thing eating that turkey burger reminded me to do:

Learn to make poblano pesto!

It’s what they put on their turkey burgers and I love it. There’s something about poblanos that I’ve learned from cooking out of The Homesick Texan, that gives Tex-Mex its flavor without being spicy like, say, a jalapeno. You know me, all about flavor.

I thought Rob would go with a Juicy Lucy, since he loved it last time. But he decided to go with the Patty Melt, instead, and this time with Parmesan-Garlic Fries.

001So, while the photo does this burger no justice {it was an afterthought}, at least I snapped one. Rob said this Patty Melt has usurped his best Patty Melt at Harry’s Café! It sounds like it’s time to update the Top 10 Burger List! And those parmesan-garlic fries put the cajun ones to shame.

So this is our formal personal reminder note:
Get the parmesan-garlic fries next time we find ourselves at the Groveland Tap.

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I mentioned that Groveland Tap is part of a group of restaurants owned by Blue Plate. Normally, I’m turned off by chain restaurants. It’s not a chain per se. Each of these restaurants has its own unique menu, character and overall feel. And the food is really good. We’ve been pleased every time. I liked this sign outside of Groveland tap that describes each restaurant:004And a quick skim of the Blue Plate website indicated that a new restaurant called the Freehouse is opening in December. I think we’re going to have to check that one out!

What are your favorite burger toppings?

Have you ever topped with poblano pesto?!

Cheers~
Carrie

Barrio Tequila Bar

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I’d been wanting to go to Barrio for a while.

I learned on a trip to Puerto Vallarta that I earned through The Traveling Vineyard, that I like tequila tasting as much as I like wine tasting. I also learned a thing or two about tequila.

  1. Jose Cuervo gets away with calling themselves tequila because they are 51% agave and 49% caramelized sugar. For that reason, it’s not a friend of MINE! {For the real deal, look for 100% agave instead.}
  2. I have expensive tastes in tequila.
  3. I was margarita’d out when I got home and thought I’d never have another one again.
  4. But give me some anejo on the rocks with a squeeze of lime and a splash of cointreau and I’m good.

Wow. I think that trip was back 2007. Time flies. I think I’ve recovered from no-margarita-ever-syndrome. But I still rarely drink them. Still, Barrio didn’t seem like a place where I could drag Rob. We’d always pass it by in Minneapolis while walking along Nicollet Mall. So when it was my turn to choose where to dine for girls’, night, I suggested Barrio.

There are three locations – one in Minneapolis, one in Edina and one in St. Paul. Based on where the three of us live, no location stood out as more convenient. So I chose St. Paul because, there, Barrio is situated in Lowertown. I figured that after dinner, if we weren’t really feeling Barrio, we could head over to the Bulldog for some brews, Bin Wine Bar if we wanted something more mellow or I could even return to FACES for a drink. They are all right within walking distance of each other, facing Mears Park.

We arrived early on a Saturday night and very few people were there. That’s because, well, it’s a bar and early on a Saturday night. However, there were still some really drunk people there at the table next to us! It had me wondering how long they were there.

Inside, it felt spacious and although it was still light out, I imagined it could feel a little dark and ominous in the evening. I loved the candelabra-styled chandeliers.

As much as I would have liked to try one of their tequila flights {they have a whole menu of tequilas!}, none of us really have that kind of dough to throw around at the moment, especially with my expensive tastes! So we each opted for one of their fun tequila cocktails instead.

Kim’s:

Mama Cita Hibiscus margarita with pineapple and orange juices, cabrito blanco and a splash of cava ...9.5

Mama Cita
Hibiscus margarita with pineapple and orange juices, cabrito
blanco and a splash of cava – $9.50

Mine (almost gone!)

Macho Comacho Blood orange margarita made with ancho infused tequila and a splash of cava ... 1 0

Macho Comacho
Blood orange margarita made with ancho infused tequila
and a splash of cava – $10

Jen’s:

Cesar Chavez Our champion margarita with cabrito reposado, mandarine napoleon and orange ... 1 0

Cesar Chavez
Champion margarita with cabrito reposado, mandarine
napoleon and orange – $10

Of the three, I liked mine the best! I can’t believe how perfectly balanced the chile was in the drink. You could definitely tell it was there, but it was neither overpowering nor too subtle.

The menu isn’t very large and most of it consist of appetizers, small plates and tacos. All of the flavor descriptions sounded like they knew what they were talking about when it comes to elevating Mexican cuisine. We each decided on one small item and then chose to share a couple of small plates, too. The food came out randomly, just as if you are to order tapas.

Kim chose:

Sugarcane Skewered Tequila Shrimp • tequila, lemon and ginger marinated shrimp are grilled and served with lemon mojo ...7.5

Sugarcane Skewered Tequila Shrimp
tequila, lemon and ginger marinated shrimp are grilled and served with
lemon mojo – $7.50

Jen and I each ordered a taco:

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Pork Carnitas Taco
duroc pork shoulder slow cooked in cinnamon and orange with salsa verde, onion and cilantro – $4.50

That is my kind of taco, with the dual corn tortillas with which to wrap the filling. They make me think of what a street taco should be like. We’ve had similar ones at Chino Latino. And there’s something about shredded pork with salsa verde and cilantro that I always love!

Then we got a few plates to share:

Grilled Chicken Chimichurri • skewered chicken is marinated in chimichurri and served with a mango-black bean salad ...8.5

Grilled Chicken Chimichurri
skewered chicken marinated in chimichurri and served with a mango-black
bean salad – $8.50

The chicken on these skewers was way over-charred. That is all I could taste. That’s really sad because chimichurri has such a lovely, fresh flavor that would have made this chicken sing. The black bean side salad was good and would have rounded this dish out perfectly if it weren’t for the lasting char flavor.

And I thought I’d love these since I once learned how much I love the spice of guajillo chiles:

Adobo Grilled Chicken Quesadilla guajillo, chipotle and garlic marinated chicken filled flour tortilla with queso oaxaca, roasted corn and poblano peppers ...8.5

Adobo Grilled Chicken Quesadilla
guajillo, chipotle and garlic marinated chicken filled flour tortilla with queso
oaxaca, roasted corn and poblano peppers – $8.50

I was right! The have the perfect balance of flavor and heat! I think the poblano peppers added something extra, too. I would highly recommend the quesadillas here. Okay, so if I’m in Lowertown, St. Paul and craving quesadillas, how am I to choose between Barrio and The Bulldog?!

And as I suspected, we were feeling a little mellow, so we opted to head over to Bin for a glass of wine afterward. But alas, they were closed for a private event. We enjoyed our after dinner drinks at FACES instead.

I think Barrio is a great place for groups. If you are eating {or just need to soak up some of that tequila!}, there’s lots of stuff to share. And if you like to tequila and fun cocktails, you won’t be disappointed.

They do have happy hour pricing on food and beverages and offer private party menus, too.

My husband is not a fan of sharing plates with others when dining out.

What is your stance?

Do you like to split appetizers and dishes to try many things?

OR

Would you prefer to keep your plate to yourself?

Cheers~
Carrie

The Bulldog – Lowertown St. Paul

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Okay, so it’s not the same as the Bulldog NE. Can I say it’s as good? Hmmm… It’s almost like comparing apples to oranges. Well, maybe not that different. Maybe just two kinds of apples that you really like and you can’t choose between the two of them. Okay, so I’d probably choose the Nordeast location most of the time. But the Lowertown location of the Bulldog was actually much better than I expected.

Although you will find no cupcakes here. 😦

My husband suggested we stop by for dinner before another event we had taking place in downtown St. Paul. My friends Sally and Ryan love this place. I really wasn’t too excited about the menu online. And when we arrived, nothing sounded good to me. It was one of those days.

As I mentioned in the post about our beloved Bulldog NE, the Bulldog in the Lowertown area of St. Paul isn’t related. In fact, I didn’t think any of the Bulldog locations were related. But after checking out The Bulldog Lowertown website, it appears that of the four Bulldog Bar/Restaurants throughout the Twin Cities, the Bulldog NE is the only one not affiliated with the others. To make things more confusing, the websites for each location are different from what they actual title each restaurant:

I guess the non-affiliated location in Northeast/Nordeast Minneapolis is a bit confusing, too. The website is www.TheBulldogNortheast.com. But I’ve seen it written and/or called the following:

  • The Bulldog Northeast
  • The Bulldog Nordeast
  • The Bulldog NE
  • The Bulldog N.E.

I digress. Now that we’ve got all of that out of the way, back to The Bulldog – St. Paul, which is where this experience occurred…

I was immediately surprised by how big the interior is! For some reason, I wasn’t expecting that. The focus here is on Belgian beers, just like at the Bulldog NE. They also have descriptions of beer styles in their beer menu:

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But they have other rotating taps as well. I’ve been off my usual IPA kick for several months for some reason. On this particular occasion, I chose what I would probably consider more as dessert beers.

BulldogLT Tap

My choices of the day were the Young’s Double Chocolate Stout and the Lindemann’s Francoise Lambic

I just love how the new Young’s tap handle looks like a chocolate bar in the midst of being unwrapped. 😉

For dinner, Rob was in the mood for this:

PHILLY CHEESESTEAK Thin-sliced sirloin, sautéed peppers & onions topped with our spicy cheese sauce on a hoagie $9.50 with Cajun Tater Tots

PHILLY CHEESESTEAK
Thin-sliced sirloin, sautéed peppers & onions topped with spicy cheese sauce on a hoagie –  $9.50 {served here with Cajun Tater Tots}

Oh, boy was he in heaven with that Philly Cheesesteak. {The tots were fine. He’s had better; but it didn’t stop him from eating them!} I had a bite and thought it was rather good, too. I’d recommend it. Still, believe it or not, I thought my dish was so much better!

QUESADILLA Shredded cheese, beans & pico de gallo hand-rolled in a tortilla with your choice of tasty goodness. Beef $9 | Chicken $9 | Pulled Pork $9 | Veggie $8

PULLED PORK QUESADILLA
Shredded cheese, beans & pico de gallo hand-rolled in a tortilla with choice of filling. {Options: Beef $9 | Chicken $9 | Pulled Pork $9 | Veggie $8}

I chose pulled pork because I read somewhere else on the menu that it was house-made. Otherwise, I normally order my quesadillas with chicken. I thought Rob could try it, too. But then I realized it had beans. Sometimes, I do win out with his allergies! 😉

This quesadilla was stuffed to the max and oh-so-flavorful. It actually put the cheesesteak to shame on the flavor-meter. I wouldn’t exactly call it a quesadilla though. It was probably more like a grilled burrito. Yes, it was stuffed that much! But I loved it. I did end up giving Rob a taste of just the pulled pork and I think he got a little jealous. I couldn’t even give him a section because the beans were well mixed-in. When we go back to the Bulldog in Lowertown St. Paul, I’m going to have a hard time ordering anything else.

What is your favorite dessert-like beer?

What is your favorite quesadilla filling?

Cheers~
Carrie

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

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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 DEEP FRIED BRIE, HOMEMADE BLUEBERRY KETCHUP 11.95

Brie Curds – The News Room

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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?

Cheers~
Carrie