Tag Archives: twin cities restaurants

Merlin’s Rest

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You don’t know how long we’ve been meaning to get ourselves to Merlin’s Rest, a British-style pub located in Minneapolis on East Lake Street. We had heard all about their trivia nights and their crazy-huge whiskey menu, as well as how busy it can get on holidays and when there is entertainment.

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But we ventured there for a Sunday lunch so that we would be guaranteed to have a seat at the bar. And because it was lunch, we did not ask to see the big book on whiskeys and scotch. But those Cadbury Concoctions on the menu might have been fit for dessert!

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The wine list was reasonably priced for a restaurant; so I’d feel comfortable bringing a friend who doesn’t love beer to this pub.  Plus, there are some unique and appropriately-themed cocktails:
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That Islay Martini has me intrigued. But I’d save that for a before-dinner drink another day. For lunch, I was looking for something a little less boozy. I really wanted to try the draft ciders, but $12 just seemed like so much!

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Then I thought about all of the cocktail bars I’ve been to where I’ve spent that much on something much less than 20 ounces. I surely won’t pass up one of those ciders next time. It’s not common to see English cider on tap. I also like that they list the half-and-half beer concoctions you see above. I always forget about those until I see them on a menu!

In the end, I went with a Fuller’s London Porter. Have you ever had a British Porter before? It’s very different from our American craft-beer styles. It had been so long since I’d had one and it really hit the spot. It sort of made me feel like I was back in London.

The lunch menu is a bit different than you’ll find on the web, so I’m posting it here. I’m guessing it changes, though, since it’s just printed on a piece o’ paper.

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I was debating between the British Fish & Chips and the Piri Piri Chicken Wrap. This was the first time I’ve seen anything “piri-piri” in the U.S. So there was that. And I really hate to compare fish and chips with my fave at Anchor. But I couldn’t help myself with the ambiance and beer I was drinking…

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British Fish & Chipssalted, malted and wrapped in newsprint paper – $8

When I ordered “the fish and chips”, I was asked if I wanted them British or Yankee style. British-style Fish & Chips are malted before serving. You malt them yourself if you order them Yankee-style. To get to the fried goodness, one must flip over the package and open it up.

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The pre-malting makes the fries a big soggier. I do like malt vinegar; but I think I’d prefer to malt them myself next time. The fish was very, very good and I’d highly recommend this if you are looking for some British-Pub fare. Great price, too!

Rob’s choice was a bit different:

a bowl of the soup of the day {some cabbage-vegetable-beef sort, I believe} with…

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RHP Croquettes red headed piper beer cheese, mash, cajun aioli – $5

Those were the biggest croquettes we’ve ever seen! They were crazy-delicious; but Rob could only put away two of them after his soup. If you are looking for a filling, tasty and inexpensive bite in town, this is the one! But after all that heavy, fried food, we were in no shape for dessert. But in case you were wondering what’s available….

 

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Okay, so now we need to go back to Merlin’s Rest to play some trivia sometime. Who wants to join us?

Do you like pub food?

If so, what’s your go-to?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

How to Choose a Restaurant for Restaurant Week

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Restaurant Week is happening soon in the Twin Cities! 

July 20th – 25th

And while passing through my hometown this weekend, we learned that Green Bay is hosting a Restaurant Week soon as well: July 10th – 17th. Check it out at GBRestaurantWeek.com.

Restaurant Week is offered a few times per year in many cities throughout the U.S. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy three-course lunches or dinners at $15 – $30 per person.

We’ve taken advantage of  Restaurant Week a time or two, sometimes multiple times in one week! In the Twin Cities, there are so many options. How do you choose!? Here are some tips on how to narrow them down. Most of us can only afford to take advantage of one or two. So, let’s make the most of it!

How to Choose a Restaurant for Restaurant Week:

Dates and Locations

What dates are you available? Do you want to have lunch or dinner? Restaurants all over the Twin Cities Metro area participate in Restaurant Week. Living South of the River, I’m not going to want to dine in the northern suburbs and fight rush hour traffic on a weeknight. Are you available for lunch during the week? This is a time for a real deal!

Try Something New (or stick with a favorite!)

One of our rules when choosing a restaurant for Restaurant Week is that it must be a place where we’ve never dined before. This is a restaurant’s opportunity to showcase its signature dishes and win you over! On the other hand, if your favorite restaurant is participating in Restaurant Week and offering your favorite dish, by all means, take advantage.

Menu

This is by the far the biggest determinant for us when choosing where to dine. It is important that you look at the Restaurant Week Menu online before deciding. Many chefs choose their most popular dishes or items that represent them the best to introduce you to their cuisine and give you a true taste of what makes them unique.

However, for some reason, other restaurants seem to offer boring selections. For example:

Appetizer: Caesar Salad or French Onion Soup

Entrée: Sirloin or Spaghetti & Meatballs

Dessert: Chocolate Cake or Strawberry Cheesecake

Really? That’s all you’ve got?

While these menu items certainly can be made really well, I want to taste the creativity and the character of the restaurant. When it comes to showcasing your menu, spice it up. In fact, SEASON IT ALREADY!

We don’t even bother with the restaurants who don’t list their menus. And of course, if you have any dietary restrictions, make sure that you can eat what is offered. Most restaurants won’t deviate from the three-course menu during Restaurant Week, but it doesn’t hurt to call and ask for substitutions if it’s a place you really want to try.

Make Reservations

Due to the extreme value and the popularity of Restaurant Week, it’s highly recommended that you make reservations. Not all restaurants will accept them, though. In those cases, call ahead, arrive during “off” hours or prepare to wait.

Then, enjoy a truly memorable experience dining out that you may not have otherwise!

Which restaurant would you try during Twin Cities Restaurant Week?

Which restaurant do you think we are going to try? 😉

Cheers~
Carrie

Half-Priced Wine Nights in the Twin Cities

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Twin Cities peeps, remember last Wine Wednesday when I said that I have a gift for you?

Did you notice the new heading at the top of the page? If not, here you go… Just click here.

It’s my new page on all of the restaurants in the Twin Cities that I have discovered offer half-priced wine nights!

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You’re welcome.

I was inspired to keep my own list when I did a search on any given night and came up with out-dated lists from 2008. I know it will take a bit to keep up and I can’t promise that it won’t become outdated because a restaurant can change their offerings at any time.

But I’m giving you the tools of somewhere to start.

Here is what I’ve done:

  • I’ve categorized the list by days of the week. Let’s face it, when you aren’t sure where to go on a particular night, knowing which restaurants offer half-priced wine may persuade you!.
  • I’ve included a link to the restaurant website where you can get the phone number of the restaurant.
  • Not all restaurants will list their half-price wine specials on their websites. Even if they do, it’s recommended that you call first because not all restaurant website are up-to-date either.
  • If you find a change or want to add a new restaurant, just comment below or email me at Uncommon Wine (at) Yahoo (dot) com.

Now go find that restaurant with that half-priced wine in the Twin Cities!

Happy Wine Wednesday!

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.

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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

Top 10 Restaurants with the Best Tap Beer Selections in the Twin Cities

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The availability of craft brews has increased throughout the Twin Cities in the last couple of years. It is much less expensive to get a good craft brew these days than it is to get a decent glass of wine!

To round off American Craft Beer Week, Rob and I would like to list our Top 10 Restaurants in the Twin Cities with the Best Tap Beer Selections.

Because we couldn’t even begin to rank these, I’ve put them in alpha order instead.

1) Acadia CafeMinneapolis | Part coffee shop, part restaurant, part bar, this joint is about as eclectic as they get. The motto here: “NO CRAP ON TAP!” And they live by that. There are even a couple on cask. They have a nice selection of local (home), domestic (away) and international (far away) beers. Your favorite isn’t on tap? Not to worry, there’s many more in the bottle.

2) Devil’s AdvocateMinneapolis | While meatballs are the name of the game here, the selection of brews is just as impressive. A bartender told us that they get only one keg of each beer, so they are constantly changing things up! With 40 tap beers, you can’t go wrong. It’s the first time I’ve had a Lambic not out of a bottle.

3) Groveland TapSt. Paul | This is where we first discovered Lucid! They put old tap handles on the wall and ceiling. There were a lot that I hadn’t seen before!

4) Happy GnomeSt. Paul | If we had to name one place the best-of-the-best for tap beer selection in all of the Twin Cities, it would be the Happy Gnome. A new beer menu is printed every day. And sometimes, by the time you get that menu, something will be sold out. It’s not just the fact that they have a large beer menu, it’s the wide variety that makes it stand out from the rest. Seriously, a Guajillo Chile Cocoa Mole beer? Yes, please! If you come visit and like beer, don’t let us forget to take you here.

5) LowryMinneapolis (Uptown) | Excellent Happy Hour prices found here! Beer Selection varied and changing. {I’ve tried some new ones here!} But this hipster place can get busy and doesn’t take reservation.

6) NE BulldogMinneapolis | What doesn’t this place have? Fantastic beer selection {including a rotational firkin!}, food that includes parmesan truffle tater tots and the best cupcakes you’ve never had. Seriously.

7) Pig & FiddleMinneapolis | Truthfully P&F’s older sister restaurant, the Muddy Pig in St. Paul, should be listed here. It was where we were told to go before the Twin Cities knew what craft beer was. However, we haven’t been there since the Surly Bill passed and our palates evolved. So P&F wins. Check out yesterday’s post.

8) RepublicMinneapolis | Republic has two locations. We’ve only been to the newer one in Uptown. It probably has one of the best selections of local beers on tap. Can’t decide what to order? The flight options are very reasonably priced and, in my opinion, the way to go!

9) Town Hall BreweryMinneapolis | Town Hall is the first real brewpub in Minneapolis. {Well, since we’ve lived here.} They not only brew their own beer on the premises, but also offer some others that you probably haven’t had many other places. Can we say Blackthorne Cider from England on tap? It’s where I experienced my first cask beer, too!

10) Lone Oak Grill Eagan |Yes! We’ve got one “South of the River.” Pair that with the Happy Hour burger {which Rob likes better than their regular burger} or the Mac & Cheese with blackened chicken or smoked pork and you are golden…

Where can you find the best craft or local beer selection on tap where you live?

Cheers~

Carrie & Rob

Ambiance vs. Atmosphere and Best of the Twin Cities

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If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out my new tab above titled “Best of the Twin Cities“!

I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorites throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area and listed them for you. Whether you live in town or are just visiting, if you are craving something specific, give my “bests” a try. If my jury is still out on a particular category, but my husband has a favorite, I’ve listed his favorite as such: (Rob).

Of course, it’s impossible to try everything and by no means am I a professional food critic. This list may just end up being posted for my memory’s sake. If you have some favorites of your own, please share so we can give them a try as well!

I may be updating this list from time to time, but will that be monthly? Annually? Probably just whenever I find a new fave. We’ll see.

Until then, I’d like to clear the air….

I’ve gotten in the habit of saying ambiance when describing the mood and feel of a restaurant. Why? Whenever I’ve said, “This place has a really nice atmosphere,” Rob comments that the atmosphere is composed of the same gases there as anywhere else. Haha. You’d think that he is a science geek; but it isn’t so. Now that I’ve become so accustomed to using the word ambiance, I catch other people using the word atmosphere. And while it technically isn’t wrong, I just can’t get the thought of describing the air in a building as “nice” as being anything but just plain weird.

Why do we have to be so literal?

On that note, we could move on to topic of the overused and misused word literally. For fun, here are a few of my favorites. You’ll get the message. Enjoy!

What misused phrases annoy you?

(All in good fun, of course!)

Cheers~
Carrie