Wednesday, December 10, 2008

azuki sushi open and delivers to downtown Minneapolis

Azuki sushi is open!!! I had lunch delivered this week and it was great. My office is close to the Metrodome downtown Minneapolis. I'm not sure how extensive their delivery area is, but if you live or work downtown, it is definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

azuki sushi open December 1st!!!

Great news for azuki sushi fans! Jenny from azuki sent me a message to let everyone know they plan on being open December 1st after they are finished remodeling.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

azuki sushi closed ???!!!

My buddy scored us some Minnesota Gophers hockey tickets for the game today. I offered to buy lunch at my favorite sushi spot, azuki in Dinkytown on the University of Minnesota campus. To my horror it was closed up. There is a note on the door saying 'closed for remodeling'. It did not appear there was any work going on inside. A passer-by noticed us peering in the window and told us they've been closed for over a week or two. I really hope they are only closed for remodeling and not closed for good. If anyone out there has the inside scoop please post a comment.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Cantina #1 - Bloomington

I went to check out the new Cantina #1 at the Mall of America on a recommendation from a friend of mine. Usually, I try and avoid the chain restaurants, but on this occasion I was pleasantly surprised. I was totally expecting a super-cheesy Jimmy Buffet cheeseburger in Paradise type joint serving uninspiring mall food. Luckily Cantina #1 blew my low expectations out of the water. The restaurant design will make you feel more like you are in a swank downtown Latin restaurant than the largest indoor mall in America. Don't get me wrong, you still won't forget you are in a Corona owned restaurant, but it is by no means over the top. I ate in one of the hip booths the dining room but next time would opt for a spot at the more cozy tiki bar area. With plenty of large flat-screen TVs this would be an ideal spot to have a cold Corona Extra and watch the game if you don't have Minnesota Timberwolves tickets.
Like most Mexican restaurants we were immediately brought a basket of chips and salsa. The fresh salsa was very good with plenty of cilantro. The chips themselves were a bit average but the salsa made up for it. My favorite part of the meal was the shrimp ceviche appetiser. I would come back just for this. It ended up being a huge portion of shrimp ceviche spilling out of a coconut bowl served with chips. I can't think of a better way to break up a day of shopping than an ice cold margarita and this very satisfying snack. For the main course I went with the fajita platter with a trifecta of shrimp, steak and chicken. I washed it all down with a very tasty margarita on the rocks. Next time I think I will try one of the many tropical drinks on the menu.
Corona's Cantina # 1 is located on the 4th floor on the East side of the Mall of America.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Shish - Saint Paul

Shish on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul, near the Macalester campus, has some of the best gyros I've found in the Twin Cities. I just grabbed some lunch while running around and picking up some Minnesota Wild tickets.

I had my first gyro while attending school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison Wisconsin. At the time, there were two incredible gyro joints on State Street. The only downside to having world class gyros so easily accessible, is I'm now spoiled and expect only the best. Shish definitely delivers the goods. Their gyros start out with a full grilled pita. I hate it when places try and stuff everything in a cold pita cut in half. That is not good gyro. Then Shish piles on the lettuce, tomato, onion, tzatziki sauce and more gyro meat than a human could ever fold up in a pita. This is good gyro.

I also picked up a chicken shawarma sandwich. Most places would call this a chicken gyro. The shawarma sandwich is just like their gyro sandwich just substitute the beef & lamb with sliced seasoned marinated chicken. I should also add Shish offers excellent hummus and soup as well as a nice little coffee bar and delicious cakes and pastries.

Shish is located at 1668 Grand Avenue between Snelling and Cambridge. Shish is open 7am - 11pm daily.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pop - Saint Paul

I have Minnesota Wild tickets and I can't wait until the next game so I can go back to my latest hot spot find which is Pop!! downtown Saint Paul. Pop!! is the sister restaurant to the original Pop! in Northeast Minneapolis. I'm guessing this is the story behind the double exclamation marks. I have yet to visit the first Pop!, but I have heard nothing but good reviews. Pop!! Saint Paul is located in the old Fhima space on the corner of Sixth and Wabasha. I always liked Fhima and it's nice to see a new restaurant in this space. The space looks very much the same with a few slight cosmetic changes. If anything, feels more fun and casual. I think it would be a great place to take the kids for something different.

We decided to start out with the Pop!! fritters ($6.25) and the ... ($7.50) off the small plate menu. Both were great and the portions are very generous. We could have easily made a meal of just the appetizers. The signature fritters consisted of black beans, shrimp, cornmeal and served with a chipotle and a quasaca (Venezuelan avocado condiment) dipping sauces. The spicy fondue was served with grilled vegetables, cumin bruschetta, flat bread and plantain chips. I would not recommend ordering this unless you bring two or three friends to share with.

For entrees we went with the Swedish Meatballs and a Spicy BBQ Sandwich. Again, all the portions were very generous and we could have easily split either between the two of us. The meatballs were great, but tasted a little plain against all the other spicy food.

For desert we went with the Dulce De Leche filled crepes with candied hazelnuts and vanilla bean ice cream. For carmel lovers this is a must. It was awesome and I will definitely return just for the desert.

Pop!! has a decent wine & beer list with selections that compliment their menu nicely. It's definitely a great place to stop before or after a show if you have Ordway Theatre tickets or tickets to a Minnesota Wild game at Xcel Energy Center.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Lexington - St. Paul

We didn't have any Minnesota Twins tickets for the big game vs. the White Sox so we decided to grab some dinner and watch the game at The Lexington, or "The Lex" if you live in Saint Paul. We were looking for a step up from the usual bar fare. Walking in the front door of The Lexington is like stepping into a time machine and taking a trip back 30-40 years back to an era when the supper club was king. The bar at The Lexington is the perfect spot to grab a bite and a drink while watching the game. There is only one TV, but it is large enough for viewing anywhere in the bar area. Don't let the fancy surroundings intimidate you. They will treat you like the Mayor whether you're in a suit and tie or shorts and a t-shirt. This is Saint Paul after all. The menu is upscale supper club. They feature steaks, seafood, pasta and some great comfort food. All the soups are home made and I have yet to try one I did not care for. They offer a wide selection of appetizers, but my favorites are the coconut shrimp and The Lexington green beans, which consists of Fresh green beans blanched in oil then tossed with minced garlic, crushed red pepper, onion. It's hard to play favorites with the entree selections, but the Walleye Almondine is always great on it's own or paired with a steak. I'm not sure if it's on the dinner menu, but I'm a big fan of the 1/2 pound Lex Burger. Order some Bearnaise Sauce on the side to dip your fries. The Lexington is located on the corner of Grand Avenue and Lexington Avenue in Saint Paul. They are open 11am-10pm Monday - Thursday, 11am-11pm Friday and Saturday, and 9am-9pm Sunday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Maxwell's American Pub - Minneapolis

I found out some great news today. Maxwell's American Pub is opening this Saturday after being closed after a devastating fire in February. Anyone lucky enough to have Minnesota Vikings tickets or Minnesota Gophers Football tickets for the games this weekend should stop by, grab a beer and one of their awesome sandwiches and welcome Maxwell's back! For anyone not familiar, Maxwell's is located at 1201 Washington Avenue South, just blocks from the Metrodome in Minneapolis. They offer a wide selection of tap beer and a great menu. Their phone number is 612-354-7085.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

azuki Japanese Restaurant - Minneapolis

My business partner had to run to Minneapolis to pick up tickets for the Minnesota Vikings game this Sunday at the Metrodome. On his way he stopped to pick up lunch for the office. He happened across azuki Japanese Restaurant, a little hole in the wall on the University of Minnesota campus. I'm a huge sushi fan, but always a bit leery of raw fish from somewhere I've never heard of. Well, this may be one of the restaurant finds of the year. The sushi rolls were awesome. The crowd favorite had to be their New Orleans roll which consisted of craw fish, avocado, 'crunchy inside', snow crab, spicy tuna & wasabi tobiko on top. This was one giant sushi roll. All the fish was incredibly fresh. My second favorite was the Crunchy Spicy Tuna roll. We did not try any of the Sushimi or A La Carte sushi, but I have to go back now that I know the quality of fish is so high.

For a tiny little restaurant, azuki has a fairly extensive menu. They offer three different soups daily and five unique salads. You will find most of your favorite Japanese appetizers, including Edamame, Shumai, Gyoza, Negimaki, Tempura, Yakitori & Tuna Tataki, just to name a few. There is also a decent list of Japanese Entrees. The prices seem extremely fair. On average, $4-$6 for appetisers, $8-$12 for special rolls, $3-$6 for regular rolls and a la carte sushi and sashimi, and $10-$15 for entrees.

I noticed on their menu they offer delivery, which I plan on trying in the very near future. Azuki is located at 307 Oak Street SE on the University of Minnesota campus blocks away from Mariucci Arena. It is tucked in between Chipotle and the Oak Street Cinema. They are open Monday - Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday - Saturday 11am-11pm and Sunday 1pm-10pm. The phone number is 612-331-9551.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Meritage - Saint Paul Minnesota

Before attending a recent performance at the Ordway Theatre in Saint Paul, we had a fabulous meal at Meritage. Meritage is French stlye bistro located in the historic Hamm building just blocks from the Ordway Theatre, Roy Wilkins Auditorium, Xcel Energy Center and the Fitzgerald Theatre. It occupies the same space as the now closed A Rebours. The new restaurant and menu are very similar to A Rebours. The weather was perfect for enjoying dinner on the sidewalk patio. To drink we started with decided to start off with a glass of Rose Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. Their dinner menu is split up into "Amusements", "Soups & Salads", "Introductions", "Main Characters" and "Plat Du Jour". The "Amusements" are made up of $3 two-bite appetisers. We tried the "Tiny Tuna TarTar Taco" and the "Braised Beef Strudel", which consisted of braised beef and gravy twisted inside of puff pastry. Both were exceptional and the Cava complimented them nicely. We then moved onto the "Classic Pork Rillette with Fig Puree". The rillette, which is basically a pate made from slow cooked pork, was served in a small mason jar with a layer of fig jam on top, all on a plate with grilled bread, dill pickles and brown mustard. This substantial starter would make a perfect light lunch or would be great on a picnic. From there we moved onto some Alaskan Halibut and Roasted Rack of Iowa Lamb. Both dishes were great, but the Halibut was my favorite. It was served with a sweet pea puree, glazed fingerling potatoes, cippolini onions and a white truffle emulsion. This was a perfect summertime dish loaded with tons of complex flavors. The white truffle and sweet pea worked great together. We split an order of the Pomme Frittes with Bearnaise sauce on the side. The Pomme Frittes were excellent. We brought our own bottle of Sea Smoke Ten Pinot Nior. The wine was awesome and went nicely with both the fish and the pork. For desert we went with the Vanilla Bean Pot du Creme and Chocolate cake. The Pot du Creme was a vanilla cream custard with whipped cream and served with an almond cookie. Our waitress suggested pairing it with a white Pineau des Charentes. Overall, it was a great meal. It was nice to see that Meritage has picked up where A Rebours left off.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Eagle Street Grille; St Paul

After a recent noon Minnesota Twins game, my buddies and I headed to Eagle Street Grille in St. Paul for a late lunch and beer. This is one of my favorite bars in St. Paul before or after Minnesota Wild games, with the kids or with the guys, I always have a good time; good food, good atmosphere, good service.

The guys who own the Eagle Street, Kevin and Joe, have really made it their own since they purchased it. The Eagle Street Grille menu reflects the since forgotten mob presence in St. Paul. The items have names such as ‘the bandit burger,’ the ‘black mail’ chicken sandwich and my favorite the ‘loan shark’ walleye sandwich. They also have a sandwich dedicated to their alma mater, Cretin Derham Hall.

They have a good selection of tap and bottled beer so everyone’s sure to be pleased. The Eagle Street bartenders are friendly and know me and my guys by name now. I ordered the D “Anne” G Burger with blue cheese, mushrooms and bacon. I tried the seasoned sour cream with the fries and was unimpressed, it tasted more like sour tarter sauce than sour cream with ranch seasoning. No worries, though, everyone left pleased. The Eagle Street Grille is a good place to head after Twins Games because it’s a short drive once you’ve escaped the Metrodome Minneapolis traffic and it’s not that crowded.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fat Lorenzo's Pizza - Minneapolis Minnesota

One of my favorite Pizza places in Minneapolis is Fat Lorenzo's near Lake Nakomis. We recently stopped for pizza on the way home from the Minnesota Twins game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. They have great New York style pizza. They really load on the cheese and use very fresh ingredients. Because the pizza is so great I have yet to try the hot hoagies or pasta, but from what I've seen they look tempting. If you are looking for an appetizer try the Homemade Bread Stick. My kids love them. Because the food is so great and it's such a popular spot be prepared to grab a beer and wait for table. Fat Lorenzo's is located at 5600 Cedar Avenue South on the corner of Cedar and Edgewater Blvd. They have off street parking behind the restaurant.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Xcel Energy Center - Saint Paul, Minnesota

There may not be a hotter spot in the Twin Cities right now than Xcel Energy Center. Anyone with Minnesota Wild Hockey Playoff tickets knows this to be true. I was lucky enough to score a couple tickets to last Friday's Minnesota Wild Playoff game. As long as I was at the game I figured I might as well check out some of the food offerings. I was actually a little disappointed with how limited the options were if you didn't want a hot dog, something deep fried or drowning in fake cheese. I was excited to see they did offer Davanni's Pizza. Having grown up in the Twin Cities I've been a huge fan of Davanni's since they started out back in the '80's. Unfortunately, the hunk of overcooked dried out cardboard I was served at the Minnesota Wild game resembled no Davanni's pizza I've ever had. One thing Xcel Energy center does offer is a great beer selection, both domestic and import. Luckily my ice cold Summit Beer, a Saint Paul classic, didn't disappoint. Paired with an exciting Wild hockey game win, it more than made up for my terrible pizza experience.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kafe 421 - Minneapolis, Minnesota

We enjoyed a great dinner at Kafe 421 in the heart of Dinkytown on the University Of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kafe 421 was founded by Georgia Sander, who emigrated from Greece at the age of 14. The restaurant consists of a bistro / wine bar with sidewalk seating in the front half with a more elegant dining area in the rear. It's a perfect place to go if you are looking for a gourmet meal without having to get dressed up or spending a fortune. It would be an ideal place to grab a drink and something to eat before going to an event at the Varsity Theatre or Northrop Auditorium. If you have Minnesota Gopher Basketball Tickets at Williams Arena this would be a great place to stop for a sandwich and a beer before or after the game.
I'm glad we made a reservation as the restaurant was packed when we arrived. I tried a glass of the Skouras Moschofilero while we waited for our table. This Greek white wine hit the spot and I could certainly see pairing it with seafood or spicy Asian dishes. Kafe 421's wine list is well rounded and very affordable.
After a very short wait our table was ready. We started out with the Mezedes, which turned out to be a huge appetizer platter consisting or Spanakopita, Caprese Skewers, Coconut Shrimp, Beef Kebabs and Fava Beans with Tomato Sauce. This massive plate of food could easily satisfy two for dinner. It was an excellent way to sample what Kafe 421 has to offer. Everything was great, but the highlights were the shrimp, caprese and beef kebabs. The Shrimp was lightly breaded and served with a sweet orange sauce. The Caprese was served on bite size skewers with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar. These would make awesome appetizers for a party. The beef was cooked perfectly and served with a creamy cucumber sauce.
I tried the Rack of Lamb for dinner. The lamb was grilled to perfection with Greek seasoning and served with a Dijon Mustard vinaigrette, Mashed Potatoes and Haricots Verts. My dinner companion had the equally tasty Campesino, which was a grilled London Broil served with a creamy Gorgonzola sauce, asparagus and roasted potatoes. Just like the lamb, the London Broil was done perfectly and the complimented nicely by the Gorgonzola sauce.
For desert we tried the Galatobouriko, which is a Creamy Custard and Orange Zest wrapped in Phyllo Pastry with Grand Marnier and Honey Syrup. The desert was great and I recommend adding a scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.
Kafe 421 is located at 421 14th Avenue SE in Minneapolis Minnesota. They offer parking validation for the lot directly behind the restaurant. They are open Monday - Thursday 11am - 9pm, Friday & Saturday 11am - 10pm and Sunday 12pm - 9pm.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

CHATTERBOX PUB in Highland Park, St Paul

Chatterbox Pub moved into the neighborhood about a year ago, taking over the space of an old Perkins … definitely an improvement! The Chatterbox remodeled the space and it looks fantastic! The interior is a retro mix of restaurant dining space combined with several mock family rooms. With tables lining the walls the center of the restaurant and bar areas have comfy couches and chairs centered around TVs for playing video games. The Chatterbox menu boasts over 200 video games on any gaming system ever created. In addition to offering video games the Chatterbox also has a wall of board games to play. The dark lighting makes the space intimate.

This unintimidating environment makes the Chatterbox an appropriate place to go on a first date or good place to take a study break and just veg. The food isn’t bad either. They have really good appetizers, I come back just for the spinach dip and cheese fondue. They have something for everyone when it comes to entrees. Burgers, pizza, pasta, salad, and feel good favorites like meatloaf and pot-roast. The wine list is extensive and like many restaurants in the area, they have their own line of beer. They have clever names and poetic descriptions, which makes it impossible to only have one! The Chatterbox doesn’t advertise much but every time I go it’s busy. This restaurant is a great neighborhood treasure and word of mouth will keep it alive for many years to come.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Osaka Japanese Steakhouse

I was in Eden Prairie last week for a business meeting and someone suggested Osaka instead of the usual Biaggis. It’s about a mile away from Eden Prairie Center tucked behind a couple of hotels. I would have had no idea it was there if someone hadn’t pointed it out. The Aloha sign above the door was kind of confusing, I found myself wondering why the welcome sign was in Hawaiian instead of Japanese. One of my associates said he has seen some Minnesota Vikings players in there before.

The restaurant wasn’t very decorated, it was pretty plain. There were only a few other tables in the restaurant and one couple at the sushi bar. Our server was attentive but not overly friendly. Our shrimp and vegetable tempura appetizer came moments before our sushi, not really giving us a chance to enjoy it… but that is to be expected at sushi restaurants. I had both the Crazy Roll and the Angel Roll. Both were great. There was a lot of detail on both the rolls and the sauces served with them complimented them nicely. The meal was filling which surprised me because I’m not often full after sushi. I will definitely come back to try their Hibachi cuisine. When it comes to finding Sushi in the suburbs Osaka should not be overlooked.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sushi Tango; Calhoun Square

Last night I was really impressed with the service and food at Sushi Tango. In the Twin Cities, most sushi restaurants offer the same staple rolls, what really impresses me in a sushi restaurant is the creativity of the sushi chefs in creating specialty rolls. We started off with the Yum Yum roll, one that I hadn’t had yet. It combined spicy tuna, eel, spicy mayo rolled in crunchy tempura flakes. The flavor was good and the proportion of the tempura was good, not overwhelming like some dishes which dulls the overall effect of the roll. To be a little adventurous we had the Sushi Tango, a chef’s choice of 10 pieces of Nigiri, 3 cucumber rolls and 3 spicy tuna rolls. The fish eggs were my least favorite. The portion was unnecessarily large, making it hard to eat gracefully with chopsticks. There was little flavoring and cleaning up the escaped orange eggs was annoying. The Nigiri was fresh and tasty, as were the tuna and cucumber rolls. Our waiter was nice and accommodating. Tango Sushi isn’t the best sushi restaurant in Minneapolis but its reliability and consistency makes it an easy go to.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Café Brenda, 300 1st Ave., Minneapolis

If you want to go for fish or flora, Café Brenda Minneapolis’ Warehouse District has all the staples covered. Whether it be walleye, a Greek salad with Bermuda onion or the vegetarian Brenda Burger, good options abound. Founder Brenda Langton originally started working in a 70s vegetarian restaurant in St. Paul called Commonplace. She was the youngest employee there and was determined to learn how to run a vegetarian restaurant.

She began Café Kardamena in St. Paul at the age of 21 in 1976, and due to increasing demand she opened Café Brenda in 1986 in its current space downtown Minneapolis. Although Café Brenda is not completely vegetarian, it manages to please both healthy-eating omnivores and vegetarians. Café Brenda is a great place to try some Minnesota favorites from a venerable figure of the Minnesota restaurant scene.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Origami, 30 North First Street, Minneapolis

Among some of the praised heaped upon Origami, which posts up in both downtown Minneapolis and Ridgedale Minnetonka, is Best Sushi four years in a row (2002-2006) from City Pages and a 9.3 rating from City Search 2006. A Best Sushi award from the critics of City Pages is no small feat in a metro area flooded with Japanese and Korean restaurants. Origami doesn’t try to pretend at Asian quaintness, it’s furnished with some ultra-modern purple panels inside at the bar. There are booths for five that would look more fitting in a sports bar, but the sushi is excellent, and it’s open for business lunch during the workweek.

Origami is known to be the place to go for a business lunch with a party of four or more. In fact, going out for a quiet date is not a good idea at Origami, as the house prefers large parties. 5-9 people are sat on a first come first served basis while parties of ten or more should call ahead. If you’re going for sushi, each piece is gorgeously prepared. There is tuna, lobster and salmon. But the squid and octopus somehow look just as appetizing. Sushi is not fast food, even as much as it’s become popular, and Origami doesn’t treat it that way.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Figlio Calhoun Square vs. Zarletti's Milwaukee

A few weeks ago my boss gave me free Timberwolves tickets for their game against the Utah Jazz at the Target Center. However, before we left for the game we decided to go out for some great Italian food in the Minneapolis St. Paul area. After the wait for Amore Victoria was too long, we drove up the road to Figlio’s in Calhoun Square, located in Uptown as well. The food was okay, not one of the better Italian meals that I have had, but you cannot beat Filigo’s drink specials. There are not many Minneapolis Happy Hours that can compete with Figlio’s $2 drinks (that includes wine!) and their $2 appetizers. Their Happy Hours vary, but they have specials every day.

Last week I ventured to Milwaukee and I ate at the best Italian restaurant I have ever been to. Zarletti’s is located in downtown Milwaukee on Mason Street, close to the Milwaukee Athletic Club. It has a nice atmosphere that emits a professional, but not too stuffy, surroundings. The restaurant itself is dimly lit and offers a great selection of fine Italian cuisine. I had an immaculate dish ‘ravioli al fungi’ which was an assortment of mushrooms in a light cream sauce with cheese filled ravioli. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! This restaurant did not feature drink specials or $2 appetizers, but Italian is kind of a ‘you get what you pay for’ cuisine. Zarletti’s cost a little more ($18-$30 a plate) than Figlio’s, but the quality and taste shows. If you are ever in Milwaukee, be sure to stop in!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

El Patio, St. Paul

El Patio Mexican Grill is conveniently located on St. Paul’s West Seventh Street, giving easy access to pre-Wild margaritas. The carnitas are what is to try here, but vegetarians also have options as there is a separate menu of meatless delights (the complimentary soup is not vegetarian so watch for that). The spot isn’t called El Patio for nothing, in the summer there is great space for outdoors dining although it’s tough to think about in the middle of January.

The margaritas are expensive but tasty. The better drink deal here is the 40 ounce draft beers for only six to seven bucks, and that includes Heineken! If you’re feeling Mexican on a Minnesota Wild game night, or any night, El Patio is a good space. If you don’t sit in the dining room, get up and try to check out the mural that is strewn across one of its walls at some point.