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[MSP] Chowish Choices in TC Entertainment Book?/Boca Chica

t
The Dairy Queen Nov 10, 2005 07:02 AM

So, we bought one of those Entertainment Books from a schoolkid. They have lots of 2-for-1 dinner options in the book and we thought it might be a fun way to try some restaurants we hadn't tried yet--maybe we'll discover a gem-- and support the schools at the same time.

We ended up at Boca Chica Restaurant in St. Paul last night. The coupon was a "buy one meal get one free", up to an $8.00 value. Of course, there was nothing on the menu for $8.00 (avg entree was about $12) so, really, it just amounted to $8 off our check. You have to present the coupon at the time you order, which always worries me (why do they care before you order how you intend to pay? Does this mean they are treat you differently somehow?)

The restaurant was very busy, apparently, as Orange Julius had to drink his beer from the bottle (all the glasses were dirty) and we had to eat our soup with teaspoons (all the soup spoons were dirty.) The salsa was spicy hot, but not complex. The soup had some stringy noodles in it, but otherwise seemed to rely on salt as its primary flavor. I ordered a combination platter that came with a pork tamale, sope, chicken enchilada, and black beans, thinking I'd find at lease one thing good, but wasn't enthusiastic about any of them; the tamale and the chicken in the enchilada were dry and without flavor. The tamale looked so sad and shriveled when I removed the corn husk. Overall, I was disappointed.

So, we did accomplish our goal of trying some place new, but it didn't turn out to be a place we're going to add to our list of restaurants to frequent. Incidentally, the wall in the entry was covered with numerous of "Best Mexican Restaurant" awards from various local publications "Best of" issues, so, I don't know if it's just me, if we just went there on an off night, if the restaurant has slipped, or, if the awards were not deserved in the first place.

Do any of you have the Twin Cities Entertainment book? Have you discovered any chowish options in there?

~TDQ

  1. m
    msphawkeye Nov 10, 2005 08:04 AM

    we usually get the book every year. makes us try some new places. mostly we stick to the places in the front of the book where you need the card. some notables...(can't remember if they are all in this year)

    erte
    jp american bistro
    mojito (now closed i think)
    tiberon
    bellanote
    basils
    st. petersberg resturant and vodka bar
    ping's
    town hall brewery
    bbq place on eat street
    carousel in st. paul (good for hockey game nights)

    a lot are the same from year to year..but a lot are worth going back to. couple of things to note..

    -always call first to see if they are still taking it.

    -some places you must order off a certain spot in the menu (at st. petes i believe it had to be what they called a 'dinner'). so it is a good idea to let them know a head of ordering that you are using it.

    i would love to hear of any others people have used.

    5 Replies
    1. re: msphawkeye
      t
      The Dairy Queen Nov 10, 2005 08:23 AM

      Great list and good advice. Thank you!

      I realized after I made my post, that there were at least two chowish options in the book:

      St. Paul Bagelry
      Andy's Garage (I've not yet been there, but, MSPD--if I remember correctly--recommended it to me on my very first Twin Cities post)

      We weren't feeling in the mood for a burger or we would have gone to Andy's. Next time...

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen
        t
        The Dairy Queen Nov 10, 2005 08:24 AM

        Oh, and I think Manny's tortas is in there, too!

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen
          d
          Danny Nov 10, 2005 10:07 AM

          I wouldn't rush to Andy's Garage. The decor is really nice, the food isn't anything you can't get at Snuffy's. And the service is sloooooooow.

          1. re: Danny
            s
            Sandra Nov 10, 2005 05:30 PM

            I'm the one who posted about Andy's and the regular chowhounds nixed it. Hey, they have a much larger breadth of experience with Twin Cities places so I'll go with it. I didn't get an Entertainment Book this year, but last year they had a coupon for Holy Land, and Snuffy's if you like that sort of thing. :)

            1. re: Sandra
              d
              Danny Nov 10, 2005 06:01 PM

              For the record, I like Andy's. I just wouldn't go out of my way to eat there. :-)

      2. g
        Gino Nov 10, 2005 08:28 AM

        Mavericks in Roseville is in there as well. Although I have been offered 2 for 1 from the owner of Mavericks a few times without a coupon. I think it was a first timer looking confusingly at the menu offer of you buy a roast beef and I'll give a brisket.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Gino
          m
          MSPD Nov 10, 2005 09:03 AM

          If Mavericks is in there, that's probably the best deal in the book. (Unless you're a huge U of M fringe sports fan -- you can get freebies to things like Gopher Women's Thumb Wrestling and Men's Basketball vs. Nome Alaska School for One-Legged Sub-Four-Footers.)

          Regarding Andy's Garage...I don't think that was me. As I posted the other day, their burgers were a disappointment when I had them -- standard frozen restaurant-grade stuff.

          1. re: MSPD
            s
            Sven Nov 10, 2005 01:08 PM

            "Unless you're a huge U of M fringe sports fan -- you can get freebies to things like...Men's Basketball vs. Nome Alaska School for One-Legged Sub-Four-Footers"

            Hey a win is a win, how do you think the football team keeps receiving bowl bids?

            As for the book, I'm fond of all the coffee shop coupons. It's a great way to get a free cookie or muffin with my coffee. A few others that have been inlcuded in the past and have been discussed recently are Mr. Q's in Eden Prairie and Jerabek's Bakery in St. Paul. There are also monthly coupons in the back of the book for Rainbow Foods and Super America gas.

          2. re: Gino
            d
            Danny Nov 10, 2005 10:06 AM

            At Maverick's, tell them its your first time, and you'll get a regular roast beef and a regular brisket for the price of a large roast beef. (I've also seen them just give you half of a brisket for free.)

            But, in places like Maverick's, I tend to not use coupons even if I have them. It's a small place with the owner behind the counter, and not using coupons is my way of supporting the local business.

          3. d
            Danny Nov 10, 2005 10:11 AM

            I'm pretty sure Athens Cafe in Robbinsdale is in there. I don't live far from there, and eat there about once a week. Some of the best simple Greek Food in the Twin Cities.

            And cheap before you start using coupons. For $7 or $8, you'll get a greek salad and a huge entree with either rice or hummus. If you can finish everything, you've got an amazing stomach. I've been at a table for 4 where the bill was under $30, and every person had to get a container to take leftovers home.

            If you're looking for atmosphere, look elsewhere. Order at the counter, and they'll bring the food to your table. Everything is served on styrofoam plates or bowls, and the cutlery is plastic. After your second bite, you won't care. If ever a place defined, "A bargain at twice the price" - it would be Athens.

            1. k
              kcmarshall Nov 10, 2005 12:36 PM

              I've never been wild about Boca Chica for dinner either. Haven't seen anything on the menu that interests me or that wouldn't be better at El Burrito Mercado.

              The secret to eating at Boca Chica is to go for Sunday brunch. Its an all-you-can-eat buffet deal and there are always 2 or 3 _really_ good options. You'll see chilaquiles and pork in red or green sauces. The enchiladas do tend to be of the gloppy, mega-cheese variety (very guilty pleasure) or a fairly dry, bland chicken. There will also be some gringo-esque options like breakfast sausages, mini-waffles and scrambled eggs (with chorizo!).

              They've also offered custom omlettes prepared while you wait - I think that has still been an option in recent visits. Generally there is a soup - sometimes your "stringy noodle" variety and sometimes menudo. Can't say I'm a huge menudo fan but here's your chance to try it risk-free. My wife would go for the brunch even if she didn't like any of the food because they have flan on the "dessert" table. You do not want to see my wife in an flan feeding frenzy! ;)

              Some Sunday, if you decide you're in the mood for Mexican food, you may want to revisit Boca Chica. Steer towards the more authentic dishes and you should be happier.

              Kevin

              1. a
                Alice Nov 11, 2005 11:51 PM

                what are these books and where does one get them?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Alice
                  t
                  The Dairy Queen Nov 12, 2005 02:28 AM

                  The Entertainment Books are coupon books that school kids and charitable organizations sell as fundraisers. I think they always come out in the fall. I've always bought mine from a neighbor kid or a co-worker's child, but, I think you can get them online, too.

                  For the most part, the coupons are for local attractions, restaurants, and grocery stores. Also, to a lesser extent, for some local services like drycleaning and auto repair. They also have tons of coupons for chain restaurants, rental cars, hotels, movie theaters.

                  ~TDQ

                  Link: http://www.entertainment.com/

                2. j
                  John Nov 12, 2005 02:01 PM

                  I refuse to go to any restaurant that offers coupons. Why should I pay full price, and contribute to the cost of someone else´s meal? My friends in the business say that people who use the coupons visit once, and never come back.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: John
                    t
                    The Dairy Queen Nov 13, 2005 06:51 AM

                    You might be interested in this discussion on coupons on "Not about food" (see link below). I'm not in the industry and don't know much about the business side of it, but I imagine restaurants, like all businesses, use a variety of ways to advertise or acquire new customers. Marketing is important to ensuring the success of any business. I imagine the $8 Boca Chica forwent in order to entice us to try their restaurant would have certainly been worth it to them if we we liked their restaurant and became repeat customers.

                    As it was, our tab (bar + food) was still around $40, even after the coupon. Unfortunately, we weren't impressed by the food or service-- at any price--and probably won't return, except perhaps, to try the Sunday buffet as someone suggested below.

                    ~TDQ

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                  2. t
                    tds1 Nov 12, 2005 06:33 PM

                    I think the Entertainment book is a good way to try new places. We always get our money's worth from the book. In addition, I have used Craigslist to trade for the ones I use more often - so no need to have more than 1 book.

                    When we lived in Denver, there was also a dining club that was 2 for 1 at about 15 of the top restaurants in the city. Would be nice if there was something similar here (It was only good Mon/Tues/Wed) Are there any other discount restaurant programs in addition to the entertainment book? I am familiar with the Blue Sky one.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: tds1
                      t
                      The Dairy Queen Nov 13, 2005 06:57 AM

                      And, when I was searching for the "using coupons" thread so I could link it for John, I ran across this "sources of coupons" thread, so I thought I would link it for you.

                      ~TDQ

                      Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                      1. re: tds1
                        m
                        ML Kadrie Nov 28, 2005 04:39 PM

                        Because no one has really directly answered your question about Boca Chica...

                        My husband and I had dinner there for the first time in October. It was awful. I would liken it to ChiChi's.

                        The food was overpriced and bland.

                        You can find MUCH better Mexican at any of the 'holes in the wall' along Nicollet, but b/c I haven't been down there in awhile, I wont make a recommendation.

                      2. m
                        Maggie Mar 3, 2006 01:54 PM

                        My boyfriend and I really dig the Entertainment Book. A few places we've had good luck with:

                        Kikugawa (go for the hot pots and sushi and skip the entrees)
                        Holy Land (so good that we're now regulars)
                        Manny's Tortas (the pork and chicken were excellent)
                        Pizza Nea (very cool atmosphere and excellent pizza)
                        Jewel of India (good overall)
                        Ping's (try the calamari!)
                        KinhDo (slightly greasy but good heat which we love)
                        Bascali's Brick Oven (decent calzones)

                        Those are some of the more memorable ones. Otherwise we've used this book for countless other random things: a cup of coffee here and there, etc. It's a really good buy!

                        Link: http://www.entertainment.com/

                        1. MaggieB Jan 2, 2007 07:11 PM

                          Anyone have any good suggestions for the 2007 Entertainment book? My SO and I used the Mairin's Table coupon for an anniversary and were really pleased. The food was excellent and the service even better.

                          Any others?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: MaggieB
                            The Dairy Queen Jan 2, 2007 08:22 PM

                            I didn't get the 2007 Entertainment Book, so I don't know what's in there this year. But, if you like divey/humble places, I really like the fried chicken at Skinner's Pub and Eatery on Randolph in St. Paul (it's more of a bar and less of an "eatery"). They seem to participate in all of those "coupon" programs, so, my guess is they might be in the Entertainment Book, too. I gave away my 2006 book before I discovered Skinner's, so I never looked to see if they were in there. The nachos at Skinner's look good, too.

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                              Sven Jan 5, 2007 04:17 PM

                              Skinner's is in the book. As is Manny's, Maverick's and The Mediterranean Cruise Cafe. Plus a boatload of coffee shops.

                              Although I like the Happenings Book my biggest frustration is the ridiculous neighborhood index. At least a third of the restaurants listed under St. Paul or Minneapolis aren't actually in St. Paul or Minneapolis. Eagan, Arden Hills are Moundsview are not the same as St. Paul. Get it right people.

                              1. re: Sven
                                MaggieB Jan 5, 2007 08:18 PM

                                I've picked up on that too, Sven. For us, we often choose where to eat based on where we are, specifically for lunch. I'm sure we've missed more than a few places because they weren't listed under the right city!

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