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[MSP] The Badness & Heights of Vadnais Heights, MN

Here's a quick run-down of White Bear, Vadnais Heights, and Maplewood establishments at which I've had the pleasure (or displeasure) of dining recently.

Wolfgang's Waterfront Bistro--www.wolfgangswb.com
Cute little place in an old house on White Bear--has a lovely little patio for spring and summer dining. Focuses on seasonal ingredients. Casual fare--great soups, nice salads. Closed for the season, but re-opens in March. +++

Cafe Cravings-- www.cravingsmn.com
Cozy cafe housed in an old Dairy Queen, I think, offering homestyle from scratch cooking, quiche, lasagne, pot pie, etc. Nice selection of bakery items. They had a fantastic cookie tray for order around Christmas time. No table service--you order at the counter and they bring it out to you. +++

Ingredients-- ingredientscafe.com/
A more polished restaurant, but still offering basic soups, salads and sandwiches. Good, but seems less attentive to seasonality of ingredients than I'd like. Still, a nice spot for lunch if you want to have a conversation. ++

Jake's City Grille--www.jakescitygrille.com/maplewoodloca... As far as I can tell, this place is independently owned, but with its 3 Twin Cities locations and laminated menu, it still feels like a chain. It's also located in an old Applebee's (or similar) building. Portions are huge and the menu has something for everyone, probably--taco salad, burgers, reubens, etc. A step above a chain. Has a patio that looks like it will be pretty nice come spring. +/-

Rudy's Redeye Grill --http://www.rudysredeye.com/ Basic hotel restaurant fare--steaks, pastas, fish, burgers, that sort of thing. Not great, not awful, just very middle of the road. -

Majors--I was going to write about this place until they went and changed themselves to Mad Jax Sports Cafe. So, now I have nothing to say except that I won't cry too hard and hope this place is really terrific. I have the feeling, though, it's just another blah formulaic sports bar like the few that came before it. --

(None of these places, except for Wolfgang's which I'd love to go to on a lovely day when I want to look at the lake, are places I'd drive across town for. These are just your relative options if you're in the area...).

Places I really wanted to try and couldn't for various schedule-type reasons.

Ursula's Wine Bar--open only for dinner, but the menu looked ambitious and like they were doing careful sourcing.
http://www.ursulaswb.com/

Cup & Cone--closed for the season, but I heard fantastic things about this little ice cream shack.

~TDQ

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  1. Thanks so much for this-- CG and I are driving to WBL to take the car to get fixed, so we figgered we'd try to find somewhere to eat while we're so far from home! :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheeseguysgirl

      Cheeseguysgirl-- would you please report on what you find, good, bad, or meh? it would be awesome to know of better than avg restaurants close to dh's gram's place when we visit her. we've been going to the key's location out there lately because the food's not likely to outright suck, but it would be nice to have options. thanks in advance and to TDQ for the trailblazing post.

      to add my opinions: decoy's food sucks and their menu is ridiculous. the key's in wbl is better than other msp locations imo. chocolate spoon (coffee, soup, sandwich) is ridiculously expensive now, and the hours are weird for a coffee shop. there is a thai place with pink tablecloths in a strip mall-- i want to say the name is purple orchid or something orchid-- that has okay-decent minnesota thai (nothing special) if you are in the area. there are a few old-school, small-town burger bars with good greasy spoon food in the area, where dh used to go with his grandfather when they worked construction, i know some have closed. i will ask him for names/locations.

    2. We ended up going to Ingredients Cafe. Located in a strip mall on Hwy 61, we almost drove past it! We didn't eat the way we usually do (multiple apps, entrees, coffee, dessert, sharing all) because we weren't all that hungry. CG had the beef stroganoff- flavorful sauce but a little salty. The beef was pretty tough- I remember at one point he looked at me and said, "I'm going to need a minute with this piece." I'm not sure what cut of beef they used. I liked the mushrooms, but the noodles were dry in a weird way-- overdone but dry? Sounds odd, but that's the only way I can describe it. In CG's words, "Any of the shortcomings in the dish could have been overcome by better beef."

      I had the duet of duck. Loved the duck breast and the duck jus was super-savory. I wasn't as big a fan of the duck egg roll. There were no crunchy veggies, just some shredded duck meat in a fried egg-roll wrapper. No spice, no oomph. SO much could have been done.

      I also had the 3 white wine flight- 2 ounce pours of Prosecco, Viognier, and Pinot Blanc for 10$. The Prosecco was flat. No one came back to ask about how I was enjoying the wines, so when the waitress came back near the end of our meal, I told her. Another server came back to offer me a taste of a different wine- which I appreciated.

      All in all, above average- duck much better than stroganoff. Would we drive across town for it? No. If we were there again? Maybe.

      8 Replies
      1. re: cheeseguysgirl

        Thanks for this post. Your assessment of Ingredients is about the same as mine. I love the concept of it, but, somehow, they seem to miss on execution, ironically, often because of the out of season or, in this case, the inferior ingredients they use.

        ~TDQ

        1. re: cheeseguysgirl

          We usually end up at Ingredients when we're in that area. Our experiences have generally been comparable to yours. It's a nice room, with an interesting menu. Some of the dishes are good to very good; some fall flat. It's a good choice if you have to eat in that area and you'd rather avoid chains and coffee shops.

          1. re: Jordan

            I think Wolfgang's is better and similar in concept...it's seasonal, but it should be open by now, or soon.

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I have never been to Wolfgang's, but it appears from the website that it has a number of strikes against it -- only open seasonally, only open for dinner, and the entree prices are TEN dollars higher than Ingredients'!

              1. re: Jordan

                Hmmmm..it was open for lunch in the fall before they closed for the season. Wonder why they dropped the lunch service? It was very reasonably priced--comparable to Ingredients-- and the food was definitely better than Ingredients.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I assume you're talking about the (former) lunch menu? The current dinner menu is much pricier than Ingredients. Not that I'm a big defender of Ingredients, but I don't want to drop that kind of change for a casual dinner out in WBL.

                  1. re: Jordan

                    Yes, everything I wrote was in past tense as in right before they closed for the season last November.

                    If you don't want to pay that much for good food for a "casual dinner", I'd then send you to Cafe Cravings before Ingredients.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Thanks for the recommendation. Cravings looks like a good option for sandwiches.

        2. DH's mom lives up that way, and we often go to Asia's Finest Restaurant at Hwy 96 & Centerville Rd in Vadnais Heights. The service is attentive and friendly, and we always enjoy the food. Had some really nice pho and pad thai (with julienned carrots and some fresh basil, unusual touches; tell them to spice it up). Vegetables are cooked perfectly crisp-tender. Huge menu and the prices are very reasonable.

          1 Reply
          1. re: fendel

            In this same general area Hwy 96, 1/2 mi east of 35E is a strip mall
            with a great Mexican place, Casa Lupita. I miss this place a lot now that I
            don't live nearby anymore. Has a fast food format where you order at the counter and they make it in front of you while you wait.

          2. There was (is?) a Thai place in a strip mall that shares a parking lot with an MGM Liquor Store. It was pretty good. Probably the best food I've had in any restaurant in WBL.

            And there was a hole in the wall Kurdish place in WBL. It's been a while since I ate there. It was pretty good too. Other than those, I think WBL is a restaurant wasteland.