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Places we go to despite the food (MSP)

Psycho Suzi's
Bulldog Nordeast

Sometimes, there's some redeeming quality to a place that calls us back again and again, even though it's definitely NOT the food in some cases.

Runyon's - actually, the "buffalo" shrimp are pretty tasty, and their "Tuscan" tomato soup is yummy, too. But the real draw is that it's my comfortable local. It was my study hall in grad school, there's a picture of me in NZed with my Runyon's t-shirt, and one of chowspouse in Yunnan province in her Runyon's t-shirt on the wall, Michael (the best bartender in town) works there, and it's rarely slammed.

Keegan's - not the best fish and chips in town, not the worst, but the live Irish folk jams on Sunday make it a great place to wind down on a Sunday evening. And it's an easy walk or bike from where I live.

Dulono's - not the best pizza, either, but the live bluegrass on Friday nights makes it worth a stop. And they have a pretty good beer selection.

Psycho Suzi's - again, not the best pizza (but really there is not great pizza in this area), but heck, the ambiance, waitstaff, and dangerous tiki drinks on that huge back patio make it all worth while.

Bulldog and Pracna - I can't find a thing to eat at either place (I don't eat red meat and their "vegetarian" selections are embarrassing), but their beer selection is wonderful.

Kikugawa - it's on the way to the St. Anthony Main movie theater and it's passably good sushi.

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  1. Funny, I was just thinking about this idea in terms of the Chatterbox last night. We went yesterday because we know they're open on Easter, we can get something fairly edible, it's close to our house, and it's a fun place if we want to play a game or just hang out on our laptops. Last night we got their "inferno wings" which were not spicy in the least, and I got a really dry burger. In retrospect I was wishing we went somewhere with better food, but I know we'll end up there again someday soon for all the same reasons.

    13 Replies
      1. re: BatMan

        Minneapolis. Does the St. Paul one have different food?

        1. re: katebauer

          The St Paul version is worse, much worse. We live near by and have given the place several tries - the food is just plain gross.

          1. re: BatMan


            My kids adore the chatterbox for the old school video games etc. But we can't eat there - its so bad. Even the kids food stinks. My kids would be happy with mac & cheese from a box and frozen pizza (and actually so would Chowspouse!)

            We've given it too many second chances and now we head to Billy's and get better service, great quick bar food and just pay for the video games. and then play board games at home.

            Plus Billy's is about 1/2 the price of Chatterbox. Same with Groveland Tap - although its harder to time a table there.

            1. re: St Paul Susie

              Where's Billy's? Do you know if they have full liquor (my husband would be willing to cross the river for that :).

              1. re: katebauer

                Billy's is on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Somewhere between Lexington and Dale, I'd say. Absolutely they have a liquor license. Crowd runs young'ish--and by that I mean early to mid-twenties. That's not a reference to Susie's kids!

                The food isn't exceptional, necessarily, but it's pretty good (and I agree, way way way better than St. Paul's Chatterbox Pub which I agree is "just plain gross"--sad, too, because it's a place I really want to love...) and they have a nice patio. Billy's is are among the first restaurants in the area to crank up the heat lamps in spring so you can dine outside. I've usually been happy with their salads and a few other things that I ordered so long ago I don't remember them well enough to recommend them anymore...



                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I think chow just hit a new low with Billy's being recommended for anything other than binge drinking.

                  Plus, I do not think it is a family friendly place. I've seen some very drunk 21-25 year olds doing things and saying things that would make a sailor blush.

                  1. re: churchka

                    I should mention, I only recommend Billy's for lazy weekend afternoons. All the folks churchka is referring to are still asleep at that point. I've only been to Billy's in the evening once; a Monday night, I think. Quite tame.

                    It's quite safe for children, families and the "what the heck is an IPod crowd" at 2pm on a weekend. No blushing sailors.

                    And, as I said above, the salads are quite respectable. Not mind-blowing, but fine.


                    1. re: churchka

                      I'm not taking my kids there at like 10 pm at night.

                      I'm talking with kids - 5/6ish in the dead of winter when we are all sick of the house and the hockey rink & we want to meet up with some pals and no one feels like spending a ton of $ or hosting.

                      We are out of there well before the crowds get rolling. And even when there is overlap the other Billy's fans are more friendly.

                      But I'm not there at midnight on Sat either.....

                      1. re: St Paul Susie

                        Yep, echoing Susie.

                        And, really, the patio is the greatest on a warm spring afternoon.


                  2. re: katebauer

                    Billy's on Grand? Full bar confirmed.

                    Across from Caffe Latte - near intersection of Grand and Victoria

                    Its a bar....late night it can get pretty packed. esp. during summer - they have a patio.

                    Basically the highlights for me.

                    Better than average kid fare - lots of options for food and sides

                    Lots of TVs.

                    FAB service....you never have to ask for ketchup, another beer, extra napkins etc. and everyone that's waited on us smiles & is friendly.

                    Better than average bar food - good solid options which come out of the kitchen at a great pace.

                    The layout is a bunch of rooms strung together and a bar in the middle - so you can be in one room with a bunch of families and in the next room there could be a bunch of rowdy peeps. But you aren't bothering them, and they aren't bothering you.

                    and the usual assortment of darts, pool, video games etc.

                    I certainly wouldn't classify it as chowish but its steady, solid, reasonable and close. and in saint paul that counts for a lot.

                    Billy's On Grand
                    857 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN

          2. re: katebauer

            Kate - see my response below. We usually go the wings and burger route at Billy's - warning - their hotest level is truly super crazy hot.

            not midwest hot.

            1. re: St Paul Susie

              Oh, I appreciate non-midwestern hot. I do think I've been to BIlly's years ago (really bad date, broke up with the guy right outside). My memory wasn't triggered before because I wasn't thinking family-friendly bar/restaurant.

          3. I'll call this my "reality of three kids, busy schedules, life in the south suburbs" bit. All places with sub-par to terrible food that get far too many of my hard-earned dollars. Basically, they all serve a niche that I can't totally avoid, for which there are no alternatives down here:

            Buffalo Wild Wings
            Noodles & Company
            Dairy Queen

            2 Replies
            1. re: MSPD

              Mostly I agree with MSPD.
              I actually like Culver's burgers and Caribou coffee.
              Perkins is a stopgap breakfast joint close to where I live, until I find somewhere close to home that has good breakfasts.
              McDuck's is emergency food, suitable only to fill my gut. White Castle is better, but is miles from where I live.
              DQ is OK for their soft serve only, but I haven't seen one since I moved here.

              1. re: paoconnell

                Where do you live that you haven't seen a DQ? Aren't then in every town and neighborhood practically?

                Same goes for breakfasts...curious about your location. Maybe someone knows something. (I have recently found a non-chain spot for all-day breakfast in Apple Valley that will hopefully eliminate Perkins from my list).

            2. For the record, Dulono's is my favorite pizza in MPLS. I also love their spaghetti with meatballs. I love thier red sauce and the crust.

              The place I go the most with bad food is the cafeteria at work. Run by Aramark, it is okay, but the fact that I don't have to leave the building is the major draw.

              1. I go to shady chains near my house. We live in St. Anthony Main, so the Lunds deli, Chipoltle, and Panera are frequent stops. We'll also do Baja because for some ungodly reason my SO loves it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: debbie421

                  I used to love Baja Sol but then Chipotle came and showed them they could significantly cut their costs my filling burritos with rice. Now I prefer Chipotle because I can monitor the rice/bean ratio.

                  To keep this on topic I'll have to fess up to Chiang Mai Thai, mostly for a cocktail and the spicy cashews. But after a cocktail you have to order dinner so you can digest the aforementioned boozy concoction and be safe on the roads.

                2. Applebee's -- they're everywhere, and someone in a group always brings it up as a last ditch suggestion

                  Figlio's -- c'mon, the food isn't that good

                  1. Rainbow Chinese
                    Buca - I still have fun there even if the food could have come from Souffers.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mnitchals

                      I just went to one last night. Pepitos.

                    2. -Figlio
                      -Loring Pasta Bar
                      -Pizza Luce
                      -Village Wok
                      -Bryant-Lake Bowl

                      1. My list is pretty similar to Loren's & MSPD's.

                        Pracna & Tuggs. Because they are close and great in the summer even though I dislike the food and the prices are ridiculous considering. Seriously though, can these places please enter the last 10 years of foodservice and round their drink prices so the bartender isn't having to make change for my whiskey & water?

                        Buca. Sometimes I just needs some greasebomb pepperoni pizza, an overcooked 2 pound meatball, and 3 liters of bad Chianti.

                        Suzi's. Sometimes I just want to listen to The Descendents & Mekons and drink crappy beer on the cheap somewhere other than my home. Also, the sandwiches aren't terrible.

                        Whitey's. Most of the food is pretty so-so, but they have McDonald's fries and the coldest beer in town. The theme here seems to be "places I can walk to so that I can have a drink and not drive."

                        Places I eat because it is fast and I just want to hurry up and be fed even though I may get worms:

                        White Castle
                        Jimmy John's
                        The steamtable food @ Lund's

                        1. Well, it's good to know you guys are human! I feel guilty when I stop at Subway, but it's right by work. Sometimes you just gotta be fed, and I admit, I like the Seafood and Crab sandwich!

                          1. White Castle. It's so bad it's good.

                            McDonald's double cheeseburgers. Salty, greasy - I have no idea why I eat them.

                            Buca. I make better Italian at home (most of us do, I would guess) but I love the atmosphere, and it's a great for groups.

                            Subway. You know, the sandwiches just aren't bad. They're not great, but for what they are, they're pretty healthy and have decent flavor. They are NOT Be'Wiched, but that's OK.

                            Fuddrucker's. There is one near Southdale, so when I am running errands that way, and have a burger hankering, that's where I will stop. There are better burgers in town, to be sure. Last time I was there, I was going to schlep over the The Nook, but didn't want to use all that gas when I was driving right past Fuddrucker's. I will usually go to Patrick's for food when I am near Southdale. Or Big Bowl - I sort of like that place.

                            Every so often, I'll get sucked in to getting some special pizza from Pizza Hut or Papa John's. There are so many better pizza places in my area - that deliver, even - but every so often, I just the hankering for one of the stupid specials (stuffed crust or some such piece of ridiculousness).

                            Other than that, I don't eat at any places I don't really like the food at. I do eat at places that other 'Hounds don't like (Figlio - they in fact have some dishes that are simply good; Chipotle - ah, the freshness and simplicity; and Suzi's has been mentioned - some of their apps are great, such as the onion rings and the pizza rolls). I mostly avoid chains like the plague, except the mentions above.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: pgokey

                              What is it about shitty delivery pizza that beckons!? Sometimes I really just want a supreme pan style from Pizza Hut or The Works from Papa John's. I know with PJohns I just want that stupid margarine garlic dipping crap and peperincinis that come with the pie.

                              We live in the Bermuda triangle of Jimmy John's (6th Ave, 9th Ave, Riverside, Dinkytown) where no-one will delivery (mostly it seems because they do not want to ride their bikes over the river when it is cold). If they did, I'd never be on here other than to review the #8 for the 500th time.

                              1. re: Foureyes137

                                Tried Milio's (formerly known as Big Mike's)? They were here before Jimmy John's. Similar sandwiches, a bit better quality. They'll deliver to you, too.

                                And I know what you mean about reviewing the #8 for the 500th time. When I was in grad school, it was the #12 (turkey, avocado, lettuce, tomato, provolone) on the white sub roll. Got it to eat in. Got it delivered to my home. To my office. Did carryout to eat it on road trips through Wisconsin.

                                1. re: Jordan

                                  Are you my husband?? He mentioned the exact same thing when I read this thread to him outloud :)

                                  My food issues deal primarily with bars like Sally's.. so convenient, but so friend & not that good. I did eat a cheeseburger there once because it was cheaper than a salad, but seriously!

                                  McDonald's sundaes or yogurt parfaits for a dollar with the red box movies for another dollar is definitely worth the summer date walk.

                                  1. re: reannd

                                    My wife did not read this thread to me, so I'm presuming you and I are not married. :)

                            2. Macaroni Grill is in my office building and I eat there way too often. Every time I eat there I regret it but it is just too convenient.

                              Cafe Ena, another convenience. There food is ok but I have never had anything that wowed me and plenty of pretty bland, forgettable dishes.

                              Corner Table: I really want to like it more than I do. I love the local vibe and pretty reasonable prices but I only like about every other thing I've eaten there.

                              Sunsets in Wayzata. It is amazing how bad you can be in the suburbs and be an institution.

                              Champps at least you won't go away hungry. The pinnacle of mediocrity.

                              1. Red Lobster! This is corporate America at its finest. Everyone is so fake "Happy" to see you. Yet I keep going back because relatives love it.

                                1. The Freighthouse in Stillwater. Long wait, bad food. Pretty view.

                                  1. The Black Forest Inn.

                                    The food is always below expectations (except for the pate). But, they have a marvelous beer garden, their beer is good, and it is just a quick bus ride from our home, which makes it a great place to drink.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: churchka

                                      Yes. I have never made so many repeat visits to a place with stale bread.

                                      1. re: mnitchals

                                        You guys are REALLY depressing me with the McDonald's thing...I think
                                        there must be something to the idea that they are putting addictive stuff into
                                        their food. Buca makes a very good Caesar dressing that actually tastes like
                                        there are anchovies in it. I asked if I could just buy some and they gave me a
                                        pint for $1- good deal. And Rainbow Chinese makes a great turnip cake with
                                        dipping sauce, I agree a bunch of their other food is not very interesting.

                                    2. I hang my head every time this thread gets updated. Husband and I got to Perkins on a semi-regular basis (maybe once every 3 wks or so) - one of the waitresses even recognizes us now, and I sort of cringe when I think about that. It's the reality of living in Northfield and having a long commute (12-hr workdays). :(

                                      In my pseudo-defense, can I say that the only thing that I've really liked at Perkins is their French fries? Those are actually quite tasty when freshly cooked.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: joshi

                                        Perkins muffins are actually among the top muffins in the Twin Cities. Here's a link to a recent thread: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/477943

                                        I also enjoy their pancakes. Nothing magical, but they have this spongy quality which appeals. Again, there aren't many places to get a pancake at 7 p.m. in the south metro. IHOP and Denny's, but not even my kids want to ever go to IHOP and Denny's. They'll do Perkins.

                                        1. re: joshi

                                          Perkins isn't all that bad. The ones I've been to have always been clean and nice, the booths are comfy, and the food isn't completely wretched, either. I really like their muffins.

                                        2. Snuffy's food isn't spectacular, but we love their shakes and malts.
                                          El Norteno - the dishes can hit or miss. But the outdoor seating area is full of awesome hibiscus plants in the summer.
                                          Papa Murphy's - cheaper than delivery and you cook it yourself so it can be doctored

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Reetsyburger

                                            I'm laughing so loud right now....because it's true, every once in awhile...I have to admit, I want a pizza hut pizza...and I think it's because I actually don't mind their breadsticks at all....(and it feels even worse if I get them at Target)...I will also admit that when I've picked up CH boyfriend after a concert at the Triple Rock - I have to stop at White Castle...note however, what I said-after a concert at the Triple Rock (read: drank too much - needs greasy food)...but I always end up ordering myself the mozzie sticks...and when I'm out West, we have to stop at In and Out Burger AND Sonic. Probably for the shakes.

                                            Back to MN - Billy's (patio) and Dixies...I think it's only for their soul fries....and I have to admit - I agree with Pgokey; while Figlios tends to get not-so-great reviews (mainly for the ridiculously overcrowded bar for the $2 HH), I have to admit-I've actually had some pretty decent meals there...not the best Italian food ever...but decent enough that I've gone back several times.

                                          2. My places are a tad out of date (have not lived in the TCs for a while) but I think they still mostly going:

                                            W A Frost. Their food never worked well but cold Alsace beer and such did. The much-touted back yard I never took to. I liked the marbled interior better.

                                            The Buttery (St Paul) this used to be a lunch and after-work hangout. I think it is still going strong. They used to do good free snacks with happy hour. That, along with the one-way mirror urinal effects, Pac-Man machines, green velvet-backed chairs, strong measure drinks. I mean there's nothing not to love there.

                                            Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter (Stillwater) does not have the best of food I think, but one chorus of Edelweiss avec Ed at der akkordion and hitting up the deck on that perfect spring day with sun but not yet mosquitoes . . . wow! All is forgiven.

                                            Sri Lanka Curry House in it heyday. The only place where the food itself is a fire hazard, not the stove it's cooked on.

                                            The Poodle Club for breakfast because there's something intrinsically right about watching people drink drafts at 6:15 am with bacon & eggs. It reminds me that although I have travelled to the dreaded South, I am an upper midwesterner at heart (if not by birth).

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: bishopsbitter

                                              The Buttery, Sri Lanka Curry House and The Poodle Club are no more.

                                              1. re: KTFoley

                                                The Buttery closed? Was that just recently?


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I'm not sure whether it's recent, really. The only phone listing I can find for them is disconnected.

                                                2. re: KTFoley

                                                  Knew about Sri Lanka (a unique and near mythical place as you know). Poodle Club . . . it's been a while but I am a bit surprised. Perhaps its neighborhood is under gentrification (?) for otherwise "low rent" could not have forced the owner out of business. The Buttery though. That was definitely in operation not that many moons ago. Where the heck can one play Mr or Ms Pac-Man then? Bummer! In my prime (er . . .this was about 1982) I was a Pac-Man "God".

                                                  I hope Ed is still cranking out Beer Barrel and Edelweiss at GBH? A nice fella and a nice player. I would be interested if anyone can confirm his well being. I know some years ago he sufferred a minor stroke or similar but he was back in harness, or at least in lederhosen, last I knew.

                                                  1. re: bishopsbitter

                                                    the former poodle club-- we in the bar industry called it the "puddle club," :-P
                                                    is now an irish pub called mcmahon's. smells better. seems to draw a good crowd, still a few of the poodle's regulars. okay pub food, blues music on the weekends. still has the pulltabs and meat raffle though. nice pub.

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      It is missing the cities worst/best cover bands however, which was my favorite reason to visit it in it's previous incarnation.

                                                      1. re: Foureyes137

                                                        ahh. . . and i would visit for breakfast, when i didn't want to be recognized. :)