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May 14, 2012 04:45 PM

Another TC's sojourn begins.

I am not going to revive the old thread, but am back in the TC's for some more months, with time to check out new places. (Old Thread

i have already had quite good luck at Finnish Bistro on Como ave in St. Paul. Their traditional Finnish breakfast (photo attached) absolutely hit the spot. I have been known to expound that I could eat smoked fish for breakfast daily in perpetuity, and it's quite true. I think I have Nordic blood (my last name is I think derived from the Danish common surname Laerke).

Finnish Bistro was a nice experience. Although the klutzy way you have to order coffee from Dunn Bros I didn't like so much.

Also thanks to the young gent making coffee I have formulated a new inviolate rule. If I am standing on line, and a waitperson starts mouthing off to his friend about how cheap customers are about leaving tips . . . forget about getting even a penny tip. What a jerk!

I think you'll agree, that's one GOOD LOOKING breakfast.

Across the street the day before the Colossal Cafe was good but their egg-cooking skills let them down. (Once again, woefully undercooked whites and yolk.) And the wonderful bread was spoiled by having butter pre-applied and toasted. Would have so much preferred it dry and butter patties. Not horrible though and a beautiful quiet urban setting bar none.

Also had my first Jucy Lucy at Matt's Bar. (After 30 years off and on in the TC's . . . it was time.) A classic place no doubt, but the "Jucy" did not spark my juices at all. In spite of dire warnings of 7th degree burns when I bit into it a wimpy premature ejaculation of watery not-very-flavorful cheese puttered out. It was rescued by my election for raw onions but otherwise I think I will stick with cheeseburguer cheeseburguer.

Busters on 28th I enjoyed for their serious approach to beer. With even one cask ale on offer. The food was heavily fry-o-latere-ed but their artisan cheese plate was really good.

I liked it. I seem to be "on a roll" as nowhere so far (just back in town a week) has been really poor.

More reports to follow. thanks for reading.



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  1. Thanks Bishops! We always appreciate the traveler's perspective. Very kind of you to write up your opinions.

    Matt's I agree is a love it or leave it (no one can really "hate" Matt's) place. I've been there twice in my 40 years of living here, and I'm on your side of the argument. But, what a great and unique argument to have! I like it to a coney war in Detroit.

    I've never been to Busters, but I'm going to go!

    13 Replies
    1. re: Lincster

      Thanks. I passed the 5-8 by the airport so probably have to make the comparison with their rendition at some stage. I also spotted a brasserie place just south of 50th and France which (I am a sucker for brasserie style going back to Chez Collette @ the Sofitel 30 years ago!) "looked" authentic. "Oysters and shellfish" are a weakness. (On France ave after all :-) )

      1. re: bishopsbitter

        That would be Salut. It's sort of a playful caricature of a French brasserie, but definitely NOT authentic. I'm not trying to knock the place - the food is mostly good and the atmosphere is fun - just don't expect authentic.

        1. re: bishopsbitter

          I agree with Keith re: Salut. It's more style over substance. And menu items like "Le Cheezeburger" just make the place too self-aware for me.

          The closest thing the Twin Cities has to an authentic brasserie is Meritage in downtown St. Paul, which I highly recommend.

          1. re: Brad Ballinger

            Someone told me (since I posted originally) it was owned by the same people as Manny's. I thought as much when I heard that. just as Manny;s impersonates a Chicago or NYC steakhouse so, I thought (and seem to have confirmed) "Salut" may be fairly inauthentic. I wonder what Chez Colette (still there I think at the sofitel) is like these days. It was really good all those years ago, when I could compare it to the real France from very recent experience. They also had a No-Holds-Barred white glove Louis XV (I think it was) high-end French place in those days (1982-3).

            1. re: Brad Ballinger

              I have to agree with BBallinger. I just ate at Meritage last week. Very nice, good fries. I would have liked the mussels in a big iron pot with more broth though. It would have been more authentic Belgian.

              1. re: tapdance

                The place may have matured. It was definitely better last time, than the time before. I would love, though, for some enterprising soul to create a place such as I have dined in across France, but most lately in Cagnes-sur-Mer (Nice). It's kind of like Meritage but without the fervent hope that you realize how privileged you are to be dining there. I want a place like that where I can present myself, and (without further ado, other than paying l'addition) enjoy a wonderful meal. That sort of effortless "you are in good hands" meal, is bollixed up by waiters/waitresses who leave you alone when you want more sauce, but intrude you when you are about to score a touchdown with Your Lady. I may check out Meritage again. If it is evolving, it may be getting closer to what I just said. wonderful, if so.

                1. re: bishopsbitter

                  As much as I'd like your vision to come true, it's just not going to happen in Minnesota. First off, French food (whatever that means, given the dizzying variety of cuisines found in France) is rare in Minnesota. A Nice-style eatery would be great, but the lack of decent seafood (without taking out a second mortgage) is a death blow. That, and most Minnesotan's idea of great seafood begins and ends with the blandest of the bland - walleye.

                  In the end, French cooking relies on a few characteristics. One is use of all parts of the animal, which most Americans are very squeamish with. While tripe, pate, and kidney are typical on any French menu, they are rare here. Another is the use of high quality ingredients, which can be had a decent price in France (locally sourced from a nearby farm), but quality here comes at premium price. Another is technique, which can range from the wildly complicated and needs sophisticated training, to the simple. A simple dish like roasted chicken can be an inspirational meal, yet a high quality roasted chicken dish is a rare find.

                  Meritage is what it is. For Minnesota, it's a great French restaurant. Unfortunately, it's always going to need that qualifier - for Minnesota. But hey, going to St. Paul is a lot cheaper than a trip to Cagnes-sur-mer, or St. Jorioz (where family lives).

                  1. re: foreverhungry

                    I think you not only underestimate a good portion of Mn eaters but you also manage to come off a bit misinformed and ill-advised when spouting off your "knowledge" of not only French Cuisine in general, but also the availability of quality food and ingredients here. Most of what you are saying just isn't true. NYC we are not, but you make it sound like Mn is some sort of culinary wasteland, which is a fallacy.

                    1. re: EricShawnSmith

                      I'm sorry if that's how it was interpreted. That's certainly not what I intended. I've said many times that I think the Twin Cities are blessed with top quality restaurants. To have to choose from Meritage, Heartland, Piccolo, BLG, La Belle Vie, Travail, Blackbird, and Tillia (for starters) is amazing. A very solid ethnic scene. Several quality sushi places. It's a fantastic food scene.

                      There is also a good availability of fresh ingredients (for retail). But our location is what it is, and with that, there are limitations. Seafood is limited and somewhat expensive. Availability and cost simply does not compare with the coasts. Walleye is the favorite fish here, and for a reason - it's easily available from most lakes.

                      There are many things that the Minnesota food scene does spectacularly well, and others that it does less well. That's all.

                2. re: tapdance

                  Meritage isn't Belgian, but French. Chef Klein trained under Jacques Pepin and worked in France before going to NYC.

                  1. re: foreverhungry

                    Excellent points, but I think your final one is the most mystifying, how can a chef who's worked in France and understands all these concepts either not simply move to France to work, or take up dry-walling? As you said, something as simple as a good roast chicken (or bread) should not require an 8h plane ride. Then there's the entire "experience." It's not all about the food and wine and service, but somehow how all those things all marry and contrive to persuade you that you have moved to a slightly better place in the universe through your expenditure of time and money when you stagger our post prandially. Even in NY you can't find the Cagnes-Sur experience. In recent memory it was only in Las Vegas (of all places) where a waiter was savvy enough to instantly understand my world view of dining and give me precisely what I wanted. (Despite the Maitre'd's best efforts!) I suspect he gave a totally different "ride" to others whom he perceived wanted the glowing descriptions of what was done in the kitchen to wilt the arugula in mountainside heather-scented hazelnut oil from the NE slopes of the Matterhorn.
                    Sort of like I have concluded about cask-conditioned ale, the solution is blindingly simple: a reservation to Nice Cote d'Azur Airport (surely one of the nicest approaches to any landing there) or the UK (for the cc ale.

                3. re: Brad Ballinger

                  Cave Vin in Edina is excellent in this category.

              2. re: Lincster

                FWIW, I hate Matt's.

                I also love fish for breakfast. A frequent stop for me is Common Roots Cafe on Lyndale in South Minneapolis - plain bagel, lox, cream cheese and capers. They have other good stuff there, but that's my mainstay (if you're so inclined).

                Thanks for the photos. Always nice to see.

              3. Others may not agree but the one meal I had at was good.

                1. A subsequent visit to the Finnish Bistro was a disappointment. The Finnish Classic Breakfast was thrown onto the plate like a proverbial dog's dinner and tasted stale and nowhere near as good. (I was there right at opening time and got the impression they weren't ready.) In the hospitality industry consistency is the key. I think these days it's lack of that that is the rule rather than the exception. "OK and consistent" is, to me, 1,000,000's better than brilliant one day, awful the next.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: bishopsbitter

                    I'm so glad to hear someone else mention this. I have a huge issue with consistency and it seems many restaurants don't even know how to respond to such complaints. I can name at least 15 restaurants in the TC where I could order a repeat dish, yet never know if I'm going to love it or hate it because the consistency and quality is a total crapshoot. When I give you my money for an item I've already ordered in the past, I expect to enjoy it just as much now as I did then, and I really don't think that's too much to ask :-)

                    1. re: shannikitty

                      As I think of the restaurants I have loved the most in my life, it is the places which [almost, as in once per 20 years] "never disappoint" which shine. It's analogous to an airline which advertizes "may get you up and down without an accident 60% of the time" - no-one would fly such an airline but many are willing to patronize a restaurant with similar odds of a good meal on any given night. While recognizing the difficulties of running a restaurant, "giving the benefit of the doubt" ['it's probably because the chef was sick'] when things are sub par, is a false kindness I think.
                      That said, when was the last time some waitress asked "how is it tasting?" who really wanted you to answer truthfully? So why do they ask?

                      1. re: bishopsbitter

                        I agree. We have been eating at Lucia's for....27 years now. I would say that 97%, at least, of ours meals there have been wonderful. These odds I like; I find 3% to be pretty forgivable.

                        1. re: sandylc

                          I went to Lucia's in the early years. I still remember it being a most "happy experience" even though the details have totally fogged in the past 20 years (except it was a very nice space and the wine glasses were pleasant).

                          I must revisit it. I must say I am a parking-hassle-phobic so its location is what puts me off. That said, I'd like to do it based on what you say.

                          The other problem is that places like Lucia's are all too easy to take for granted will still be there while one constantly "tries the new place"(s) almost all of which are inferior.

                          One little nugget I got from the staff at Vincent the other day is that they have a guy who eats there every day (winter and summer) for lunch. Clearly he has found something that makes him happy. I tend to be like that. Brown's in Oxford (totally unpretentious) made me happy.

                          1. re: bishopsbitter

                            You didn't ask what the dish was that is so worth having day in and day out?!?!

                            I have to know!


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I didn't ask if he had the same THING every day :-) If I could afford it fine caviar and fine champagne I think I could "do [pretty much] daily." (Some hopes of that!)
                              If he does, then yes I want some of that too!

                            2. re: bishopsbitter

                              I live in the neighborhood, so I understand that parking for Lucia's can seem daunting. However, you may want to note a couple of things.

                              1) Lucia's has free valet parking for its lot next door.
                              2) The Calhoun Square ramp is a half block away and you can always find parking there.

                              1. re: bob s

                                I'm going to make it happen. As I wrote about ignoring excellent places while constantly trying (and by and large hating) new places I realized I am guilty as charged myself. Witness Lucia's was really good and never returned in all these years. (Mind you, Sherlock's Home before it closed had my constant attention in some of those years.)

                                1. re: bishopsbitter

                                  The Uptown Art Fair is this weekend, so be warned. The traffic and parking is insane.

                                  1. re: ChillyDog

                                    Thanks! Will "table" Lucia's for a calmer time. Appreciate the warning.

                    2. A brief visit tonight to Barley John;s in New Brighton for their "cask [ale] Wednesday."
                      Holy slop Batman, just awful, Like a 1960's battered wife I keep going back for more brewpub experiences, expecting a different result. Yes it is brown, yes it will get you drunk (if you don't get sick first, which seems more likely) but other than that it's not beer, just awful tasting wort that's been allowed to ferment. Argh. Sherlock's Home is missed all the more poignantly. Brewing is an art and a science, but most brewpubs practise it as a pastime, or, more precisely, a junior high school chemistry experiment.

                      1. I was just curious if anyone might suggest a chowhound destination [restaurant or food stand] for tomorrow (Mem Weekend Sunday) within about 200 to 250 mile radius of TC's. I fancy a day excursion tomorrow with food as a focus. I thought of smoked fish in Grand Marais already (done that) fancy something a bit different.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: bishopsbitter

                          I'd recommend the New Scenic Cafe just outside of Duluth. It's been a few years since I've been there, but I really liked it.

                          1. re: bishopsbitter

                            If you want to head south, I'd recommend Nosh in Lake City, MN, or Harbor View Cafe in Pepin, WI. If you cross over into Wisconsin, the Eau Galle Cheese Factory isn't far.

                            1. re: Brad Ballinger

                              +1 for Harbor View Cafe. LOVE that place! Be warned - they only take cash or checks. No credit cards.

                            2. re: bishopsbitter

                              Thanks I will flip a coin "N or S) and try one of the suggestions. Thanks!

                              1. re: bishopsbitter

                                Made it to Pepin, but the Harbor View had not opened when I was there (open 1145: I was there @ 1015 ). Pretty spot. Unfortunately they did not have a posted menu so not sure what specialty I missed. I suspect some sort of fish obviously. Very relaxing little town. It's been decades (literally) since I was there: ditto Red Wing which has hugely increased in size since my last visit.

                                1. re: bishopsbitter

                                  Oh bummer. Yeah, their menu changes daily and is on chalkboards inside. Never had a bad meal there, but the portions are gianormous. And they have homemade bread just like my grandma would make. So, so good! Definitely try it again sometime. You won't be disappointed.

                                  1. re: Seige

                                    Sounds like bummer is the mot juste. Doggone. Plan was to score an early lunch there and call it a late breakfast. The Pickle place across the tracks did not look so enticing so just headed back to the cities. At the Village Pub on St Anthony scored a half decent poutine (!) so not a total loss. The Village Pub does steady trade suggesting something / someone at the helm knows what they are doing. Their menu is more expansive and interesting (witness poutine) than average. Seem to purvey strong drinks, in mass quantities, to old-school clientele. (i.e. old guys shifting the Martinis long before the sun even sniffs a yard arm) Had the poutine been made with brown (rather thanturkey- cream) gravy, this might have been even more noteworthy.

                                    1. re: bishopsbitter

                                      We ate at Harbor View on Saturday for my birthday. All I can say is go back, go back, go back! Seriously. Make a point to go there; you will not be sorry. I had an amazing halibut with black butter caper sauce, but the real star of the night was the beef tenderloin my husband ordered Oliver Hardy style - smothered in mushrooms. Mine was good, but I would have cut him for another bite of that tenderloin and mushrooms if I didn't love him so much. :)

                                      1. re: Seige

                                        ****! I sensed (you can tell from how places keep their trash cans organized out back and how staff showing up look) good things here. Doggone!.