Personal "go to" place shares.
I have been pretty depressed lately. With food, that is. The other night I tried the (new?) delivery service bitesquad.com from The Butcher Block. I had lamb and chicken on skwers and penne Bolognese. A little salad. As I was poking around the utterly disappointing penne I was overcome with a feeling of "just HOW can a place contrive to make such a simple "can't fail" type of dishes, FAIL? Well, it's simple: don't season, under-portion (the skewers), use ersatz cheese and some un-thought-out type of cream agent in the ghastly sauce. Salad that is all about how it looks versus how it tastes. OK OK maybe ordering pasta for delivery is a mistake anyhow. But if eating out were a State of the Union Speech, then "the stateof the Union is NOT strong."
This got me thinking again about where in Chowhound we state our favorite all-time restaurants. These choices cut across all borders of political correct underseasoning etc. and cut to the chase of salty fries cooked in goose grease etc. etc. at places which "make us happy - reliably, almost every doggone time we go." Places that feature in the sentence "We could try out the new Southern Italian place . . .or we could just go to [X].
So on mine is Brown's in Oxford UK. McSorley's in NYC (for leg of lamb sandwich), Black's Oyster Bar in Abbeville LA used to be on there (but was struck), as was Sherlock's Home.
I was wondering, instead of focusing on the best "this" or superior "that" whether TC Hounds might share places the find themselves frequenting, not necessarily because they do things the best (or might even be embarrassing to admit!) but because they purvey an afterglow of "feel good."
My TC choices would be:
Mancini's (for chewy sirloin and veteran "help")
The Dubliner (Guinness)
Mickey's Dining Car (breakfast)
Jimmy's (nordeast) Bar (Las Vegas shrimp cocktail)
Glockenspiel (two of the 3-ways herring and German black lager)
Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter (quiet patio herring)
. . . and that's about it in terms of places that leap to mind. Again, these are not necessarily the best at anything they do, but they are the best in terms of making Yours Truly stagger out feeling a little more pleased with the state of the Union/universe.
Would anyone care to contribute their top five or six GoTo places for overall "mood improvement" versus "belly fillment" or "check-out-the-hot-new" venues.? A friend swears by the Monte Carlo is another that I have heard great things about but not sampled in a full meal context. Basically, the places most frequently frequented not simply for the purposes of hunger assuagement.
I'd be most interested. Thanks a lot.
I'll play. :-)
Cheng Heng (never been disappointed there and I love the family feel of the place)
Fasika (always "hopping" and eating off the same injera makes the meal more social)
Broder's deli (always been a little oasis for me)
Tanpopo (another oasis; excellent food and presentation)
Barbary Fig (never been disappointed there, either, and dining on the patio is a treat)
Hmm ... heavily slanted to the St. Paul side. *shrug* It's what *I* like....
Trying to think about this was a great reminder of why I'm not exactly what you would call "lean". I go right for the comfort foods (does that mean "belly fillment"?) and two places immediately come to mind:
The Nook - I don't care what my ills are, a Nookie Supreme makes me forget not only everything outside of a 2-foot radius of my body for a while, but also whatever was spinning around in my head.
Stockmen's Truck Stop - If the Nook isn't open, then I go here. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, you're going to get satisfying food served by someone who reminds you of your favorite aunt. Bonus that when I'm in a sulky mood and don't know exactly what I want to eat, I know I'll find something there. They probably have 300 different things to choose from -- everything from steaks to old school spaghetti and meatballs to pancakes to chicken noodle soup. Bottom line: I am always "at home" at Stockmen's.
Massaman Curry from a Thai joint. I don't really have a #1 favorite place at the moment, but that's my favorite dish. Hard stop. Period. +1.
Blackbird Cafe. Favorite brunch in the cities.
Los Ocampo. Love me a Huarachazo. It will fill you up for a day.
Dosa King. All vegetarian South Indian cuisine. Hole in the wall of an out of the way strip mall, but the food slays.
World Street Kitchen. Sure it's brand new, but it's in my head. I've had 4 dishes, and they were all jaw-droppingly good.
Travail, especially dessert.
Karta Thai on Central, just south of Lowry has excellent Massaman Curry. The owners family all own restaurants in Thailand and she grew up making this food. Anything you might have eaten over there, but don't remember the name of the dish, describe it to Sandi and she will tell you what it was. Furthermore, she will make it for you if you want. Ask to have the Massaman curry made the way they do if Thailand if you go there.
W. A. Frost is maybe my clearest example of this. I always leave feeling peaceful and satisfied, having had delicious food, attentive service, and a quiet and beautiful place to eat.
The St. Paul Cheese Shop achieves this too, but based purely on service, since it's not actually a good place to eat - just a sandwich counter and no real tables.
Oh, and in the vein of Mickey's - The Convention Grill. You leave surrounded by a glow of nostalgia. And the smell of french fries.
I should have added W A Frost to my list for memories of when first in the TC's (1982-1984) when it was a civilized outpost in what was then quite a wild and wooly neighborhood. The Fathers from the Cathedral would come in for a quiet drink. They sold French beer in large bottles from a cooler which I developed something of a taste for. Also, it didn't hurt that I was 24 years old!!! For a while it seemed to go downhill with a pervasive odor in the bar of what (to me) overwhelmingly reminded one of, unfortunately, vomit! but was probably mostly Italian cheese. For some reason, I could not get beyond the former olfactory impression for some years. (Perhaps it was a brand of cleaner also?) That has now turned around and the downstairs restrooms and "comfy chairs" let alone the legendary patio are quite unique. So yes I will add this to my list also.
These are the places I got for a pick-me up and because I know I'm getting quality eats. Some are fancy, some are dumps. But all make a point to care about the food and serve a quality meal and that is what matters.
Gopher Bar - Coney Dogs
Mancini's - Garlic Toast
Loring Pasta Bar - Artichoke Dip
The Nook - For all the reasons MSPD says below
JD Hoyt's - When I need pork chop, nobody does em better and that buddy bowl is fantastic too.
Mickey's - Best hash browns of any all-night breakfast joint I know in the country
Kincaid's Saint Paul - Great Late night HH, 1/2 price crab dip is worth the trip alone
Modern Cafe - Pot Roast that you think is like your Mom made, but it's actually better.
Oops! For breakfast:
Bon Vie (eggs bennie)
Magnolia's (diner great food--ask for chicken wings with breakfast :)
With the caveat that my variation on your statement is "We could go to hat new X place, or we could just stay home and I could make Y," here's my list...
Punch Pizza - for eat in or take out
Sea Salt (in season) - for seafood anything and craft beer on tap eating outdoors
Blue Door Pub - for $2 tap pints happy hour (and $2 basket of tots)
Hot Plate - BLT omelet and pancakes
Joan's in the Park - pampered service and reliably solid white tablecloth food
A Baker's Wife - Pastries, large and small
Very pleased as so far this has "shaken loose" some excellent recommendations of the sort of places I am craving: those unlikely to completely disappoint.
I am so sick of leaving places $100 lighter and completely, utterly, terminally, disappointed.
Another place I used to love was The Buttery. There are a few places around which remind me of it, but two-for-one (super STRONG) drinks with free hor oeuvres and friendly waitresses, along with Abba, seem to have vanished with the 80's. Not to mention Peeping Tom one-way mirror urinals,
Here is my list.
Modern Cafe - Especially for lunch, when the place is a bit more empty and the solid wine selection is half price.
Lemongrass Thai - Worth it for the sausage appetizer alone
Szechuan - They are getting very popular, but a great take out option. Their cumin lamb is peppered with bits of crack cocaine.
Heidi's - When it absolutely has to be right.
Victory 44 - For pretty much any time of day. They are hitting on all cylinders right now.
Bon Vie - Eggs benedict is the best breakfast I've had in town.
Be'Wiched - Best sandwiches and best happy hour in town.
Not sure what the Monte Carlo would do to improve your mood, especially if you don't like overpaying for the mediocre.
Thanks for the warning on MC. i had a drink at the bar and some VERY underwhelming (quality_ overwhelmingly (-priced) shrimp so I was not too tempted but it's good to receive reinforcement. I think my friend somehow has associations with the place, which I can understand color the recommendation.
The Modern Cafe keeps popping up. I have tried to go there several times but can't seem to get the hang of their opening hours (I am usually too early on weekends). It features so often that I must try it. .
+1 for this recommendation. Been going to some incarnation of this place for 20 years, Now I've got a hankering, I'll see you there.
Tanpopo - you just feel better after eating there - Nebayaki Udon for me.
Victory 44 - A coffee and benedict to start a good weekend day is ensured.
Saigon (iPho) - Bahn mi with everything.
I'll take flak for this - Cleveland Wok - if feeling gluttonous and want to fill a void that a heaping helping of American Chinese food, this place does it.
Thanks for the new ideas! My list is a little eclectic, I admit:
Marina Grill (buffet is good, but the half-chicken dinner for $8 is smile-worthy)
D'Amico's (Roseville location is more restful than Grand Ave) - hubby says it should be disqualified on the basis of it's chain-ness but I am sticking to it. Maybe the mood improvement is due to the wine.
Oh, and Patisserie 46 or Izzy's ALWAYS make me feel better about life.
Great idea for a thread. I love trying new places, but I love even more the security of choosing a restaurant that I have visited many times and loved 100% of the time. Here are my go-to places:
El Burrito Mercado for tinga de pollo. Consistently super delicious.
Tanpopo Noodle Shop for kitsune soba or agedashi tofu teishoku. I usually want the noodles, with their immensely satisfying, complex broth, but sometimes I can't resist the set meal for that amazing little salad with the best dressing ever (ginger, sesame, not sure what else is in it - but it's magic). I totally agree with steve_in_stpaul's "oasis" descriptor for this place - it's so peaceful in there, which is surprising for a place with an open kitchen.
Brasa for collard greens with smoked turkey and cornbread.
Jasmine Deli for tofu bun. Really good chicken noodle soup, too.
Izzy's for Peace Coffee ice cream. Best ice cream ever.
Grand Szechuan for green beans, kung pao tofu, and chung king chili shrimp. I love those three items so much, it's very difficult to order anything else.
Punch in Highland Park for Margherita Extra. Very easily the best pizza I've ever had.
Rocco's Pizza in West St. Paul for pizza fries. Great customer service, deliciously chewy, salty, satisfying cheesy bread.
Tandoor in Bloomington for bangan bharta. Smokey, creamy, salty, complex, and bright. Way better than anywhere else.
Rustica for chocolate croissants. I'm so glad I can get them at Kopplin's, now that I've moved east.
1. Flameburger (the one in Hilltop is closest to where I live, but there is another one in St. Paul)
The BEST plain burger. Ever. Perfectly seasoned. Medium rare. And greasy bun grilled on the flattop. No cheese or condiments or grilled onions or pickles required. Just burger and bun. Perfection.
2. Zantigo. It is a chain, but it is a local one, and no, don't expect authentic Mexican. But do expect the best Mexican-American fast-food fare that you cannot get anywhere else outside of Los Angeles or San Diego. For Real. Must haves: The "Kalifornia" burrito, the crunchy tacos with, yes, lettuce and sour cream, and the absolute bomb: The Chilito. Do NOT confuse this with the nasty concoction sold at Taco Bell. Zantigo's Chilito is Mexico's answer to the "Gut Bomb": Steamed tortilla stuffed with farmers' cheese (similar to fresh Mozzarella) and red or green chili sauce. So simple, yet so good (even better when drunk :))
3. The pork Ramen at UniDeli. Enough said.
4. The Afghani beef pizza at Crescent Moon. With the green sauce. Sorry, even Punch can't top this one.
5. And finally, and I should admit that I have personal issues with the Holy Land (mainly how they treat certain employees), but I do have to admit that they have one of the most underrated sandwiches in the entire Twin Cities, and no, it's not their Gyro. The Greek Philly. It's basically a Philly with gyro meat with melted white cheese (provalone?) and grilled onions and green peppers, but they add this addictive feta-cheese/lemon dressing which is to die for. For $4.99 (even with the nasty Sysco fries on the side), it is a steal.
OK, I have one more, and I know I will probably get death threats for this one, but I'm sorry: I LOVE the pancakes with whipped butter and blueberry sauce at Perkins. There, I said it. Perkins.
I'm with you on the pancakes (although I prefer the apricot sauce myself). I don't understand why I like them - there's often a hint of an unidentifiable plastic smell that comes with the stack - but I do.
In order to avoid duplication with others, I'll toss in Barbette, any of the Lucia's trio, Korea Restaurant or Dong Yang (depending on where I am), Dulono's Pizza, Levain, and Szechuan Spice as reliable haunts.
4. The Afghani beef pizza at Crescent Moon. With the green sauce. Sorry, even Punch can't top this one.
The second time I've heard this exact thing, so I guess I ought to move it to the top of my list. Crazy that I've never been--Crescent Moon has to be one of the oldest restos on Central at this point. It certainly predates the hipsterfication of E. Henn by quite a bit.
Standby reliable mood improvers (without our kids - other kids might do fine though):
Everest on Grand
W. A. Frost
(Based on one visit where we had impeccable service and food in a not-very-stuffy atmosphere, I suspect Northeast Social would also fit into this category if I lived nearer to it, but only having been there once I can't say this with any certainty.)
Standby reliable mood improvers (with our kids):
Cafe Latte (caveat: only a mood-improver once you get desensitized to the chaos of the "line")
Here's my list:
Border's deli: our usual take-out pizza.
Punch / Pizza Biga: our two dine-in pizza joints. We go in spurts, hitting one almost exclusively, then bounce to the other for no particular reason. Always puts a smile on us.
Buon Giorno: our favorite sandwiches. When in the mood for a quick lunch, it's usually Buon Giorno...
...or Brianno's: ditto on great sandwiches.
Pardon My French: another lunch favorite. This one particularly, always leaves us in a great mood.
Pumphouse Creamery: in an area with excellent ice cream options, this one, for us, consistently is at the top (though the ice cream at Patisserie 46, which a small selection, is also top notch)
Sea Salt (when in season): everything there is great, and it's a fantastic atmosphere.
For higher end dinners:
Bar La Grassa: Our go to with out of town guests, or just for a great dinner. We've made it a tradition to have New Year's Eve dinner there every year since it opened.
Osteria I Nonni: Have never been disappointed here. Top notch food, excellent service, and distinctive cocktails. This place has always been solid.
Lastly, while bb had a negative experience at Butcher Block, we have always had solid food there. It's not in the same creative league as BLG and Nonni for us, but neither have we ever been disappointed there.
RIP: La Sirena Gorda: Firmly in our go-to repertoire for the octopus tacos (and an excellent ceviche) until they sadly closed a couple years ago.
Cafe Ena- the Camaron Caribe is one of my favorite bites- and now that they have a few things from El Meson on the menu.
Rainbow Chinese- eggrolls and wonton soup.
Surdyks deli- the soups, sandwiches and entrees there are SO good and you can snack on cheese samples while you decide what you want. They also have amazing scones.
Gorkha Palace- their lunch buffet is addicting.
Thread gets ever better. While not exclusively true, I have won a small bet with myself that the places mentioned are not dominated by those typically recited in the "Holy Litany" of the Twin cities (e.g. Meritage et. al). This is great from my perspective as that was entirely my point in starting the thread!
All of the places I tend to want to add onto my TC list are from the past. Well, Chez Colette at the Sofitel still purveys a pretty good shrimp cocktail (at least by Monte Carlo standards(!!!)) but isn't anywhere near as good as I remember in 82-83 when it was really quite authentic.
I loved the Sri Lanka Curry House RIP. Also the original Tandoor on Hennepin although that was more a factor of its being, at the time, the only Indian in town (at least that we could locate, pre Google). Tandoor still persists with the original owners in Bloomington. Trouble is, I've found the help pretty wanting there, although a friend (a different one) swears by it.
Oh there is one more: MaMa's Pizza on Rice. Good pie, nice antipasto salad, cheap, quasi-drinkable red wine by the carafe, and (in days of olde, probably no call for in iPad era) coin-op b&w TV's.
Although I think they changed subtly (ownership??) I like the "vibe" of MaMa's when it is busy. People are always enjoying themselves there (often tables with families). So that is one I can definitely add. .
Wooo! Loved Mama's back when I lived in Roseville a couple of decades ago (or more!).
On the west side of the metro, my more frequent than not stop is McGarry's Pub in Maple Plain. Good Scotch eggs and a turkey commercial on weekdays that I crave, especially this time of year with the snow coming down. It truly is a pub with a cast of characters at the bar and a cozy fireplace.
Are the Scotch Eggs served hot or cold?? (I am driven to ask, even though I fear I am 99.999% sure what the answer will be.)
I can't warm to warm Scotch eggs as I find ground pork only appetizing when cold, preferably slathered with Colman's Mustard. (Exception, ground pork with tofu and hot chillies mmmmmm).
True story, I once at a ~~ @' ' ' ""~~British Pub~~"" ' ' ' @ ~~ in Katy Texas asked this very question. A: "Normally it's served hot." Q:" Could you just give me one cold please? [Thinking I'd save them a little moolah on the microwave electricity bill] A: "That should be OK."
Result (I am not making this up) I was served a Scotch egg with RAW ground pork. It was certainly cold. So I could hardly complain.
This is the world we live in: people in the cookery trade will do such things.
Eating out similarly is so often, these days, "stranger than fiction."
Oh my! A RAW Scotch egg? Egads! But it was cold, wasn't it? Ha!
And yes, you are correct, sir. They are served warm, though I suppose one could call ahead and have them refrigerate a cooked one or two. The people that work there are very kind and helpful in my experience.
And now you have me craving Ma Po Tofu in the middle of a snowstorm with no tofu on hand and no means of getting carryout here in the hinterlands. I'll just keep your raw pork story in mind and perhaps it will curb the craving. :P
I had just always assumed it would make sense for restaurants to cook Scotch Eggs in batches (they "keep") and reheat, versus cook each to order. I think that -is- the way that makes sense, but I guess as usual, I am out of kilter with the rest of the universe. But "cold" is how it's done (along with other cold pork pies) in the UK so you'd think the enlightened restaurant supremo would elect this method so that he could please both factions. (Clearly, again, I am over-thinking how much anyone cares any more about customer satisfaction.)
I have to say ground pork, ginger, chillies, tofu, a little soy, good stock, finally thickener, sprinkle completed dish with finely chopped raw garlic & cilantro! This is "food." . In fact I nominated that dish as one of my Chowhound all-time favorites in my profile.
p.s. FWIW Merlyn's Rest does do 'em cold.
Am in Texas but heading back to MN tomorrow. Sounds like there could be flight delays. I am going to start working my way through some places in this thread. It has inspired me to put aside my pessimistic streak in a way that has surprised me.
You are making my tummy rumble with your "food" description. I'm rushing out for tofu tomorrow at my earliest chance! Which might be a pain in the rear given the weather here. I'd keep a close eye on your flight. Delays are pretty much a given at this point.
Good to know about Merlyn's. I remember back in the day it was some ghastly place called Popeye's or something. East Lake Street was my stomping grounds for almost 30 years. I still miss the breakfasts for $3.00 at the Poodle Club and that included a Bloody Mary or a Screwdriver. I must be old!
I have lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and enjoyed slumming it at the Poodle once or twice a month in the day. To be honest, I think their demise was the no smoking ban. The air was cleaner after that happened but I think the food (which was normally just "decent for the money" ) got worse as business slowed down. They just didn't attract any new business family or hipster business to offset the old customers that stopped coming.
A few years after it closed came the tragic fire, Now its gone gone gone.
Gosh, this is tough. There are so many places we like (and we eat out way more than we should) but our regular haunts are:
Bon Vie - brunch there at least once every weekend
Happy Gnome - TDQ, you knew this was going to happen - love the burgers
Cheeky Monkey - yummy comfort food
Punch - you need to eat in 90 seconds? They have a delicious solution.
Brasa - good, simple chow
Salut - local chain, but decent food close to home
Little Szechuan - love it any time of year, but especially in the winter when you need a little something spicy to clear up some sinuses
Cecil's Deli - when you need a deli sandwich and a shake
The Nook - burgers, curds and 1919 root beer on tap - yes, please!
Izzy's - does this need explanation? I don't think so.
Bars Bakery - molasses cookies like my grandma made. Need I say more?
Patisserie 46 - not just for their delicious baked goods, but also their yummy mochas!
For higher end meals, you can find us at:
Bar LaGrassa - yum!
Meritage - but we love it for brunch too!
Capital Grille - if we're in the mood for steak
Heidi's - tasting menu never disappoints
New comers that we haven't been to a lot, but that are being added to our rotation:
Lynn on Bryant
And honestly, I could keep going on. Food makes me happy. :)
My list, in no particular order:
Pineda Tacos in Plymouth - rock solid Mexican street food, not fancy but always good
Sole Korean in St P - Kimberly never lets me down, nothing leaves her kitchen that isn't up to her standards and you are always welcome
Kabuki in EP - they added a Korean menu and for that I am eternally in their debt
Unideli - pork tonkotsu ramen, extra spicy. Nothing better on a cold day or night
(Kimchi) Tofu House - have a cold coming on, get your butt here near the U of M and get your fill of banchan and boiling pots of tofu. Meat lovers need to get over their own preconditions. You must get a taste of the sundubu here
Holy Land up on Central - this buffet is not for those who don't like spice, or flavor
Himalayan on Franklin - another buffet that does not dumb it down for the fairer complexions
Gorkha Palace - Winter or summer this place does it so well, prep your taste buds to be blown away.
Number one would be Barbary Fig. We almost always find something that is soulfully cooked, is healthy, and is uniquely delicious. We were there Firday. The rabbit cassoulet with yellow squash and provencal bread was spectacular. The Brik appetizer is addictive.
I also find Scusi to be consistently satisfying. Given the other Blue Plates, I had low hopes for this place. But it is really and consistently good. Also the menu is very broad -- something for everyone.
Travail, of course.
New go-to place: Lemongrass. Fantastic curry.
Good Day Cafe for breakfast stuff.
Crave! (Kidding, kidding.)
Mt. Fuji in Maple Grove. Good sushi, and a lot less expensive than other places.
Since you mentioned non-local places:
Rancho de Chimayo, Chimayo NM. Best New Mexican food you'll get anywhere.
La Hacienda, Old Town Albuquerque, NM. Neck and neck with Rancho.
Bubba's Barbeque, Eureka Springs AR. The best BBQ I've ever tasted, by a very wide margin.
Christiana Campbell's Tavern, Williamsburg, VA. George Washington ate here, literally. They're still making the same food in the same way, and they do a fantastic job. Try the spoon bread.
Opening up to non TC places :-) I feel a temptation coming on, but will resist as the Moderators may freak out. I agree though, NM food . . . I love it. LOVE it. "Red or green?" One of the best questions in the World.
I also have to get to Gorkha Palace as it crops up again and again and is just across from what I think was the only Indian place in town circa 1982: Tandoor, as was.
For me, in this category its the old school ones that I have revisited time and again
Al's, Mickeys, and Keys for breakfast
Runyons for chicken wings
Capital Grill at the bar for the burger at lunch
Village Wok for something with black bean sauce
About a foot long hot dog at the fair
Convention Grill for a vanilla malt with the nutmeg shaker
Beeks for pizza
After these past two days of Winter returning with a vengeance, the thought of the State Fair, the warn weather, the smell of grease flowing through the air, and the memories of those sweet and juicy Colorado peaches sold at the fair makes me smile. Isn't hard to believe that 3 months ago we were wearing shorts? And now this? UGH! :)
Lots of good ones listed already, many of which my list will echo:
Happy Gnome - for a pint or four and some good pub grub
Senor Wong - I could eat an infinite amount of their firecracker shrimp, and they now have 18 tap lines
Los Ocampo - Huarachozo
Blue Door - gluttonous burgers
Meritage - oysters
Little Szechuan - anything
Tanpopo - soba noodles (a foot of snow on Sunday means I'll be hear a lot in the near future)
Like most, a lot of the places on my list are close to home and as a result are more likely to become my go-to's, though a lot of interesting suggestions from others' posts.
Sonora Grill for the fries with aioli, chased with one of those pastry cream filled crack bombs from Salty Tart if you are fortunate to get there before they sell out.
Cave Vin for a glass of Champagne and the moules frites
Huh. I guess a good fry makes me happy.
Fun thread, bb!
I am somewhat embarrassed to admit I have been frequenting one particular restaurant once a week or more for over a year. That is something very unlike me, but I have yet to get tired since it is good, simple, comforting food. 3 Tiers bakery & bistro. The menu has a blend of simple sandwiches, plus ethnic Korean food plus some fancier cuisine like gnochi and Friday fish specials. A very nice (but small) beer and wine selection, breakfast, lunch and dinner. My abs fave is their Kim Chee Ramen with pork. At $10, you do owe it to yourself to stop in.
Emily's lebanese- take out or eat-in simple and comforting
True Thai- I unfortunately still hold this place in my mind as it was the last decade, but the last handful of times I am underwhelmed by both the service and the food.. Guessing it is not going to magically get better.
Is 3 Tiers doing well? I was very pleased with what I've gotten there in the past. Sadly I haven't had much time to get out there since. I'm always extremely tempted to go there on Friday's when I see their fish special on my facebook feed, always inspirational and tasty sounding.
Ms. FH and I just went to 3 Tiers last Friday. Which I'm ashamed to admit, given that we live in the nieghborhood, and frequent Al Vento, Oxendale, and McDonald's Liquor, boxing in 3 Tiers. I'd no idea they served dinner until seeing a thread on CH about ramen.
So, we went last Friday. They were about 3/4 full. Ms FH had the fish tacos, which she loved. I had the kim chee ramen with pork. Definitely a different take on the ramen I'm used to. Great flavor, nice heat, very good noodles. We got desert to go. The molasses cookie was excellent. The brownie, though, was disappointing.
Everything on the menu looked good, so we'll be bad.
Pineda on E. Lake - Carnitas tacos or spicy chicken burrito.
Ted Cook's - Half-slab rib dinner.
Broder's Deli - Turkey, provolone, and The Works on baguette.
Midori's Floating World - Tokyo ramen or sushi platter. I love the tranquility of this place amidst the chaos of the hood outside.
Quang - Lemon grass chicken platter (Why has no one mentioned Quang?)
Szechuan Spice - Fish fillet with chili pickle, or dan dan noodles, or beef noodle soup (which is also good at United Noodle.)
Obento-Ya - Ramen.
On's Kitchen - (Anything.)
Davanni's - Veggie lovers pizza, no green olives and added sausage. (I may take $h!t for this.)
Surdyk's Flights - I always go to the airport an hour early to have their prosciutto and pecorino sandwich with beet salad.
Christo's - Spanakopita, dolmades, moussaka.
Shish - Gyros, turtle cake.
Bryant Lake Bowl - Good breakfast AND good coffee.
Peace Coffee - Best espresso in town, peaceful atmosphere, obviously.
Sea Change - (For a special treat.)
Cosmos - (ibid.)
Pho Ca Dao - best pho in the Cities
Cheng Heng - solid menu throughout
Pho Tau Bay - #2 solid pho plus the most amazing belly spring rolls
Off reservation - Au Cheval in CHI. Best hamburger I've ever had. Fried bologna (made in-house) sammy. FAT bacon app. Coma and heart medication ensued...
I've been making a list, and checking it twice, of places I like the sound of in this <can't thank you all enough> thread. Since I am not going home to TX this weekend, I intend to devote myself to trying out some of these suggestions and will naturally, report here on what I find. Thanks again for providing so many wonderful suggestions [and please don't stop :-) ]. bb
Victory 44 today.
I like the space, and the not-too-frenetic vibe. If you come in the back way, you instantly do a pratfall “mind your step” into the place. The bar (small) segues into the open kitchen (really small, although perhaps there’s more elsewhere I didn’t spot) where the three people preparing food.
Right off I was disappointed as from 8am to 3pm they really only do breakfast (although they swear some of it is lunch, to me the only thing is the burger) which I did not realize. I am one of those people who eat breakfast before 7 or else I won’t be bothering with it at all, so it’s always a disappointed to find eggs and stuff focused. That said, if nothing else in almost three years here, I have learned that Minneapolis is not an early rising city on weekends. So that is really just me.
I elected the ham and cheese (it was explained an “eat it with a knife and fork” grilled sandwich served with “bacon fries”).
Business was (about 1230 on a Sat.) not particularly brisk, but brisk enough. I had a funny feeling I had run into the young man behind the bar somewhere else, but perhaps it’s just the similarity of type versus actual. I had a split of a Californian brut white, which was good, but too much was poured from the bottle, which otherwise would have kept it nicely chilled longer.
I observed the kitchen machinations. Very “intense” and lots of “little bit o’ this” “little bit o’ that” in the prep.
Rather like the Scotch egg story (told elsewhere in this thread) I had essentially the same conversation I have had many a time, and the same, predictable, result. “So the ham, anything special?” “Yes, it’s Country Ham.” “Really? REAL Country Ham.” “Yes, of course.” “My, I am very fond of real Country Ham, sign me up.” “My pleasure.”
The dozens of times I have had this conversation what eventually comes is a slice of Oscar Mayer “Country Ham” i.e. not country ham AT ALL. I always win the bet with myself, and so it was this time. Just as well, as the cheese (I expected something a little better) was just bog-standard American. Not that there’s anything wrong with American cheese, but they make something of a ritual of the coffee and so on that I thought it probably would be some sort of up market cheese.
I noticed they buttered (and it was butter) the bread and the preparation which arrived was OK. Once again though a “house ketchup” was provided which to me always (I think I said the same of Tilia) is a warning signal that there is some wildcard in the kitchen, for any chef who could concoct anything near as good as Heinz ketchup . . . anyway, the point is, why put energies into providing a condiment that’s different and (for almost all) not what they really want to dip their fries into.
On those, the fries had a “frosting” on them. (A seasonal touch?) Funny stuff, and trying to taste it did not seem to HAVE any taste. Eventually I broke down and asked: “bacon drippings and tapioca, dried and powdered.” Hmmm, I could not see the point.
The fried egg that came on top of the sandwich was very nicely done and only needed some salt applied to be PERFECT! (Yet ANOTHER sub thread about fried eggs here).
It was indeed to be eaten with knife and fork. The fries were quite OK, but the bacon “frosting” again seemed like an attempt to be smarty that didn’t work for me, mainly because I could not detect even the most subtle flavor of bacon.
Had a discussion about the “real” food served 5pm onwards. I don’t think I could write this place off until coming back and trying it but to be frank I am not sure that I will.
Let me say that the price ($21) for a glass of bubbly and a pretty filling plate was not at all unreasonable, and the staff (especially the High Priest of Coffee [you will understand if you have been]) interesting and seemed to care to make it a good experience.
I did tell the guy that in no way, shape, or form was it Country Ham and he said “maybe they changed it.” Sort of like Champagne (versus “bubbly”) that term should not be used lightly, but generally is except in Kentucky or Arkansas, which one might (er) expect!
Overall, I’d have to get stuck into a dinner there to really say for sure. I do think they could offer just a little of the dinner menu at lunch for early risers who have long ago wearied of the idea of eggs and such. Not horrible by any means. If they ever DID make that ham & cheese with real country ham and some decent (American is fine but not exactly gourmet) cheese, the presentation and way they did the bread was excellent.
Thanks for reading. More reports to come no doubt.
I had some take-out tonight. Vegetable samosa, daal, Lamb Sekuwa, Golbheda Achaar.
When I picked up the order I thought the restaurant felt warm and inviting as was the welcome for customers. It did remind me of the old Tandoor a little bit, just the draperies and probably the physical geographical location.
When I got the food back to the hotel it turned out to be really quite nice. The samosas were very well done. Just right in terms of filling and crispy exterior. The flavor was good too. The lamb was very juicy (tandoor cooked) and the spicing was pleasing and subtle. As so often is the case the daal and naan easily stole the show. There was a lot of lamb in the portion which was nice to see (a lot of Indian places these days seem to be "rationing" meat:not so, here).
The food (as I type this) is sitting well and leaving a pleasant afterglow (which is what the thread originally requested) so I think this is a hit although I think eat-in might be a tad nicer. They seem to use some sort of "enviro" containers for take out which, while not awful, seem to infuse just a touch of cardboard into the taste.
When I showed up I realized this is a place I have tried to go to a couple of time (was recommended in an earlier TC thread of mine) but was always so popular I could never get a spot at the bar and eventually gave up.
Today (owing the Football) the place was largely deserted.
I had the Cheeseburger. Raw onions. Fries. Also (a nice surprise) a 20 oz. draught Guinness.
When it came it looked good (plenty of raw onions when I peeked inside, and more than plenty fries) and I was informed “there’s pickles under there too.”
Very nice. I took a bite and instantly knew this was a place which knows its burgers. I often wonder if there are French Chowhound sites where French people visiting the US rave about “why the hell can’t we do burgers like this en France?” in exactly the same way as I rave on at French places here “why the hell can’t they do [this or that] like they do in Cagnes-sur-Mer?”
Which is to say, it’s a shame the US National Dish is so easily confused with junk food. Done like this it’s a (admittedly miniature) work of art.
I think my only negative is that I would have liked the ground beef to have a little more salt in it. Just a little absent the savory impact of salting. The cheese (I pondered a bit about whether to have the “original” minus cheese or this) was just right in quantity, texture and taste. The opposite of Victory 44 yesterday, this demanded more of a Kraft-ey cheese, and they delivered.
Just a lovely burger, not too huge that it all bollixes up and falls apart, just right size bun to burger. Clearly, they’ve had a bit of practice.
The fries (I think were raved about herein) but for me, nothing special. A really off-the-charts fry is still a rare bird in the wild.
One thing was that I had almost finished the burger when I discovered pickles UNDER the fries: I thought she had meant under the burger on the bun. So that was a shame as I would have enjoyed it EVEN more with pickles on it. I did not dress with any mustard or ketchup as it simply did not require it.
With the Guinness it was a very nice early lunch.
I then planned to check out the Gopher Bar for a Coney (held off finishing the fries for that reason) but having headed down there the doors were locked. Perhaps they open @ 1 on Sundays (this was @ 12:20.
Shame, but there it is.
The only really bad thing about the Nook is that it is so mobbed all the time. And the bar is very small.
The waitress had a T-shirt “Have you had any Nookie today? I have!” which prompted me to ask if the owner was British as I didn’t think the meaning of the word “Nookie” was widely known (to be a British slang term for sex), in the US. Perhaps it has come into wide usage thanks to more British TV shows since my time for I think when I first came to the US I used the term and was met with blank stares for the most part. That’s what made me wonder if the owner was British or of British extraction but I wasn’t sure if the waitress understood my drift and with possible embarrassment looming I killed the line of questioning.
Shame about the Gopher. No doubt, since Dogs last (reputedly) 1000 years without refrigeration they’ll live to be dished up to me another day.
I have never been to the Nook and now I have a craving for their burger from your description. The pickles under the fries is a bit strange. I think everyone else on the planet has been there except for me.
25 years ago, my husband and I made elaborate Halloween costumes a la Benny Hill which made it appear we were riding ostriches. The word 'nookie' has been in the mainstream for my whole life and I'm no spring ostrich, er, chicken.
Intrigued took a random survey at the Dubliner yesterday. About 50-50 on the understanding of nookie. My friend of 30 years (Minnesotan, and certainly no dullard) did not know it. The bartender (early shift: young) did not either. While the bartender (late shift: older) like yourself thought it was something everyone knew. Not that it matters, but after a few Guinnesses one is prone to conducting controlled scientific surveys of this nature. :-)
Historically it has never had any food (in recent times at least, apart from free popcorn) but changes are reportedly afoot to put in a grill(!) Currently, they offer a new option of pizza (Heggies or whatever it is) but that's not in any way comment worthy. Unless Guinness counts as food . . .
Well, to bring this balance back a bit toward the left bank ... When I want "go to", I don't like to go far - thus my South Minneapolis slant!
Early: Blackbird and Harriet Brasserie tie atop a heady list. Both are creative as well as do the basic stuff masterfully and know that this can be the best meal of the day. BB scores for the cheesy hash browns and clever specials (one sweet, the other savory). HB shines for their scone starters, hash browns and best house-made sausage patties this side of heaven. Both do weekday brunches, BB at 8 and HB at 10.
Mid-day: I'm still full from breakfast!
Evening: Less is more, so I'll stick with Don Saunders' In Season. We've been there a few dozen times the past 2 years - consistently first-rate work, constantly-changing changing menu, great imagination, clever and satisfying small plates, wines fairly-priced and mains that are friendlier to the wallet than Lucia's and Heidi's but definitely in the same league.
Alas, I'm starting to fear for their survival as they lack the long-standing reputation (Lucia's), buzz-garnering chef (Heidi's) and hip neighborhood spot (Tilia) that keep them from bing on more "go to" lists.
After 10pm: Tilia and Lucia's Wine Bar. Also, Pat's Tap for a younger, louder scene that also digs good food.
Delivery: Broder's (Sometimes you just want someone else to make you a fresh simple salad to have with soup or pasta. Oh, and of course a canoli!
My list is pretty short, as we don't eat out as often as I'd like to.
For any day:
Ngon (lucky me, this is 3 blocks away!)
Izzy's for dessert
Colossal Cafe in St. Paul
When I feel that I have lost my faith in humanity go-to's:
Gorditas el Gordo for a huarache con chales
the little pork crispy nubbins in the spicy green sauce combined with the smokiness of the freshly griddled masa is a whole bunch of love for me.
Szechuan Spice for Ma Po tofu or Hot Pot
greasy but delicious. Are there better things on the menu? Yes, but this is my go to.
Corner Table for a baloney sandwich.
Brioche bread, and home-made baloney with a fried(salted) egg on top. It'll do.
Muddy Waters for a burger and fries
Not fussy and they have the most consistent frites in town.
Crispy rabbit dumpling at Ngon Bistro
not the most technically sound dish but super tasty
Tinga de Pollo at El Burrito Mercado
been eating it for 20 years and hopefully for 20 more
Ran ham bowling and Molitor burgers from the nook. Fries close 2nd to muddy waters.
Heidi's for the pickled beef tongue, and then usually about 8 more plates. They do good work.
First off, great thread idea. It's given me a long list of new places to try that don't include the usual suspects.
My list is full of repeats, but oh well...
Mickey's - Especially during this time of the year. For me, there is some sort of nostalgia involved with going to Mickey's during the winter. On top of that, the omelets never disappoint.
The Nook - Supreme and fries. Done.
Sea Salt - Being here means spring is here and summer is near. Catfish po' boy + a pint of something = pure happiness.
A Baker's Wife - The best plain cake donut I've ever had.
The Flame - I go to the Rice street location in Roseville/Little Canada. Great burgers, great breakfast, great post bar crowd.
Brasa - Either sitting on the patio in the summer or sitting inside in the winter, the food is right for whatever season we're in.
Black Sheep - My favorite pizza in town, combined with a small but nice beer list.
Holy Land - Gyros or the cheese steak previously mentioned. Or the buffet. Or the butcher. Or the fresh baked pita. Or whatever else you want to get.
Q Fanatic - Had some mixed experiences, but when they're on, no one does BBQ better in Minny.
Brits - Not necessarily chow worthy, but a day of football/rugby with a few pints is about as good as it gets.
BB, I was last at Ivar's back in probably 1967 as a wee child. Certainly don't remember the food, but they had a gigantic diving bell that took people down to the 'bottom of the ocean'. Thing scared the heck out of me. I guess I was claustrophobic even then. Somewhere my mom has a menu/placemat tucked away as I saw it a few years ago rummaging through stuff.
The menu was in the shape of a diver's helmet with goggles and a mouthpiece with the entree's printed around it. It was called Ivar's Wharf back then.
I asked my mom about my now jumpstarted memory, thanks to you, and she said it was some of the best seafood of her life. Sadly, I probably survived on toast or something.
Sea Salt is very good but it's apples and oranges as I've had some very good seafood 'en place' since 1967. And I do think I'd enjoy Ivar's today, very much.
It's just the experience and very good sourcing with SS. Minneapolis, goodies from the sea freshly prepared in a park with a waterfall, often a band playing in the evening. It's as good as it gets here for prepared seafood on the sorta cheap.
Ah diving bells scaring the b'jesus out of kids. Nice :-) The very best memories of childhood are the scary ones! I don't know what the poor little cossetted devils of today are going to look back on that was scary & "fun" when our age. :-) Glad I was born when I was.
I just stumbled across Ivar's but as soon as I saw their "since 1937" (I think it was) I had to patronize it!
Just a quick request that this discussion focus on go-to restaurants in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, rather than roaming too far afield. Thanks!
My favorite place to eat is Murray's in downtown Mpls. My parents used to take me there every year for my birthday and when I moved to St. Paul, I continued the tradition on my own.
Never had a bad meal there.
Lunch @ W A Frost Friday.
They were doing a pretty steady trade. The odd time I lunch there there seems to be a regular (daily?) table of aging Jewish gentlemen, whose conversation is always interesting.
(How many bars to you venture into where German woodcarving is the "topic du jour"?)
I ordered cassoulet and a green salad. The green salad was quite nice although sadly the bread basket was a few slices of "is it meant to be chewy?" french bread. I suppose the "secret weapon" of French (in Europe) restaurants is their ability to put a basket of wonderful, crispy, light, completely marvelous bread out there from the bakery next door. With such bread, one has already partly secured success like being born into a wealthy family. It's hard to screw things up from that point forward.
The cassoulet was perfectly nice "composition" of duck leg, beans, lentils, (some ill-advised tumeric/ other curry-like spices) and sausage. But it was not cassoulet. It clearly was a composition. Not a dish cooked long and slow together such that all flavors melded into the others.
A perfectly nice French blanc de blancs "fizz" went down well.
W A Frost is a sentimental favorite for me as I used to live 2 blocks from it 31 years ago when it really was an outpost of "civilization" in an iffy-ish neighborhood. The bartender there (with glasses) Dave (I think) is an excellent sort. I jsut wish they'd called their concoction "duck and lentil, sausage surprise: or something other than cassoulet. As I told the bartender, the go-to cassoulet is Toulouse Bus Station.
I am still working my way through the list.