Sunday, December 21, 2008

Merlins Rest

Visited on Friday, December 19th

Outside Merlin's Rest

Erin's Review
This past month has pretty much been a blur. Due to a number of different factors, we haven't been out to eat to one of the places on our list for almost a month. We did try last Friday - and we now know that Blue Door Pub is not a place to go at 7pm on a Friday night with no reservation with 6 people. Or with 2 people, apparently. We'll have to go back and try that place on weeknight. We headed over to Merlins Rest after trying Blue Door Pub again and easily got a table there.

Inside Merlin's Rest

Merlins Rest is a "British Isles and Irish Pub". I pretty much always like these type of places, and I wasn't disappointed - it was exactly what I was expecting. The surcharges for fries and live music are a little off putting - Ben gets into that more below. I ordered a Strongbow and fish and chips, British style. The Strongbow was the same as it is everywhere - and I think $5.75 is a little steep but nothing outrageous.

Fish & Chips, British Style

The fish and chips came out very quickly (probably less than 10-15 minutes from when we ordered). This wasn't that weird as it doesn't take that long to cook this dish, but Ben's should have taken much longer and came out right away as well. I thought the fish was perfect - greasy and salty, just like I remember eating when I spent a semester in London. The fries were just ok - not sure if they hand cut them here, which I would expect for a $2.75 surcharge when ordering with a sandwich.

Fish & Chips, British Style

I liked the atmosphere at Merlins Rest - it was pleasantly crowded with a little live music going on that wasn't too loud to interfere with conversation. It would be a great place to go with a small group. It was also fairly bright, which is different from most bars and pubs. I would go back if I was having a fish and chips craving. Other than that, probably not - but I can see why fans of scotch would love this place.

Ben's Review
I was sick all last week with a flu-like cold (I got MY flu shot this year, did you??) and Erin was getting sad that we couldn't go out to eat at all. By Friday I felt good enough to venture back out and eat something other than toast with butter, washed down with water. We wanted to try Blue Door Pub after getting shut out last Friday night when our group of six had issues finding a place that could take us without a long wait. I hadn't realized how small BDP was at the time. On this night it was nearing 7 o'clock again so I suggested we have a backup in case BDP was again full up. This turned out to be a good plan because BDP was indeed full again with people already standing, waiting for a table, so we headed to our backup, Merlins Rest on E. Lake St.

If you look at the Google Maps pictures of Merlins Rest, it looks like a place that would sell fireworks off of 94 once you cross into Wisconsin - a huge white sign with huge, simple block letters. I had read on their website that they had an Irishman decorate the interior of the restaurant, but clearly the same TLC hadn't been applied outside. Nevertheless, we headed over knowing what to look for, of course I nearly blew right by the place because since Google came around they have replaced their sign with a more "Irish pub looking" sign that says "Merlins Rest" in the appropriate script.

It wasn't apparent if we should wait to be seated when we got in, but I suppose the absence of a sign means you can seat yourself, so we grabbed a tall table on the left side of the bar. On the right side there were several of those circular booths that I like - it'd be fun to come with a bigger group and grab one of those.

Being that I was just getting over being sick, I knew I wasn't going to have a drink, although the scotch list is tempting. The scotch menu is an entirely separate menu that you can get on request. The list is impressive, and they include the 'wench' ratings for each scotch on the list. I had never heard of a 'wench' rating for a scotch, so I just assumed that was how people rated scotchs. As I'm searching google now, though, I can find NO mention of a 'wench' rating or a 'wench' scale for scotch, so maybe the people at Merlins Rest just like saying 'wench' (who doesn't?).

Scotch Menu

Anyways, I was sticking to water, but I'll be back for the scotch. As for food, I was a little shocked at the $2.75 surcharge to have fries with your burger instead of chips. That seemed a little excessive so I looked for something other than a sandwich to order. I read the description of "Ol' Grandmas Cottage Pie" and I was sold. A layer of ground beef with carrots and parsnips, covered with garlic mashed potatoes, covered with cheese. Yes. That is what I needed getting over a cold.

Cottage Pie

Our food came out much faster than I expected, which makes me think they didn't actually MAKE the food. In spite of this my food was pretty damn good, although instead of carrots and parsnips (which I was actually looking forward to) it was just ground beef with red peppers? Further evidence that it's not cooked on site. The portion was also huge, I just had the rest of my meal for lunch today as it lent itself nicely to reheating.
  • Service: Our server was around to check on us at perfect intervals and was not overbearing.
  • Food: The food was good, but I am suspicious that it is just frozen meals heated up.
  • Drinks: Top notch scotch list, full bar, and typical pub beer list.
  • Ambiance: It was nearly full when we arrived, there were only a couple tables open and the place had a good volume. Some live music started while we were there, but it was almost background noise, not loud at all.
  • Price: The prices were interesting. The base prices seemed reasonable but the $2.75 for fries was a bit much, and there was also a notice that prices "may increase $0.50 to $1.00 during live music." That seemed a little vague and annoying. If I go back for scotch, I probably won't eat.
  • Convenience: Merlins Rest is right on Lake St. with plenty of on-street parking available.
Merlins Rest
3601 East Lake

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Chris & Rob's

Visited on Tuesday, November 25th with Scott

Outside Chris & Robs

Ben's Review
When my co-worker Scott mentioned that he was probably going to hit up Chris and Rob's for dinner, I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to pay him back the $7 I owed him. Convincing Erin was not difficult :)

Not realizing how far away this place was, I got off of 94E at the Cretin-Vandalia exit hoping to avoid the freeway traffic, but it ended up taking a good long time to travel ~35 blocks on St. Clair Ave. from Cretin to W 7th St. Along the way Scott and Erin had the chance to discuss the merits of food processors vs. stand mixers and other cookware.

We got a parking spot right outside the front door (literally about five feet away, it was awesome). We walked into a nearly empty restaurant, I think there were two other tables occupied, not that unusual for a Tuesday night at 5:30 I guess. Scott had been talking up the Italian Beef sandwich served "wet" meaning that it's dipped in beef juice, kind of like a french dip, which makes for a tasty and messy sandwich. I went with a chili cheese hot dog with a side of fries, Erin had the Italian Beef sandwich ("dry") and Erin and Scott split an order of tater tots. When Scott heard that I was paying he also added on a Summit.


There aren't servers at Chris and Rob's, you order at the counter when you walk in and they bring the food out to your table when it's ready. The workers were really friendly and joked around with us while we were ordering, you could tell they enjoyed the work environment. Sadly I don't think we saw Chris or Rob.

Inside Chris & Robs

My chili cheese dog was exactly what I wanted (it's hard to mess this up). Apparently you can optionally get two hot dogs in one bun, I'm not really sure how this would work, seeing as my hot dog was already overflowing, but I'd like to try it sometime, and I'm a little sad that I didn't this time, it would make for a much better story :)

Chili Cheese Dog


I also would like to go back to Chris and Rob's to try their pizza. I think they are known for their hot dogs, brats, and sandwiches, but they aren't strictly a hot dog place, they are billed as the "Chicago taste authority" and I would suppose that authority would cover Chicago style pizza. Given that their menu isn't expensive I'm sure we'll be back at some point.
  • Service: Great service, and I would expect no less when there are more employees than customers.
  • Food: The food is good and cheap, but better than fast food. If I lived near here I wouldn't ever get fast food.
  • Drinks: They have a couple typical beer selections (Miller, Bud, and Summit). I wasn't even expecting to have a beer so any beer was good beer.
  • Ambiance: There was nobody around when we were there, so it was a little quiet. The walls are decorated with Chicago pictures and memorabilia which is interesting to read.
  • Price: The prices are as cheap as anywhere in the city. My chili cheese dog was $3.59. Hell, some places will charge you more than 50 cents for cheese on a burger! At Chris and Rob's the chili dog and the chili cheese dog are the same price (does this mean people who get the regular chili dog are getting screwed??)
  • Convenience: Located right on W 7th St., so there must be bus access, but no parking lot. We found a spot but you might have to walk a block or so if the area was busy.
Erin's Review
Ben alerted me at about 4:45pm on Tuesday that we were going to Chris and Rob's for dinner. I only had my point-and-shoot camera, so the quality of these photos isn't too great, but you can get the idea.

On the long ride over there, Scott was extolling the virtues of the Cheesy Beef Sandwich. After hearing him go on about it for the ride, my choice was clear. I chose to get mine un-dipped because I figured it would be soggy enough from the juices in the meat, and I was right. This was a very satisfying sandwich, with a ton of meat. More than I needed, for sure. At Scott's suggestion, I added sweet peppers to my cheddar Cheesy Beef. I'm glad I did - it did add a lot to the sandwich. I know this because I enjoyed bites with pepper more than I enjoyed the ones without. Pretty simple :)

Cheesy Beef w/ Cheddar and Sweet Peppers

Chowing Chowing
Only slightly difficult to eat

Scott and I split an order of tots, which were delightfully crispy and salty. Not much else to say about them...


Ben has detailed the experience perfectly in his review... since it has already taken us almost 2 weeks to get this review up, I won't make anyone wait any longer by trying to make this sound like anything more than a quick stop for food after work :)

Chris and Rob's is a great place for a quick, filling meal that is a step up from normal fast food. I would definitely return. Aaron gave the pizza a positive review, so I'd like to try that next time around. Despite what Ben says above, I don't think the pizza is necessary "Chicago style"but that won't stop me from trying it.

Outside Chris & Robs


Chris & Rob's
603 West 7th St.
St. Paul

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Amazing Thailand

Visited on Saturday, November 15th with Jake, Allison, and Justin

Outside Amazing Thailand

Erin's Review
After a long day being a photo assistant at a wedding with Kate, I was absolutely exhausted. I was originally supposed to go out somewhere in St. Paul with Kate that night, but she ended up having to go work at her "real" job. Ben texted me during the day to ask if I wanted to go out to dinner and we decided on Broders. Unfortunately, the wait was longer than we could handle. Maybe someday we'll get there... Ben then suggested Amazing Thailand which sounded just fine to me. I basically just wanted some noodles in any form.

Inside Amazing Thailand Inside Amazing Thailand

We got there a little early and had to wait a few minutes for our table to be ready. As soon as we were seated I ordered the Jalapeno Cream Cheese Wontons because I was starving. Half of the table had decided on Pad Thai in some form for the entree. Too bad for us when someone (Allison I think?) asked if it was good and the server flat out said no. Hmmm... we quickly went about changing our order. The server said that the Pad Thai is made in a different style than most people are used to so a lot of people don't like it. Has anyone out there tried the Pad Thai at Amazing Thailand? Is it really that bad?? Since our server was so full of opinions, I asked her what she would recommend and told her I had originally wanted Pad Thai and was just looking for some comfort food. She told me to get the Pad See Iew. So I did. Jake did as well. Allison got the Spicy Noodles and Justin got the largest plate of yellow curry fried rice that I have ever seen.

Yellow Curry Fried Rice
For real. Who could eat this in one sitting??

The wontons came out soon after we ordered and were quickly devoured. They were excellent, although one that I had didn't actually have jalapenos in it. I was only slightly bitter about that.

Jalapeno Cream Cheese Wontons

My Pad See Iew was exactly what I wanted. A large plate of delicious noodles, veggies, and chicken, and egg. Pretty close to Pad Thai... I think thicker noodles might be the difference. I loved this and will probably order it instead of Pad Thai when I'm in the noodle mood at a Thai place again. Everyone else loved their meals, except for Allison. I think she just was wanting something different though, it wasn't that her meal was prepared badly. She did enjoy her cinnomon cookie martini though, so all was not lost for her.

Pad See Iew

Cinnamon Cookie Martini

I really enjoyed Amazing Thailand. It was full and bustling and the decor was interesting. I would go back... but probably won't for awhile due to the abundance of other Thai places on the list.

Ben's Review
After watching the Gophers lose horribly to the Badgers on Saturday we decided to get some dinner with Jake, Allison, and Justin. Jake and Allison live close to Broders so we were going to try to go there but we couldn't get in :( After driving back to Saint Paul to pick up Erin (who was locked out of the house), we settled for hitting up one of the many Thai places we have on the list now, from all the suggestions we got from the poll, Amazing Thailand in uptown.

There was no way in hell I was paying $13.50 to park again (I'll stop bitching about that soon I promise), so I dropped Erin off at the restaurant and drove around the block to find a spot on the street, which I did a block and a half away. Nice. Jake, Allison, and Justin also found a spot on the street not far from me.

As I walked into the restaurant I immediately noticed the cool Thai-looking decor. I don't know if the decorations were ACTUALLY Thai, but it fit the stereotype of Thailand, with gold shrines straight out of an "Indiana Jones" movie. The bar is big and full of people, it looked like a good place to hang out. The bar is square with one side being a wall and then three sides are the actual bar with a big island in the middle where all of the booze is stored.

Inside Amazing Thailand

Inside Amazing Thailand

We got seated (sat?) about five minutes after arriving as we were a little early for our reservation. I was, as usual, stumped about what to get. I recently got on a curry kick, making some Indian curry a couple weeks back and really wanting some Thai curry over rice. With a menu as big as the one at Amazing Thailand though, that seems a little bland. Although, Erin's dad will tell you that you should "get a burger when you're at a burger place", and I figure any Thai place is a "curry place." Luckily the special that night was a pumpkin curry that was served in a little pumpkin with the rice on the side that Erin convinced me to get. As usual, good advice on her part.


The curry was indeed served in a small pumpkin that I thought looked more like a squash. They initially forgot my rice side, so I was confused for a minute about what was going on, but we got it sorted out. The curry was excellent and just what I had been craving - a very runny curry with some chicken and veggies over rice. When you order your dish they ask how spicy you want it on a scale of 1-5. In typical indecisive fashion I went right down the middle with a 3. Our server told us that the numbers were "Minnesota numbers" as opposed to "Thai numbers", saying that the cooks used to make it even more spicy but they got too many complaints. A 3 was a good mix of spice while still having good flavor.

Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin Curry

I thought our server was pretty cool, she even did some snooping on a table near us to see what they had ordered because it looked good. However, she steered Allison away from the pad Thai and suggested a different noodle dish instead that Allison didn't really like. Bummer for her :)

One of the best things about Thai restaurants is that you usually have enough to bring home for another meal, which was awesome. All in all, a great meal.
  • Service: Our server was great and they kept our water glasses filled.
  • Food: Excellent pumpkin curry and huge portions.
  • Drinks: Full bar with a decent beer selection. Not sure if they have happy hour specials or not.
  • Ambiance: It was busy on the Saturday night that we were there and the place had a good din.
  • Price: The prices were decent. Our bill was $50 with tax and tip which included a couple drinks and an appetizer.
  • Convenience: This is uptown so parking's a little difficult. Amazing Thailand is across Hennepin from Calhoun Square so if you go south just one block you're in a residential area where you should be able to find a free spot.
Amazing Thailand
3024 Hennepin Ave S

Highly recommended for the food and atmosphere

Sunday, November 16, 2008

jasmine 26

Visited on Thursday, November 12th with Ryan and Corlissa

jasmine 26

Ben's Review

Erin arranged to have dinner with Ryan and Corlissa last Thursday night. We ended up going to Jasmine 26, at 26th & Nicollet. Without knowing exactly where the restaurant was, I grabbed an open parking spot on Nicollet which was luckily only a block away. (I didn't want to pay $13.50 again!)

As we sat down, Ryan told us that they had Surly Bender on tap, in addition to the rest of the beers on the menu. I looked over the list and nothing called out to me, so I opted for the Bender. Our server came back a minute later and apologized, saying that they didn't actually have the Bender, it was instead Surly Furious. No apologies necessary :)

The water glasses at Jasmine 26 are tall and heavy, so when I grabbed my beer I was a little surprised at how light it seemed. I figured I was just used to the weight of the water glass and forgot about it. Throughout dinner though, I couldn't help but feel like the beer glass was NOT a real pint glass and Erin agreed. I didn't ask the server, but I have a strong suspicion that they have miniature pint glasses, maybe 12 oz. Also, there was a head of about 1.5 inches on the beer, further reducing the amount of beer I was getting. This turned out to be the only negative of the meal.

Erin and I ordered the lettuce rolls as an appetizer - these are kind of like spring rolls except they are wrapped in lettuce and tied with cilantro, I thought they were kind of cool, but a little hard to eat without looking like a fool, everything kind of falls apart as you bite in. For my entree, I was drawn to the spicy eggplant stir fry in the 'Specialty Dishes' section of the menu. I was thinking of going for the pad thai, but that seemed like a cop-out; I'm at a new place and I should try something I haven't had before.

lettuce rolls

The stir fry was excellent and big enough for lunch the next day, which seems typical of the Asian places we've been going to. We've either been splitting an entree (Tum Rup Thai), or I get another meal out of it. Although the stir fry was called 'spicy', I wouldn't have guessed it. It had a great flavor, but it didn't bite back like I would expect a spicy dish would. I also tried some of Erin's crepe, which I thought looked like a huge omelet. It was good, but I would like it to have more meat, it was mostly bean sprouts inside.

Beef something

I liked Jasmine 26, but there was nothing that would make me go back before trying other Vietnamese restaurants around town.
  • Service: We had good service, it probably helped that it wasn't very busy when we were there.
  • Food: My stir fry was great and the portions were large.
  • Drinks: Small pint glasses make you feel like you're getting cheated. The bar looked like a cool place to hang out.
  • Ambiance: I've read other reviews of Jasmine 26 when people said it was full of people. It was a little slow when we went, but I can picture the restaurant having a nice din to it when packed in on a weekend.
  • Price: Good prices, $12 for my entree that got me two meals. Beer was $5.
  • Convenience: We found a spot on Nicollet to park but I would guess it'd be a little more difficult on a weekend. Plenty of buses go down there too.
Erin's Review
My friend Ryan suggested that we join him and his girlfriend for a double date last week first because he enjoys our company, and second (and probably most importantly) because he wanted to be featured on the blog :) I told him to choose any place on the list. His choice (after one rejection from me) was jasmine 26. Sounded fine to me!


We arrived at 7:30 and the restaurant was pretty empty. I had perused the menu on the website earlier that day, but still had no clue what to order. Ryan had gotten a Thai beer (or so he said) that was pretty good, so I ordered that right away. It took us all a good long time to decide what to get because the menu is pretty extensive. The server was very friendly and attentive throughout the evening.

inside jasmine 26


The lettuce wraps were chosen by Ben as an appetizer. They were pretty good, but my preference is usually toward fried appetizers. I chose the Jasmine Crepe for my entree. The "crispy tumeric coconut crepe" tasted great, and was filled mostly with bean sprouts with a little bit of pork and shrimp. I wasn't even that hungry but I ended up eating pretty much the whole thing, so it wasn't super filling. This was exactly what I wanted for my entree, but be forewarned that if you are super hungry you might want to choose a different dish.

jasmine crepe

Ryan and Corlissa both liked their entrees. I believe they each got some variety of fried rice. Ryan commented several times that his tasted faintly like ketchup, but in a good way. So take that for what it's worth :)

The atmosphere of jasmine 26 was nice - I liked the decor and lighting. It was very date-like, which is in contrast to many of the other Vietnamese places on Nicollet. The food at some of the other places may be better (I personally liked Quang better, but I'm not exactly a connoisseur of Vietnamese food...). However, if you want to enjoy an adult beverage with your meal in a well-decorated and nicely lit room, this is a good choice. I would compare jasmine 26 to Ngon Bistro in St. Paul.

jasmine 26
8 E 26th St

for the atmosphere

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Barley John's

Visited on Saturday, October 25th with the Brew 52 crew


Erin's Review
I always love a good Brew 52 meet up, so I was excited to go to Barley John's last weekend. It was a beautiful fall day, and although I was initially annoyed when I saw the group sitting outside, it ended up being just fine. Colin, the brewer at Barley John's, was nice enough to come in on his day off to go through the tasting with us. We went from light to dark, starting with the Little Barley Bitter, moving on to the Stockyard IPA, then to Old Eight Porter, and finally the Dark Night (I don't know if it is Night or Knight - it isn't listed on the website so I'll go with Night since that is what Rett put on Brew 52). Little Barley Bitter was my clear favorite, unsurprisingly, but I actually also enjoyed the IPA and Porter. I hated Dark Night - just not a fan of that type of beer at all.

Little Barley Bitter Stockyard IPA
Old Eight Porter Beer

The patio at Barley John's is very nice, even though I usually hate patios that face parking lots. I liked the patio better than the inside, which is tiny and pretty boring in terms of decor. We moved inside after the tasting to eat dinner with the siblings. They don't have many tables for groups larger than 4, so I'd recommend making a reservation if you do have a bigger group. The staff seemed quite overwhelmed with how many people were there that night, but that is likely just because of the Brew 52ers that were there - other than those people, the place would have been full but not packed.

Growing hops

Joe ordered the hummus as an appetizer, which I thought had a great habanero flavor without being overpowering and too spicy to eat. It took me quite a while to decide what to get for my main meal - Barley John's has a surprisingly large menu. I decided to go with a Beer Brat as it seemed appropriate. I loved the waffle fries that came with it, and the brat was done perfectly. My only complaint was with the bun. It was cut weirdly so the brat didn't exactly fit inside the bun, it kind of rested on top of it. Parts of the bun were also very hard, to the point that it seemed that it might have been a little stale. Because I loved the brat itself, and the sauerkraut, I will forgive the bun, but it did make the meal a little worse.

Habanero Hummus

Beer Brat

Overall, I had a great time at Barley John's - the beers were tasty and the atmosphere was very friendly. I'd recommend sticking with the sandwiches or pizzas for your meal - from what I have heard, these seem to be better than the pastas or other entrees.

Ben's Review
Rett arranged a Brew52 meet-up at Barley John's two weekends ago, so we thought we'd have dinner there as well (it doesn't take much for us to agree to order something rather than cooking). Colin, one of the brewers, was guiding the group through a sampling of four of the beers they have. Since it was a nice fall day we sat outside while we sampled the brew. It was a little windy that day, but luckily someone supplied a blanket for Erin from their car, so she was OK for the hour or so we spent out there :)

It was fun to have someone talk us through the beers, I would highly recommend getting a flight of beers if you stop by they're all good except for the current seasonal the Dark Knight - it's 13.5% alcohol and aged in bourbon barrels, I can't drink these kinds of beers, just too heavy and syrupy for my liking.

Old Eight Porter

The inside of Barley John's is small. The bar itself is about twelve feet long and there are around ten tables total. We grabbed a table with my two of my sisters, Becca and Amanda, and my brother-in-law Joe. They seemed reluctant to let us pull a fifth chair up to a four person table, but they let us as long as we didn't block the walkway. The menu is a little more than I would expect from a brewpub, although I still ended up getting the cheeseburger. Joe ordered the Habanero hummus which I thought was pretty good. Not only do they have sandwiches, burgers, and brats, but they've also got full entrees - rigatoni, beef tenderloin, etc.

Inside Barley John's

Inside Barley John's

They also have a decent selection of scotches, and they even have a scotch flight as a menu item, which is a sample of four scotches, two from column A and two from column B. I will definitely be back at some point to have the scotch flight, as that wasn't going to suffice for my meal on this night. They have a list of scotch on the website, but I feel like the menu in the restaurant had more listed.

My cheeseburger was pretty good, and it came with really good waffle fries, I love it when places don't charge extra for waffle fries - they're delicious. The burgers come pretty plain but they do have a good selection of add-ons that are fifty cents each: bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, garlic mayo, sautéed mushroom, roasted garlic (bacon was $1.75 if I remember right, yikes). Roasted garlic and garlic mayo? Oh, hells yes :)

Barley Burger 2

Our service was OK, the servers seemed to be swamped because the place was full, but even with a full house there aren't that many people. Next time I go I will be sitting at the bar to try my scotches and more beers.
  • Service: No complaints, but nothing special.
  • Food: Burger was good, hummus was good. I'd be interested to see the beef tenderloin.
  • Drinks: I'm pretty sure there is a full bar, and they have their own beers as well as a good selection of local beers that complement their beers.
  • Ambiance: I think going here in the summertime and sitting outside would be better than a cooler fall afternoon. They have hop vines that cover the patio which is a nice touch and they would look cool when they are in bloom (or whatever hops do when they are 'ready'). I didn't notice much character in the dining room and there wasn't much decor, it was pretty plain.
  • Price: Typical prices, $8-$9 for a burger, $4-5 for a beer.
  • Convenience: Barley John's is in Roseville just off of County Road D and 35W and they have a parking lot.
Barley John's Brew Pub
781 Old Highway Eight SW
New Brighton, MN

Highly recommended for the beers and casual food is pretty good as well

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Red Stag Supper Club

Visited on Wednesday, October 22nd with Justin and Brittney

Red Stag

Ben's Review
We met my friend Justin and his girlfriend Brittney last Wednesday for dinner at the Red Stag Supper Club. Erin and I both read some reviews during the day of Red Stag to see what other people were saying. Several reviews mentioned the spotty service they received, so even though the most recent review I read was from May, it still made us a little nervous about what to expect. The pictures that I had seen made the place look pretty cool and it's interesting to note that they are the first LEED certified restaurant in Minnesota.

After a forty minute drive from 11 St. & 3rd Ave. in downtown (Google maps puts the distance at 1.8 miles - meaning you could run there AND BACK in the time it took us to drive) we finally got to Red Stag. Justin and Brittney had arrived ten minutes earlier so they had already grabbed a table. From the outside it's obvious where the Red Stag is because they actually have a statue of a red stag that hangs over the entrance to the restaurant. We walked in, spotted our friends and had a seat.

Red Stag

Inside Red Stag

Our server was clearly not the server that we had read about in the reviews, because she was excellent. She was always prompt with getting drinks, water, and our order and she also knew the menu and the specials for the night. This is all I ask for in a server :)

We had gotten there in time to get a drink during happy hour, so I had a beer (Furious? Two-Hearted? I can't recall now, I need to write my reviews earlier apparently). We also ordered some appetizers; Justin and Brittney got a cheese plate and I ordered some smelt fries without knowing what "smelt" is/are. Turns out smelt are exactly like the minnows I was fishing with a couple weeks earlier, albeit more expensive and breaded. The smelt fries were pretty good, but I could only have a couple of them, they were a little heavy to be having a bunch of them, and I had a pork chop with cheese grits coming.

Cheese Plate
Justin and Brittney's cheese plate - not on the menu, but they have a small cheese plate for $5

Smelt Fries

Smelt Fries

The menu at Red Stag has some unique options: roasted duck, halibut cheeks, venison stroganoff (Justin got this). Getting a pork chop seemed a little unadventurous, but I really wanted the cheese grits. In hindsight it was a great decision because they were both really good. After the smelt fries, pork chop, and beer, I was completely stuffed.

Pork Chop

The bar at the Red Stag looked cool. It's a long wooden bar with a generous assortment of booze choices and some good beer options. I would consider coming here for happy hour if someone suggested it. I think the traffic on Wednesday was a fluke, so forty minutes was not the norm.

Inside Red Stag

I can put to rest the bad reviews we had read from earlier, there was nothing about the Red Stag that I would complain about. The service was good, as was the food and the atmosphere.

Foie Gras Venison Stronganoff
Justin and Brittney's food - foie gras and venison stronganoff. not pictured: house salad.
  • Service: Our server was great, she knew the specials and offered opinions of the menu when asked.
  • Food: My pork chop and grits were excellent, and everyone seemed to enjoy their food.
  • Drinks: Full bar with a decent beer selection. $3 happy hour domestic taps that actually include the "premium" domestic beers.
  • Ambiance: I loved the exposed structure inside, I thought it looked really cool. The Red Stag had a cozy atmosphere the night we were there.
  • Price: Our tab was around $55, which seems reasonable, given that the 'big plates' are around $20 apiece (although Erin didn't get an 'big plate').
  • Convenience: There's no parking lot, but we found some free on-street parking around the corner. There are also meters on the street.
Erin's Review
Kate has been blabbing to me about how AH-MAY-ZING Red Stag is for months. Since she likes to be hip and with it, I think she went right when it opened about a year ago. Which means I have been hearing about this place for awhile. You could say it had been built up in my mind. I was nervous that it would let me down especially after reading some so-so reviews on Chowhound, but thankfully it did not! I loved Red Stag and would gladly go there again and again.

After our harrowing drive from downtown, we were not in the best of spirits when we arrived. Luckily it was still happy hour, so that made everything better. I ordered a Pear Cider, which was also $3. This put me in a good mood immediately, because normally even though this was under "beer" and is "domestic" at other places that will not be named, it would not be included in happy hour specials. I also liked how the water was served - you choose still or sparkling, and there is no ice, but it is still cold. My glass was kept full most of the night, which is no small feat considering the amount of water I drank.

After staring at the menu for a good long time, I told the waitress I was debating between the duck terrine and the smelt fries for an appetizer and asked for her recommendation. She said "the terrine is really good" so she must have something against minnows. Since Ben still wanted to try the smelt fries without knowing what smelt was, we just got both. After we ordered, the waitress brought out the bread which came with their home made bean dip which was a nice change from butter and tasted great.


The duck terrine was delicious. I didn't have a clue was terrine was before I ordered it, but apparently it is a way of preparing meat and when cold it is similar to pate. It came with a soft boiled egg, toast points, poached pear and shoestrings. A very odd combination to me at first, but it all worked. The smelt fries were great too - kind of unnerving to eat the whole fish though, so be forewarned. They were perfectly breaded so that they weren't too greasy.

Duck Terrine

Toast Points

For my main dish I ordered the side of mac and cheese which right now comes with scallion, sausage, and mushrooms. I thought that there was a little too much sausage in this dish, but it was still VERY good - it reminded me a lot of the pelmini I got at Moscow on the Hill. After the 2 fairly substantial appetizers, I could barely finish half of my side of mac and cheese - it was very rich!

Mac and Cheese

I loved the atmosphere at Red Stag - it is a little old school with the carpet but still contemporary looking. The bathrooms are cool too, with the hard core handdryers and the "flush/half flush" options on the toilets.


Red Stag Supper Club
509 1st Ave NE

Highly recommended for the food and atmosphere