Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Groveland Tap

Visited on Sunday, April 27th with Scott

Groveland Tap

Ben's Review
My co-worker Scott called us up to see if we wanted to get a late lunch at Porky's. It was a little chilly for Porky's so we settled on Groveland Tap instead. It was busier than I thought it would be for a Sunday afternoon. It's a small place but there were still around fifteen people eating and drinking.

I made the quick decision to get the Red Hook Black Hook (which sounds like a beer that Dr. Seuss would come up with) after learning that they were all out of the Rush River Bubblejack IPA. Erin got her usual diet coke and Scott pulled through and got a beer even though he was still under the weather from the night before. I was expecting the Black Hook to taste like a black lager, like the 1554, but it was more like Guinness. It's dry and malty, not a whole lot of hops to speak of. I doubt I'll order one of these again, but I'm glad I tried it.

Groveland Tap

In typical fashion, I couldn't decide what I wanted to eat. Erin was pushing the pepper jack juicy lucy, but I wasn't sure if I wanted a sandwich or a burger. The burger won out in the end, and I upgraded to get the fries as well ($2 extra, but I'm a high roller like that). Scott got the pork sandwich also with fries.

Groveland Tap

The burger had pepper jack cheese and jalapenos in between the meat patties, and it was pretty damn good. I had to give a couple bites to Erin, cause she got the bland American cheese on her juicy lucy :). The fries were also pretty good, albeit not a huge portion, but that's probably a good thing. I think I'll usually eat as many fries as they'll put on the plate so the less they give me the better, it's not like I went home hungry.

For dessert our server mentioned a deep fried PB & J sandwich that sounded tasty. Its kind of like a Monte Cristo sandwich but with grape jelly and peanut butter instead of meat. I thought it was a good dessert, but I don't have much of a sweet tooth to begin with so we didn't even come close to finishing it all. The one change I would make would be to use strawberry jelly instead of grape.

Groveland Tap

The ratings:

  • Service: Service was average, Erin had to beg with her eyes to get a refill of soda :)
  • Food: All the food was great, its a typical bar menu with burgers and sandwiches.
  • Drinks: They have a great tap beer list with plenty of micro-brews. I don't THINK they have a full bar, but I could be wrong.
  • Ambiance: Pretty quiet neighborhood bar, no loud music or anything, at least on a Sunday afternoon. All the people seemed friendly.
  • Price: The price was right on - not cheap, not expensive. The burgers are $5-$6, beers are $4 or so.
  • Convenience: Groveland Tap is right at the intersection of Fairview & St. Clair, so it's not really convenient to any major roads and there's no parking lot. We found a spot on the street with no trouble though.

Erin's Review
I thought Groveland Tap was a fine place for lunch, but certainly wasn't anything special. It is kind of hard to rate a bar on ambiance when you go there in the middle of the day - I have no idea what it would be like at night, but it seems like it would be quiet. There didn't seem to be any area for live music or anything like that. It was pretty much your average neighborhood bar. I think they only have wine and beer here, but like Ben, I'm not really sure.

Groveland Tap

I had heard this place had good Juicy Lucy's, so I knew right away that I'd order that. I am always kind of annoyed when a sandwich doesn't come with SOMETHING - chips, fries, whatever. I understand the upgrade charge if you are getting something more, but really - I think a burger should always have some kind of side dish. I figured since Ben got fries and I usually only eat about 1/3 of the amount I get that I'd be fine. Scott has an unnatural hatred for fries (and pancakes) so I also got to have a few of his. I got what I wanted, but I felt slightly cheated by the lack of side.

Groveland Tap
(My burger looks so lonely)

I thought my Juicy Lucy was average. I've now had a Juicy Lucy at Matt's Bar (good), the Nook (great), and Tuggs (if you count their stuffed burgers as a form of Juicy Lucy - it was okay but way too expensive). I thought this one was better than Tuggs (in terms of value mostly), but worse than Matt's and The Nook. I'd probably order something else if I went back. The deep fried PB&J that Ben wanted was okay, but not good enough to ever want to order again. It was mostly the novelty that appealed to him, I think.

I know Groveland Tap also owns Edina, Longfellow, and Highland Grill, some of which are on our list, so it will be interesting to compare this place to their other restaurants when we go there. I don't have much else to say about our Groveland Tap experience - it was a quick lunch on a blah Sunday... nothing special really. I probably won't go out of my way to go back, but if someone else wanted to go there, I wouldn't try to convince them otherwise.


Groveland Tap
1834 St. Claire Ave
St. Paul, MN

Recommended if you're looking for a nice neighborhood bar that isn't grungy and has pretty good food.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I know, I know..... this blog is supposed to be about us dining out in the Twin Cities. But it's my blog, and I'll write about what I want, including food eaten when I'm on trips! (By the way.... this is Erin writing)

I was just in Atlanta, GA for a week for a conference-type thing. I didn't have a ton of free time, but luckily I did get to see the city a bit and try out some of the great food that Atlanta has to offer! I had been to Atlanta once before, to visit Ben's family a few years ago for Thanksgiving, but that was a very quick trip - we just went into Atlanta once for an afternoon to go to the Coke museum, and that's it.

Here are the places that I ate on this trip:

Dinner at Max Lager's

The first night, I pretty much just followed the crowd to Max Lager's. I went with Shannon, Mark, Amanda, Kelly, Kyle, girl I can't remember her name, and.... Josh? This was a while back now and my memory sucks. This place was very similar to Herkimer, I thought. It was not as "chain-y" as Rock Bottom, and had a few unique menu items as well as the beers that were brewed in house. I had a "Max Burger" which was pretty good. I asked for it to be cooked medium, which it was not, but I'm willing to forgive (but not forget). All photos here are from Kyle's iPhone since I left my camera at the hotel. Thanks Kyle!

Dinner at Max Lager's

The next stop was Mama Ninfa's in the Peachtree Center with Janelle, Melody, and Carlie. We wanted somewhere close to our hotel and that could satisfy carnivores, vegetarians, and gluten-free dining. This place fit the bill, but didn't do it THAT well.

Mama Ninfa's in Atlanta Mama Ninfa's in Atlanta

Melody and I split one of the combo dinners - it was alright, but nothing to write home about. The cheese dip was ok, but very bland, and didn't have much "chili" in it, so I had to load it up with salsa to make it taste good. It was fine, and reasonably priced.

blah cheese dip After adding a little kick
(Before, and after adding the salsa)

Melody's and my meal that we split Melody's and my meal that we split
(The meal Melody and I split)

The next night, I was very glad that Janelle and Melody were willing to venture outside of downtown Atlanta to see a different neighborhood. We took the recommendation of someone who had lived in Atlanta to go to midtown and try the Flying Biscuit. I really liked this place, and midtown was a very fun part of Atlanta - I'd highly recommend checking this area out if you are there.

Flying Biscuit

Flying Biscuit Inside of the Flying Biscuit

Janelle asked the waiter for some recommendations, so we got the Fried Green Tomatoes for an appetizer. I thought these were great! They came with a huge hunk of goat cheese on the top. Despite my repeated trials, I can't seem to develop a taste for goat cheese. This makes me very sad, since there are many dishes that I would otherwise love if it weren't for the goat cheese. It didn't ruin this appetizer for me though, because I could just take the cheese off. Maybe someday I will like goat cheese, just not yet.

Fried Green Tomatoes
(On the menu it says: dredged in seasoned flour, sauteed in a cast iron skillet and topped with a cashew-jalapeno relish and goat cheese)

Janelle and I both had drinks. Below you will see her reaction first to her beer, and then to mine.
Janelle, happy Janelle, sad

For our main dishes, Janelle got a salmon salad that she said was good, but that she got a little sick of by the end. Melody got Love Cakes, which are: three black bean & cornmeal cakes, sauteed and topped with a tomatillo salsa, sour cream, feta cheese & spears of red onion. She seemed to enjoy them. I got the Eggs-ceptional Eggs, which were basically love cakes topped with over-medium eggs. De-lish! I also got a side of potatoes AND grits, because I just couldn't decide. I didn't really like the grits.

Eggs-ceptional Eggs

Moving on. The next night was the night where I had pre-chosen the restaurant based on input from Shannon and Eric. We even had reservations. Amanda, Kelly, Shannon, Kyle, Eric and I set out on the Marta from downtown to go to Buckhead.


The chosen restaurant was Lola. We had a slight wrong turn from the Marta stop and thus walked several blocks in the wrong direction, but eventually (40 minutes late for our reservation) we got there!

Lola Atlanta

This place is pretty posh (and filled with a-holes, as Shannon so eloquently stated when we walked in the door) so we didn't really fit in. Luckily we had a nice cozy booth and didn't really have to see any of Atlanta's beautiful people while eating. Our waiter bordered on too friendly, but he was entertaining. He had great recommendations. Lola is a beautiful restaurant with great decor and atmosphere, despite the snooty clientele.

Lola Atlanta lights

You get a little drink of some stuff like champagne when you get there. It is a Bellini bar, so apparently it is the stuff that is inside Bellinis. I tried 2 Bellinis when there, and really liked both of them. Unfortunately, I don't know what they were called. One of them had something to do with oranges.

Our little starter drink Bellini Bellini
(first little drink, my first Bellini, and Kelly's Bellini that she didn't really like. My orange Bellini didn't photograph well so that isn't on here, although it was VERY good)

We ordered a bunch of starters for everyone... here they are. If you hold your mouse over the photo you will see what each thing is.

baked Goat cheese and tomato sauce Caprese Salads Olive Oil Poached Tunatuna, raw

For my main course, I went with the cheapest possible thing, the Bianca pizza. It was good, but there was a reason it was so cheap - there wasn't much to it. Oh well. Here it is:

Bianca Pizza

Everyone else's meals looked way more fun. Here they are:

Maybe Shannon's shrimp pasta? Ravioli Stuffed Kyle's lamb Pumpkin Gnocchi Amanda's large fish

Since we have no willpower, we also ordered several desserts. Here they are.

Chocolate tort thingie Apple..... something almond cake

Wow, if you are still with me, thank you for reading my longest blog post ever! My last meal in Atlanta was a chicken sandwich at Popeye's at the airport. It did not merit a photograph, and I would not recommend it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Sample Room

Visited on Monday, April 14th

The Sample Room

Ben's Review
We went to Northeast Mpls right after work on Monday - Erin was going to take some pics since it was a nice day before we went to eat. The Sample Room is on Marshall, across the street from a residential area, its kind of all by itself, there aren't any other commercial buildings nearby, I don't think. The building is one of those old buildings you come across in Northeast, with the really high ceilings that have patterns carved in them, its almost worth going just to check out the space.

Inside of Sample Room

We knew it was half price wine bottles on Mondays even though we didn't see that on their website, I called ahead to confirm (its also half price on Sundays). We went with the Heartland Shiraz from Australia, on the menu it was spelled "Heartand" which I thought was a little strange, but I went out of my way to NOT pronounce the "L" in Heartland because I didn't want to look like an idiot, but as is the case most of the time, I felt a little dumb when the bottle came out WITH the "L". Whatever.

Twist off top

The wine was good, I'm not much of a wine drinker so I'm not that picky. For dinner we decided to try the Grand Sample Platter Combo, which is a sample plate from each of the vegetable, seafood, meat, and cheese menus. Going with the Grand Combo also gets you $3 off of the total. We choose the braised pork ribs, asparagus, seared tuna, and the chefs selection of cheese. I also ordered a cup of cream of onion soup.

The soup was pretty good, I liked the flavor a lot but the onions were a little soggy. I finished it before she could even come to check on us though, so I'd recommend it. When the food came out I was a little disappointed in the serving sizes - each item was pretty small, but I guess that's why its called the sample room. The cheese, tuna, and asparagus were really good, I think I actually liked the cheese and asparagus the best which is out of character for me. I especially liked the sauce that came on the asparagus, a balsamic drizzle, it was tasty. The ribs were dry and tough and didn't seem like they had been cooked fresh, as if they were just warmed up or something.

creamy onion soup

Tuna, Pork Ribs, and Asparagus

For dessert we got a Baileys Irish cream cheesecake and a flight of port. I'd never tried port before and it doesn't smell great, but it tastes surprisingly sweet. We got three, two ounce glasses to try, it was fun to watch Erin try to smell it without gagging. I think the dessert was the best part of the meal between the delicious cheesecake and the port. The port was $8.50, reasonable for trying something for the first time.

Port Flight

The ratings for The Sample Room

  • Service: Our server was really attentive, prompt, and friendly.
  • Food: The food was good, I wish the portions were a little bigger - and stay away from the pork ribs.
  • Drinks: Pretty good wine list, from what I could tell, and they have a decent selection of pretentious beers on tap. No cheap beers on tap however, only in bottles.
  • Ambiance: Aside from an annoying woman with the horse laugh dining that night, this place is cool, it is one big room in a well designed, old building.
  • Price: I expected the tab to be a lot higher than the $64 it ended up being. It helped that it was half off the bottle of wine.
  • Convenience: They have a parking lot and there's plenty of parking on the street since there's no other businesses nearby.

Erin's Review
Everyone that I talked to about Sample Room said great things about it - as with many other places on our list, this place comes with a lot of recommendations. There were a few things that I knew I wanted to try: the asparagus, based on co-worker Amy's recommendation, and the tuna, based on Nicki's recommendation. We decided to go on Monday night because of the half priced bottles of wine - a lot of times this can be only the house wines, or just a few of the cheaper bottles, but in Sample Room's case, it was the whole wine list which I thought was great.

I let Ben picked the wine, he picked the Heartland Shiraz which I really liked. It had a twist off cap so it probably wasn't really a good wine. Who knows. We sure don't. As Michael Scott would say, this wine had a real oakey afterbirth.

(Bread that came out - I noticed on the menu that they charge for a second basket...)

For food, we did the 4 sample plates. You don't have to pick one from each category, I don't think (as Ben says above) I'm pretty sure you can just get 4 of whatever off of any of the sample plates. I'm not really sure what Ben was expecting when it said "small sample plates" but I thought the portion sizes were fine - they are supposed to be small. I was not really full after eating my half of the meal. I would recommend getting a starter. I didn't because I knew I wanted dessert, and since I passed 25 my metabolism has slowed to the point where I unfortunately can't eat EVERYTHING I want. Sad.

By far my favorite was the cheese. It was the chefs special - which that night was a Crucolo cheese. I think this would be a very crowd pleasing cheese - it doesn't have any odd flavors or aftertastes. I also really liked the asparagus - it was crunchy and was flavored perfectly with salt and the balsamic sauce - VERY good! I'm glad Amy recommended this to me - I would have never chosen it on my own. The tuna was good too - the best part about it was the wasabi aioli that came with it. I did not like the ribs at all - they were very tough.

Crucolo cheese

I chose the Bailey's Irish Creme Cheesecake for dessert - this was delicious. I did not like the port. It actually tasted better than it smelled, but it didn't taste good enough for me to ever want to order it again!

Bailey's Irish Cream Cheesecake

The Sample Room is a very beautiful restaurant. I think pressed tin ceilings must be all the rage now because they seem to be at every place we go. This one seemed particularly nice. I also liked the huge windows in the front. I would love to go back to try more of the dishes there - some of the entrees and other sample plates looked very good.

ceiling again.  I really liked it.
(One of the ceiling tiles)


The Sample Room
2124 Marshall Street

Highly recommended for the food, atmosphere, and cheap(er) wine on Sunday and Monday nights!