Erin's mom's birthday is June 13th and mine is June 15th, so we usually go out for dinner for a joint celebration. This time around we decided on the Highland Grill in Saint Paul. We went out with Erin's parents, her sister Liz, and her sister's boyfriend Jono.
The owners of Highland Grill also own the Groveland Tap (previously reviewed), Longfellow Grill, Edina Grill, and 3 Square Restaurant. It's pretty easy to figure that out, since all their websites look exactly the same, except with different color schemes. It also appears they just updated their websites in the past couple days, they look nice!
Even though they are owned by the same company, the restaurants are not similar at all. I was expecting a place that looked like Groveland Tap, a quiet neighborhood bar, but Highland Grill reminds me of an old-fashioned 70's diner. It's a skinny, deep room with booths along the left wall and tables in the middle. There's a small counter space in the back right where people can sit (I think?). The walls are painted a bright green or red color and the waitstaff wears bright red shirts, so there's a lot of color flying around. I especially liked the lighting above the booths. They have these snake-like bulbs that twist down about five feet from above and then are directed at the wall next to the booth. It looks cool and gives plenty of light without shining in anyone's eyes, most of the light comes from off of the green or red walls.
We got two pitchers of Fat Tire and an order of hush puppies to get started. I would later realize I was actually wearing a Fat Tire t-shirt that I got from the New Belgium brewery, which is not unlike wearing the shirt of the band you are going to see, luckily nobody noticed. For those that might not know, hush puppies are little golf ball sized pieces of corn bread with pieces of corn and jalapeno in them, and they are deep fried. I actually liked the chimichuri sauce that came with them better than the hush puppies themselves.
I couldn't decide what to order, as usual, until Erin told me they were known to have good fish and chips, so I settled on that. I figured they had to be better than my last experience with fish and chips. The burgers on the menu were tempting, especially after seeing the Elvis burger that Liz got.
Our food came out pretty quick I thought, it was a busy night, surprising for a Wednesday. All the food came out on plates except for mine; apparently fish and chips deserves a basket instead of a plate?? After attempting to cut my fish inside the basket I asked for a passing server to get me a plate so I could eat my food proper.
The fish and chips were certainly better than last time, the fish had a tasty seasoning on them. The fries were excellent - thin and the right amount of crispiness. I also managed to snag a small piece of bacon from Liz's burger and the bacon was delicious, thick and chewy, perfect for a burger.
Since it was a birthday dinner and all, I got a root beer float for dessert. I don't think I'd had a root beer float for at least five years, but man are they tasty. I prefer to stir the ice cream into the root beer so it ends up being just a thick glass of root beer with a mix of vanilla flavoring, mmmmm boy! I think I might have to get some ice cream and root beer for home now.
- Service: Our server was friendly and prompt, and nothing went wrong so I give them high marks.
- Food: Pretty standard menu - burgers, sandwiches, etc. and everything tasted great, but nothing to set them apart.
- Drinks: They had around five taps of some good beers. I think they had wine? No full bar though.
- Ambiance: I liked the decor of Highland Grill, but it was pretty loud inside. I think the acoustics might exacerbate the problem.
- Price: Reasonably priced, I thought. Burgers were $8-$9 or so, which is a pretty good standard to go by.
- Convenience: I had to park two blocks away on a Wednesday night, so I bet it can get annoying on a weekend. They are located on Cleveland so there aren't many parking spots available.
Since this was my mom and Ben's birthday dinner, I provided my mom with a list of places to choose from. She picked the one that isn't technically on our list, The Liffey. I was glad when I found out there was some dinosaurs thing going on at the Xcel that may have made The Liffey a little too busy so we could change our location to Highland Grill instead. It seemed like a fairly crowd pleasing place. I'd heard good things about their breakfasts from my co-worker Leigh, so that is what I was planning to have if they served it all day, which I found out that they do.
When my family got there, there was a wait, so they sent them over to the coffee shop next door. After waiting maybe 15 minutes, someone came over and got us, and sent us back to the largest booth in the far back corner. The only bad thing about this location was its proximity to the kitchen which can get pretty loud with servers, cooks, and bartenders (if that is what they are) yelling back and forth. One example of that is when one of the servers/bartenders starting singing VERY loudly. As is the case when anyone makes a loud noise near you, my sister turned to look at her. In response to that, this woman yelled "WHY ARE WE ALWAYS GETTING SHUSHED HERE!!!! OPPRESSION! OPPRESSION!" uhh, okay. Whatever.
Moving on. Because of the lack of Bud or Miller products, we got 2 pitchers of Fat Tire, which I actually enjoyed, surprisingly enough. Maybe I am moving slightly above being a Miller Lite swilling amateur, but I doubt it :) Only time will tell. We ordered the hush puppies to start, and they were really good, but I would have liked it if they had more jalapenos in them. More places should have hush puppies, I love them. I liked the 2 sauces that came with it too, the green one had a little kick, and the aioli was tasty as well.
I decided to get to get the Crab Cake Benedict instead of regular Eggs Benedict to shake things up a bit. The server asked if I wanted my eggs poached medium, and I said that I'd like them done less than medium so that they were nice and runny. Imagine my EXTREME disappointment when I pierced my first egg, only to find the yolk completely solid. Perhaps she misheard me. The hollandaise sauce was very good and tasted homemade, but there was barely any of it. In fact, by the time I got to my second egg, it seemed that it had all been absorbed into the crab cake. This was another disappointment, as I like to eat the sauce with the hash browns after I'm done with the eggs. The hash browns were a little different than the usual ones you get, they were cut much thinner and were very crispy. They looked odd, but tasted pretty good. Of course, they would have tasted a whole lot better with hollandaise sauce on them, but really, what wouldn't?
I can't say I'd really rush to return to the Highland Grill, or any of the Blue Plate Restaurant Company places, but I think they provide a good place to go with a crowd because there are a lot of familiar menu options but they also have items that are a little more adventurous. Ben's coworker Scott was VERY disappointed in hearing that we didn't get the Moroccan Lamb Stew. As good as that sounds, it wasn't high on my list of things to have on a warm June night. This is also the same person who doesn't like pizza, pancakes, or french fries so I'm not sure how much I trust his opinion...
Highland Grill (props to them for the new website! Much better than the old one)
771 Cleveland Ave S.
Recommended (but don't go out of your way or anything)