Monday, July 21, 2008


Visited on Friday, July 18th with Jamie, Daniel, Leigh, and little George :)


Erin's Review

I wanted to set up another dinner with my coworkers, and Jamie said she had been wanting to try Craftsman. Since her and Leigh live in the neighborhood, it seemed like a good choice.

When we got there, it was not busy at all - most of the inside was empty, and the outside had a few empty tables but was more crowded than the indoor seating since it was a beautiful night. I really enjoyed the outdoor area, it was surprisingly tranquil for being right on Lake Street.

Inside Craftsman

I had looked at the menu in advance and noticed that it was pretty expensive. All of the entrees with meat were over $20, or sandwiches were around $12 which seemed more reasonable. The waiter was giving his recommendations and he said the Gnocchi was good so I made the last second decision to go with that. I know that these prices aren't exorbitant, but for $18 for a plate of pasta and veggies, I'm expecting greatness.

We started off with the meat plate which was fun to try. I think I tried all of the meats, including the pig fat, and I liked most of them. I also had gotten a cheese plate for myself, the Uplands Farm Pleasant Ridge Reserve, which was quite tasty especially with the meat plate. It had a bit of a bite to it but was not overpowering. I really enjoyed the mustard on the meat plate as well, and I'm not typically a mustard fan.

Uplands Farm Pleasant Ridge Reserve

My entree was pretty disappointing. The gnocchi were cooked well, and seemed to be pan fried a little which added a little crisp. Overall though, it was very bland. I expected more of a cheese flavor from the sauce I think, and it just wasn't there. Others tried the dish as well and no one was wowed.

Potato gnocchi with root vegetables, ramp greens, and crème fraiche

I had a bite of Ben's burger and I thought it was very good and a much better value. Daniel and Jamie also got burgers. Leigh got the polenta, which basically tasted like butter. I didn't try her dessert, but it looked pretty.

Oven roasted polenta with a vegetable ragout Turkey burger with chive aioli and micro greens Rhubarb and something crisp

I am finding it hard to really "recommend" or not recommend some of the places we go to. I certainly wouldn't discourage anyone from going to Crafstman, but I personally would not return because I feel there are a lot of other restaurants at this level that are a better value or food that I enjoy more.

Ben's Review
Erin made plans to have dinner with the same friends that we ate with at Moscow on the Hill on Friday night. Craftsman was convenient for everyone, so we planned to meet at 6:30.

While Erin took pictures out front I went inside to see if anyone had already arrived. Since I walked in alone the hostess tried to convince me that I was there to meet a single woman who had already arrived, but I explained that I was already with a group of six, but I appreciated her effort :) Leigh, Jamie, and Dan were already sitting outside on the patio. The patio at Craftsman is its most redeeming quality, I think. Even though the restaurant is on Lake St. the tall privacy fence gives the patio an intimate feel that is tough to accomplish on a busy street. Several tables on the patio are also covered by a large gazebo (I don't know what to call this, look at the photo) that gives the patio some shade which was great on the Friday night.

Craftsman Patio

Even though I recently decided to cut back on ordering drinks when we go out, I made the executive decision to have a beer. The soda was $2 and there were tap beers for $4 so I figured I could fudge it tonight. Don't judge me, it was Friday night and I wanted a GD beer. I had a Rush River Bubblejack IPA. Immediately after ordering I realized I was thinking that it was Rush River Amber Ale, which is much better than the IPA, but it was too late. The IPA is still pretty good, I was taken care of.

The food menu at Craftsman has a lot of big words that I don't recognize, many of which I assumed mean "not meat", so I went with the bacon wrapped venison burger, there's no way that burger didn't have meat on it, so I knew I was safe. Everyone else who got a sandwich ordered the small green salad instead of fries - not me, that night I was getting beer and I was getting fries. I knew that deep down they all WANTED fries, which was confirmed to me when Jamie wanted to try some of mine. They have several entrees on the menu, but the price jumps from ~$15 for a burger/sandwich to like $25 for an entree that I had a hard time justifying. Heck, even Erin's entree of potato filled gnocchi was $18 - and there was no meat involved.

We all ordered a meat platter (Charcuterie plate) to share as an appetizer that came with several different kinds of meat. They also gave us some bread, so the idea was to take a small piece of meat and put it on the bread with butter, I guess. It was pretty good, there was a fancy looking bologna thing that looked gross but actually tasted good. I didn't try the bread with a thin layer of pig fat on it. Dan finished that off though, no worries.


Charcuterie plate

My venison burger came done medium as ordered. The burger was about a third of a pound and had crumbled bleu cheese in addition to the bacon. The burger itself was pretty good, as I would expect from a $13 cheeseburger. You can tell a burger is good if the bottom of the bun gets soggy as it sits on your plate as the juice gets soaked up. For this reason I usually cut the burger in half and then turn it upside down, as the top bun of the burger is always thicker than the bottom and won't get soggy. The fries were good, they looked like they were sweet potato fries but I think they were just brown in color because they were cooked a little longer. Good consistency and grease content, and they gave me plenty of them, which I appreciated.

Bacon stuffed venison burger with blue cheese and chili ketchup

Leigh ordered dessert that she shared with everyone, but I was pretty full to begin with and I'm not much of a dessert guy anyways, so I held off. We had a great time going out with Erin's co-workers and the patio at Craftsman is excellent.
  • Service: Our server was great, he was down to earth and cool.
  • Food: My burger was great, and I tried Erin's gnocchi which was also good.
  • Drinks: They have some good beers at Craftsman, I'm always partial to tap beers. They also have a full bar and some specialty drinks.
  • Ambiance: The patio is fantastic on a summer night. The brief time I was inside looked nice as well; they have bright hardwood floors and bar, can't go wrong.
  • Price: I thought Craftsman was a little overpriced. The food was good, but I think you pay a little more because everything is organic and homemade, etc. So as long as you don't mind paying for that it's not a big deal, but I'd rather save a couple bucks.
  • Convenience: There's a small parking lot in back, otherwise there is on street parking in the neighborhoods behind the restaurant.
4300 Lake St

Recommended for the outdoor patio and sandwiches. Entrees are a little overpriced.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Visited on Sunday, July 13th

Outside of Barbette

Ben's Review

It was a beautiful Sunday last weekend and Erin had wanted to walk around the lakes in Uptown for awhile. I had held her off all summer so far, so I figured I could deal with going to Uptown ONE weekend afternoon this year.

Lake Calhoun

On the way there we were trying to decide between Tin Fish and Barbette for lunch. We settled on Tin Fish because it WAS such a nice day, and eating outside sounded pleasant. It turns out that it was also a very windy day as well, and by the time we walked around Lake Calhoun we thought that Barbette would be a better option.

Barbette is a short walk from Lake Calhoun, about two blocks down Lake Street. Apparently Barbette has existed for several years, although when Erin lived four blocks away we never made it there. Barbette has some nice outdoor seating, but because of the wind we opted for an inside table. We got sat in the back left corner as you walk in, which turned out to be a good location because it was a corner booth that let us view the rest of the room.

Inside of Barbette

As you walk in there's a really short counter for people to sit at that is attached to the employee area of the restaurant which makes it easy for servers to bring food out, I thought it was cool idea. It looked different than counters I was used to seeing, like at Byerlys or Peter's Grill.

Inside of Barbette

I had recently decided that beer and booze at restaurants costs more than I am willing to pay, so I decided to cut back when we go out. Predictably, the first place we go after deciding not to get beer has a very snobby beer list with several Belgians on the menu that tempted me. Luckily, because it was snobby it was also even more expensive than normal, so I stood my ground and got a Sprite (which comes in a can thus adding to the European experience).


I recall our server being laid back and cool, and she was friendly in a genuine way, not a fake Applebees-server kind of way. We actually got waited on by three different people while we were there, I couldn't really tell who was responsible for what, but we were taken care of, so whatever.

Croque Monsieur

I ordered the Croque Monsieur because why not? I was eyeing up the Royale w/ Cheese but I've had cheeseburgers before. Erin had heard that they had good fries here too (pommes frites, of course) so we got a side of those as well. I was a little disappointed by the simplicity of the Croque Monsieur, it's basically a fancy grilled ham and cheese. It tasted fantastic, especially when I would dip it in the yolk from Erin's Eggs Benedict, but I was expecting something a little more exotic. If we go back I'll be having the burger instead. And a beer.
  • Service: Great service, friendly servers.
  • Food: The croque monsieur was good, albeit a little plain.
  • Drinks: Great beer selection, and HUGE wine selection. I believe I saw some liquor as well.
  • Ambiance: They have a cool place, with exposed ceilings, etc. There were some pretentious people there that day, but that just makes me laugh.
  • Price: Reasonably priced, I think our lunch ended up around $25.
  • Convenience: Located right near Lake Calhoun with parking available if you're patient.

Erin's Review
I am very disappointed in myself that I never went to Barbette in the nearly 3 years that I lived in uptown. I guess at that time I was either in college or working at an entry level job where I had pretty much no money, so that explains it. At any rate, I'm glad we finally made it here! I did give Ben a choice between Tin Fish and Barbette, but I was secretly hoping that we would get to go to Barbette, so I was very glad for the wind that was whipping around that day.

Diet Coke

When we arrived, we were quickly seated at a corner booth which was very cozy and afforded us a view of the entire place. This place has a very European vibe, which was made even more prominent by the table full of people speaking French right next to us. It appeared that they actually were from France based on their clothing and shoes, and their accents when speaking English. Other little touches such as no ice in the water and cans of soda helped the ambiance but could be annoying if you like your water extra cold and your diet coke refilled. As Ben mentioned, there was a definite pretentious attitude of the place, which also helped it to feel very French. My favorite part was when we saw a girl wearing a plain tank top, running shorts, and a scarf. Keep in mind that it was 85 degrees outside on Sunday.

Pommes Frites

On to the food. I had heard based on my eggs benedict research that Barbette has some of the best in the area, so I ordered that. Since it came with mixed greens and I wanted to try the fries, we also ordered a half order of pommes frites, which was a HUGE amount of fries.

Eggs Benedict

I don't think I can even put into words how good these eggs benedict were. My past few experiences have been fairly disappointing, so I think that made these taste even better to me. The eggs were poached so beautifully, they were almost a work of art. The hollandaise looked like it might not be enough, but surprisingly it was plenty and the flavor was absolutely perfect. If you are a benedict fan, you should definitely get to Barbette for brunch and try these out!

The fries were also good. Some seemed to be cooked perfectly, but others were a little too crispy for my liking. The aoili that came with was good, but a little bland. I tried Ben's Croque Monsieur which I thought was fine, but I prefer the Madame. For some reason, the Croque Madame at Barbette is made with cheese and vegetables instead of just being a Croque Monsieur with egg on it. I'm sure you can request it to be made with ham if that is your preference.

I thought Barbette was a great restaurant and I'd love to come back for dinner, or again for brunch to have the eggs benedict. The atmosphere is interesting, the food was all wonderful, and it isn't too expensive.

Outside of Barbette


1600 West Lake Street

Highly recommended

Thursday, July 10, 2008

McCormick & Schmick's

Visited on Tuesday, July 1st

McCormick & Schmick's Happy Hour

Erin's Review
We haven't really gone out to eat since Sea Salt, but we did go out for a quick happy hour drink last Tuesday. We've been cooking a lot more, since we are doing a CSA this summer. Good for us, sad for this blog.

Anyway, we decided that we'd try out McCormick & Schmick's because we'd both heard they have a pretty cheap happy hour. The food deals are pretty much the same at McCormick & Schmick's as they are at M&S Grill which is 2 blocks away, but McCormick & Schmick's has a better patio, in my opinion.

I've been to both restaurants a few times before for lunch, and they are pretty good, but nothing that I thought was outstanding. I wouldn't really recommend going there over any of the other options in downtown. They are both fairly pricey and nothing that special. I haven't been disappointed necessarily, just not as impressed as I have been with other places in the area.

McCormick & Schmick's Happy Hour

The happy hour really is a great deal here - there are about 5 or 6 things you can get for $1.95, and a few things for $3.95 and $4.95 that are more substantial. I got the queso dip, which I have had at M&S Grill before, but I remember it being different. This dip was almost too spicy - the spice overpowered the flavor of the cheese. It was still a good amount for $1.95 though, and came with a lot of chips.

McCormick & Schmick's Happy Hour

McCormick & Schmick's Happy Hour

I'm not really sure I'd go back - there are places that have both food and drink deals at happy hour, so I'd probably go there instead. This got us dinner and 2 drinks for $15 though, which really can't be beat unless you go to Drink on Thursdays or Fridays for the free buffet.

Ben's Review

Erin and I made a snap decision last week to go out for happy hour after work. It was a nice day so we wanted to sit outside and my co-worker Mike raves about the great happy hour deals at McCormick & Schmick's (referred to as M&S for the the rest of this post) so we headed over to 8th and Nicollet to get a drink and some food.

I arrived first and got a table outside on the patio. Nicollet Mall is a great place to people watch on a nice evening when everyone is leaving work. Even by yourself you can stay amused for quite awhile by just observing people, it's funny.

McCormick & Schmick's Happy Hour

After scoping out the menu, Mike was right - the food deals are excellent. Cheeseburger and fries for $1.95. I don't care how shitty the cheeseburger and fries are, they're worth $1.95 to fill me up. There aren't any specials on drinks at happy hour, and you need to spend at least $2.50 on drinks to get the food deals, which isn't a problem since a beer was $4.50. I'm happy to pay that for a beer in order to get a ridiculously cheap dinner.

M&S has a good beer selection, I had a Surly Furious, but they had a variety of beers on tap. I feel kind of like a broken record whenever I write a review that involves me drinking a Surly, but I don't really care - I love that beer and I don't apologize for it. They also had Miller Lite so Erin was happy too.

McCormick & Schmick's Happy Hour

The cheeseburger and fries were both pretty good, especially considering the price (i.e. the only reason we went there). There weren't as many fries as I would have liked, but that's just me being overindulgent, I certainly didn't go home hungry.

We only stayed for our food and one drink so we were outta there within forty-five minutes I suppose, and for $15 with tip I can't complain.
  • Service: Our service was fine, we were pretty low maintenance that day anyways.
  • Food: My cheeseburger was pretty standard, (probably a frozen burger thrown on a grill). I liked Erin's dip too - it was spicy.
  • Drinks: Full bar with a good tap beer selection. No happy hour on drinks.
  • Ambiance: It was nice to enjoy a summer evening outside on Nicollet watching some of the crazies walk by.
  • Price: This is THE selling point of M&S at happy hour, you can't beat it.
  • Convenience: If you work downtown, this is pretty convenient, otherwise not so much.

McCormick & Schmick's
800 Nicollet Mall

for happy hour specials