Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Visited on Wednesday, September 24th


Ben's Review
Last year for Christmas Erin's parent's gave me a gift card to Murray's in downtown and we thought it would be a good idea to use the gift card for our 3rd anniversary dinner last Wednesday. I had been looking forward to going ever since I had gotten the card, so I was very excited to try what is supposed to be one of the best steaks in the city.

Before our 6:30 reservation we went to Seven Sushi to sit on the rooftop and have a beer. The rooftop view at Seven is pretty cool, I think, even though it's not very tall. Just being three floors up still gives a unique view of the skyline that you don't normally get to see. As far as the bar at Seven, I highly recommend NOT going there for drinks, our two beers came to $12.70, ouch.

We only stayed for one beer since it was getting chilly outside and wandered over to Lyon's Pub next door to Murray's where we killed time at the bar until 6:30. The beers at Lyon's Pub were much better priced, and amazingly they tasted the same :)

Murray's is a short building that is nestled in between two much larger buildings. It seems a little out of place, as if the development of the area over the past decades passed it by. It's a smaller building, and frankly I would even say it's an ugly building after taking a good look at it during the daylight hours. Luckily the interior is much nicer than the outside. As you walk in there is a small bar and lounge area immediately to your left and the dining room goes to the back of the building behind the host. The dining room is kind of weird because there are no windows, which I think is odd for a downtown restaurant. Given that the building is squeezed in between two taller buildings there's really nowhere to put windows anyways, so it makes sense in that regard.


We were seated right away and it was obvious that we didn't need reservations on a Wednesday night as there were several open tables (although maybe they were all reserved as well??). We had scoped out the menu before going and Erin convinced me that we should try the signature dish, the Butter Knife steak for two even though we could get more specific dishes for less money. The Butter Knife steak for two is a 28 oz. sirloin, carved at the table, that comes with a choice of potato and a salad, for $89. I figured by getting individual steaks (I had wanted a tenderloin) and sides we could save $15 or so, but being that it was their signature dish, we thought we'd try it out.

After looking at the menu again, however, I realized they had a similar dish, the Chateaubriand, which is the same as the Butter Knife except that it's a 24 oz. tenderloin and $4 more. This sounded like a great compromise, we'd get a signature dish AND I would get a tenderloin steak - perfect :) We both got Caesar salads and mashed potatoes for our sides and they were happy to throw some garlic cloves in the potatoes.

As we drank our wine the restaurant started to fill up, I was surprised at how busy it was getting for a Wednesday. We tried to guess the occasions that people were out for, it seemed like an equal mix of people out for a reason (like us) and business meals with an expense account.

Ceasar Salad

Our salads came out soon and they were huge salads and pretty good too. It's hard to have a bad Caesar salad, I think, and these ones did the job. A little while later our server wheeled out our steak and potatoes and proceeded to carve the steak right next to our table and serve us up. This steak was the best steak I've ever had. It was done medium, but even Erin thought that it would be better at medium rare. I'm at a loss for words to describe how good it was, it was just delicious, I think I could've eaten the entire thing myself. As it was we kept a lot of it for lunch the next day. I almost feel bad by not talking more about the steak, but there's not much more to say other than it was awesome.

Chateaubriand for Two

Erin ordered the Chocolate Mousse for dessert and I got a glass of Oban to go along with it. I wasn't hungry for dessert, but when the Chocolate Mousse came out I was inspired to eat more. Along with everything else at Murray's, it was fantastic and the glass of scotch was well poured :)

Scotch scotch scotch

I feel like I've written a lot, so I just want to recap that I thought this restaurant experience was awesome.
  • Service: Wonderful. The servers here are experienced and they provide a seamless dinner, no complaints at all.
  • Food: Best steak I've ever had. They accommodated the garlic in the potatoes too, which was sweet.
  • Drinks: Full bar and a pretty big wine list, I think I saw a $900 bottle on there.
  • Ambiance: Because of the low light and no windows it kind of feels like an "old boys" club. Someone at work commented that it's the kind of place you expect to see Sid Hartman at, I think that captures the ambiance pretty well.
  • Price: We knew it would be expensive but the tab came to only $150 for everything, which shocked me. I was expecting closer to $200.
  • Convenience: Not very convenient to get to, but nothing good is ever easy, right?
Erin's Review
Well, Ben pretty much wrote a novel about this experience, so I don't really have much left to say! (edit: uh, after writing my review it seems that I DID in fact have a lot to say... ) I do want to add my extreme shock over the drink prices at Seven too - I got a freaking Miller Lite and it was $6?! We will definitely not be drinking there again! I had read that they had a happy hour - $3 taps. However, there were no tap beers on the rooftop and definitely no specials... if anyone knows where in this large building that this mythical happy hour exists, please comment and let us know!

I have to admit, I was VERY skeptical about Murray's. Sometimes I find the most hyped restaurants to be totally disappointing, so I was fully prepared for the fact that I might not actually think that this meal was anything special. When we walked in and the place smelled and looked vaguely like one of those houses where someone has lived there 50 years and not updated at all... I grew even more apprehensive.

The bread and salad really did nothing to convince me that this would be a great meal. Both were fine, but certainly nothing spectacular. Their garlic bread kind of tasted like popcorn.


The moment I took my first bite of the Chateaubriand was when I finally believed that there is a reason many people think this is the best steakhouse in Minneapolis. This was the best steak I have ever had - it was so tender and perfectly seasoned and cooked. We still have a long ways to go in our tour of all of the great Minneapolis steakhouses, so I cannot claim that this is the best of them all. I have been to Capital Grille a few times and I liked this steak better than the filets I have had there, for whatever that's worth. The mashed potatoes were also wonderful, but would have been pretty bland without the addition of garlic.

Mashed potatoes, with extra garlic

I made a conscious effort to not eat too much so I'd have leftovers, but I really wish I had just eaten more that night - this steak definitely does not taste that great the next day. However, I really wanted to get dessert and I knew my stomach needed some room for that. The chocolate mousse that I ordered was awesome - I loved the caramel drizzle on the plate - it made the dessert a little different from how it is normally served.

Chocolate Mousse

One more comment about the wine list - their list of bottles is extensive, but as far as I could see, there were no bottles under $36, and the $36 bottles were few and far between - I think I saw maybe 4 or 5. The wines by the glass are much more affordable, with most being under $10.


26 South 6th Street

Highly recommended
for their excellent steak

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wilde Roast Cafe

**Update - Wilde Roast now has a new location**

Visited on Sunday, September 14th with several people for Rebekah's birthday

Wilde Roast Cafe

Erin's Review

I was very pleased to hear that Rett and Rebekah had chosen Wilde Roast Cafe for Rebekah's birthday brunch. I was even more pleased when she told me that this place was rumored to have "the best eggs benedict ever" (I seem to hear this often...). We got there on a rainy Sunday morning and the place was kind of busy. I loved the atmosphere in Wilde Roast - the decor was very clean and classic and the noise level was good - easy to hold a conversation, but not too quiet.

Wilde Roast

We set about ordering, which was a long process due to the size of the group and the busy-ness of the restaurant. I liked the self serve nature - definitely made being there with a group easier because there was no check to split. I got the eggs benedict because of the recommendation - it came with marsala roasted potatoes instead of hashbrowns so I figured I had to check it out to see if it was different from the usual eggs benedict.

We all got our food about 10-20 minutes later, and my eggs benedict looked great - there were chopped veggies mixed in with the hollandaise sauce which was a nice little bonus. I really enjoyed these eggs benedict. I did not think they were "the best ever" (right now, that title goes to Barbette) but I would certainly tell people to order this dish if they are at Wilde Roast. I loved the potatoes, but they seemed hit or miss - a few others got them and they were too oily for them, but mine were perfect.

Eggs Benedict

I really want to go back to Wilde Roast. That is the bad part of doing this blog - we always feel like we should go to one of the places on our list, but there have been so many places that we want to go back to... and this is definitely one of them. They have a date night deal that I want to take advantage of - for $25 each person gets a bottomless glass of house red or white wine, and a pizza or salad. Sounds like a great deal to me, and I'd love to see how the place is at night. Plus, the desserts that Kimberly and Rebekah got looked awesome...

Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Cake

Ben's Review
For our friend Rebekah's birthday, her husband Rett arranged to have some friends go out for brunch at Wilde Roast Cafe at Hennepin & Central. Luckily for them this was one of the restaurants on our list, otherwise we would have declined :)

We got a table right near the entrance for about ten people. Wilde Roast is part coffee shop part restaurant. There were plenty of people enjoying coffee and wifi while sitting in one of the many armchairs and couches that are available. I really enjoyed the decor at Wilde Roast; the old-style dark wood trim make it feel new and old at the same time and I liked the various forms of lighting they have.

Inside Wilde Roast

I had checked out the menu beforehand but I still didn't know what I wanted as I walked in the door. Like Trotter's, you order individually up at the register and they give you a number and bring your food out when it's ready. For a big group like we had this actually worked out better than having a server, I thought. You pay at the time of order, so there's no messing around with splitting up a bill and the server isn't overwhelmed trying to fill ten people's drinks. Since it was so near lunch I actually was considering the veggie burger, the description on the menu makes it sound fantastic: "black beans, red peppers, roasted garlic, artichoke hearts and potatoes, all blended with herbs and spices". I eventually decided on the "breakfast burro", with sausage extra (I would've liked black beans too, maybe next time).

Wilde Roast

This was probably the best breakfast I've had since we started reviewing. The tortilla baked to make it crispy and there was the perfect mixture of scrambled eggs, cheese, veggies, and sausage. Another benefit of ordering separately is that your food comes out fresh. I could've EASILY eaten another one immediately, it was wonderful.

Breakfast Burro

There are so many good things on the menu that I know we'll be coming back. The veggie burger, breakfast sandwich, biggun burger, tuna melt, and mac & cheese are only a couple of things that I want to try. Everyone else had great food as well, I don't think I heard any complaints, except for Caleb who claims the best breakfast burritos are in New Mexico, but I have a feeling this one would stand up pretty well to those :)
  • Service: There actually isn't much service, aside from bringing our food out. The servers were friendly though.
  • Food: Best breakfast I've had in recent memory.
  • Drinks: I actually didn't try the coffee because I had already had some at home, but other people said it was good.
  • Ambiance: I liked the vibe at Wilde Roast, the people there all seemed to be in a good mood and it was pleasantly busy.
  • Price: We already know that I think breakfasts are overpriced and this one was no different, but if I have to buy an overpriced breakfast this is the place to do it.
  • Convenience: There's a small parking lot but we parked on a side street behind the restaurant. Several buses probably go by as well.

Wilde Roast Cafe
518 Hennepin Ave East

Highly recommended for the great food and atmosphere

Friday, September 19, 2008

Koyi Sushi

Visited on Friday, September 12th with Liz and Jono

Outside Koyi

Ben's Review
Last May when Erin's sister Liz graduated from college, Erin told her that we would take her out for a celebratory dinner. Last Friday we finally got around to going out and decided on Koyi in the warehouse district.

After paying $4 for parking (and thinking it was $8, which was a pleasant surprise) we walked over to Koyi through the construction on 2nd Ave. N. We speculated that the construction is to extend the light rail over to the new Twins stadium. It seems like it has been going on forever. We had tried to get a reservation but were assured that we didn't need one at 7:30 on a Friday night and they were correct. We got seated right away and got some drinks while we waited for Liz and Jono to arrive.

Inside Koyi

The decor in Koyi is typical of a sushi restaurant, I think. There was a sushi bar with some tables that extend towards the back of the room, which isn't very wide, but pretty deep. As they were seating us the server was turning on some fake lit plants (cactus?) in the front window. Ah, mood lighting :)

I don't think there were any tap beers so I went with a bottle of Summit. I feel like most Japanese places we go to don't have tap beers, which I don't understand. In any case, they have some bottled beers and a full bar as well, so plenty of choices to wet your whistle. Jono got the "Japanese iced tea" which has ingredients that are suspiciously (exactly) like a Long Island Iced Tea, I would have expected some saki, but it tasted good regardless.

Sake Margarita and Japanese Iced Tea

Erin managed the ordering of rolls with input from Liz and Jono. I don't usually participate in these things when we're getting sushi as I trust Erin's choices and I always get plenty to eat. I believe we ordered four rolls, all of which were great. I'll let Erin get into the details of what exactly we got, but rest assured they were good. I was pissed because I forgot to order a side of white rice, so maybe the next sushi place we go to I'll get two sides :)

We ate the food fast because it was getting to be a late dinner and we were hungry. The server was attentive and brought the check quickly and then kind of hovered while I got my credit card out, I think she may have been done for the night and wanted to get us closed out. All in all a good experience.
  • Service: The service was good, she stopped by frequently to check on the food and refill waters.
  • Food: The sushi and the cream cheese puffs were all good.
  • Drinks: Bottled beer and a full bar.
  • Ambiance: Again, the fake lit plants were funny, but I liked the place as a whole. Not loud, easy to have a conversation.
  • Price: I think the total was right around $100, which I think is reasonable for four people with drinks and tip.
  • Convenience: There is a parking lot at 1st Ave and 4th St. that's close, but you still have to drive downtown.
Erin's Review
Well, this summer sure has been busy for us, and the easiest way for me to realize that was the simple fact that it took us until September to take my sister and her boyfriend out to celebrate their graduation from college that occurred in May. Oops! Better late than never I guess.

Because Liz doesn't like to make decisions when it comes to restaurants (I sent her 3 choices of places to go back in May and she was paralyzed with that choice and just never responded to the email) I made the executive decision to go to Koyi.

When we got there at 7:30 on a busy Friday night and it was not even close to full, I have to admit, I was a little nervous. Why is this place so empty? We were seated immediately, and despite the weirdness of lighting up plants in the windows, the atmosphere was pretty nice - pleasantly bustling but not overpowering.

I always have a hard time picking my first drink which is usually asked about the second you sit down, so I just ordered the ole standby, Miller Lite. When the waitress came back again, I had noticed a little sticker somewhere on the menu stating that cream cheese puffs were $3.50 so we got those as well. After battling traffic, Liz and Jono finally arrived. Liz ordered the Sake Margarita, which was okay but nothing great. This place does have some inventive drinks which is kind of cool. I also had a Tokyo Rose - I can't remember what was in it, but I think it included Peach Schnapps. It reminded me of college. The cream cheese puffs came out quickly and were delicious, as always. I can never resist ordering those at any place I go to.

Tokyo Rose

Cream Cheese Puffs

When I was looking through the list of rolls, I noticed they have quite a few "American" rolls, with cooked chicken and beef. I wonder how many people actually order them - it was interesting to see, but not something I'd ever want at a sushi place. I decided on the Caterpillar, Philly, Spicy Tuna, and Cactus rolls. The Caterpillar and Cactus were on the "large rolls" list and were a little more expensive, but were, as the name implies, larger in diameter, and had more pieces. These were a little difficult to eat in one bite, but we made it work. I thought the quality of the fish here was comparable to other places that I've been and was very reasonably priced.

Cactus, Caterpillar, Spicy Tuna, and Philly

I enjoyed Koyi a lot and really wonder why it wasn't busier - this is probably because there are a number of much more highly acclaimed sushi restaurants (Nami and Origami) that are right nearby. It is a pretty casual space, so perhaps people coming downtown want the more swanky ambiance of the other two places.

Koyi Sushi
122 North 4th St.

Highly recommended for affordable sushi in a prime warehouse district location

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Max is back!

(I apologize in advance for the quality of these photos... it was dark and I only had my little camera)

I am happy to report that Maxwell's re-opened yesterday, and we were there to celebrate their opening night! Some of you might remember my ode to Maxwell's right after the fire in February... so you know that both Ben and I LOVE this bar. I am very glad that we can go back to having it as our go-to place - it was a sad 7 months without it!

We got to Maxwell's last night with our friends Jeff and Lori at about 9:45pm and it was PACKED - definitely more crowded than I've ever seen it. We had to stand in the middle of the place for awhile, but someone left a table in the back about 10 minutes after we got there, and I pounced on it. They did a great job keeping the feel of the bar the same - it is obvious that the walls are brand new, but they still have the exposed brick and black and white Minneapolis photos on the walls. I loved the two huge photos behind the bar - one of Maxwell's covered in ice after the fire, and the other is how it looks now (or it also could be from before the fire - I guess I am not sure).



My only slight disappointment is that the specials aren't the same. I loved the Friday night special of $3 mugs of Miller Lite. Their specials now are the same every night -10-12pm $3 You Call It - so I believe that is all rail drinks and draft beer. They also have half priced appetizers from 10 to 12 which is awesome. Promptly at 10, a waitress arrived at our table to let us know appetizers are half price and to ask if we wanted one - great service! Despite how busy it was, we never had to wait long to get anything.

(Jeff's Idaho Nachos - I had one bite and they were delish.)

The bathrooms were also re-done - no more ice in the urinal trough. The bathrooms now are two single bathrooms - very nice, but when it is busy like it was last night, there can get to be a bit of a wait.

All in all, Maxwell's is still the same great place it was before the fire - so get back over there and enjoy it!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Trotters Cafe

Visited on Saturday, September 6th


Ben's Review
Erin had heard that Trotter's Cafe offered a discount for people who live within two miles and a separate discount if you got to Trotter's without driving (public transit, walking, biking). Being that we lived within two miles, we thought we'd take our bikes over there last Saturday to enjoy some discounted food.

We made it to Trotter's with no problems, except that we only had one bike lock and two bikes. I noticed out behind the restaurant there was a dumpster and some bushes, so I went inside to ask if it was OK to park our bikes back there. They were cool with putting the bikes out back, so we got them squared away and went in to eat.

hiding the bikes

The place was pretty empty with plenty of open tables, so we just sat down at one. They were in the process of getting new menus printed so we perused the whiteboard at the counter that had the night's menu on it to make a decision. We settled on a quesadilla appetizer to share and I got a bison burger, with cheese and bacon extra (what meal ISN'T better with bacon and cheese?).

Spicy Quesadilla

The food is wonderful and the portions are deceptive. The veggie quesadilla was great and it came out well before the other food, which I appreciated. My burger came with corn chips that I barely touched, but I certainly didn't go hungry. I say the portions are deceptive because the plates are small so it looks like you aren't getting much food, but you definitely get filled up.

Buffalo Burger

My burger was great and the bacon was thick and juicy - the only way bacon should be. I like my burgers medium with a little color in the middle, but they cooked theirs all the way through. Not a big deal, I think a lot of places do that for health reasons. In hindsight I think I should've gotten something outside of my normal choices; the reuben sounded tempting, but I wussed out.

While we there, it started raining. It's rained about ten days ALL SUMMER, so why wouldn't it rain on the day we ride our bikes to a restaurant. It was a solid rain too, not just a drizzle. Luckily our friends Mindy and Josh came to our rescue and picked us up in their pickup and took us to a bar, whew! Maybe we should only have gotten part of the discount because we didn't ride our bikes both ways??

Finally, one thing that I must mention is that when our friends came to pick us up, we went to put our bikes in the back of the truck and I saw that someone had covered our bike seats with a plastic bag so they wouldn't get wet. I was shocked, to say the least, at that level of thoughtfulness. I brought the bag back inside to give it back and to thank them. He acted like it wasn't a big deal, like why WOULDN'T you walk out in the rain to cover some customer's bike?
  • Service: Went the extra mile with the bike seat cover.
  • Food: The food here is very good and they use (mostly?) local ingredients, if that's your thing.
  • Drinks: Small bottled beer and wine list, about what you'd expect.
  • Ambiance: When we arrived there was a guy setting up to play guitar. He didn't sing, he just strummed some tunes which gave the perfect amount of background music.
  • Price: The prices are reasonable and they're even better if you can make use of the "local" deal and/or the biking/walking deal.
  • Convenience: Located at Marshall and Cleveland with ample off-street parking.
Erin's Review
We have been meaning to go to Trotter's pretty much all summer, since I read this blog post about it back in June. While Ben rides his bike fairly frequently, I hadn't ridden mine for almost 6 years, maybe more. This is the same bike that I received for Christmas when I was 12 years old, but it still suits me just fine, even if I might look kind of like a giant riding an adolescent sized bike. Finally, we were free on a Saturday and it seemed like a nice enough day. I'll admit, I didn't look at the radar before leaving, but I had seen the weather that said it would be clear. It was pretty much the easiest bike ride imaginable, but I was still tired after the long 1.8 mile journey to Trotter's from our house.

We had our pick of tables, as there were only a few other people there. I get the impression that not a ton of people really come to Trotter's for meals - there were a few people there sitting with their laptops and drinking coffee, but not too many diners. This is a real shame, since the food here is wonderful!

inside of Trotters

You order at the counter, and get your own water in the area with the utensils. They are happy to give you ice if you want it (which I did after the arduous ride). We ordered the Spicy Quesadilla to start, and it was VERY good. It has goat cheese in it, which I normally do not care for, but it wasn't overpowering. It was just spicy enough to be interesting, not enough to make eating difficult. The black bean filling was excellent. I also ordered a glass of pinot grigio which is from a local winery.

Pinot Grigo and Water

So many of the dinner items looked great, I had a very hard time choosing. I ended up going with the Tuscany Chicken, which is penne pasta sauteed with chicken, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, squash, and kalamata olives, topped with parmesan and basil. It was a very light but filling dish with great flavors. I loved the grilled focaccia that came with as well.

Tuscany Chicken

Whenever they can, Trotters makes an effort to use local ingredients, which is commendable and can be difficult to work around in our climate. They have several white/blackboards with menu items, and a specific blackboard showing exactly what local ingredients they are using that week.

I really enjoy places like Trotters - very affordable, friendly staff, unassuming, and laid-back. I liked that they had live music but it wasn't so loud that it overpowered coversation. I would love to go back to Trotters and see it bustling with people. If you haven't been to Trotter's, you should definitely try it out.

Trotter's Cafe
232 Cleveland Ave N.
St. Paul

Highly recommended for affordable and delicious food

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Erin visited on Friday, September 5th with Mom and Liz


As soon as I heard that the Guthrie was doing the musical Little House on the Prairie, I knew that my mom, sister and I would have to go. We went to Walnut Grove a few times when Liz and I were younger because it is very close to where my Grandma lives. I also have read the books several times, and still have them in my house today.

At any rate, since we were going to the show on Friday, we decided to try out Cue for dinner. There aren't a huge number of good restaurants in the area - Spoonriver is across the street, but other than that, there is Harry's and Matty B's and not a lot else. Cue is on our list, and even though Ben didn't join us, I figured I should write about the experience before I forgot it. Honestly, I'm not sure if we'll go back for dinner - maybe just for an after work drink or something.


For a Friday night before a show, it wasn't very busy. We had a 5:30 reservation and it was empty - at 6 it started to fill up a little more. We each got a glass of wine - I got the Zinfandel, my sister got the Pinot Noir, and my mom had the Syrah (I think) - I heard no complaints, and I thought my wine was very good. There weren't a lot of options by the glass that were under $10 which was a little disappointing. They do have a HUGE wine list by the bottle though with a lot of reasonably priced options. A bread basket came out before the meal and had a lot of different bread options.

(this is after a few pieces were taken)

My sister and I both ordered the same thing, the Grilled Natural Beef, and the filet option. This was very good, and was prepared a little more well done than I typically like for medium, but was not too bad. I really liked the charred tomato marmalade that was on top of the filet, it gave the meat a great flavor. The dijon mashed potatoes were the main reason I ordered the dish and did not disappoint.


My mom got the pre-theater menu with the sweet carrot soup and beef short rib. I tried the soup and it was a little bland but still very good.

Carrot Soup Beef

Cue is a beautiful restaurant and pretty much has the market cornered for non-vegetarian pre theater fine dining. I did not really think that the food was good enough for me to want to go back unless I am going to another show at the Guthrie.
  • Service: Great service - no complaints in this area.
  • Food: Good, but not anything special. They have a good amount of options to please most tastes.
  • Drinks: Huge wine list, wines by the glass are a bit expensive.
  • Ambiance: Cue's main attraction to me is the ambiance - it is a beautiful restaurant.
  • Price: Prices are slightly high but are not outrageous.
  • Convenience: Very convenient if you are going to a show at the Guthrie. There is a parking ramp across the street, and on street parking if you are willing to walk a few blocks.


Cue at Guthrie
806 South 2nd St.

for a pre-theater meal or drink