Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mango Thai

Visited on Friday, December 11th with Bill and Kim

Mango Thai, denied
(Taken in September. It looks the same now, except dark, with snow, and no leaves on the trees)

Erin's Review
I can barely remember how this dinner came to be - it was some kind of collaboration between Ben and Bill that came out of meeting at our company party or something...? I have no idea, but I was glad because I've been wanting to try Mango Thai since missing out back in September when we tried with our neighbors, who have since been and RAVED about it.

I have to admit, I was a LITTLE nervous to go out to eat with Bill after reading his many scathing reviews of restaurants especially since we chose the place. Thankfully, it seemed to pass muster for him, based on his review ;) Too bad it takes us over a week to post anything, unlike him who got his review up the next day (I blame Ben).


I think I have gotten a lot pickier about restaurant service lately (like in the past 7 months or so) because there were a few things that really bugged me here - first, we sat down and never got menus or waters until I specifically asked for water later. The server had walked by our table several times too, and already brought Ben and Bill their pint glasses, so he knew we were there. That is just unacceptable. Second, after we ordered our appetizers, we had to ask to order our main dishes - after the appetizers had come, been eaten, and the plates were cleared. Our server seemed to be a nice guy, but kind of a space cadet. Third, as is normally my pet peeve in restaurants, KEEP THE WATER COMING. They were pretty slow about this, and especially at a Thai place where food is spicy (for a normal non-Bill person), this is a necessity. If it's too much work to fill the glasses by hand, bring out a pitcher for the table.

Inside Mango Thai

Now that those issues are out of my system, the rest of our experience here was really enjoyable. I loved the space - it felt very cozy, and I definitely want to sit in one of the tables near the entryway with cutouts for feet at some point. The mango spring rolls we got as an appetizer were very good - I did taste the mango, mostly because mine fell apart so I ate pieces of some pieces of mango by itself :)

Low tables with cutouts for feet

I had been coming down with a slight cold so was in the mood for soup - I got the Tom Kha Chicken Coconut soup, with no spice (there were 3 chilis next to it on the menu, but the server said they could make it not spicy for me). I've had this soup before, when my brother-in-law made it for Christmas last year. This was a HUGE portion - it came out in an enormous metal bowl with a flame to keep it hot - very nice presentation! It was way too much for me - I can never really gorge myself on soup. It was delicious though - a wonderful mix of flavors, and Ben enjoyed it again for lunch the next day. I'd definitely recommend getting this soup as a starter for the table - I'll bet you could easily get 4 small bowls out of it.

Tom Kha Chicken Coconut Soup

Tom Kha Chicken Coconut Soup

The only fiasco of the evening came when the server was going to pick up my soup to pack it up, and didn't also grab the plate it was on, which then fell back to the table, knocked over a water glass, spilled water on my camera and another woman's coat and broke. Yikes! In such a small space, it definitely caused a commotion. Obviously it was just an accident and they were very concerned about my camera, which was fine. They handled it well and got everything cleaned up quickly.

I will definitely return to Mango Thai - it is a beautiful place with delicious food. Yes, there were some service issues, but that was likely an individual situation and not indicative of the overall service at the restaurant.

Ben's Review
After trying and failing to go to Mango Thai with our neighbors over the summer (no reservations) we made plans to go with Bill and his wife a couple weeks ago, this time with reservations. Since our failed attempt, our neighbors also went to Mango Thai and reported back that the food was great and it was also a BYOB place. In preparation for this Bill and I met up downtown and went to Haskells to get several bottles of beer to share during our meal.

The first thing that you notice when walking in the door is how small this place is - even smaller than Blue Door Pub. I bet they have capacity for about 25 customers at any given time. This is why reservations are a necessity, otherwise you'll have a long wait on your hands. Bill and his wife had gotten there before us and were already seated. We were luckily seated at one of the normal tables with incredibly comfortable chairs, the amount of cushion for your ass is awesome :) Due to the small size you inevitably have to sit close to the tables next to you, not ideal but just something you have to deal with.

I felt a little self conscious about bringing in a medium sized cooler with our beers while everyone looked at me, but I quickly stashed the cooler under the table and put Bill in charge of doling out the beers when we needed refills. It was a struggle to keep up with Bill on the beer front, he was always cracking the next bottle when I still had half a pint left!


We ordered the mango spring rolls as an appetizer and they tasted good, but I could barely taste any mango in them. The presentation was gorgeous, as was the presentation of all the food we had.

Spring rolls

To appease Scott ("all you ever get at Thai places is pad thai") I got the pad kee mow which is still a noodle based dish, but it doesn't have egg or peanuts, instead it's got garlic, chili and also came with a side of rice. I wasn't used to having rice mixed in with a noodle dish, but it tasted great and seemed to go together nicely. The portions at Mango Thai are smaller than a typical Thai place, which just means there aren't leftovers for lunch the next day and you still go home completely stuffed.


Pad Kee Mow

Bill has taken to calling me the "spice pussy" because of my perceived lack of tolerance for ultra spicy food like him. Even still, at the "medium" level of heat I had to add more red pepper to my dish to make it hot enough, even after the server claimed they made their food hotter than most Thai restaurants (btw, what Thai place DOESN'T say that??). Having heard of how Bill orders his Thai, "as hot as you can make it", I was interested to see if he was for real, and he was. He got it as hot as they could make it and still had to dump about a cup of some sort of chili paste into his dish to make it hot enough for him. The server was shocked. He had never seen them use as much spice as they did in his meal, and he STILL added more :) Needless to say, I think Bill was proud of himself.

We hung out for a bit after finishing as we had bought four 22oz bottles of beer and I had a ways to go on my last pint. All of our beers were great except the last one, the Rogue Santa's Private Reserve, it was drinkable but a little fruity as I recall. Between all the food and the heavy beers I was full to the point of pain. We had a great time hanging out with Bill and his wife, and you can never go wrong with Thai food, as far as I'm concerned.

  • Service: Our server was OK. He overstated the spiciness level of the food, but a nice guy.
  • Food: My pad kee mow was delicious and the spring rolls were good.
  • Drinks: No alcohol, but you can bring your own, which is awesome. You can drink exactly what you want and pay liquor store prices for it, perfect.
  • Ambiance: It was a small place so you have to be OK with ceding some of your personal space, but it was a fun place to be at on a Friday night.
  • Price: The prices are great, entrees in the $10-$15 range. The appetizers are overpriced by comparison, ranging from $6-$9 for much less food.
  • Convenience: Mango Thai is on Selby, around the corner from Muddy Pig. There is only on-street parking which can be bad in that area but we managed to get a spot that was pretty close. I think there are several bus lines that go down Selby as well.
Mango Thai
610 Selby Ave
St. Paul

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Visited on Monday, December 7th


Ben's Review
To celebrate our last baby class on Monday night, Erin wanted to go out for dinner beforehand. We'd had a lot of Asian food lately so she wanted something different. Trying to find a place to go that was not Asian and relatively close to the hospital turned out to be more challenging than I would have guessed. We eventually settled on Pepitos in south Minneapolis that had some good reviews as being a friendly neighborhood Mexican restaurant.

Our class started at 6:30 so we got to the restaurant around 5pm to ensure that we'd have enough time to eat and make it to the hospital. Predictably, Pepitos was nearly empty when we arrived so getting a table was not an issue. The interior of Pepitos looks like you would expect a forty year old Mexican restaurant to look, with fiesta colors on the walls and dim lighting (the dim lighting in many restaurants always frustrates Erin's picture taking).

Inside Pepitos

I quickly scanned the beer list after we got seated and noticed that the beer list was not extensive and was on the pricey side. Also, the happy hour is only in the lounge so the deals did not apply for us. I decided on the tall (25 oz) Summit for ~$6.25 only because it was a better cost-per-ounce than the pint. Our server came back with the disappointing news that they were out of Summit, so I downgraded to a pint of Newcastle (not being a huge Newcastle fan). This turned out to be a good decision later on.

Chips and Salsa

After munching on some delicious tortilla chips with mild and hot salsa, we were ready to order. I went with the tamale plato with pork, under the house specialties, and Erin had the nachos lupitas that were recommended to her by a co-worker. After ordering I thought we would have some time to nibble on some more chips and sip my beer, but I think our food came out 3-5 minutes later, it was shockingly fast. Fast to the point where I was skeptical about the food, like maybe it was premade. I'm not saying it WAS premade, it just seemed to come impossibly quick. This was the reason that the pint of beer was better than the 25 oz glass. I finished my food well before my beer to begin with, so nine more ounces would have just been annoying.

My tamale was good, but not great. I liked the beans and rice on the side better than the actual tamale. The tamale was a little dry and just tasted kind of bland. There was no way Erin was going to finish all of her lupitas, so I had a couple of those as well and they were delicious, much better than the tamale. The lupitas are like big nachos on pieces of flaky dough instead of tortilla chips. It's technically an appetizer but is certainly big enough for a meal. I had several bites of Erin's and she still had two leftover by the time we were done.


Since we got our food so early we even had time to head over to Turtle Bread Co. for some cheesecake. I had never been to Turtle Bread, but I thought it was a fantastic place, there is no divider between the kitchen and the seating area which gives it an interesting layout. The cheesecake was so good, but we were so full from dinner that we couldn't finish the shared slice. Great way to finish up a meal though.
  • Service: There was a bit of a language barrier between our server and us, but she was friendly and kept the water coming for Erin.
  • Food: My tamale was just OK, the lupitas were excellent.
  • Drinks: Not a good beer list and it was overpriced. They obviously have a good choice of margaritas if that's your thing.
  • Ambiance: The ambiance was nicer by the time we left as it was starting to fill up. Pepitos is family friendly and seems like a nice neighborhood place to hang out.
  • Price: While I thought the beers were overpriced, the food certainly is not. My tamale was $9 and Erin's lupitas were $7. Even with the beer this is the cheapest dinner we've had in awhile.
  • Convenience: They actually have valet parking, which is great, luckily we found a spot right outside the restaurant. Pepitos is on 48th & Chicago so there must be some public transit options as well.
Erin's Review
Pepitos has been on our list since the beginning - clearly it's been around for a long time, but neither Ben or I had eaten there before, and a few people I know recommended it when we started the blog. I had read mixed reviews online, so wasn't really expected much. We got there super early, and the ambiance was definitely lacking then, but picked up as the night went on. I don't even normally drink much, but I was definitely craving a margarita that night! Maybe because we had our last baby class to go to, and I knew that would make it more interesting ;)

Inside Pepitos

My co-worker Jen and several yelp reviewers recommended the lupitas, so I went with that without much deliberation. I love nachos anyway, so it seemed like a win-win. I got them with black beans, but there are many other topping choices available. The chips and salsa we munched on while we waited were great - I wish we had gotten some queso dip too, but I couldn't even finish my lupitas so that probably was a wise decision.

As Ben mentioned, our food came out lightning fast... yes, we were the only people eating probably, but still - a little too fast for comfort! Our food was piping hot when we got it - my plate was so hot I couldn't touch it. The lupitas came with 2 tiny (think the paper ketchup containers at McDonalds size) sides of sour cream and guacamole. I could have definitely used some more of those, I probably could have gotten more if I asked, but I just made do with what I had. I really liked the lupitas a lot - the "chips" were softer and thicker, and it was a nice change from traditional nachos. The sliced jalapenos on top gave just enough heat and flavor to the dish.

Nachos Lupitas with Black Beans

We definitely had a pleasant experience at Pepitos - we are not often in that area, but if we lived over there, I could see us going back for the affordable, fairly good food and friendly atmosphere. I definitely wouldn't make a special trip, though - to me, it didn't seem to be much different than Mexican chains such as Don Pablos, except that it is more affordable.

4820 Chicago Ave S

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza

Visited on Friday, November 20th with Rebekah, Rett and Adelaide

Black Sheep

Erin's Review
Our good friend Rebekah just finished her MBA, so Ben and I wanted to take the family out to celebrate - I know how awesome it feels to FINALLY be done with a masters program!! I still find myself happy just thinking about NOT having to do homework anymore :) I told Rebekah to pick the place, and she chose Black Sheep - I was super excited since I've suggested we go there to Ben several times before, but for some reason he kept shooting me down - he couldn't this time though!

I had just seen that Black Sheep was nominated for the best new establishment by Heavy Table, so I was a little nervous that it would be packed on a Friday night - Becky called earlier in the day and they did say 6pm got really busy but that 4 + a baby wouldn't be a problem. I was definitely glad we had gotten there a bit early though, as it gets a little harder to wait too long for a table with a 10 month old that likes to be entertained!

Inside Black Sheep

The atmosphere at Black Sheep reminded me a little of Punch in Highland Park - bustling and family friendly. There were quite a few kids there when we were there, and there were always several people waiting for a table. I liked the decor and the open kitchen so you could see the coal pizza oven. I also LOVE their logo - that little sheep is just so cute :)


Ben, Rett and Becky all ordered drinks and they came out quickly. It took us a bit to decide on pizzas, but we didn't feel rushed at all. We ended up choosing one with meat - the #5, sausage, salami, onion and green olive, and then created our own veggie with artichokes and tomatoes. I really enjoyed both pizzas, but especially loved the #5 - the combination of flavors was perfect! I don't even like olives, but I liked them on this pizza. I loved the crust as well - it was thin but not mushy at all. I think I even liked it better than Punch, but that's just a matter of personal preference.

Sausage Pepperoni Olive Onion Pizza

By the time we left, we had quite the audience observing us sitting at the table. We did sit there chatting for awhile after we were done eating, and I felt a LITTLE bad, but not bad enough to rush out of there or anything. Adelaide definitely enjoyed herself - she had fun staring at the people waiting for awhile :) I got the impression that she loved the tiny piece of crust that she was given as well! Thumbs up all around.


I really love pizza, and would definitely return to Black Sheep - it is very affordable and I like that they have table service as well as take out. It is also near quite a few bars if you are into that type of thing.

Ben's Review
After having not done a review for several weeks we went out twice in two days last week, go figure :) After going out with Becca and Joe on Thursday we met Rebekah, Rett, and Adelaide for dinner on Friday at Black Sheep Pizza in the warehouse district.

We arranged to meet after work around 6pm and knowing that it gets busy there, Erin and I planned on going over a little early to get in line for a table before the others arrived. We ended up having to wait about twenty minutes for a table, which was a reasonable amount of time. We didn't do this, but you can order beers while you wait which would certainly make the time pass quicker. Waiting for a table is a little awkward because you are so close to the people who are eating. We were literally about two feet away from a table of eight people. I didn't mind it from my perspective, but being at the table gets a little weird. By the time we left there were a good ten to twelve people standing around right near our table just watching us, it definitely makes you conscious of not hanging around too long after you've finished eating.

We made a couple quick decisions on two pizzas: a sausage, onion, salami, and olive (I believe it's the one on their home page) and an artichoke and tomato pizza. They have a good selection of tap beers and I went with the Furthermore Fallen Apple, a "Fresh-pressed cider blended with cream ale." The beer was okay, I'm not much of a fan of ciders, but it sounded interesting. I got a second beer a little later and got a Rush River porter which was much better (this is another beer I had wanted to try but never wanted to commit to a 6 pack).



The pizzas came out quickly, maybe within ten to fifteen minutes. They have clever racks that allows them to raise one pizza off the table and put the second one underneath. Our table had plenty of space but some of the tables are small so this would come in handy. Rett and I dug into the meaty pizza first and it was delicious. The crust is soft and thin making
it easy to fold in half and eat as a "pizza sandwich", I started off with a fork and knife but quickly devolved to the folding style. When you're eating pizza with others it always turns into a race for the most slices and folding the pizza in half is just the smart play :)

Tomato and Artichoke Pizza

The tomato and artichoke pizza was just as good as the other, though I am partial to meat on my pizza. I was surprised that we ate two large pizzas, I thought we would have plenty of leftovers to split up, and Adelaide didn't even eat her share!

After we finished we chatted for a bit before giving in to the glares of the beer drinking people waiting for a table, silently staring us down. A great meal to start the weekend, I wouldn't hesitate to go back.

  • Service: Hard to go wrong at a pizza place and this was no exception.
  • Food: Wonderful pizza, and it came out fresh and hot.
  • Drinks: They have a good variety of taps and they rotate out seasonal/specialty brews.
  • Ambiance: This is another "cozy" restaurant, but it doesn't feel cramped. They do a good job of maximizing the space for eating and I think people would rather have that than to have them use space for people waiting for tables.
  • Price: The pizzas range from $13-$22 for large pizzas and you can add extra toppings for a nominal fee. Pizza is one of those things that you can make as cheap or expensive as you want. I think these prices are good for the quality of pizza.
  • Convenience: There are plenty of meters along this stretch of Washington Ave, but they always seem to be full from the restaurants and lofts in the area. I found one about four blocks down and miraculously had a single quarter that I need to get me past 6pm when the meters weren't enforced.
Black Sheep

Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza
600 Washington Ave

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Modern Cafe

Visited on Thursday, November 19th with Becca and Joe

Modern Cafe

Ben's Review
We went out with my sister Becca and her husband Joe last Thursday, for no reason other than we hadn't been out to dinner with them for awhile and they are big fans of the Modern Cafe (TMC) in NE Mpls. (They even walked 5 miles from their house one day. With the dogs.)

TMC is located just east of the 331 Club near the intersection of Broadway & University. There is street parking here but with several bars and restaurants in the area it gets full easily. I found a spot a couple blocks down and then, of course, on the walk back I saw a car leave from right in front of the restaurant. Luckily it's not winter yet :)

I found Erin, Becca, and Joe already tucked into one of the "cozy" booths along the side wall. I wedged myself in and quickly looked over the beer list when our server arrived. They have a good, albeit small, beer list (maybe eight bottled beers) but something for everyone. I went with the Dumaine DuPage French style country ale while we looked over the menu. Even though I had looked at the menu online earlier in the day, I still wasn't sure what I was in the mood for. The beet ravioli sounded good, but Becca said the fries were excellent. The butternut hash and chorizo sounded tasty with the chicken breast, but I eventually decided on the lamb burger with tomato chutney, tzatziki, and the fries.

Inside Modern Cafe

We ordered the beets with horseradish cream and dill as an appetizer to share while we waited, which I thought was great. By the time the food came out Joe and I were ready for our next round. They had the Left Hand Milk Stout which I've always been tempted to get at the liquor store but never pulled the trigger on, so I figured this was as good a time as any to try it out, especially since the server recommended it with the lamb burger specifically.



The burger was pretty good, though with the spicy chutney and the tzatziki I couldn't really discern that it was lamb as opposed to ground beef. I probably should have gotten it medium rare instead of medium, but it still tasted good, the chutney and tzatziki were fantastic. For my fries I had asked for a side of the garlic mayo which was really good, but it was a bit much for me so I switched to ketchup halfway through. The milk stout did go well with the burger, though I was expecting a creamier beer ("milk stout" has certain connotations for me I guess).

Lamb Burger

I tried some of Joe's pot roast and the meat was exceptionally tender and fell apart just as you would expect. Becca got the mussel stew (which came with fries? seems odd) and while I didn't try any she said it was good and took the leftovers home for lunch. Erin purposely saved room for dessert and let me have a bite of her red velvet cake, which was awesome, as are most red velvet cakes that I've had. It was a great meal and I'm glad that we finally made it to TMC, great experience all around.
  • Service: Our server was great, he was knowledgeable about the menu and showed up at the perfect times.
  • Food: Excellent food. The menu is a bit small but they execute it very well.
  • Drinks: Reasonable bottled beer list and a larger wine list, everyone can find something they like.
  • Ambiance: TMC is a relatively small place that almost feels like a diner in spite of the better-than-diner food and service. On the Thursday night that we were there it wasn't very busy at all.
  • Price: The prices are right where I would expect them (maybe even a little lower) for the quality of food. Entrees in the $12-$16 range and the small plates from $3-$6.
  • Convenience: Parking is generally not a big deal in this area, even if you are a couple blocks away. The neighborhoods are quiet and friendly so I don't mind walking through them a bit.
Erin's Review
Well, I guess this is a sign of things to come - we have definitely been slacking on going out to new places lately! What can I say, life has definitely gotten busy lately, but hopefully we can pick up the pace a bit so we have some reviews to post when we are cooped up at home with a newborn in a few months :) Perhaps we'll be reviewing a lot of takeout places...

Anyway, we had plans for awhile to go out with Becca and Joe, and they LOVE the Modern Cafe in Northeast. I actually had been here once before, for brunch back in May, but hadn't been here with Ben to review yet. When we got there at 6:30, it was pretty empty for a Thursday night - maybe everyone is going to the newer hot spots nearby... who knows? The booths are a BIT of a tight squeeze for 4, but not too bad. Pretty sure in a month I won't even fit in there, so I should just enjoy it while I can.

I had perused their very small menu online earlier, and was feeling like having something smaller for dinner so I could feel okay about eating dessert. First things first, I made sure to ask our server what the desserts were so I knew if it was worth it - pots de creme and red velvet cake - sounded great to me! I chose a cup of the "delicious soup" - black bean that evening, and the mixed greens salad.


Bread came out fairly quickly and it was pretty good, although not warm. My soup came out first and I enjoyed it - it was thick and flavorful but not too filling, which was perfect. The salad was pretty blah - just a pile of greens (obviously) but it made me feel better that I got my veggies :)


Black Bean Soup

Greens Salad

Now, on to the most important part - dessert! I ordered the red velvet cake, and Becca got the pots de creme. The cake came with vanilla bean ice cream and was very good - just a simple cake, but it was prepared well - the cake was fluffy and not dry at all. I really liked how it was just a single layer for some reason. The frosting was a variation of cream cheese frosting with some other flavor, maybe maple? As with most cream cheese frostings - wonderful! I loved the addition of the ice cream too. Becca's pots de creme was a delight - I loved the peanut brittle topping especially.

Red Velvet

Pots de Creme

Overall, our experience at Modern was pleasant. Not the most exciting dining experience I've ever had, but the food is delicious, the service is good (could speed up the water refills, but barely anyone can keep up with me on that), and the decor is homey and warm. I'd definitely go back.

Modern Cafe

The Modern Cafe
337 13th Ave NE

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Lyndale Tap House

Visited on Thursday, October 29th with Kate and Kyle

[I (Erin) didn't have my camera, so all photos in this post are taken by Kate of Red Apple Images - thanks Kate! No pics of the interior or exterior though, so if you want to see those, check out the Heavy Table review for more great photos]

Erin's Review
I read a few blogs/newsletters that list which restaurants are opening each week, and add places to our list accordingly. I'd added Lyndale Tap House whenever I saw that it opened, so I was interested to read Heavy Table's review of the place. While it was pretty negative, I didn't want to rule it out based on that one review alone. Kate and I quickly decided we'd go to see for ourselves if it really was that bad.

Ben and I got there a bit early, at 5:45, and were seated at a huge booth. There are a few booths in the place, and also some high top tables in the bar area with chairs that have no backs. I hate those type of chairs, so it was a good thing we weren't seated at one of those tables :) Since the main complaint of the Heavy Table review was about the ambiance and clientele of this bar, we were on high alert, but the place was pretty much empty and very sedate when we got there so there wasn't anything for us to be annoyed about, no matter how hard we tried to find it :)

I was so hungry I couldn't even wait for Kyle and Kate to get there before ordering the pretzels. In fact, they were lucky we even saved 2 for them :) (the main reason we saved any was just to get a photo) Those pretzels were delicious and I would personally be satisfied just going to this place right after work for a few rounds of pretzels and some beer (if I could drink beer, that is). I think most people know I'm 100% satisfied with Miller Lite, so I had no qualms about the beer list at all - it actually seemed to me that they had a pretty nice list that will certainly please most people who will frequent this bar, even if they didn't have many local options.

Lyndale Tap House

I vaguely recalled that Heavy Table said the Tap House Burger was pretty good, so I went with that. I asked if they had American cheese as I prefer that on my burgers, but alas, no. Just cheddar. I guess this MUST be a high class establishment ;) The rest of the table got Pit sandwiches, and I think I was probably the most satisfied with my meal of everyone. The pit sandwiches had an absurd amount of meat on them, especially Kate's pit beef. She also noted that her sandwich wasn't really quite hot, and vaguely tasted of cumin which she doesn't like. Everyone did love the fries, especially with the cheddar ale sauce.

Lyndale Tap House

Lyndale Tap House
Kate's Pit Beef

I can never resist dessert anymore, so I ordered the whoopie pie with warm chocolate sauce. As the cheapest item on the dessert menu, I expected it to be small, but no - this thing was ENORMOUS - far too big for us to finish. It was pretty good, but I thought it could have used more filling, and really did not need to be that big. It certainly satisfied my chocolate craving, but I probably wouldn't order it again.

Lyndale Tap House

Lyndale Tap House

One thing to note is that the SECOND Kate took out her camera, the manager came over and asked if we were with a media outlet, and kind of played it off saying she wanted to make sure she wasn't missing an appointment. We just said that the photos were for our blog and that seemed to satisfy her. After that, someone was at our table probably every 4 minutes, asking if we wanted more beer, anything else, filling water, etc. It was a little much but I guess they are just trying to be careful. Especially asking about more beer got old - it seems like this might be the type of place where people just pound beers one after another, but that wasn't really what we were going for at 6:30pm on a Thursday night, which seemed obvious to me.

We really would have no reason to go back to Lyndale Tap House because - 1. it's in uptown and thus is a pain in the butt to get to from our house, and 2. it isn't as good as other bars much closer to our house (Muddy Pig, Happy Gnome, BDP). However, that being said, I would have no problem going back if a friend was having a gathering there, and if I lived in the neighborhood I'd certainly go there for happy hour often.

Ben's Review
For some reason Heavy Table's poor review of Lyndale Tap House convinced Erin and Kate to try this place out last week. I had low expectations after reading the review, but I figured the least I could do was go and be satisfied that my assumptions were correct.

We got to the restaurant after a long rush hour drive from downtown Minneapolis to the Flat Earth brewery (W. 7th & Snelling in St. Paul) to get a growler and then from there to uptown. Not so much fun on a rainy day.

Miraculously, I found a parking spot on Lyndale about one block away and the meters there are only enforced till 6pm so I only had to throw in one quarter. This was all a pleasant surprise to me as I had expected a nasty parking situation.

I easily found Erin when I got inside as the place wasn't busy at all, which was a definite plus in my book. She was sitting along the back wall by the cook's counter in one of those half circle booths, which I love. Our server came over to get my drink order while we waited for Kate and Kyle to arrive and after trying to get a Summit Oktoberfest (it had switched to winter ale already, wtf? I hate that) I settled on a Bell's Two Hearted. I also learned that it was happy hour till 7pm, which meant half price taps and appetizers. Upon hearing that we also ordered some of the pretzels, which were one of the few things recommended in the Heavy Table review.

At this point, I'm feeling pretty good about this place. Half price taps and appetizers is a fantastic happy hour deal and the fact that it runs till 7pm is awesome, as you can basically get happy hour deals all through dinner on a weeknight. The tap selection, while not featuring many local beers, is still a great list of beers with a variety of styles so everyone can find something they like. The pretzels didn't disappoint and the cheddar ale sauce and the honey mustard that comes with them are both delicious, we even got more of the cheddar ale sauce for our fries with our meals.

I've been craving pork lately so I jumped on the pit pork sandwich with fries. Kyle order of the pit Cuban tempted me for a moment (especially since I had seen the Cuban at the Muddy Pig earlier in the week and that looked fantastic), but I stuck with my guns on the pork. The sandwich came loaded with meat as I had read about previously and it was 'OK', not awesome but certainly not bad. It made me crave a pulled pork sandwich even more :) The fries were really good and they were clearly freshly made, which I believe can make or break a meal, and were even better in the cheddar ale sauce. With our meal I got another beer, this time the Two Brother's Cane & Ebel.

Lyndale Tap House

Lyndale Tap House
Kyle's Pit Cuban

As we were getting up to leave I realized that it was nearly full in the restaurant now. I had been facing the kitchen the entire time so I didn't notice the trickle of people coming in. They have a nice long bar with several TV tuned into the World Series, it seemed like a good place to watch sports. I think if we had arrived at 7 instead of 5:45 I wouldn't have liked this place as much, but as it turns out I would come back here for happy hour or an early weeknight meal.
  • Service: Our server was nice, as was the manager, but they became a little overbearing after they discovered we were blogging about them.
  • Food: Good bar food, awesome pretzels (and only $2.50 at happy hour :)
  • Drinks: Great, diverse beer list and a full bar. Excellent happy hour.
  • Ambiance: At 6pm on a weeknight the ambiance was great for me, kind of low key as they get ready for the busy time of the night. I doubt I would ever come here on a weekend evening.
  • Price: Meal prices are reasonable for what you get. The beer taps are in the $5-$6 range, but are half off during happy hour.
  • Convenience: Even though I found a parking spot, I'm calling that an outlier. Normally going to uptown is a headache and I'll stand by that.
The Lyndale Tap House
2937 Lyndale Ave S.

Monday, October 26, 2009

112 Eatery

Visited on Sunday, October 25th

Outside of 112 Eatery

Ben's Review
After realizing that we hadn't been out to a place on the list for a month we decided to head out on Sunday night to 112 Eatery.

Being a Sunday night with no sporting events happening the parking situation was great in the warehouse district, with no meters enforced. I dropped Erin off at the door and found a spot and met her. We were initially confused by the door to the restaurant, as it's not labeled and there is a small sign "Please ring for deliveries" posted on it. It also appeared to enter into the main seating area of the restaurant. The handle was unlocked, so we walked in and wandered around the "cozy" restaurant trying to find the host so we could claim our reservation. We eventually found her and she was a little rude about the whole situation and then sent us on our way to the second floor for our table. To get to the second floor you have to go back out the door we came in, walk down a hallway, and take a rickety elevator. I was initially worried that we were being sent to the overflow area that would not have as good of service or decor, but I was pleasantly surprised that the second floor matches the first floor in every regard, even with its own full bar.

upstairs dining room

The second floor isn't nearly as cramped as the first floor and we found the hostess right away and she brought us to our table. We got seated right next the server's station, weakly hidden by a wine rack on a counter top. This was a little frustrating as we were walked past a perfectly set table for two, but for some reason we got the worse spot. By this point we were a little pissed at the whole experience from the confusing entrance, lack of any direction once you get inside, snotty hostess, and then being placed at an inferior table after being moved to the second floor.

almonds and olives

Our server came over soon after we sat down to get us started, his name escapes me right now (pretty sure it was Marcus), but he turned out to be a fantastic server. I was taking my sweet time trying to decide what to order and he gave us plenty of time to think and helped us out with some questions. I eventually settled on the roast halibut with avocado and mango with the sausage and calamari risotto coming in a close second. We also ordered a side dish of salsify in a walnut pesto to share, and I got a glass of red wine (I felt bad cause Erin can't have any, but clearly not bad enough to not order it :).

The food took about twenty minutes to arrive, which was perfect as we weren't terribly hungry when we got there. A different server brought my halibut and the side order of salsify and then said that Erin's pasta would arrive in a couple minutes and could she "get her anything in the meantime." Boy, that does not inspire confidence that the food is coming soon, if they offer you something in the meantime! So we sat there and waited and chatted more and kind of picked at the salsify (which was delicious) and some pieces of avocado off my halibut. Minutes go by and our server stopped by and was surprised to see that Erin's dish still hadn't arrived so he went to check on it. I'm getting really angry by now as our food is getting cold while we wait for Erin's entree. Thankfully, our server stopped back in a minute and said it was coming shortly but that he was taking it off of our tab as "it had already been too long." What a great example of awesome customer service. He didn't apologize profusely, he simply stopped by, gave us the update (which was accurate, the food showed up a few minutes later), informed us he wouldn't charge us for it and was gone. Perfect.

With Erin's pasta finally arriving we could start to enjoy our meal. My halibut was really good and it was absolutely covered in avocado and mango. The salsify was also excellent and the walnut pesto was interesting, I'm a big fan of pesto but we usually use basil or arugula.

Halibut with mango and avocado

roasted salsify

We had previously decided on having dessert, so that was a quick choice of the tres leches cake. This cake gets served in a bowl of sweet milk and it is seriously the best dessert I've had in recent memory. Unfortunately, Erin was full after her meal, leaving most of the cake for me to eat, which made me walk out nearly clutching my side, but it was worth it :)

In spite of the poor start to dinner 112 Eatery was redeemed by the excellent service we got from our server in general, and specifically his handling of Erin's late food arrival. The food itself was also excellent and reasonably priced for the high quality.
  • Service: Awesome service from our server, I didn't like the way the hostess treated us.
  • Food: Everything was great: the halibut, Erin's pasta, the salsify, dessert, and the bread. :)
  • Drinks: Full bar on both floors with a varied wine list with a good range of prices.
  • Ambiance: 112 Eatery is in a richly decorated, narrow space which gives it a weird mesh of classy and cramped. I did like the booths downstairs a lot and if we go back I'm going to request one.
  • Price: Good prices for the quality you get. Entrees in the $10-$25 range (Erin's pasta was $8 for the half order) and glasses of wine from $5-$9.
  • Convenience: There are some parking ramps nearby and the bus gets you pretty close as well. Easy street parking on a Sunday night.
Erin's Review
As Ben mentioned, it has been a whole MONTH since we went out to eat for the blog! Never fear, we were still dining out, just not at new places, plus we just took a trip to Portland that included many awesome food and beverage establishments. After reviewing the list, I chose 112 Eatery, since I always hear it is one of the best places in Minneapolis but we haven't ever been there.

When you hear over and over again how awesome a place is, you tend to build it up in your mind. I had pretty high expectations of 112 Eatery, and thought it would be somewhat similar to La Belle Vie in terms of food and service. We had a wonderful experience there, so I was hoping for a great time at 112 Eatery as well.

When Ben dropped me off, I went in what I assumed was the door but didn't see an obvious entrance to the restaurant. I saw people going back to the elevator, but I honestly thought there were condos on the higher floors and they were there for a party or something, so I went back outside. No other door seemed right so I just waited for Ben.

I was already a little annoyed by the time we actually got into the restaurant, so when we didn't see any indication of a host stand or anyone to actually tell us where to go, I got good and pissed. I will admit that I have a much shorter fuse lately, so under normal circumstances, I probably would have been fine. Seriously - they really should make it easier for people to figure out what door to use and then where to go to check in for a reservation. Confusing people right off the bat is never a good idea. I was kind of a snot to the hostess (I said something about how we weren't sure where to go, but my tone was not so nice) so that could have been why she was snotty back... who knows. Whatever. I was annoyed and if the upstairs had looked anything like the upstairs at moto-i (aka, no decor, clear overflow seating), we would have been out of there.

As it was, we got the worst table up there - it was annoying to be further taunted by the wine rack right by our heads that I couldn't enjoy, but more than that, I didn't like hearing the servers chatting to each other and sounding annoyed about something or other most of the time - it really ruins the ambiance of a nice dinner. I know they have to give this table to someone, but it was frustrating to see another empty 2 top further into the room that for some reason was given to a party that arrived after us.

I wasn't even that hungry, so I had a hard time choosing what to eat. I originally wanted the foie gras meatballs and pasta but after a quick google search on the iPhone, I found that was somewhat questionable during pregnancy. After asking a few clarifying questions of our very helpful server, I went with the stringozzi with lamb sugo, which is basically thicker spaghetti with a meat sauce. Ben wanted to split a side, so I suggested the salsify since we had enjoyed that in many of our courses at La Belle Vie.


We got bread soon after ordering, and Ben enjoyed his wine (it was here that I decided we will not be going to any more restaurants like this until after this baby is born - 100 days (approximately of course) to go!). We chatted for awhile, and then Ben's entree and our side of salsify came out. I too was confused about the other server's offer of "something in the meantime" but I just said no and assumed it would be just a minute - after all, it was just pasta - not exactly some elaborate dish here. It wasn't that I was hungry, it was mostly that Ben won't eat until we both have our food that made the wait frustrating. With a table of 2, it does seem ridiculous that the entrees can't come out at the same time, so it was great that the server comped my dish for being late - that was wonderful service and at least let us know that it would be awhile longer.

At that point, Ben and I just started both eating his meal and the salsify, both of which were superb. I really enjoyed the combination of mango and avocado with the halibut, and the salsify was delicious with lots of crispiness and a flavorful pesto sauce. My pasta finally came out, probably about 10-15 minutes after Ben's meal first arrived, with a heartfelt apology from our server. It was piping hot and delicious - the noodles were thick and chewy (but not overly so) and there was the perfect amount of sauce. Even the half order was way too much for me, especially since I knew I wanted dessert.

stringozzi with lamb sugo

Based on Kate's recommendation, I ordered the tres leches cake for dessert, along with a decaf latte. Both came out quickly, and the latte was HUGE. This cake was absolutely magnificent. It was the perfect way to end the meal even if it did leave both of us uncomfortably full.

decaf latte

tres leches cake

While we did have kind of a mixed experience here, the most important thing to me was that the food and service (minus the one hostess) was wonderful. It is a great value for one of the best restaurants in Minneapolis - even more so when one person isn't drinking :)

112 Eatery
112 North 3rd St