Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blackbird Cafe

Visited on Saturday, September 12th with Janelle and Scott

Outside Blackbird

Ben's Review
A couple weeks ago we went to brunch with our friends Janelle and Scott. I was not involved with setting up the event, so I'm not sure how the locale was selected, but we ended up at Blackbird Cafe, located right next to the Malt Shop on 50th St in Minneapolis. The presentation of the restaurant is very well done. Inside and out are decorated elegantly without being pretentious. Scott and Janelle were there when we arrived so we joined them at a table near the front window. Blackbird is a smaller place, but the tables go all the way back on the right side so that they can actually fit a decent number of people at once. There is also seating at the small counter on the left side.

Inside Blackbird

I quickly ordered coffee as I hadn't had any yet that morning and checked out the menu. The Huevos Rancheros were speaking to me, especially after the good experience at Good Day Cafe, but I eventually settled on the breakfast burrito. The breakfast menu is not huge by any means, I see twelve items on the online menu for breakfast, but they seem to have all the bases covered. Our server also mentioned that there were no special items yet as they had just changed menus and wanted to get their new menu fleshed out before offering daily specials.


As an aside, we really didn't care for our server at all. She wasn't pleasant or polite and every question we had seemed to annoy her. She dropped a fork and I picked it up for her and she didn't say "thank you", which seems like an obvious thing to say. She wasn't mean, but little things like that definitely have an impact.

Our food came out and the burrito was a perfect portion. It wasn't a huge Chipotle sized burrito, but it left me full. My meal also came with a small side salad with vinaigrette dressing. The burrito itself was delicious especially with the side of salsa on top, inside was gallo pinto, scrambled eggs, cilantro, and guacamole which are all top notch ingredients in my book.


The coffee at Blackbird was pretty good and even though our server was a bit rude, she certainly kept the coffee cup full. They serve their cream fresh from little cups at the table, always a nice upgrade from the creamer packets at some places. With this message on their website "our menu items are prepared from scratch in our tiny kitchen, by actual humans" I wonder if the cream is handmade as well :)

I also noticed behind the counter that they have a single beer on tap, I can't recall now but I believe it was a Rush River beer, and the website says they rotate it regularly. They also have a good selection of wines and a shockingly extensive list of beers in bottles/cans. Here's the current list in the "Fancy beer" list:

Summit EPA + Summit Seasonal + Amstel Light + Stella Artois + Bell's Two Hearted + Guinness + Paulaner Hefe-Weizen + Paulaner Thomasbrau + Ace Pear Cider + Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale + Left Hand Blackjack Porter + Furthermore "Knotstock" + Old Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout + North Coast's Red Seal Ale + Furthermore "Fattyboombalatty" + Eel River's organic California Blonde

And they even have an "Extra fancy beer" list:

Hitachino Nest Ale + Hitachino Ginger Beer + Hitachino XH + Hennepin Ommegang + Saison du Pont

Clearly whoever runs Blackbird Cafe is a beer lover. I don't know if I've ever seen a beer list at a cafe that comes close to the variety they have, its great. I would go back for a dinner meal so I could take advantage.
  • Service: Not so good. Our server was rude and didn't seem to want to be helpful at all.
  • Food: Excellent food and its all prepared from scratch.
  • Drinks: Good coffee and a fantastic selection of beers.
  • Ambiance: Blackbird has a great neighborhood cafe feel that makes you feel comfortable and welcome.
  • Price: Prices are average. Breakfast meals range from $7-$10, dinners are about $12-$20.
  • Convenience: We had no problem parking on 50th St, but this area might be hit or miss. Blackbird is close enough to 35W so that its not bad to get to.
Erin's Review
Janelle and I have been wanting to schedule a visit to Blackbird for a long time - it is one of her favorite restaurants, and she wanted to make a We Got Served visit with us :) Her and Scott also wanted to take us out to celebrate our upcoming parenthood, so we finally set it up!

Blackbird Menu

Blackbird is super duper cute - I really liked the ambiance. It was great for a brunch, but I'd love to go back to see how the vibe changes in the evening. I enjoyed sitting by the window to view the passerby, but I think sitting in the back area would be better at night.

Inside Blackbird

As Ben mentioned, they had a new menu that weekend, so there were no specials offered. I can never seem to finish a whole entree, so I chose to get one pancake and a fruit cup, which was the perfect amount of food for me. The pancake was very good, but not the best I've ever had (I still think that title may go to Parkview Cafe, RIP). The fruit cup was a cup of fruit, and was just dandy :)

One Pancake and Fruit Cup

I won't reiterate what a snot our server was, but that definitely put a sour note on the experience. I'd still go back because I'm sure that isn't indicative of all servers there, but still... it wasn't good.

Blackbird Cafe
815 W 50th St.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Good Day Cafe

Visited on Tuesday, September 8th


Erin's Review
We needed a place relatively close to downtown to go to brunch after my ultrasound appointment a few weeks ago, and Good Day Cafe fit the bill. You can see this restaurant off of 394, in the same building as the Metropolitan Ballroom. When we got in, it was surprisingly large, and busy, given that it was a weekday mid-morning. I was a little disappointed that all the blinds were down, giving the room kind of a dark feel. It was a beautiful day outside, and by that time, the sun was high enough that it wouldn't have been blinding anyone to open the shades and give everyone a beautiful view of 394.


The big excitement of this meal was opening the envelope we had just been given at our ultrasound which contained the sex of our baby - so we got right to that immediately after being seated, and found out that "It's a girl!" (props to the ultrasound tech for having such cute cards on hand).

IMG_1704 IMG_1708

After that, brunch was an afterthought, although I was starving. Good Day Cafe has some good looking benedicts on the menu, but I'm a bit wary of raw eggs now that I'm pregnant. Sometimes I'll ask if the eggs are pasteurized, but I wasn't feeling like being that person today, thus I stuck with eggs over hard, potatoes and sausage.


I enjoyed my meal - the potatoes were crispy, and the sausage and eggs were fine. Obviously, it wasn't anything special, but it filled me up. My favorite part of the meal was actually the toast and jam - delicious! My orange juice was good, but NOT worth the $5.50 price tag. Had I read that before ordering, there is no way I would have gotten that.



The service was great - the waitress was very excited to take our picture with our "it's a girl" card, and was attentive throughout the meal. Good Day Cafe is a solid breakfast choice if you're out in the Golden Valley area.

Ben's Review
After we had our 20 week ultrasound, we went to Good Day Cafe for a late brunch to open the envelope that told us we were going to have a baby girl in February. Back when we first found out Erin was pregnant I didn't want to know the gender before the baby was born. As the ultrasound day approached I found that I was pretty excited to find out, so it all worked out for the best :)

Good Day Cafe is a large restaurant, but it was surprisingly busy on a Tuesday morning at 10:30. The soft colors and high ceilings of the restaurant give it a very laid back feel, and the employees treat you like people, rather than customers, everyone was very friendly.


After the excitement of opening the envelope, we browsed the menu a bit. They have the usual breakfast fare, but the huevos rancheros was calling out to me this day. I'm not even usually a fan, but this recipe sounded great. Chorizo sausage, salsa, salsa verde, sour cream, and two eggs however you like them. This was a delicious breakfast, and enormous, it filled me up till dinner.


We had narrowed down our choices of girl's names to two, we each had our favorites. As we finished up our food we discussed and figured out a name (guess who's name we used :). The one complaint about Good Day Cafe I had was that the coffee was not very good at all. I'm not a coffee connoisseur but even I could tell that the beans were burnt on this pot, though my cup was kept full the entire meal :)

A good breakfast, certainly one that we will remember for a long time.
  • Service: The service was great, everyone was friendly and our server was prompt, and even took a photo of us.
  • Food: Excellent heuvos rancheros, good selection of breakfast foods.
  • Drinks: Coffee was not good, and Erin's OJ was good, but it cost as much as a beer ($5.50).
  • Ambiance: As I mentioned, the building really makes you feel comfortable and the spacing between tables is ample.
  • Price: A little pricey, the OJ was a lot and the meals were around $10 apiece.
  • Convenience: There is a parking lot, but I gotta say that this area of Golden Valley is a pain in the ass for google maps. I had to call the restaurant to make sure we were going the right way. Not the restaurant's fault at all, but annoying.
Good Day Cafe

5410 Wayzata Ave
Golden Valley

Friday, September 11, 2009


Visited on Saturday, September 5th with Scott and Christie


Ben's Review
Scott had been trying to get us to go to Rooster's for awhile now, so we could enjoy his new picnic table in his backyard. We finally made it last Sunday on Labor Day weekend. Scott and Christie live close to Roosters, so we drove over there with beer in tow and walked over to Rooster's.

Rooster's is a tiny place, clearly intended for takeout but they do have a couple small tables. The menu on the website is not small, but in reality you only go to Roosters for a couple of their specialties - pulled pork sandwiches, bbq ribs, and fried chicken. After we ordered Scott and I played Space Invaders at one of those old-school video games that is set in the table.




I was starving by the time we got over there, so I went with the large pulled pork sandwich combo, which comes with coleslaw and fries. I was contemplating the Memphis style sandwich, that comes with coleslaw ON the sandwich, but I figured I could just put some of my coleslaw on top if I wanted (turns out I did). The large sandwich is completely overkill. It comes with an absurd amount of pork, I bet a quarter pound of pork fell out of my sandwich, and it still had tons of pork to spare. I ate the rest of the pork mixed with coleslaw and fries, which was a great way to clean my plate. The fries were pretty good, but they didn't retain their heat very well. The coleslaw was good, but nothing special.

(Oops, I forgot to actually take a pic of Ben's sandwich unwrapped. See below, and then add a bunch of meat)

We finished up our sandwiches outside at the picnic table and hung out for a bit before heading inside. We sampled several different beers as Scott and I had stocked up at 1st Grand Ave liquors the day before. We also admired Scott's in-progress kegerator for his homebrew. All in all a great Sunday night.
  • Service: Not much service at Rooster's, cause it's not needed. Order your food and move on. :)
  • Food: Excellent pulled pork with decent side dishes. Scott also has enjoyed the fried chicken in the past.
  • Drinks: Some canned sodas, not much else, Rooster's is a BYOB dinner.
  • Ambiance: The ambiance at Rooster's is whatever you make it. I'm guessing you are usually there by yourself as you wait for your food, so it can be whatever you want it to be :)
  • Price: The pulled pork combos range from $7-$9 for the combos, Erin's and my meal was an even $18. Not bad for a huge meal.
  • Convenience: Plenty of on-street parking on Randolph and surrounding streets, and I would guess it's not typically a long wait.
Erin's Review
Well, I don't have a ton to say about Rooster's.... we had a lovely walk there from Scott's house, they made our food fairly quickly, but not so quickly that it was apparent that it had been sitting out for awhile, so that was good. While we were waiting, a piece of French Silk Pie caught my eye, and I thought "it will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine".

I got the small pork sandwich with mild sauce. It was very good. I'm not a huge pulled pork fan - it's good, but not something I crave or anything, so I'm probably not the best judge. I enjoyed the fries and didn't eat the coleslaw, so I can't really rate that. I ate a few onion rings that Scott had, and those were quite good as well.



The pie was the best part of the meal for me :) That and the mango drink that Scott provided me. Yum!



If you're into BBQ, stop on over for a solid meal.


Rooster's BBQ
979 Randolph Ave
St. Paul

Thursday, September 3, 2009

King & I Thai

Visited on Thursday, August 20th with Becca and Joe

Outside King & I

Erin's Review
For about 2 months, I refused to go to any sort of ethnic restaurant because the thought turned my stomach. Finally, I was feeling up to something pretty mild and thought I could handle Thai food. Ben was ecstatic. We met up with Becca and Joe at King & I Thai at 7pm. They had gotten there early since they were bored at home, so they had a table. The space in King & I is pretty large, and kind of ugly. I really hate restaurants with minimal windows because you can't tell if it is day or night, and we were way in the back which didn't help.

Inside King & I

I knew exactly what I wanted - an order of cream cheese rolls and some pad thai, so it wasn't even necessary for me to look at the menu. I did ask what the difference between the regular pad thai and the chef's pad thai is - apparently the chef's pad thai comes with several kinds of protein. I went with the regular.

The cream cheese rolls were a nice change from the normal wontons - I enjoyed them. The rolls allowed for even more cream cheese, which is always a good thing in my book. The waiter let us know that the portions at King & I are almost family style, and are meant to be shared. We kind of ignored that, since we all wanted different things.

Cream Cheese Rolls

My pad thai came out, and was comically large. I enjoyed it - it was not spicy at all, as I'd requested. Ben got to have as much as he wanted, and I still had enough to take home for lunch. I wouldn't say it's the best pad thai I've ever had, but it was definitely tasty.

Pad Thai

There are SO many Thai places in the cities that I probably won't ever go back to King & I, but it's not a bad spot to hit up if you're in the area.

Ben's Review
We planned to go out for dinner with Becca and Joe a couple weeks ago and Becca suggested King & I Thai near downtown Minneapolis. We weren't meeting them until 7pm, so we went home from work and headed back downtown later on. Parking in Loring Park is kind of a pain in the ass, but I found a spot about two blocks away for free. It was a nice night so I really can't complain that much.

Finding the entrance to the restaurant was a bit of a challenge for me (I had dropped Erin off at the door cause that's the kind of guy I am), and I initially walked into the apartment building above the restaurant. You have to navigate the large patio area outside the restaurant to find the door. The patio looked like it could be pretty cool if they cleaned it up a bit, it didn't seem like it had been used in awhile, but there are several different levels and walkways to get around.

Once inside I found Becca, Joe, and Erin pretty easily as it wasn't very busy inside, even for a Thursday night. The fact that the dining area is kind of big doesn't help either, it looked sparse inside. The decor inside kind of matched the unused patio - could use some cleaning and updating.

I ordered a half gin, half vodka martini when our server came back around (he looked and sounded like Michael C. Hall), which is kind of turning into my standby drink order when I don't feel like having a beer. We chatted for a bit while we looked over the menu. I really wanted pad thai but I also wanted to try something different and I had been convinced to try Thai fried rice by my co-worker Scott. I went with the holy basil fried rice, which came at the hottest level of hot that they had, though when I asked if it was "melt your face hot" he said it wasn't that bad.

Spicy Holy Basil Fried Rice

My fried rice had basil, garlic, and beef (chicken wasn't even an option, weird) and was pretty good. The heat from fried rice is different from noodle dishes because its a dry heat. I feel like noodle dishes with a sauce are hotter than this and I think I like them better, so from now on I will hitting up noodle dishes at Thai places (and I got pad thai at Amazing Thailand the next week, delicious).

Tom Kha Soup

Shrimp and Lemongrass Salad

Joe's Spicy Tom Kha Soup was pretty good, as was Erin's pad thai (with level 0 spiciness :). I don't think I tried Becca's salad but she seemed to enjoy it. I don't remember if Joe convinced me to have an after dinner drink, or if it was the other way around, but I got a whiskey old fashioned afterward that came in a huge rocks glass and was a great way to end the meal. Not much a dessert fan, but I will always take a drink to wash my meal down.

B & B

Whiskey Old Fashioned
  • Service: Eh, it was ok. He forgot the spice rack we asked for, and we had to look for him several times during the meal.
  • Food: My fried rice was good, but I think I would have preferred a noodle dish. The pad thai I tried from Erin was definitely good.
  • Drinks: Full bar, not sure about happy hour. Their proximity to downtown makes me think they have specials at some point.
  • Ambiance: Not much on a slow Thursday night. They have a lounge area that seemed to be getting more traffic, might be a better option.
  • Price: Prices were on par with other Thai places, $12-$18 for a huge entree that will easily get you a second meal.
  • Convenience: Not too convenient with a car, navigating through downtown and finding some street parking. You could walk there for lunch if you work downtown on a nicer day.
King & I Thai
1346 LaSalle Ave