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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Where have we eaten?

I put together this Google map of the places we've eaten, it's kind of fun to see where we've been on a map. Move the map a little south to see Ronin or follow I-35 WAY north to Cloquet to find Gordy's Hi-Hat :)

I'm going to keep updating this map as we go to new places, so bookmark this page if you want to watch for new places in your neighborhood.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ronin Sushi Cafe

Visited on Thursday, September 24th

Outside Ronin

Erin's Review
Our 4th wedding anniversary was on September 24th, and neither of us had any real ideas for what we could do. The only thing we knew we had to do was go and pick up my parents' dog Maggie in Apple Valley to watch her that weekend. Ben had been wanting to go to Ronin for the reasons he talks about below, so I gave in - I had been having major cravings for sushi and he's always wanting Thai, so it seemed like a good compromise.

When we got there, it was just us and a few families - not full at all. I think there was only one actual server working, so she was still kept pretty busy. We were seated quickly, but it took awhile to get drinks and water and to actually place our order, but the wait wasn't anything to get upset about.

Menu Suggestions

The menu was pretty funny, as it had pictures of everything that for some reason looked comical to me. There were also some recommended items, such as a side of rice... lovely :) I knew I wanted sushi, and obviously my options are limited due to pregnancy. I know you CAN have raw fish from a trusted place, but I figured I'd stick with veggie/cooked rolls to be on the safe side. I ordered the veggie roll with cream cheese and spicy mayo on the side (plain veggie rolls just don't do it for me) and the dragon roll, which had ell and shrimp. As a last minute add, I threw in a bowl of miso soup since it was FREEZING in there. Good thing I had grabbed a jacket before leaving the house!

Miso Soup

My soup came out quickly, and it was tasty despite being not very hot. I was starving so I ate it without complaint. My veggie roll came out quickly and was quite good, but would have been pretty blah without the cream cheese. The dragon roll came out a bit later and really hit the spot - it was delicious! It was also much larger than I anticipated, so Ben helped me out with it after he couldn't handle his pad thai.

Veggie Roll with cream cheese and spicy mayo on the side

Dragon Roll

I was pleasantly surprised with Ronin - it had a nice ambiance and the food was delicious. If you are in the Lakeville/Apple Valley area, check it out.

Ben's Review
After hearing the crazy story that the owner of Ronin has been through lately we decided to go there for our anniversary dinner, since we were heading to Apple Valley that night to pick up Maggie for the weekend. Ronin also came highly recommended from Bill Roehl as having the best Thai food in the south suburbs.

Ronin is located in the same strip mall as Carbone's Pizza, which opened when I was in high school at Lakeville and has some damn good pizza, as I recall. Ronin occupies a small corner of the mall on the north side, next to 160th St.

It wasn't busy when we arrived around 7pm or so on a Thursday night, there were about three tables occupied and some people squeezed into the sushi bar at the back. We were seated right away by the hostess and browsed the menu for awhile while we waited for our server.


The menu at Ronin is nice as it has pictures of nearly every menu item, very helpful when you don't necessarily know what everything means. They have a good mix of Thai food and sushi which makes it a good compromise for when not everyone wants Thai food (Erin). Falling back on the old saying "when you're at a burger place - get a burger", I ordered the Pad Thai with chicken, at the level four spiciness (out of five). The past few times I've ordered Thai food I've gone with three or four and never been too impressed with the heat of the food. Bill assured me they make food spicy at Ronin and the server also added that the particular chef that night liked to make things hot. I felt ready, and was getting excited for a big plate of Pad Thai in my belly, to complement the Fat Tire I'd also ordered.

Fat Tire

Our food came quickly enough, maybe fifteen minutes or so, and we dug in - me with my Pad Thai and Erin with her pregnancy-approved sushi dishes. The Pad Thai started out great, the spice level was hot and the flavor was fantastic, everything I wanted in a Pad Thai. I got about a quarter of the way into the Pad Thai before the heat really started to build up and I quickly realized I was out of my league. I couldn't seem to tame the heat in my mouth and I was torn because the Pad Thai tasted so good, but every bite made my mouth heat up again. Erin eventually had to pull the dish away and force me to save it for lunch the next day (though I snuck some more when she went to the bathroom).

Chicken Pad Thai

I did end up saving the rest of the Pad Thai for lunch the next day, but the heat was mysteriously gone after microwaving it. I had no problem finishing it for lunch and my mouth didn't hurt at all, maybe I had burnt it too bad the night before, who knows? It was still great for lunch :)

I was tempted to buy a gift card to Ronin on our way out, but we just aren't in the area enough to convince me to get it, we already have an envelope of gift cards that don't get used and I didn't need to add to the pile. BUT, they have a great deal on gift cards right now, buy a $50 card and get a $10 card free, so I would encourage you to get down there and try out the food and pick up a gift card if you live nearby.
  • Service: Service was OK. It took awhile for our server to get around to us, but other than that no problems.
  • Food: Fantastic Pad Thai, though I'll go with the level three next time, and Erin's sushi was great.
  • Drinks: They have beer, wine, and (I love this) "liquor available four ways - w/soda, w/tonic, on the rocks, or straight up" that's my kind of bar!
  • Ambiance: It was cold when we were there, but the Pad Thai helped that :) Seems like a family friendly place as we saw several children while we were there.
  • Price: Prices were right on par, or maybe a little under, for the Pad Thai ($8 plus $3 for chicken) and the sushi was reasonably priced as well.
  • Convenience: Plenty of parking available, as we were in the suburbs, and being so close to Cedar Ronin is pretty easy to get to from many places.
Ronin Sushi Cafe
7704 160th Street
Lakeville, MN