Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Upcoming Event: Taste of the Nation

Twin Cities Eats just let us know about the upcoming Taste of the Nation event happening on June 12th! It sounds like an awesome event, with all proceeds from ticket sales supporting organizations that fight childhood hunger.

Check it out at the link above! Unfortunately we won't be able to make it because Ben is riding in the MS150 that weekend, but it would have been really cool to see the Mixology Duel between Bradstreet Crafthouse and La Belle Vie!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Capital View Cafe

Visited on Saturday, May 23rd

Outside Capital View Cafe

Ben's Review
My co-worker Erik told me about Capital View Cafe and their fantastic breakfasts so we added them to the list. We went there on Saturday morning after checking out the St. Paul Farmers Market.

As the same suggests, you have a perfect view of the capitol building if you stand in the middle of Smith Ave. outside of the restaurant. It's pretty cool actually, considering how far away you are, and the building is nicely framed between the trees on the sides of the road.

The Capital view

Capital View Cafe is larger than I would have guessed and it looks like they may have expanded by purchasing their neighbors location and tearing down some walls. (Something that I hope Blue Door Pub will do soon!) You seat yourself and I chose a table by the window which lasted for about five minutes after Erin decided that the sun in her eyes wasn't going to work. Fine. So we moved to the booth she wanted in the first place :)

Inside Capital View cafe

Erik had raved about the Cajun eggs Benedict so I knew what I wanted and Erin always gets regular eggs Benedict anyways, so ordering didn't take long this morning. The food also came out very quickly, which surprised me since they had a decent number of people in the place. The Cajun Benedict didn't disappoint. It's like regular eggs Benedict with Andouille sausage instead of ham and the hollandaise sauce is spiced up a bit. I'm not a huge breakfast fan, but this was damn good. The spicy sausage was a great substitute for the ham, I think I might work this into my breakfasts at home in the future.

Cajun Benedict

Another thing that I liked was that I had a choice of potato. I don't care for hash browns, so I always feel like it's a waste when I have to get them. I substituted American fries instead and they were pretty good, but I didn't come close to finished them anyways after the eggs.

The service was very good as well, they were cool with us switching tables after getting our coffee and making them clean off the table we had used for only five minutes. One oddity is that you can't pay with a credit card unless the check is over $50. I've seen that restriction elsewhere, but I feel like the limit is usually $5 at convenience stores. At the very least they have an ATM inside so it's not a huge deal (although the ATM isn't from any MN bank, so no matter who you are you're going to get dinged with a charge to get your money).

All in all it was a great way to start our gorgeous Saturday morning.
  • Service: Good, prompt service and they filled up the coffee quickly.
  • Food: Great Cajun Benedict and good choices for sides.
  • Drinks: Not for breakfast, we aren't savages.
  • Ambiance: The restaurant is very well lit which is great on sunny mornings.
  • Price: Prices were on par for a breakfast place, $9 for the Cajun Benedict and $8 for the regular Benedict.
  • Convenience: Plenty of on-street parking, they are located in a neighborhood area. Great view of the capitol.
Erin's Review
It's been almost a month since we last went out for the blog, largely due to our 2 week trip to Europe in the middle of this month! After eating out for 10 days straight, we weren't really in the mood to jump right back in. Since we had already decided to go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, we decided to find a breakfast place in St. Paul to hit up after we got our veggies. Ben suggested Capital View, which sounded just fine by me.

When we got there, the place wasn't very full at all - it is actually pretty large as Ben mentions above. I don't think the reason it wasn't full is their fault at all - it was just a beautiful holiday weekend and most people were probably out of town!

Inside Capital View cafe

We both got coffee - Capital View has HUGE mugs which is very nice. They don't have jars of cream and sugar though, which always kind of annoys me because then you have a little pile of trash at the table constantly with the individual creamers and sugar packets, especially with the amount I put in :)

huge coffee cups

As usual, I ordered the eggs benedict. Our meals came out fairly quickly and looked delicious. The eggs benedict were pretty good, the one weird thing was that the english muffins had a very strong cinnamon taste to them, to the point that after a bit, I just stopped eating the muffins and had the eggs and ham with my hash browns instead. It was still good, but I'm not sure who thought cinnamon was a good idea. It's not.

Eggs Benedict

I really enjoyed Capital View Cafe - the service was great and it was a cute place in a neighborhood I don't often get to. I'm not sure I'd go back because it isn't exactly close to our house, but I'd certainly recommend it - just make sure to ask for your eggs benedict without the cinnamon, unless you're into that kind of thing :)

Capital View Cafe
637 Smith Ave.
St. Paul

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cafe Bonxai

Update on 12/13/10 - Cafe Bonxai is now closed

Visited on Wednesday, April 29th with Scott and Christie

Outside Cafe BonXai

Erin's Review
It was Scott's birthday last Wednesday, and he was paralyzed with the choice of restaurants. Somehow he and Ben came to the decision of Cafe Bonxai, which is just about a mile from our house. For some reason, despite being told by Becky and Rett at least a year ago that they liked it, I was never very excited about trying it out. Probably because that stretch of University isn't exactly beautiful, and I've never really seen anyone going into the place.

Well, the day finally arrived for me to give Cafe Bonxai a chance, and I'm glad I did. As I expected, the ambiance left much to be desired, but we were there pretty late for Minnesota weekday standards - probably about 8pm or so. It was empty, and the music was so low that you could barely make it out at all, so it just seemed silent. Good thing this wasn't a first date, or it would have gotten REAL awkward!

Inside Cafe BonXai

The menu told me that their Coconut Basil soup was voted best soup a few years ago by someone, so I wanted to try that. Plus I was feeling a bit under the weather so soup sounded perfect. I also went with the Mango Chicken for my main course.

Coconut Basil Soup

Both the soup and chicken were fantastic. The soup could have been a little hotter, but it was so flavorful and I ate it so quicky that it didn't matter. As expected, it was very sweet, but not overpoweringly so. The chicken was basically sweet and sour chicken with a few slices of mango on top :) But it was GOOD sweet and sour chicken - crispy and tender. I tried everyone else's meals and all of those were great too - especially Christie's green tofu curry.

Mango Chicken

I really enjoyed the food at Cafe Bonxai and would be interested in returning on a weekend night to see if it's more hopping than it was the night we were there. Definitely check it out if you are in the area!

Ben's Review
I had suggested Cafe Bonxai to Erin several times in the past, being that it's so close to home and had good reviews. I finally convinced Scott to go there, so Erin had no choice in the matter. We went last Wednesday night with Scott and Christie after a martini at Axel's on Grand Ave.

Pre-dinner martini at Axel's
(Scott's birthday martini)

Cafe Bonxai has been open for over two years so at this point I am not concerned with its livelihood, but on this night the place was dead. I think there were two other tables of people, besides the four of us. Granted it was a rainy Wednesday night, but it felt very stark that night, especially because there was no music playing.

Cafe Bonxai's web site also leaves much to be desired. The menu section has no pictures or even descriptions of the dishes, and it's out of date as the meal I ordered is not on the web site. The blog has no entries and you have no idea if they serve alcohol at all (I had to call to check). However, don't let the lackluster web site fool you, the food here is AMAZING. :)


I ordered the Hmong sausage pasta after deliberating between the pasta, a mahi mahi dish, and the General Tang's chicken which Scott ordered. This pasta dish was fantastic, the sauce was a rich, cheesy red sauce with penne and tons of sliced sausage. I could barely finish all the food but it just tasted SO DAMN GOOD that I couldn't help myself. Seriously, this was probably the best pasta I've ever had.

Hmong Sausage Pasta

Every dish we had was really good. I tried some of Erin's coconut soup, Christie's green curry, and Scott's General Tang's chicken and they were all delicious. Scott even had enough to bring home, and he's not the type to leave food on plate.

General Tang's Chicken Tofu Green Curry

The only downside to the whole occasion was that they had run out of Summit. I nearly offered to go down the street to refill their stock for them, but I settled for having a Bass Ale instead. There ought to be a law about running out of Summit for a St. Paul restaurant.

Here are my ratings:
  • Service: The server was a nice guy, no problems.
  • Food: Awesome food, just awesome.
  • Drinks: Beer and wine only, I wonder if they are trying to get a liquor license?.
  • Ambiance: Not much ambiance on the Wednesday that we were there. Hardly any customers and no music.
  • Price: The prices were reasonable, but it seemed like you had to spend either $9-$10 or $15-$17, there was no middle ground.
  • Convenience: They are located just west of Snelling on University Ave. and they have their own parking lot out back with meters on the street.
Cafe Bonxai
1613 University Ave
St. Paul