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.