Saturday, October 23, 2010

Swede Hollow Cafe

Visited on Saturday, October 9 with Kate (no Ben)

Outside Swede Hollow Cafe

I realized it had been awhile since I saw Kate, and especially since she had gotten to see Annie, so we set up brunch on a beautiful Saturday a few weeks ago. Because Kate is very busy and important, I was glad she was able to pencil us in ;) I realized we really don't have too many brunchy type places left to visit on the list, but Swede Hollow Cafe was a place that had been sitting there unvisited since the very beginning of the blog - I put it on the list because of them winning Best Restaurant for Outdoor Dining from City Pages way back in 2007. Because it was a balmy 80 degrees on this fine "fall" day, it seemed like it would be the perfect spot!

Inside Swede Hollow Cafe

When I got there, I found Kate out on the patio, which is really large. There are two "levels", a few tables surround a fountain, and then down a slight hill there are a few more tables. Obviously I'm writing this a bit late in the season, but definitely put this on your list of patios to try next spring- it was one of the best I've been to! I liked that it was sheltered too - I really hate patios that are on a very busy street, or overlook a beautiful parking lot. This was perfect.

Patio at Swede Hollow

Swede Hollow had a much bigger menu than I was expecting - I knew it was a deli type of place, but they have a ton of great hot breakfast options on weekends. I went with the hash brown bake with bacon. All of the quiches and bakes came with a large fruit side and a corn muffin. I chose the mango, strawberry and peach cobbler. I also got an iced vanilla latte.

One of the staff members was having a grand time chatting with Kate and Annie while I was inside ordering - the staff all seemed very friendly! Our food came out really quickly - this is the type of place that you order at the counter, and then they bring it out to your table when it's ready. The amount of food was HUGE - honestly either the bake or the cobbler would have been plenty, but I was glad to eat both :) Annie got to try some bits and she also was a huge fan!

Hash Brown bake, mango/peach/strawberry cobbler

Eating some of my hash brown bake

Swede Hollow was one of the best new (to me) restaurants I've been to in awhile. It is on the outskirts of downtown St. Paul, so not too centrally located, but I think it's worth the drive! They do have ample seating indoors as well, and the food is good enough that it's worth going in the winter too. We will definitely be back!

725 East 7th Street
St. Paul

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Scenic Cafe - Duluth

Visited on Friday, October 1st

scenic drive

Ben's Review
For our anniversary this year we went to Duluth and had several people recommend New Scenic Cafe on the north shore as a wonderful spot for dinner. When we arrived in Duluth, the owner of our b&b also recommended it, so we went ahead and made late reservations for a Friday night.

We had a late lunch so we didn't make it out to New Scenic Cafe until 7:45, but the place was still packed. I overheard someone inquire about how long of a wait it would be (without a reservation) and he was told an hour! That seems incredible to me at that late in the evening, but apparently it's well known. We got there a little early so I had a beer while we waited around. I was surprised to see that they had Hopslam on their beer list, but alas, the list was outdated. I settled for a Bell's Oktoberfest as I hadn't tried that one yet. The beer was good, but I think Summit has my favorite oktoberfest this year.


I recall the lighting being odd, it was dim without being dark, and I don't recall any candles. The interior is all natural wood so that must help the little light make it seem brighter. Anyways, I liked the ambiance there, it was quiet but not so quiet that you felt awkward having a conversation. The older gentlemen next to us didn't feel awkward at all discussing his various stocks and bonds. Very interesting stuff.

I ordered a curry spinach soup to start off with and it was delicious and huge. I will admit that while the soup was excellent, I was skeptical that it was made in-house after seeing a picture of a Sysco truck on Google street view earlier in the day, that was unfortunate timing on their part. Nevertheless the soup had great flavor and a little spice to go along with it.

curry spinach soup

I've been enjoying pork more than steak lately and so I went with the pork tenderloin with squash, cilantro, and corn for my entree. Like the soup, this was fantastic. The pork was moist and done to perfection and the squash and corn tasted great with the cilantro; there was even enough for Erin to try a few bites to make up for her steak. Unlike the soup, I feel confident that this was made fresh to order, based on the time it took to arrive and just the sheer quality of the pork itself.

Pork with squash, cilantro, corn

As usual I had no interest in dessert but Erin certainly did so she had some apple pie while I sat there uncomfortably full. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal here and would go back again next time I am in the area. We even remembered to bring back the last third of our bottle of wine, rather than forget it at the table!
  • Service: The service was fine, our server seemed a little strange, but nothing too weird.
  • Food: My soup and pork were great, Erin's steak was not.
  • Drinks: Good beer and wine list, no booze.
  • Ambiance: We were there after sunset but if you go earlier you can get a great view of the lake. This is a quiet place to go and relax.
  • Convenience: Not much for public transit, but an easy drive up 61 from Duluth, before you get to Two Harbors.
Erin's Review
After my coworkers Amy and Sharon both independently recommended New Scenic Cafe, I was very excited to try it! I kind of wish we had gone there earlier in the evening so we could have actually enjoyed some of the scenery, but I guess we saw enough of the lake during the day anyway.

Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of the exterior or interior since I wasn't planning on writing a review, but if you clicked on the google street view link above, you get the picture. It really isn't anything to write home about in terms of decor, that's for sure! I was expecting something a little nicer, but like everything up there, it was pretty much northwoods themed, which is pretty tired if you ask me.

They were pretty tight with the reservations - we got there at 7:30 and our table for our 7:45 reservation wasn't ready until closer to 7:50. They had some tables set up in the entryway to wait, which was a nice touch. I enjoyed a refreshing lemonade while we waited.


I asked the server for recommendations for a red wine, and was pleased when she actually stayed at or under my requested price range - all too often servers will recommend something that is just a few more dollars than you ask which I hate. The wine was a little dry for my taste, but I guess I never know how to request what I actually like so that's my own issue :)


There were a number of interesting dishes, but for some reason I decided to go with the filet mignon, which was ultimately a bad choice. I love a good filet and hadn't had one in awhile so I figured it would be good.... but alas, no. I also chose the house salad as it seemed to "go" with the filet best but that was kind of mediocre as well. It was FINE, just nothing great. Ben's soup was MUCH better.

house salad

The filet came with a side of baked potato. The whole thing was just not great. The filet was pretty tough, which really should never happen with that cut of meat. It reminded me of why I typically hate steak - I had to chew each bite like 30 times to get it to the point of swallowing. I ordered it cooked medium, and it was plenty pink in the middle, so I don't think it was overcooked either. All in all, pretty disappointing! The potato was fine.

Filet Mignon

To try to make up for my disappointing entree, I ordered the cranberry apple pie for dessert, which was quite good - I especially liked the ultra custardy ice cream that it was served with. I did LOVE Ben's entree - so I wouldn't be opposed to going back if I was in the area, but it wouldn't be my top pick either.

Cranberry Apple Pie

5461 North Shore Scenic Drive
Duluth, MN