Thursday, December 22, 2011

Caribe Caribbean Bistro

Update on May 16th - Caribe closed due to Light Rail construction and is trying to re-open in Northeast Minneapolis - you can learn more and donate to help them rebuild here!

Visited on Tuesday, December 20th with Erin's family

Outside Caribe

Erin's Review
It felt like an ordeal to pick a restaurant for my family birthday dinner this year. Since we were going on a weeknight, it needed to be somewhere relatively close to our house to avoid traffic because we'd be going at the height of rush hour. I really wanted to go somewhere new, but felt we'd exhausted the family friendly options in St. Paul and eastern Minneapolis on our list. Thankfully, after close examination of our list (which caused me to finally update it to delete all the places that closed and add a bunch of new places - it had been awhile for sure!) I remembered Caribe, one of those places that is so close to our house that I just apparently forget about it completely.

After conversing on twitter with one of Caribe's biggest fans (@AlecGraham), I decided to risk it with Annie even though it seemed not the most kid friendly place (small menu with no real kid options, small space, dark, etc) and figured she could eat off our plates and that if I brought enough entertainment she'd be okay. It turned out to be mildly stressful, but when is eating out with a toddler ever not?

We got there right at 5:30 and my parents were already seated at our table that we'd reserved a few days prior (they ask for reservations for parties over 6) - we did specify that we were a party of 6 plus a toddler, but were seated at a normal 6 top - luckily it was easy enough to squeeze in a high chair. We waited about 10 more minutes for my sister and brother-in-law to get there, after hearing the specials.

I'd already pretty much decided on the lobster mofongo if they had that, and was DYING to have some of the mango and cheese empanadillas. Perhaps it's pregnancy hormones, but when the server told us they were out of those after I attempted to order them, I was near tears. Yes, irrational. But I REALLY WANTED THEM. Plus I'd had about 10 minutes to get extra sold on the idea since we'd gotten there too. They were also out of 2 of the entrees as well (or just not serving them, not sure which) - note to servers and restaurant owners everywhere - if you KNOW you're out of something, tell the tables immediately so they don't get their heart set on something. It seems like an obvious thing to do when listing the specials. Anyway, through my sorrow, I managed to squeak out an order for the conch fritters instead.

Conch Fritters

The fritters came out fairly quickly, along with our beverages (I just had water and did try a sip of my sister's sangria - I liked it but she thought it tasted too much like black licorice, which I think was really the black cherries - whatever). I did really enjoy these, they weren't overly fried and the dipping sauces were very tasty. Annie also loved them, especially dipping. We probably could have eaten another order of them even, but wanted to save room for our main dishes.

We had eaten the fritters in record time, so the wait for our main dishes seemed pretty long. I'm not sure if it REALLY was, but I was getting mighty impatient by the time they finally came out, mostly because Annie had decided she'd had enough of sitting in her high chair (no food = no thanks for her) - she was fine one I got out the secret weapon - grapes - but that basically meant she wasn't going to eat anything substantial that evening. It did give me confidence that the food was prepared to order (mostly at least), which is a BIG deal to my Dad - I always like to try to find a place that he will enjoy for our family dinners and he did seem happy with his meal - success! Everyone seemed very happy with their choices.

 Brother-in-law's Piñon

Pork and Yucca
My dad's pork tenderloin special

As soon as I got my lobster mofongo, I dug in, and gave Annie a few beans and pieces of it - she ate it up until getting a huge piece of lobster that apparently frightened her and she decided she was done with eating for the night (except for a mountain of grapes). The mofongo was excellent - it is described as a classic Puerto Rican dish made with plantains that are first fried,then mashed with garlic, salt pork, olive oil, salt, and pepper,using a mortar and pestle; then stuffed. It reminded me of a cornmeal type casserole dish in texture. It was stuffed with the lobster meat, and as pictured was on a bed of black beans with other veggies. I ate way more than I should have and felt seriously uncomfortable the rest of the night, but it was worth it! I need to remember that no matter how good something tastes, I AM 7 months pregnant and my stomach space is limited.

Lobster Mofongo

After we finished our meals, I was waiting and waiting to hear what the dessert special was... finally, my mom and sister finished and our server told us it was coconut tres leches cake, which excited me greatly. Since going to 112 Eatery, I love tres leches cake - and it's one of Ben's favorite desserts (I even made it for his last birthday). We originally were going to get 2 for the table, but decided on 3 and that was definitely a good choice as we devoured all 3 pieces extremely quickly - Annie would have for sure eaten all 3 pieces herself if we let her. This was delicious - almost like pudding and perfectly coconut flavored. A great way to end the meal! They usually have just one dessert option so it's luck of the draw - most that I heard of sounded great to me though.

Coconut Tres Leches cake


I'm so glad we finally went to Caribe - we can get there without taking any major roads at all (aka University) but thankfully, light rail construction in our area is done so traffic isn't even a major issue like it was all spring/summer. I have heard awesome things about the brunch - they have several delicious sounding benedict options, so it'll probably be another one we hit up after I have this child - although Ben is already planning a return visit for lunch just to have the Cuban sandwich. It's debatable how kid friendly it is during dinner, but it would be fine during the day. It is a really cute place that's different from the usual spots - I highly recommend giving it a try!

Inside Caribe

Ben's Review
Erin struggled to find a place to go out to eat for her birthday this year, as we find ourselves going to the same places over and over again when we go with Annie. It’s just easier to go someplace that we know is kid friendly, rather than tempting fate with an unknown location.

She got several good recommendations about Caribe on Raymond Ave. in Saint Paul, in the old Jay’s Cafe location. (We never made it to Jay’s before it closed, though we live about a mile away). We got reservations for six adults and a toddler and headed over on Tuesday night.

To say that Caribe is small is an understatement. I think there’s room for about twenty people total to eat at once. In spite of the small size it didn’t feel cramped, nor did I feel like I was intruding on the other tables’ conversations. The lighting was dim but, again, not in an annoying way.

Inside Caribe

The dinner menu is small and fit on one page and while I was salivating the prospect of their Cuban sandwich, that was only on their lunch menu :( That just ensures that we’ll be going back at least one more time. Erin had been eagerly anticipating the mango and cheese empanadillas and was devastated when he told us they were actually out of them. He also mentioned that they were out of two of their entrees as well, the mahi mahi (which I was considering ordering) and the shrimp (which Erin’s mom was considering ordering). It’s a little frustrating when they have a small menu to begin with and then they have several items that are unavailable.

Luckily there were still plenty of items to choose from, so we made it through unscathed. I was tempted to get one of the specials, but Erin was already going to order it, so she convinced me to get the Jamaican Rundown, a coconut stew with some vegetables and crab served over rice. We all ordered and then played the game of trying to keep Annie entertained until our food arrived. Erin had some gifts to open and with six adults it’s a little easier keep her occupied than when it’s just Erin and me.

Jamaican Rundown

Our food came out two people at a time, with a few minutes in between each serving. This was good and bad, because it gave a little confidence that the food was prepared fresh, but it also meant that the first people to get served were over half done with their dish by the time the last people got served, oh well. My stew was a good, hearty winter dish. It actually reminded me of a non-spicy Thai curry, but with crab meat. The serving size was not huge, but certainly enough to fill you up. I thought Erin’s dish was better than mine and since she couldn’t finish hers I had ample opportunity to compare the two. In addition to hers tasting better, it was also the more interesting dish of the two, as mine was soup, more or less :)

I enjoyed our dinner at Caribe and will be going back for sure to try their Cuban sandwich. I would also be tempted to go back on a Wednesday night as it’s half price bottles of wine. I think this would definitely be a fun place to go without a kid next time.

Dad and Annie

Service: Our server was friendly and knowledgeable, just wish he would have told us what wasn’t available right away.
Food: Delicious food that is freshly prepared.
Drinks: Decent beer and wine list and half price bottles on Wednesday.
Ambiance: Despite the small size that I normally don’t care for, I really liked the ambiance, it was nice.
Convenience: Just north of University on Raymond, it’s probably much better now that the light rail construction has subsided.

Caribe Caribbean Bistro
791 Raymond Ave.
St. Paul

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Victory 44

Visited on Sunday, December 11th with Kate & Kyle

Outside Victory 44

Ben's Review
Erin made plans with Kate to meet for brunch this past Sunday so we headed over to north Minneapolis to try out Victory 44 at Kate’s suggestion.

I had heard of Victory 44 but didn’t know much about it. Erin described it as having two rooms, one a coffee shop and the other side more of a dining room. We arrived and found Kate and Kyle already seated on the empty dining room side as the tables there were better suited for four adults and a toddler. Oddly, at 10 am on a Sunday they had the Black Keys CRANKED up in the dining room, but they thankfully lowered the volume at our request.

Inside Victory 44

Having not had coffee yet we quickly ordered some while we checked out the menu. The prices at Victory 44 are surprisingly reasonable. Eggs Benedict, which I have a hard time finding under $10 elsewhere, was $8.95 and after confirming that it was indeed two eggs and on Kyle’s recommendation I ordered it. Our server came out a little later and apologetically let us know that since they were out of ham, we’d have to have real bacon on ours instead. This marks the first time I’ve ever heard anyone apologize for having to serve bacon.

Checking the place out while we waited for our food, they seem to have a nice selection of beer and wine on hand and a good looking dinner menu. The dining room started to fill up while we were there and there was a healthy din to the place.


Our food came out and the first thing I noticed was that the portions were not the typical restaurant size, they were actually the size that human being SHOULD eat. Two smallish pieces of crusty bread were used for the eggs Benedict, with a poached egg and bacon. Rather than hash browns it came with a side of cheddar tots, which were hot and delicious. The hollandaise sauce was awesome, with a hint of mustard flavor that was perfect with the runny eggs.


I enjoyed Victory 44 and would love to try it for dinner sometime. If the quality of food matches what we had for brunch I won’t be disappointed.

Service: Service was good, I had a weird vibe at first, but our server was friendly.
Food: Excellent food and normal sized portions.
Drinks: Good looking beer list and good coffee.
Ambiance: Loud music at first, but they turned it down for us. Seemed friendly enough while we were there.
Convenience: For us, not very. It was a 20 minute drive from Saint Paul, but well worth it.

Erin's Review
Kate knows of my intense love for eggs benedict, and being also pregnant, knows that it's one of the saddest things to abstain from (for me at least) - she had been to Victory 44 several times, and thought the brunch was delicious, and had several amazing non-benedict options so invited us to join her there. I was very annoyed to find that my camera battery was just about dead when we got there, but I squeezed out enough photos and supplemented with iPhone pics for this review.

Biscuits & Gravy
Kate's biscuits & gravy - the dish that caused her to recommend the place to me.

I was a bit confused about where the brunch was - if it was in the main dining room that opens at 11am (which seemed much fancier on the website than it was in reality) or in the cafe - it turned out it was served from the cafe, but since that area was full when we went, they seated us in the dining room, where Black Keys was blasting. Kate said they had just turned it up, and sadly for them, we asked them to turn it down. We're turning into "those people" (who am I kidding, we've always been "those people").

When perusing the menu for that day, I got a bit flustered dealing with Annie and just quickly chose the "malted waffle" - when I asked, she said it was a sweet waffle with a bit of malt powder in the batter, basically just a regular waffle - good to know :) I ordered Annie the yogurt parfait as there weren't any sort of muffins or anything available, which would have been a bit cheaper of an option for her since there was no sort of kids menu or pricing. I also ordered a vanilla latte, after seeing Kate's twit a few weeks prior that showed the beautiful design on the top of hers.

Regular coffee came out really quickly, but Kate and I had ordered lattes which were taking a lot longer. It was after 10am and I hadn't had any caffeine yet so I was pretty close to tweaking out about that. Luckily, it was worth the wait - they pour the milk tableside and somehow create the design on the top. Probably because of this, the lattes weren't super hot, but I think I've been a bit spoiled by ordering them "extra hot" everywhere else I go.

Vanilla Latte

iPhone Latte
You can see the design even better in my iPhone pic

Our food came out pretty quickly - Kyle and Ben had both ordered the benedict, as if to taunt Kate and I - and it looked amazing. DEFINITELY a spot I'll be returning to when I am not with child just to have that. My waffle was very pretty as well - you can tell presentation is important to them, even for what felt like a casual weekend brunch. The server did comment that they made the parfait "child friendly" for Annie by putting it in a plastic cup instead of a wine glass - definitely a good choice :)

Malted Waffle

Annie eating a yogurt parfait

I was starving, so basically inhaled my waffle but from what I can remember it was light, crispy and fluffy - perfect. I was still hungry after eating that, so also had some of Annie's parfait, since there was no way she'd finish that. The side of cheesy tot things from the benedicts were enticing, so Kate and I ordered another side of those to split. They came out quickly as well and were piping hot. Definitely a good choice - after those I was pleasantly full. Annie really enjoyed them as well, as she does with most things involving cheese.

Side of cheesy tots

If I lived closer, Victory 44 would be an excellent option for a fairly affordable brunch (unless you order a bunch of extras like I did - like a more expensive drink, a side order, etc). I've also heard excellent things about their dinner as well. As mentioned, I'll be making the trek at least once more to try the benedicts!

Victory 44
2203 44th Avenue North

To learn a lot more about this neighborhood, check out the post on Minneapolis 81.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wilde Roast Cafe - New Location

Erin visited on Tuesday, December 6th with Rebekah

Outside Wilde Roast

Outside Wilde Roast

Our original review of Wilde Roast Cafe was written over 3 years ago now, and since that time I have been there quite a few times - for breakfast, just for coffee, and for dinner. It is one of my favorite spots in northeast for sure.

Wilde Roast Christmas decor

This past summer, Wilde Roast announced that they were moving to Main Street, along the river. This certainly appears to be a good move for them - lots of foot traffic in the summer, larger space and along with that a larger kitchen. However, convenience for many was definitely sacrificed. Parking is now a complete pain in the butt - unless you are lucky enough to get one of the metered spots out front. There are a few nearby ramps, but it does seem like this move will put an end to people doing several hours of work there while sipping coffee for the most part.

Vanilla Latte and a muffin


On Tuesday, Rebekah and I did make the trek over to Wilde Roast to check it out, do some work, and also grab lunch. We parked in a ramp a few blocks away that is attached to the Riverplace that is $2.50 during the day on weekdays at least, so not too bad. The space is much larger, but is a bit awkwardly laid out. There is a lot of dead space in the entryway, and then it seems to be divided into 2 areas - more of a cafe, with smaller tables and the couches and armchairs, and then a few steps up is the dining room. We sampled both areas during our time there. It is a beautiful space, with a lot of brick, dark wood, and tons of Christmas decor right now. It was still pleasantly busy, so the parking situation must really not be a drawback for most.

Inside Wilde Roast

Inside Wilde Roast

Wilde Roast Christmas decor

Despite the more upscale feel, it's still counter service - we ordered our lunches at the counter and moved to the dining area. My Reuben was one of the best I've had, and the fries were amazing. It all came out piping hot. The food at Wilde Roast has always been a hit for me - breakfast, lunch or dinner and this was no exception.

Reuben and Fries

While it is a bit more of a hassle to get to Wilde Roast in their new location, I would definitely suggest making the effort. I'm interested to see how they change in the summer months with their new patio space - to me, this has always felt more like a cozy winter spot, but I'll be sure to come try it out in the summer months as well!

Outside Wilde Roast

65 Main Street East

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Visited on Saturday, November 19th with Lori and Jeff

Outside Republic

Ben's Review
On the same day that we went out for lunch at Cheeky Monkey Deli, we had also made plans to continue our child-free day and have dinner with our friends Jeff and Lori at Republic in the old Sgt. Preston’s location.

The snow had continued all afternoon and made for a gross five mile drive to 7 corners, but it wasn’t as bad as I had feared with the first snowfall of the season and we made it over there in fifteen minutes or so. It was strange to notice how different this area of town was in the years since we went to school here, Grandmas and Sgt. Preston’s are gone, as is................whatever was there before Corner Bar, and we noticed that Bullwinkle’s was now closed too.

Outside Republic

Inside Republic

They had just gone on a wait at Republic when we got in, but the host was just clearing off a table and told us we could have it, so we settled in while waiting for Jeff and Lori to arrive. Erin was starving and so ordered the spinach artichoke dip to nosh on while I pondered what I would have for my three beer flight. The flight is $10 for three eight ounce samples of beer. This can save you a buck or two if you choose the pricier beers on the menu. I went with Surly Wet (my only time this year having it), Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard, and Odell Mercenary Double IPA as my options. The tap beer list is fantastic at Republic and getting to try three beers is awesome. When Jeff and Lori arrived he saw what I had and followed up with the exact same order.

Beer Flight

I made an effort to not look at the food menu before we came so that I wouldn’t have my meal decided before I even stepped in the door. While Republic doesn’t have the largest menu, they do seem to have a reasonably diverse food offering, especially some of the appetizers like Serrano ham and ricotta fritters. Since I had a Cuban sandwich at lunch I wasn’t feeling like having a sandwich or a burger and decided on the beer battered fish and chips.

The spinach artichoke dip had been very good and only served to get me even hungrier. We were eating later than we normally do when Annie is around, and that coupled with my beers was making my stomach growl. Luckily our food came out not too long after we ordered and I was not disappointed.

Fish & Chips

My fish and chips came with homemade ketchup, tartar sauce, and some other white looking sauce that I couldn’t distinguish, but can only assume was mayonnaise. It was only after I was nearly done that I realized I hadn’t even tried the homemade ketchup as I had used the tartar sauce for my fish and fries. The fish was what you’d expect from battered and fried fish, and was very good, no big bites of just breading and no mushy fish anywhere. The fries were also good, hot, and well seasoned.

Predictably, Erin and Lori wanted to order dessert and since the prices were low we ordered three desserts to share between the four of us. We got the Caramel Pot de Creme, the Black & Tan pudding, and the Caramel Apple Cake. The reason for the low-ish prices was apparent when the desserts came out, as they are rather small, but I prefer it that way anyways. We all tried all three desserts and they were delicious and the perfect size to finish off an already large meal.

Caramel Apple Cake

We really enjoyed Republic and the atmosphere there, as it’s a far cry from the drunk frat boy crowd that used to exist on weekends. Between that and the excellent beer list I can see us coming back here in the future.

Inside Republic

Service: Service was good, they took care of us without bothering us.
Food: Good spinach artichoke dip and fish and chips, nothing crazy, just a good, clean fill.
Drinks: Awesome list of beers, the wine list doesn’t look as extensive, but I wouldn’t know.
Ambiance: It was busy at Republic without being so loud that you can’t hear anyone, I also like the remodeling they’ve done inside, much nicer than Sgt. Preston’s.
Convenience: We parked in the Holiday Inn ramp without bothering to look for street parking as it’s a pain in the ass as far as I’m concerned. Certainly buses are available as it’s right near campus.

Beer List

Erin's Review
I'd heard about Republic a lot from my coworker Janelle, who is a big fan of craft brews in addition to dining out. (Definitely check out her website if you are a Minneapolis lover - a great way to find out about hidden gems in a number of the neighborhoods she's toured!). When reviewing our list lately, often Ben and I have a hard time getting really excited about going to a place. There are a few really nice places left on there that I definitely want to try, but for a normal Saturday out, our reasonably priced options are running thin. That makes us even more excited when a place like Republic opens up, because it's so obviously one that we would enjoy AND it's not too expensive at all. It's a good thing I don't really care about beer, so I didn't make Ben wait until March to go so I could drink too.

I was still battling a cold, but managed to spruce myself up that night a bit for our double date. We got there at 6:30, and it was definitely pleasantly full. It's a fairly dark restaurant - made taking photos a bit more difficult, but the ambiance was nice. I was surprised at just how much remodeling had taken place since Sgt. Preston's - the only thing that remained the same was the one stall bathroom, but thankfully it didn't retain the same odor from it's previous owner.

Inside Republic

Inside Republic

As Ben mentioned, I was starving when we got there, so I quickly ordered the first appetizer I saw that looked appealing - spinach and artichoke dip. It's been awhile since I had that at a restaurant, since it's frequently made at gatherings at my own house and others, but this definitely hit the spot. Once Jeff and Lori arrived, we all got to chatting, and waited awhile before ordering.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

While Republic has a pretty good menu, nothing interesting was standing out to me, so I just went with an old standby of a bacon cheeseburger. The burger didn't come with fries, but since Ben had gotten some, I knew I'd be able to at least have a few. Our food seemed to come out relatively quickly, and everyone's dishes were well presented. I enjoyed my burger, but didn't feel it was anything particularly special. However, I could barely taste anything due to my cold anyway, so my judgement is probably off.

Bacon Cheeseburger

I hadn't noticed the dessert menu on our table tent, so when the waitress responded to my inquiry about dessert with a "yes", I was ecstatic. Lori and I couldn't narrow it down, so we got 3 - which turned out to be a great choice because they were quite small. My 2 favorites were the black and tan (chocolate and butterscotch pudding and whipped cream) and the caramel pots de creme. Yum!! They were the perfect size for one person, but since we were sharing, 3 was great.

Caramel Pot de Creme

Black & Tan

Republic is definitely a welcome addition to the 7 corners area. I wonder if it is still a hangout for the traditional age college students anymore, because Town Hall and Republic definitely seem to cater to a slightly older crowd. Perfect for this almost 30 year old! I'm sure we'll be back, especially in summer to try out their excellent patio. If we actually went out more often than once a month, I could see this overtaking Maxwell's as our go-to spot (that we haven't been to for nearly a year)... I'll always have a special place in my heart for The Max, but Republic does have better food and beer and a good vibe.

221 Cedar Ave S