Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Midtown Mission Week 3: Holy Land

Well, this was my first real disappointment at the Midtown Market.

My friend Shannon and I wanted gyros, so we went to Holy Land. They had gyros, and about ten thousand other things, which is cool, but sometimes a menu can get so extensive it just gets ridiculous. They literally had so many options and selections, they had multiple menues all around the place. There was a big menu above the counter, menues to the right of the counter, menues behind you, then other menues if you walk around the corner past the register. Maybe it was all of the menues, but it also took us a few minutes to figure out where to order. The whole place was just overwhelming.

I ordered the Philly Style Gyro sandwich, and I know what you're thinking... that's your fault, and you're right. But the picture looked great, and since I love gyros and phillies, I thought it would be the perfect combo. It was not. Imagine a gyro on a bun instead of a pita, and smothered with cheeze wiz instead of tsatsiki sauce. Ugh. I don't think it was actually cheeze wiz, but it was some kind of weird, unappealing cheese type sauce, which covered the gyro meat, onions, and peppers. Anyway, I didn't care for it.

I also ordered a side of fries, which weren't very good either. They were clearly frozen fries, which is fine, but they were bad frozen fries, that were mostly coating with very little potato.

Shannon got some kind of gyro lunch box, that came with pitas, meat, veggies, and tahini sauce, much to her dismay. Who puts tahini sauce on a gyro? Give tsatsiki! Even worse, it was bad tahini sauce, that was dark brown and incredibly thick. It looked and tasted like mud. She also got fries, but hers were noticeably browner and crustier than mine.

Anyway... that was Holy Land. I realize I should have probably got something more authentic than a philly gyro, but I can't imagine I'll go back any time soon, if ever again.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Midtown Mission Week 2: Sonora Grill

I'm not sure how to describe Sonora Grill, other than to just say that it was delicious.

Hold on... I just looked up the word "Sonora" and learned that it is a state in Mexico, so I guess this is a Mexican restaurant, but you wouldn't know that from the menu that is shockingly devoid of burritos and tacos. In fact, I didn't know what anything on the menu was, but luckily there is a big board on the wall that has pictures of just about everything, so I was able to figure out what looked good. I ended up getting the Pork Guajillo bocadillo, which is a "Spanish South American style sandwich, served with fries."

Anyway, it looked good in the picture, and as you can tell from the picture I took, it wasn't just good, it was amazing.

It was pulled pork of some sort topped with greens and some kind of creamy cilantro sauce. It came with french fries and one little container of pickles and another little container of the same sauce. The sandwich was already drenched with sauce, so I just used that to dip my fries in, but I did put the pickles on the sandwich. Long story short, it was awesome. The pork was perfectly cooked, flavorful, and incredibly juicy, and while the sauce was very mild in flavor, it perfectly complimented the meat.

The fries were fine. They did their job, but they didn't taste as though they were necessarily freshly cut.

And, frankly, that's all I have to say about Sonora Grill. Just go there. It was great. The only really complaint I have is that it was so good, I may have to abandon my mission to try every restaurant in the Midtown Market and just eat there every time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Benihana at the Mall of America

The Benihana at the Mall of America is finally open. Donald has not eaten there yet, but he will as soon as possible. It looks nice. I mean... for a Benihana.

Midtown Mission Part 1: Andy's Garage

Here is the mission I have set for myself: To eat at every restaurant in the Midtown Global Market by the end of Summer/start of fall, or at least until it becomes too cold to bike there from my apartment.

Why? Because I love the Market, but I always tend to visit the same one or two places over and over again, so I wanted to force myself to branch out and try more things, at least for the sake of this blog. It's also the perfect distance for a nice bike ride, and I'd like to force myself to do more of that as well. So... I have begun the Midtown Mission.

Andy's Garage was my first choice to begin my mission, not only because I've heard so many raves about their food, but because I always overlook them when I visit. I always figure I can get a burger and fries anywhere, so why not get something more exotic? Anyway, yesterday I finally gave Andy's a try, and it was pretty good, but not exceptional.

Their menu is quite extensive, with a variety of different burgers and sandwiches, but I just got a cheeseburger and fries, because I don't care what you put on a burger, just cheese and pickles is going to be better. The service was great and very fast, although the wait for the food to come was about ten or fifteen minutes, but that's ok because everything was clearly made to order, and unlike many places in the Market, their seating area doesn't feel overcrowded or right in the middle of a busy hallway. And the space is fun to just look at, since it is a pretty nice facsimile of some greasy spoon diner from the fifties, and somehow manages to be cool without being overly obnoxious, if that makes any sense.

The best part of the burger was the bun, which tasted fresh and had that perfect tenderness that made it soft to the bite, but firm enough to not get soggy when wrapped around a juicy cheeseburger. The burger was perfectly cooked (although they didn't ask me how I wanted it done, so be warned that the default is toward well done, or at least mine was) and very juicy and tasted fresh, but I had to admit it was too salty for my tastes. I choose my words their very diplomatically because, as I said, people rave about this place and it's always crowded, so maybe it's just my tastes or maybe it was just an off day. Either way, I found the salt to be overpower and off-putting, which is a shame because everything else seemed so perfect.

The fries were about as fresh as I'll ever get at any restaurant anywhere, since they literally cut up the potato after I ordered, and the difference was amazing. I've never had fries that fresh or that well cooked. However... they were too salty for my tastes. I hate to say it, but there you go. Too salty for my tastes. I'd definitely go back for those fries, and ordering them with no salt shouldn't be a problem considering how they were a whole potato just five minutes before I placed my order.

So that's Andy's Garage, an almost perfect culinary experience, except for the fact that everything was over-salted for my tastes, but I'll definitely give them another try, and I do recommend you try them as well. I did get a pretty good cheeseburger, fries, and a fountain soda for under ten bucks, which is about as cheap a lunch as you'll get at the market. But ask them to go light on the salt.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

World Street Kitchen

It's not the fault of World Street Kitchen that their cuisine didn't live up to my expectations, considering the fact that everybody who talks about it describes it as the most amazing culinary experience in the Twin Cities. When you go in expecting to be amazed, just being mildly impressed is turned into a disappointment. But I liked it ok. I thought it was pretty good. I'll probably even go back again, if only to give them another chance to amaze me. But I didn't love it, and I can't say I really understand the hype.

The place is nice, in that stripped down, retro kind of way where the ceiling's pipes are exposed and everything is unpainted wood. This is what every new restaurant looks like these days, and that's fine because it must be saving the restrauant industry millions of dollars on paint and varnish. Then again, I bet some construction companies charge extra to give restaurants that less is more feel. Anyway, I do like that look and thought that WSK's space was attractive and well designed, but they should get better chairs. Skimp on the paint and the ceiling, but make sure your chairs have cushions.

The service is one of those order at the counter, get a number, then wait for your food to come kind of deals. That's fine with me, although when they are busy I get stressed out because I hate having to order food before I am guaranteed I'll have a table, doubly so at a place that has a big sign that says to order before claiming a table. But feel free to disregard that sign because, frankly, that's unenforceable and too much to ask of soon to be paying customers. But when my sister Tanya and I went on a Thursday evening, the place had a nice crowd, but plenty of tables and booths to go around. The server behind the counter looked like every other hipster in every other Uptown Eatery, but she had a lovely smile and she was very friendly and helpful.

For my meal I got the guacamole appetizer and a Yum Yum Rice bowl with chicken, broccoli, and shiitake mushrooms. Tanya got a Yum Yum rice bowl with Korean BBQ short ribs and kimchi. Mine was ok, hers was better. A friend of hers recommended the yum yums, but with the caveat that we asked for the sauce on the side. Tanya did just that, but I did not. Perhaps this is why hers was better, but perhaps it's just that beef always trumps chicken. Anyway, mine had too much sauce, which was way too rich and way too salty. Even with the sauce on the side, Tanya's was also too salty. The flavors were good and the ingredients went well together, but yeah... too salty. And order the sauce on the side.

The guacamole was good, if bland, but it came topped with edamame and pickled onions, which I found off-putting. I don't like edamame, and they certainly have no place with guacamole, and since they are identical in color they were hard to avoid. The chips were homemade and fantastic, however, and probably the best part of the meal. That's not a knock at the other selections, that's just how good these chips were. I dunno if they have salsa, but if so, I'd try that next time.

They also have a decent tap selection, but I'm off drinking so I didn't peruse it. I got a can of soda, which was fine, but at a place like this, they really should have fountain drinks available. I finished my can before the food came, and I wasn't about to buy another one. Have a fountain so I can get refills.

Anyway, that's World Street Kitchen, a very nice little restaurant with an interesting menu and great service, but not one that I'm going to rush back to anytime soon... but I will probably amble back there eventually.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The New Walker Library

When I first visited the newly renovated Walker Library in Uptown, Minneapolis, I'll admit I was underwhelmed. Perfectly decent library in an attractive, spacious building, but for some reason I was expecting something... monumental. Maybe because they completely gutted the old building, maybe because the renovation took so long, or maybe just because the Downtown library is such a brilliant architectural achievement. I walked in and it just seemed like a library.

But then I came back a week or so later to hang out, and I realized it didn't smell, the carpet wasn't stained, the walls weren't pealing, there were no homeless people sleeping on the couches, and I didn't feel like I was in somebody's dank basement. A perfectly fine library in Uptown might be something monumental after all.

The old Walker library was literally in a basement. You walked into the main entrance, which was just a stairwell that went underground to a subterranean dungeon. The best thing I could say for it -- other than that it's a two minute walk from my apartment -- is that it was always cool, at least temperature-wise. Remember the slot on the front door where you could return books either after hours or just without having to go inside? It just dropped the books onto a slide that spiraled around and around until it reached the basement. Ridiculous.

Anyway, this isn't in a basement, which means it actually has windows. In fact, it's all windows, at least on its front three sides. The back leads to a parking garage, but in the front its bright and offers a great view of all the condos being constructed through-out Uptown. They've also replaced all of the future with a variety of tables and chairs that are pastel colored, which looks jarring at first, but it's pretty cool and fun. The only problem with the variety of chairs is that some are less comfortable than others, and like most from this style of retro chairs, the ones that look the most enticing are usually the worst. But none are terrible.

There is no roof-top patio, which maybe isn't worth mentioning. Why did I think this would have a roof-top patio? I dunno. I just did. The previous library may have been in a basement, but above ground it did have a cute little park area. Of course, I never sat there because I didn't want to sit on one of the benches and prick myself on some used syringe. That park was gross and nobody's going to miss it. The Library letters sculpture is preserved and placed around back, near the entrance to the parking area, in case you were curious. I was happy to see them again.

You can rent an iPad, which is pretty neat. It's free with a library card, but it asked for a pin number, which if I have, I don't know what is is. I'm sure one of the librarians could help me out, but I don't care enough. Why would I do with an iPad for two hours that I can't take out of the library? Also, if it's damaged or lost while in your possession, there's a $500 replacement fee. Fair enough.

So how are the books? I dunno. I have a Nook. There are a lot of books on my Nook, and this library is a comfortable, lovely place to read them. Check it out.