Tooties on Lowry is a bar that if you were to see inside in the dead of night when there is no people, beer or food around, you might go in but not without some serious hesitation. It has the look of a place you would find tucked away in a small town in the boondocks of Wisconsin – wood paneled walls, vinyl stools with rips in them, a gravity furnace hole in the center of the place, a ficus tree in the center of the dining room…

But you do not notice those things when you enter in the height of things. What you do see are families and friends gathering and hugging each other. Old friends bellying up to the bar and shaking hands with the person sitting next to them. Kids running around the game room playing with each other in games of hide-n-seek. Though the physical aspects of the building detract from the appeal, it’s the people and the employees that generate the merriment and jovial nature of the atmosphere.

Credit: foodio54.com

Having eaten there before, my comments on what Tooties is only solidified with this mancuisine visit – It is a community space that locals come to eat food, drink, and be together. Being at Tooties just makes you feel warm inside, before you even have a beer or bite of food.

Their tap selection is notable, at our visit they had just had Insight over for an event and had some of theirs, along with many other local breweries (an a surprisingly absent presence of the big brew dogs, which we enjoy).  We tweeted Tooties in the morning of our visit asking what food we should try and one recommendation was to have the peanut sauce from their wings cover a burger patty and served. It was delicious [thanks twitter Tooties!].

Top commendation goes to their wings. We did Tooties’ “Wing of the month” which has ghost pepper and Surly and they were top notch. Their wings have the right amount of meat, cooked at the right temperature for the right time and covered with deliciousness. Their wing cooking process is refined, and creates delicious and filling wings.

If you are ever in the Robbinsdale area, at North Memorial Hospital (knock on wood – you won’t need to!), or in North Minneapolis and you are looking for a place to settle in, we strongly recommend giving Tooties on Lowry a visit.

Food: 4/5 typical bar food, made in a way that raises them above.
Drink: 3/5 Beer and wine bar, with local selections but not too diverse.
Atmosphere: 5/5 Welcoming, friendly and warming
Overall: 4/5 Good food, great atmosphere, tired building.

Its time again to get the coals burning and the smoke rolling as we prepare for the 7th annual mancuisine.com smökathon. We are having it once again down at our Eagan on Hackmore Drive, inquire with one of our members on specifics. This year we will have a voluntary ticket system to enter for all those hoping to eat so we can properly prepare. Check our eventbrite site for more information.

New rule this year: All those competing can choose any cut, from pork or beef, with any cookktime, as they choose – as long as it is cooked over a natural flame. It is an open invitation to have anyone cook and compete with us! – send any inquiries to compete to isaac@mancuisine.com

The coals will be fired up around 10 AM, judging at 5 PM with beverages and edibles available all day! Join whenever you would like, the team will be around for good company.

Bring a side dish to be shared with all and some beers as well if you so choose!

The idea is novel: pour your own local beer from a tap handle and eat some food from their kitchen that they make. The follow through with that idea in practice lost something in translation to the people who work there…

Credit: craftcouncil.org

Its a beautiful space in Grain Belt’s retired keg house in Northeast Minneapolis. The owners of the building turned the warehouse into smaller office-style spaces and Community Keg House occupies the first door upon entering from the parking lot. Traverse to the counter and you have found the pivotal point: the man with the clean glasses. Order your food their chalkboard menu and a pint with him and he hands the vessel over and directs you to the “taproom”.

Here comes the decision. All the taps are from local breweries and each one has as full description of the beer that would pour when you bring the handle towards you. The “taptender,” as they are called, will offer you a very small pour of the beers to try if you are fickle about the flavors your are looking to have. They will also direct your process on how to pour the correct way and fill the glass without the foam head so many would walk away with, uneducatedly.

The business models looked like there was one person in the tap area and the other was the cashier/food runner. One stays around the taps and makes sure that the lines are running and the people have their glasses filled (only once). The other(s) are to work the register to send the ticket to the kitchen and then bring the food out when its done. Here was our biggest disappointment – Our food sat on the window for as long as it took us to drink a pint, and when we ordered the next one we asked if that was ours and he said “maybe, check the ticket next to the plates.” That type of service has not been beleaguered to us since the bartender at the Cedar Inn was drunk enough to have us pour our pitcher since he was drinking with others. Why give out table numbers if they do not signify where the food goes?

Overall the place was a wonderful space that could have been better utilized and hired/trained more effectively. Sad, since this was a bar that we were pumped to be regulars at and try all the beers!

Food: 1/5 the food was tasty but expensive and it took too long to get out.
Drink: 3/5 selection is limited in variety of styles, but not in companies.
Atmosphere: 4/5 open and warm
Overall: 2.5/5 A bit rocky now, with hopes of their improvement.

Edit: Permanently Closed [we called it!]

Living in North Minneapolis we have welcomed the boom of the North Loop as it continues to bring in new places close to home, while still being far enough away to avoid the traffic that follows as well.

Modist Brewing has recently opened and ventured down there to test it out on a rainy Twins game day. The place is sterile, cement varnished floors cover their space and white subway tiles cover the walls that you look at, namely behind the bar. For as expansive it seems, their ceilings are quite high, but the layout makes it crowded even with a modest *ahem* crowd. Their brewing equipment has a unique layout, we will have to stop in for a tour sometime to see how they utilize it.

There was a lot of hype around Modist before its opening, with explanations of who they are and their ideals behind beer, but the night that we came in I did not see those come into play. We tried the beers that they had that night, pHresh, Toats, and Smoove – all with lackluster reviews from our tasting panel.

Modist – we know you have the ability and know-how to create wonderful brews, when should we stop back in to give them a try again after some “Calibration.”

The Valley Lounge takes mancuisine back to its roots. Its the embodiment of where people go to feel comfortable, and in so doing make any newcomers slightly uncomfortable. Its like growing up as a kid and getting invited over to a new friends house for the first time only to discover that his dad never clothes his grease covered keg-gut and there are cats spraying the small child in the corner and the dog crawls out of some newspapers to wander over to lick it off of him. Then your friend, although anxious for you to come, talks about how it is just that way and asks if you want to play outside. That house leaves you with an impression you remember forever and I feel like the Valley Lounge will give me the same feeling this late in life as well.

Valley Lounge
From their web site. Highly Photoshopped – does not represent actual visuals you will see.

I got there early and followed some regulars through an unmarked door to one of the many dining and bars they have. I sat by some tall bar tables with a window and ordered a beer that was delivered promptly. That night they had a Happy Hour special where the kitchen brought out free mini corn dogs for any patron to scoop up and eat. I was about to give them a go when a highly intoxicated man (3 o’clock in the afternoon) started joking with the cook about his food and bumped the bowl containing the dogs, sending one to land with an oil-filled thump on the ground. The cook then picked up that dog, now with the new hair condiment, and plopped it in the man’s drink and went back to the kitchen. Needless to say, I positioned myself back in my chair and continued to drink what I had ordered.

Others from our group came in and we took over the seating area in the dining room and ordered our food and a couple pitchers (“Why do you keep getting pints! That s**t gets expensive. I’m bringing you over pitchers”, our waitress gave us the in). The food was good enough and each person cleaned off their baskets and all the fried goodness that came as extras. By the time that we all got up to leave there were regulars walking by as well that waved us off and shook some of our hands, an odd contrast to how we felt coming in, but we are known to have that effect on people…

Food: 2/5 order the staples and you be fine.
Drink: 3/5 good specials and they have the standards.
Atmosphere: 2/5 not a great first impression…
Overall: 2/5 Abrasive, but oddly comfortable by the end.

website: www.valleylounge.com

The last few days have had me laid flat due to a sickness of the season. Its in these hours of restricted movement and mental frustration that my mind meandered to the respite that a warm bowl of chili can bring on these fatigued days. Call it medicine of the soul or a bowl of warm memories past, but in any case possible it is a moment where your body and mind can take a break and relax in the warm waves of flavor.

I have a book of chili recipes from across the Nation, one recipe from every state. Having read through the descriptions and recipes each one has there is a consistent idea for what makes a chili – that it fits with those it feeds. Arizona has a high spice, Texas with lots of chunk beef, Alaska uses mild flavors and Oregon uses seafood. In each of these places it is what that population calls chili – and if anyone from there says its not is likely that their family is a transplant who calls their ancestors version the quintessential ‘chili’.

This makes competing in Minnesota a difficult task as our population is a wayward mix of old and new, immigrants of places historically warm and cold, both recent and ages prior. How to appease this crowd? This year I am going with a feeling. That feeling when you bite into a spoonful and all you get in your mouth is the flavor of a memory. A time that reminds you that you are loved, that there is someone to wrap you up when you are sick, or bring you  that bowl of warm soup. We don’t need to be like Cincinnati and add noodles, or Ohio and add vinegar. What people come for and eat is to be reminded of who they are in that most childlike of times; crouched on the couch wrapped in quilts and letting the steam from the bowl sitting warm in your hands help erase all feeling in your head.

I hope that you all can make it on Saturday so you can get a taste of that feeling, and fill your insides with warmth and comfort. Just don’t forget the beers to pair it with 😉

Learn more about our event here.

With all extended family gatherings come the need to find places of reprieve. Ours tends to be around our brewing equipment. What follows are two brews that we cooked up at our December celebration where our brother came back from Washington (seen here on his laptop as he gets some work done).

Trevor with the Edelmetall Brü Burner in the front made his variation of an ESB he has been tinkering with. He was using his all-grain system (seen later with the igloos in the house) and taking notes in his computer print outs. You can see me in the flannel with the Brew-in-a-bag doing a variation of the Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em Rauchweizen from Growler Magazine.

I poured mine into a keg today, Trevor is closely following suit. Let us know if you want to try a pint 🙂

If you live in the Twin Cities you have heard of Surly Brewing Co., beer drinker or not. They are a powerhouse of both brewing and initiating movements – it was the Surly Bill that opened the door for the over 100 brewery/taprooms that are now open in Minnesota where there were less than 10 in early 2011. We have been to Surly’s taproom restaurant many times since it had opened but always for family gatherings or to meet old friends, so our focus was on who we were with and not our surroundings or even what we had. With the temperature dropping below 0 outside and the holidays over we ventured over with hopes that others were going to stay indoors.

The place is a spectacle even by the time your turn onto their street. Located in a field of abandoned grain silos Surly is a beacon of modern. Their sign is a concrete sculpture and right after you walk through the football field of a parking lot you can take a moment to warm up with their olympic style torch at their front door. The interior is an homage to cement and stainless steel with a wood accent poetically conveying the idea of their growth.  Within their vast space is also a sea of people waiting to get a table or just a horizontal plane to set their beer down on. Our wait time on this blustering night was an hour and ten minutes, the hostess informing us that it was a “very typical wait these days”. We would like to think of it as more time for sampling the beer… Looks like our plan to avoid the crowd did not work, even on this frigidly cold day.

Surly Brewing Co. Destination Brewery Beer Hall and Restaurant
View of the beer hall

The hall is alive with streams of employees picking up empty glassware and dishes, and it was an ebb and flow to the people standing on the outskirts waiting for the levee to open and be given a table in the center. The fault in their layout was that the bar had only a small section where those waiting could come up and grab a beer, causing confusion as to who was in line or just standing around. It did seem that there is no ‘Minnesota Nice’ when it comes to getting in front of someone waiting for a beer here, with many groups properly directioned to where they should queue.

The beer list that is served every day is impressive – breaking the choices down by malt-forward and hop-forward categories with a few other beers not being able to be defined as thus as well.  Being regulars of Surly’s section in the coolers around town we tried a few irregulars (Devil’s Work and Witches Tower) and had wished we ordered those as tasters since we were unimpressed with the styles, but happy to have tried them at the source instead of grabbing them in four packs at home (are they even available elsewhere?).

Given a German beer-hall style table we cozied up next to the party already sitting there and ordered right away as we had menus in our hands during the wait. This was a different feel from our recent visits to RAMEN KAZAMA. There were people standing around us waiting for a table, but with beers in hand and merriment all around there was no feeling that we were being rushed or onlookers glaring at the people who continued drinking at tables with empty plates.

The food list is mouthwatering, and their prices match the ingenuity. We got a burger and a cut of pork steak with some cauliflower on the side. The pork was extremely salty but cooked to the right temp and the  sauce almost made you not notice. While rabbit food is not a typical staple next to our meats, the greens were mixed with fruits and sauces that were a bit overloaded on the tart and tangy side, but mixed well with the meat sauce. The burger was a high class big mac (even they say they use ‘fancy’ sauce, a nod to McD’s special?) and the fries that came with it were smaller and crispier than run-of-the-mill ones and quite delicious. We also recommend the cauliflower but avoid dredging them through too much of the sauce, the flavoring at the bottom is hard to get rid of from you mouth.

IMG_5146

Our one wish was that our server had been able to direct our beer orders in a more harmonious direction with the food we were concurrently putting on our bill. Ordering the Smoke with our plates left some bad tastes, but easily erased as we switched to water for a while. It would be hard to avoid this place in the future as it is on the radar for all those who live in the Twin Cities – and even those who do not – but with the atmosphere that they provide and a ever-improving beer list, why would you?

Food: 3.5/5 Unique and delicious, but tasted untested and experimental.
Drink: 4/5 Their usuals are amazing, but order others and you might be disappointed.
Atmosphere: 5/5 Hard pressed to find another place full of people enjoying themselves.
Overall: 4/5 A wonderful place to be and to eat. What’s next for Surly?

Minneapolis Magazine recently listed 2016 as the Year of the Ramen I thought I would venture out and hit up the newest establishment, Ramen Kazama. As a recently former resident of the Lyn/Lake neighborhood I am no stranger to Ramen from Moto-i or what used to be Ramen Wednesdays at Fuji-Ya – the chef of the latter now housed in this restaurant.

Word of warning: do not go to Ramen Kazama with a large group, as a first date, or to spend time catching up with friends. If you want to eat something and then head over to another facility then we recommend eating here then heading over to a place like Pat’s Tap after to complete the night.

With a nod to the ramen shops in Japan you order everything before entering the dining area and then find a place to sit with your number and wait. While this is good in theory, the seating area does not currently fit the demand that this place has. It fills quickly (and are few tables that can fit more than two), and the orders are still received – causing many to sit in the entryway or nearby benches holding tightly onto their numbers in hopes that a table opens up before their food is delivered. The tables and benches are haphazard and the decor is either too kitschy or some failed attempts at Pinterest ideas but you really cannot stay in the room for too long to notice anyways.

The ramen bowls are absolutely delicious, and I have been back enough after the first visit to try them all. I was first in line at opening at one visit (lineup began at 4:45) and after the order was taken it was just under 10 minutes before the bowl came, so consider that to be the fastest that they may come. Since ramen is a new concept to the people of the midwest I would recommend watching the first episode of mind of a chef on PBS with David Chang to get an idea of what you are getting into and preempt yourself with some better judgement as to what you want to order when you get to the counter- it makes a difference to cater to your tastebuds.

Ramen is generally three parts to rate (consider it like a burger is the bread, the meat and the toppings), the broth, the noodles and the additions. The broth in every soup is rich and savory, filling and perfectly subtle in their flavors. The noodles provide for the proper slurp and a train like track to bring the broth up with it to your mouth. While the karaage is the only out of place addition (it’s too large for its intention) the eggs are all soft boiled and runny, the pork belly is tender and the bamboo has all the right flavors.

The appetizers and sides are a part that you can pass, items like karaage appear in one of their bowls and the kimchi cup has but a fluttering few pieces of cabbage on it. The real star of the show is the Ramen and that is what you should get.

credit: ramenkazama on instagram
credit: ramenkazama on instagram

Overall, this is a wonderful place to go if you want to see why people are raving about what ramen can bring to Minneapolis – especially if you are feeling like being adventurous on your own or with a special friend.

Food: 4.5/5 Ramen is wonderful, with limited options and par-like sides.
Drink: 2/5 Few taps and options, but unless you sit at their small bar no service or time to enjoy.
Atmosphere: 1/5 Rushed and minimal, they should expand or satellite their kitchen.
Overall: 3/5 Come in for the food, but go immediately somewhere else, which is unfortunate.

February 27th, 2016 – Turtle Bread Longfellow

6:00 – Happy Hour
6:30 – Tasting and Judging

Ticket to enter: Bring to enjoy and share – a 6-pack or growler, a plate of cornbread, or another chili accompaniment. These events continue to be free as long as the organizers and participants leave happy and full of merriment and imbibition. Not too hard to do with this crowd. Continue Reading for more information:
(more…)