Places visited by the group

The head brewer at Modist is a part “the dude” and part “Doc Brown”. Talking with him you see the gears turning about what the conversation is about but you also get that shimmer in the eyes that his mind is really working out what he has left to do for his brew day. The members of mancuisine had the opportunity to take a tour from this gentleman and their operation is one that should be dismantled and digested in its inner workings to appreciate its complexity.

First off, they don’t brew with broken grains through a mill the extract the sugars from. They take the grains and pulverize them into flour before introducing them to the brewing system. From this flour the generate cakes at the end of the process and not the oatmealy mash that most brewers have to decide what to do with. The flour is mixed with water and pumped into a giant horizontal press where are the sugars and grain flavor is pumped out of. This is what really marks Modist as being unique – instead of vertically pouring water over the grain to extract the sugars they press it our, making a much more efficient brew. The rest of their system is generally the same as what you would find in our new additions around the twin cities.

Thats all well and good, but how is the beer? I have to be honest, I tried their beer when it first opened and I had no love for any of them. Too dry, too acidic, tasted like tainted water, you name it – the problems were there. But now? I would recommend picking up a can in the store or trying a couple pints of what they make. This brewery is not for everyone, but then again neither was Summit or Surly, and look where they ended up! Wasteland was a great beer to try and compare with others that I thought mentally compared to it.

Just a heads up, they do not have their own growlers but do fill the vessels from any other place.

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.

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

We noticed a rather large hole in our Restaurant Map that needed to be filled in St. Paul and the place that fit the bill for us was the Paddy Shack at the Halftime Rec in the South Como neighborhood.

They have a bar that stretches their entirety and open spaces for tables and booths throughout. This place could get lively during games and special events. The bartender was attentive and friendly, and the beers came out immediately. There was no mention of happy hour beer prices so we were a bit taken back that a local brew delivered to us was not on HH but our future rounds were properly directed. As we waited for all the crew there were multiple groups that would gather around pitchers and head downstairs to the Bocce Ball Court for what we found out was Thursday League Night at the Halftime Rec. The kitchen looked immaculately clean. The bar was in good order and we noticed that the staff were constantly washing their hands and bussing tables and glassware.

The service as we took our table was wonderful. Soon as we sat down, even though we had just been standing at the bar, she came over and gave us all the important info. Round one was a plate of buffalo wings – incomparable to any other wing we have had. They were juicy and crisp, and the sauce was a deliciously modified buffalo variation covering each nook and cranny and their blue cheese was definitely not poured out of a plastic container. Our mistake here was only ordering one plate for all of us.

We each took a variation of their burger – The Paddy Melt (at the recommendation of the server), a Guiness Cheeseburger, and a Paddy Shack Burger that was ordered with an extra ‘paddy’ on the top. The most impressive visually was the extra paddy, as the cook took the idea to the top and did not just add another meat slab in the middle, he added a whole extra burger and stabbed them both together!

Photo credit @trevolve on twitter

It was agreed around the table that for the flavors of the plates that were put in front of us could have been delivered in a white napkin and marble tabletop joint where each one cost over double. The meals here are a rare find for the facade that the tin tackers, pinball machine, pull tabs, and well worn bar curtain behind.

Food: 5/5 a rare breed, but worthy of the highest ranking.
Drinks: 3/5 small beer list for happy hour, but decent enough.
Atmosphere: 3.5/5 large space with sparse tables, meant more for events.
Overall: 4/5 amazing food, decent establishment.

Happy Hour at the Red Cow is great, unless you get there too late… I walked in around 5 pm to get a feel for the place and grab a beer to find the joint packed with over an hour on the waiting list. I turned on my heels and stopped next door at the Salt Cellar to sit at the bar (Pork Cracklins were amazing!) to send messages around to mancuisine to decide what to do. Little did I know that Doug had already put his name on the list – and they were going to call his cell phone when a table opened up! An amazing feature for a packed place. We all met first at Fabulous Ferns to grab a couple drinks, and in so doing added another onto our list of places to visit in the future – phone call was received, and we went back to Red Cow.

The staff was polite and helpful, giving great beer advice and even brought over a few samples, helping us out with explaining their extensive list. The ‘Ring of Onion’ came out quickly but tasted like they had been removed too early. The onion inside still had a bite of the acid flavor and a healthy crunch as if we were biting directly into the plant. Some found it appealingly different, others did not appreciate the style – but Red Cow’s homemade ketchup covered the difference.

Burgers are what they specialize in and that is what we all ordered. It wonderful to find a place that asks how you want your burgers to be cooked and cooks it as ordered. Its our opinion that if you ask how you would like it, cook it that way and not just keep cooking everyone’s the same. While the portions were minimal, each of ours was a dream-state delicious. Out of the burger joints we have been to, this one is at the top for flavor and consistency. I had the french onion burger, and it will be hard for me to order anything different due to fears the others could not stand up to the flavors I experienced between those buns.

Red Cow's French Onion Burger
Red Cow’s French Onion Burger

Throughout the meal the patrons were moving in and out, and the staff were attentive and sincere. It is a well run establishment, with the customers leaving happy and content – smiles of conversation and merriment abound.

Food: 5/5 Solid menu
Drinks: 4/5 Diverse, but expensive
Atmosphere: 4/5 Too packed for its space, even after happy hour
Overall: 4.5/5 Needs to be checked out.

Red Cow St. Paul’s Website

For our Take Out Test Night we picked up a few growlers from local breweries. The reviews are as follows:

Dangerous Man Chocolate Milk Stout

Dangerous Man’s flagship beer. It There is a reason Dangerous Man has a packed taproom at night and has grown as it has, and its foundation is this beer. Rating: 4.5/5

From their web site: The Chocolate Milk Stout is pitch black with an off-tan head and a large, roast and chocolate aroma. Thick and creamy, the flavors in the CMS range from dark and milk chocolate, coffee, and toasted bread. Boosted with lactose additions, this beer is distinct for its rich and creamy chocolate flavors.

Dangerous Man Peanut Butter Porter

This is one of those beers that you question the idea behind it but enjoy the product that it created. Like one of the brewers had a chocolate milk stout and was making a peanut butter sammy and ‘accidentally’ dropped some into their beer and loved it. While it is a wonder to try, know that the flavor stays with you. After one pint I was burping up PB for days. Rating: 3.25/5

From their web site: Desserts fo sho. Get creative with other peanut dishes. Pair with caramelized meats, curry dishes, and Thai food.

Indeed Wooden Soul #3 – Cherry Sour Ale – 5.25%, 14 IBU

Brad’s response at the first moment of tasting: “This is a beer?!”. It has a surprising taste to it. I have worked at a bakery making cakes and pies and this beer tastes exactly like an all-butter crust fresh cherry pie. Delicious to try if you are into the sweet/sour beer combo. Lightly carbonated, grapefruit colored. Rating: 3.75/5

Indeed Derailed Imperial Double Dangerous Chocolate Nitro Whiskey Queen Milk Stout – 10%, 70 IBU

The name says it all. Really! Its an imperial double so you get the depth of deep roasted grain flavor. The whisky is slight but lingering in the mouth after drinking. The milk stout nitro combo makes it a smooth drink with a healthy head. The only downfall is the punch that it packs – this one is a sipper. Rating: 4.25/5


P.S. We tried making a black & tan style beer with the WS#3 and the PBP. Although the densities of the beer did not allow for the layering, the resulting beer taste was an eyebrow raising lip smacking adventure in mixology!

Anchor is a place that we knew we would return to – check out this review of Anchor fish & Chips that we did in November of 2010. Very little has changed since our initial visit 5 years ago.

Got there early and was seated at the windows at the front. They do have a patio but it is limited to a 6 person maximum. As a warning to first-timers, they do not seat your group until all members are present so come together, come as a small group, or expect to wait a bit.

The kitchen is smaller than you would expect, but they do sell a lot of one item and when you do it as well as Anchor, there is not a lot of prep or space that is needed. The two of us ordered the Fish and Chips and could not get ourselves to try anything else. Their beer list has expanded in the last 5 years but the Nordeast by Premium is $1.50 less than the rest so we felt obligated to have those poured. The food was a bit over-salted, but it was undecided if that added to or retracted from the flavor. What we did decide on was that it was quick and quite delicious.

A visual sampler of what we ordered:

IMG_4667
Their current menus: Drinks/Brunch – Meals/Sides

The Anchor Fish & Chips Website

  • Food: One Trick Pony (its in their name) 4/5
  • Atmosphere: A Cozy 4/5 
  • Drinks: 3.5/5
  • Overall: A Strong 4/5

There have been multiple attempts to make it to the Gopher Bar, all met with locked doors and taped signs informing us that they were closed for the day. After having now sat at the bar and talked with the patrons, that might have been best to delay this first encounter.

I will give the Gopher Bar this: they have cheap beer. Our couple rounds of drinks here totaled our first round at the previous bar we were at. They also have a good-looking bar that looks fitting for the space. Their food is more than edible and their Coneys have a good taste to them.

If you read other reviews about the Gopher they talk about its no-holds-bar idea of practicing their freedom of speech. This is completely true – the confederate flag hangs above the bar and there are countless bumper stickers exclaiming ideas like: “If you think healthcare is expensive now wait until it’s free!”, “Guns are carried on these premises”, “Better an imperfect Republican than a perfect Socialist”, and “If you don’t like my confederate flag you can kiss my ass”. While its fair game to practice your rights, I wonder how much they lose each year to people leaving due to conflicting ideals of the bar:IMG_4662

We went before a night game of the Saints, in which the Gopher is just up the street from CHS field, because the other establishments were packed and we would not have been able to get service. Opening the door of the Gopher was met with an elderly couple at a table and two people residing the bar. Stark difference from one block down the road.

Sitting at the bar got quick service and a couple beers right away, and I liked that. After having made a stop before here, the quick venture to the bathroom filled the nostrils with Ammonia and left me wondering how grandfathered permits work in St. Paul. The doors to the field were opening soon so we finished a second round and took off to further down the hill in Lowertown.

  • Food: 3/5
  • Atmosphere: 1/5
  • Drinks: 4/5
  • Overall: 2.5/5