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image source: blackmarketbarbecue.com

If there is one thing that we can say that we know, it is barbecue. For years we have competed with our ribs and brisket – and hesitated buying meat from others as few compare to the level of care we give to the preparation, cooking and rest needed to create great meals. Chain BBQ joints and local favorites always seem to miss an element of what makes barbecue great: a feeling of friendship between the guests, the meat and the cook preparing it. The moment you walk up to the table where Black Market BBQ has parked you instantly feel like you are a member of the team and have been there all day with them and shared the experience.

The crew rolls up in the smoker trailer in the early morning and fills it with racks of ribs and slabs of brisket. Talking with the chef he says there is “no better time to be out, the birds are singing and the sun is just in the right spot”. I wish I could be that chipper that early in the morning. The smoker gets up to temp and the meat rotates away within the trailer, soaking up and absorbing all the flavors with it.

After hours of cooking their truck rolls up, and the meat is released from its vessel. Go ahead, ask them to look inside the smoker, he will bring you right up to the doors and show you the Narnia-esque land of meat inside, dark from the history of smoke brought through the trailer with the redolence only a pitmaster can bring. 

But all this does not build you up for the tastes you are going to get from this system. Note: If you are a person who needs a sauce to go along with your meat you will not find that here.  This is a dry-rubbed, brined type of place. Order a brisket and it comes in a asian take-out style container overfilled with meat and the juices that come with it. Ribs come in a coffee bag with about 4 bones in each. Nothing more, nothing less, and we like it that way.

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image source: blackmarketbarbecue.com

We will leave this review with some excerpts taken from their website, because it summarizes them so well: “This is Minnesota BBQ directly off the pit, with a dry rub that never needs sauce. This isn’t Memphis. This isn’t Texas. It’s not whatever you’ve had that was supposed to be the best barbecue ever. This is Minnesota BBQ, and it’s really, really good. Just like it’s supposed to be.”

Food: 5/5 If you are looking for smoked meats cooked slow, this is it.
Drink: -/5 Food only, although it is known to park at breweries.
Atmosphere: 5/5 The best people, doing what they love.
Overall: 4.5/5 Why the ding? They are not open more (but thats it)!

It was a Thursday night lull that brought us again to Mayslacks. One of those nights when you are sitting down after a day on the job and the thought of going to the fridge and concocting a delicious dinner sounded more like a marathon than a sprint. This night, we were guided to Mayslacks – no real reason why, just a compass guiding the steering wheel after we pulled out of the driveway to delicious meats.

The place was surprisingly bare. In previous trips to this joint it was either hard to find a table or hard to hear the people across the table because of the joviality of the patrons. Tonight had neither, and it was a wonderful spring night so we headed out to the patio to find the same concentration of people.

A few Summit Maibocks were ordered ($4 a pint this month!) and we looked at the same menu we have looked at over all the years logged since our first visit. Roast beef is, and deservedly so, their best menu item in whatever vessel you choose to eat it with. This time, I went with the Hot Italian Beef  (pictured here) that comes with shoestring fries, cup of au jus  and a generous helping of what I can only define as the spiciest relish I have ever tasted (that came with the resulting 4am wake up call).IMG_6346

The bun was soft, the fries were well cooked and the roast beef was amazing. Like I said before, anything that comes with the beef is worth trying at this place.

Stan Myslajek would still be proud of this place. Put his roast beef in the ring with any competitor an his would still come out on top.

Food: 4.5/5 Roast beef. Garlic, juicy and delicious
Drink: 3/5 impressive list, all beers came mostly flat
Atmosphere: 3/5 If dark and damaged is your thing, this is your place
Overall: 3.5/5 Great food and lots of character in its history

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.”

With the new onslaught of high end restaurants selling fancy burgers and fabricated authenticity it is always a pleasure to find a place without pretense, where the same fryer and griddle have likely been in use since before a Clinton or a Bush entered politics (maybe even a Kennedy as well). If you are looking for an establishment that is content with its current clientele and does not expense with the frivolity of trying to be “the new thing”, look not further than Schullers Tavern in Golden Valley.

The place proclaims itself the “Last Real Roadhouse”, which I take as a jab at the influx of chain based roadhouse-esque eateries that popped up in the mid to late 90’s around town (with some still remaining). Since the place first opened in 1929 I am guessing they have seen many a trendy establishment come and go and one would hope they will weather current trends as well.

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Image from http://www.schullerstavern.com

The Place: The building has clearly been built upon in a few minor expansions over the years and you may feel like you stumbled into the back alley entrance to a speakeasy (the place did open during prohibition). Upon entering you first pass a barred and locked beer cooler before actually finding your way to the bar and restaurant area. From what we gathered this is tied to off-sale liquor sales that Schullers offers. While not uncommon in the “land of cheese” or in the Northwoods, happening upon an on/off sale joint when you live in the Twin Cities metro area is like finding an hidden onion ring in your basket fries. It’s something that you didn’t know you wanted but you quickly realize is a good idea.

The Atmosphere/Service: The crowd appeared friendly overall with a hint of suspicion at the new faces we brought in. There was no problem finding a place to sit at a table (maybe at 15% of capacity on a Tuesday around 6). The bar, however, was full and you got the sense that these seats were rarely available during business hours. The random smattering of other patrons included a couple guys in suits working on some sort of business plan, a large group of people in the corner seemingly there to celebrate some sort of milestone, and a few small groups of people clearly there to enjoy good food and good company. Our server was attentive, friendly, and made sure we did not go thirsty.

The Food/Beverage: Upon arrival I put in an order for a refreshing beverage (happy hour prices are only on standard domestic beers but this includes GrainBelt/”Premo”) and a full plate of wings. Schullers puts any place charging more than $10 for 10-12 puny meatless bones covered in sauce to indisputable shame. WARNING: A full plate of wings is 3 lbs of sticky whole chicken wing deliciousness, prepare to be full. With three of us we were able to polish the plate clean but the prospect of trying to fit a meal into the outing was out of the question. As any self-respecting tavern should there was also a popcorn machine and a tap list that included a handful of local brews in addition to the standard domestic options.

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If you find yourself on highway 55 in golden valley in need of some cold refreshment, some sustenance, and a no nonsense environment, head on over Schullers. Just tell them Mancuisine.com sent you!

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.

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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?

Maple TavernStopped by the Maple Tavern after a day with the in-laws. Parked a large group of 14 for some burgers and beer. Parking lot was packed but plenty of room inside. I was a bit curious about the place – both because a long-lost high school friend who lives in Osseo and that this might be a place I would find him because of some irregularities involving a few kegs from New Glarus making it across the border.

The menu had a good selection of burgers and entrees with a fairly pedestrian appetizer list. Be advised that the onion rings are serious rings of onion, very tasty and very filling. The signature burger is pictured here. A basic burger, well made and tasty at just under $10. Our table ordered everything from a juicy to a pot pie and nobody had a complaint. The only criticism across the long table was that the ‘homemade’ chips and the fries were actually pretty common. Still, with that being the only one, its overall worth the food stop.

The beer list was reasonable but happy hour only covered the watery brews. Nonetheless a pint of Summit or Surly was reasonable and the selections of additional good brews was plenty long. The long service bar and entertainment area sports a variety of games and it looks like quite a crowd plays volleyball here in warmer weather.

Overall, not a bad place to stop. Perhaps we’ll get the Macuisine crowd up that way for a formal eval in the future. Until then, Dan, if you’re still hanging out in Osseo send me a note. I’ll meet you at the Maple!

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.

I recently found myself 1200 miles from home in Atlanta with a completely free evening and made it my quest to scope out the local brewery scene. As any 21st century person would I took to the web to assist in determining how to spend this serendipitous moment.

SweetWater

SweetWater Brewing Company continued to pop-up in searches, news articles, and reviews. This place has clearly brought craft brewing into the mainstream in the southeast and promotes itself as one of the highest production craft breweries in the country (according to the Brewers Association they were #18 in 2014 – Summit Brewing was #28 in comparison).

The brewery is located in an industrial park north of the midtown area of Atlanta. The “tours” run from 5:30 to 7:30 and the charge when I attended was $10 for a souvenir pint glass, tour, and 6 half glass pours of whatever beers they had on tap – This is how they get around not being able to sell their beer, they sell tours and serve you beer! While they do run their tours throughout the night, chatting with the crowd and servers I found that many people use the brewery as a gathering place to drink a decent amount of quality craft beer for a decent price without ever taking the opportunity to go back into the production area. Fortunately for me this meant that I was able to get my own private tour of the brewery!

Dank TankHaving visited a fair share of microbreweries I was awestruck by the shear scale of this place.  Upon entering, there are racks upon racks of barrels (whiskey, bourbon, gin, tequila) where all kinds of miraculous brews are waiting for just the right time to be tapped.  In the entry area I also came across the “dank tank“, which is basically the pilot vessel for the brewery with an interesting character immortalized on the front.  According to an employee this is an homage to the ambiguously gendered prostitute who would hang around the brewery’s old location and would occasionally complete odd jobs around the brewery for beer.

The rest of the tour covered the usual equipment.  In passing they were emptying one of the fermenters and the remnants from the dry hopping were drained all over the floor.  I have had many exposures to wonderful hop aromas from both home brewing and drinking various high IBU brews, but having pounds upon pounds of hop sediment drained right before you is definitely a sensory experience my olfactories will remember.

Now to the important part, the beers! Like many popular craft breweries, a majority of SweetWater’s beer offerings had higher IBUs (EPA, IPA, double IPA). One beer that I did not try that was popular with many at the brewery (predominantly female or self proclaimed “regular beer” haters) was a blueberry infused pale. Here are notes from what I was able to sample:

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Georgia Brown: Knowing the hop onslaught was coming I went for the brown first. Malty, slight biscuit and nut. Pretty decent brown and a good way to start the evening.

Hop Hash: A “hop hash” infused double IPA.  While I admit I was first apprehensive that the “hop hash” was just a gimmick I was a believer after trying this brew. Strong hop aroma (piney and subtle fruit) well balanced with the malt.

420: This is their flagship brew.  Being an EPA I went in knowing full well that Summit EPA is a standard at home and that the bar was high. Body was a bit lighter than the Summit, distinct hop difference.  Overall I would drink this again but not unique enough to be a “go to” instead of the Summit (if they actually distributed in MN).

IPA: At this point I will admit my palate was pretty blown and my senses were recently rocked by the dumping of hop sediment from a fermenter. Overall it was a solid IPA with a good amount of citrus and medium-light malt profile.

Final Recommendation: If you happen to be in an area where SweetWater distributes, pick some up, and if you find yourself in the Atlanta area, I highly recommend a visit to the brewery. You will not be disappointed!