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

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 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!]

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

Bumped into a beer distributor we knew in a parking lot recently and after some discussion he was wondering why we had not yet made it over to the just-opened JL Beers in Burnsville. We had no good answer and a week later we took care of the void in our map.

JL Beers is a growing collection of pubs out of Fargo. The nearest is in the near Nord’east across from Surdyk’s. Two of our members had been to that location and had prior ideas as to what a B’ville location would bring and thought to test those notions. Refreshing to have a spot in the ‘burbs that isn’t super-sized and overly bright.

The beer selection is indeed impressive. The menu of many pages warns of constant changes in the wide range of malty to silly hoppy, and from session beers to alcohol levels that seem just plain dangerous. Two of us went with flights to sample the wares. The Don’t Worry be Hoppy and Ales from the Dark Side were wonderful. Pint prices were in line with local averages.

Flights of Fancy
Flights of Fancy

Eventually, you need to get some food. The group felt that we had been hitting too many upscale places that were a bit pricey recently and that our recent run to the HalfTime Rec was a welcome return to a good, sensible burger joint. Fortunately, although new, JL’s burgers were both wonderful and reasonable.

IMG_2302All of our burger choices were big, juicy and filling although they looked a bit naked on the large serving platters. Given the small tables, JL may want to scale the plates a bit. We did order some sides as well- maybe they were taking up the extra space…

The JL Burger, Classic, and County 42 were perfect examples of what they claimed. The loaded fries had quite a kick and plenty of cheese. We could have used forks but ate the pile before we could ask for them. We also ordered a chicken sandwich but had the kitchen add some sauce and an egg on top, great addition.

As for service, the help was everywhere but could not always hit right on the timing of when to grab orders or refill glasses. Seems like they cover for each other when they see a table in need – nice touch. Beer, food, water all came as wanted by a nicely mixed group of wait staff. The bunch behind the bar seemed lively and the crowd that gathered to eat was mostly in their 20’s/30’s with many couples sitting across from one another. Although the setting is somewhat industrial the place was warm on a cold night and the buzz was good.

Happy JL guy at the taps

We are recommending the place. It’s just south from Costco and a block or so from the Burnsville Center. We should also let you woodworkers know that there is a Rockler nearby. Even without a Juicy Lucy option for the hometown feel (they are from ND) and no “ring-of-onion” there’s plenty there to fill the stomach.

Food: 4/5 Lots of options, and ability to add to make it what you want.
Drink: 4.5/5 Beers for everyone willing to try, but no happy hour.
Atmosphere: 3/5 Cramped and crowded, but the ambiance was there.
Overall: 4/5 Great for a new south metro bar to fill the void as of late.

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

An event at work gave a few of us the option to venture out around lunchtime. After a short discussion we came to J R Mac’s for a [thankfully] quick bite. We found a spot right in front of their door in the tiny parking lot and came into a bar space filled with one table of 6+ people and sporadic chairs filled thereafter. No head turns or quieted tones upon entry – unique for us.

Taking a couple chairs at the bar we were greeted by the one bartender/server who placed the laminated menus down and explained to us that Saturdays were ‘Taco-Days’ and that she recommended going that route as specials go all day. Obliging to the lady we ordered some tacos and some beers.

The pull tab booth in the back had a line of regulars and we joined the movement. The big surprise with this visit was that the taco shells were deep fried and then filled, like a crunchy enchilada. Although this provided for some ideal taco flavorings the insides were the style that you may find at any run-of-the-mill fast food taco joint.

Before we left and discarded all the empty pull tabs [no big winners here] a look around gave a nice summary of what this place tries to be, and quite frankly is: a neighborhood bar with an atmosphere that welcomes and indulges, but lacks the backbone to bring in anyone outside of ‘dropping in’ distance.

IMG_4897
J R Mac’s Tacos
  1. Food: 3/5 Classic bar fair
  2. Drinks: 2.5/5 Limited beer list and drink specials. Spotty glassware.
  3. Atmosphere: 3/5 Quiet atmosphere centered around the bar and pull tabs.
  4. Overall: 3/5 Worth a stop, but would be hard to be a regular.

J R Mac’s website

It was a series of unfortunate events that brought me to Steve O’s this time around. The first could have been labelled in a similar way, but that night was brought about through a beer-fueled celebration of the end of a school year. It is important to note here that I work at a school a ways down the street from Steve O’s and had it not been for the teachers there I would have never heard of the place…

It was 10 AM that day and the school was shut down due to a police presence across the street. The students had been turned around in the buses and the staff was told that we could leave for the day (everything turned out fine). A group of teachers gathered in my room as we began looking for a place to grab a drink after the stressful morning. A google search could find no such places as they all opened at 11. Someone asked the question “What about Steve O’s?”, “You remember what happened there last time”, “Yeah but I think they are open”, “They open at 8 AM! We found a place!” What luck!

Walking into Steve O’s at 10 with a group of people attracts a few stares from the regulars as the tables are moved around but their eyes turn back to their bottles on the bar without complaint. The bartender waitress came out as we looked over their breakfast menu and we ordered a round. Beers came in clean glasses with a good variety available and the mixed drinks came strong. Odell’s St. Lupulin the waitress affectionately called “the one I cannot name”.

IMG_4619

Breakfast here is a stop worth making if you are in the area. They have pizza with hollandaise as the sauce, plates that are cheap that come with a free bloody mary, and a good variety of meals off the griddle. It is not a large kitchen however, so anticipate that any large orders will take time. The list that was handed to the cook actually enticed him enough to come out and give us a wave to see how many people were actually eating it. And don’t ask if you can get poached eggs, the response will be a scripted “alright, how do you want your eggs fried then?”

We stayed until well after the lunch hour, tried our luck at pull tabs, and paid our surprisingly minimal bill before opening the doors to the great blinding light called the outside world. I will be coming back to try their wings.

  • Food: 3.5/5
  • Atmosphere: 3/5
  • Drinks: 4/5
  • Overall: 3.5/5

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