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!

republicThe crew had to find a burger joint where Isaac would finally find a burger that he could enjoy. After a brief search the crowd agreed that the Republic on Seven Corners might serve our needs. Mom earth helped by blessing us with a beautiful 75 degree evening and a West Bank campus full of students just excited to be able to be outside. It was tough to walk by the remarkable Town Hall Brewery on the way to the place.

IMG_0281Since we came for burgers the group covered the burger menu. Offerings from blue cheese to cheddar+bacon to Guac+Salsa and the fried egg topped wonder were all delicious with no complaints from the team. The side is lettuce (seriously) so we ordered the sweet potato fries and regular fries as sides. The side sauces were all good with the group loving the homemade sorta catsup sorta  vinagarette. Our concern with the place is that all burgers were in the 9 -12 dollar range which is fine for the hipsters and the urban elite but for regular guys looking for a great burger it seems a little silly, especially without some fried starch included in the price. It also seemed a bit odd for a college bar. But then, maybe that’s why college loans are so large these days.

On a more positive note, the beer selection was large and had a good run of local and not so local fermentations. Again, pricey with many pints running somewhere around $6-$8. Not a single Summit on the list which is always suspect in this area. Nonetheless, good selection and the flight of three 8 oz glasses for $10 was a good buy.

IMG_0282For those wondering, we believe that tIsaac is still searching for the good burger. His expectations are not high. A good burger will do. We are guessing that on our next outing he will once again find a good looking sandwich from the menu. Perhaps the rueben or some turkey concoction.

We had a great evening out with conversation running after sundown: and that counts for something. But in the future, when needing to meet someone on seven corners, there are a couple of better values available.

 

 

Inspired by their connection to the Star Prairie Trout Farm and recommended by several members, we made our way to Pat’s Tap on Nicollet and 35th in Minneapolis. A mere 103 blocks from Brad and six blocks or so from Isaac and Jeff. Very tasty, great selection of brews, yet a bit on the upper end of the mancuisine credit card limits.

Only four were able to make the event this time. One was working downstream on the MIssissippi about 100 miles, one was grouting, one somehow missed the announcements and plethora of emails, and one ended up in Chicago and surprised to get the “where are you” email. Nonetheless, the four of us who found our way through the Nicollet Ave. construction had a fine time.

Pat’s used to be called Casey’s and, in fact, when you do a Google Streetview of the place you get a fine look at Casey’s. The outside has not changed much with the exception of a clear lack of Shamrock in the color scheme and some serious construction on Nicollet. . Nice place inside with a bar, separate seating for tables, a patio, and a small skee-ball/ pinball room (free). The tables inside filled quickly during the 6:00 -8:00 time on Monday  but there was still seating outside on the patio. We had a great bench on the interface between the bar and eating area. The help was friendly, frequent and knowledgeable about the solid and liquid offerings. Not a loud establishment at this time of night but others have written about noise levels on the weekend.

The food was top notch. We had the Wisconsin fried curds with some kind of British ketsup sauce and fried beans with a great ginger dip.  Sandwiches varied form the well reviewed bacon burger (easily up to the review-Doug finished it in a heartbeat) to the cheeseburger , the pork terrine, and the Rachel. Every one was a hit. The pork had some kind of zesty salsa on it, maybe that’s what terrine means- well recommended by Trev. Many of the foods listed where the food came from and, for the most part, this place has some serious Wisconsin connection. Hopefully it has little to do with union bashing.

It was a pleasant visit with no complaints about the place. The bill was a bit of a surprise. With tip, the four of us managed a couple apps, dinner burgers, and two pints apiece for a total of $132. Not our usual night out. We’ll have to verify this but Pat’s may be our new highest per-person outing, replacing the Buffalo Tap in Savage.

Nonetheless, a fine evening. Our next outing will be with the prospective Rib Cook-off judges evaluating their qualifications: beer selection, familiarity with Douglas Adams, disgust with post-modern relativism and general zietgiests. Looking for a spot in the mid to south metro- any suggestions?

Rib cook-off is scheduled for September 1. Comment for an invite.

Bloomington local is a great discovery!

Tucked away down a quiet road in Bloomington, Mn is a great neighborhood bar- The Shantytown Grill. With a full bar and matching menu the place boasts a good variety of meals in the sweet spot of $7 – $12 for the kinds of food we like to see. Family friendly at the time we arrived (6:30 or so on a weeknight) but with a good collection of people stopping by after work to hang out at the bar before heading home. By the time we left people were arriving for the evening, many seen walking in through the neighborhood.

We thought the selection of beers was plenty and without the typical foolishness that some locals seem to provide. The Budweiser family did not dominate! Food was tasty and the help welcoming but not wanting to be our best friend. Perfect. The ring of onion was as good as we have had in a long time, in fact we ordered a second round. All burgers were great with no crumbs remaining.

Without a doubt the most unusual location we have been to in awhile. Seems that the last truly unique place was in Bloomington as well- Frenchman‘s. In discussion is seems that the place has been around forever, as measured by the postmodern gen2 boys in the group as it predates their birth. The current owners have been around for the past decade or so.

MadisonSo, I’m in town for a conference that starts early tomorrow and it is today. Dinner will have to be out and about but- NO problem, I’m in Madison, Wisconsin! The last time I was here State Street was starting to look like Haight-Ashbury- very corporate. So, decided to take the advice of a good friend and sample the Cuisine of one of the businesses on Capitol Square. Madison has this phenomenal design with the Capitol building having four entrances and large green spaces in all the corners. The “two-blocks on a side” square surrounding it comtains a collection of street vendors, museums, bars, banks and protestors. Plenty to protest in Wisconsin politics today.

To the point, I went to the Old Fashioned on the square. It claims to be authentically Wisconsin in fare and Feng Shui so I stepped over the cow-pie on the sidewalk and entered. The place was hopping as I was seated at the loser bench- solo males all with the same conference folder. Made friends quickly and when Pauline came to take the beverage order I had received plenty of advice about the 150 beers available.  Woody’s Wheat from Sand Creek was my first choice.  When Woody arrived I was drawn into the Heirloom Tomato BLT with FRESH mozzarella cheese and a side salad with the house bourbon vinaigrette dressing.

The BLT arrived followed by Kiss The Lips IPA by Lake Louise Brewing. Great BLT!! Seriously Great. The couple who had been mistakenly seated next to me with their Viola case  had ordered the BLT and the mighty house hamburger.  Both were so good they had to each eat half of each to stay in the relationship. Bottom line- worth the stop. Prices were very reasonable and the food was varied. Help was pleasant and helpful and appeared to be mostly UWMadison students. I will have to return some time.

A final note. My grandfather was from Wisconsin and his favorite drink was the Old Fashioned. As a kid I often thought that his rosy cheeks were from all the cherries he had eaten in his drinks. I’m sure it is a tribute to grandpa that this place has SIX Old Fashions on the menu.  Back in Minnesota a barkeep would need to look at a book to figure out how to make one.  Final proof of Wisconsin Feng Shui, they have MANY jars of pickled eggs just waiting for your lips and stomach.  Need I say more?

We were ready to head out for some amazing pizza in the northwest ‘burbs when two of the group had to cancel. Rather than travel to the “Here be Dragons” part of the map without the entire sailing crew we opted to find something closer to home. St. Paul had been the site of the amazing pizza and atmosphere at Red’s Savoy so when Isaac jumped in with the suggestion to try Skinner’s Pub and Eatery on Randolph in St. Paul we were quick to sign up.

A small lot out back but plenty of on-street parking made the end of the drive easy. On entry we were greeted by the classic neighborhood bar. Long and with a handful of people that fit the seats like a 1970’s bicycle tourer fits his leather saddle at the end of a long tour. Several people smiled and nodded a welcome. Just as we crossed the threshold we got a text to “go to the patio”. We hung a right at booth six, walked through the dinning area and into the patio. It was shaded and mostly empty at the early hour of six.

We are told that the place is busy on the nights that the sponsored softball team is in action, and, we are also told by inside sources that a Princess of the South Wind from the Winter Carnival plays on that same team. Fortunately Wednesday (correction) was Wing Night instead of game night. We ordered a dozen, splitting the bill: 8 Buffalo, 8 Jerk. all were good and sized well. Beer of the evening was the Boulevard Maibock- pints for $2.00. Remarkable. It only got better.

Neil Armstrong

The menu was full but we came for the pizza and soon we had two on the way. A classic pizza called Top of the Line with sausage, green peppers and the rest but with sauerkraut under the heavy blanket of cheese. The other was an amalgam of amazing meat products dubbed the Factory. Also with lots of cheese. One sign of a good pizza is when the surface of the pizza looks like the surface of the moon. The cheese sinks between the remarkable lumps of food allowing it to brown unevenly and look like even a martian rover would have difficulty navigating the Sea of Edibility. Wonder if Neil Armstrong’s first thoughts after setting down the Lunar Lander were about where his next pizza would come from? Further note- I have been to Iceland where the Apollo Astronauts trained to walk on the moon’s uneven surface. I have yet to have a good Icelandic Pizza. Thought you should know. Suggestions are welcome.

Lunar Training Surfaces

In all seriousness, why would we EVER go for pizza to any place but St. Paul?

Red, Randy and Skinner- all were winners.

It had been way too long since we ventured across the stream to St. Paul. Fortunately one of our members was flying down Seventh Street recently and proclaimed that some building had a burger painted on the chimney and that we ought to stop. Enjoying a good proclamation from  time to time we decided to meet at Burger Moes on Seventh near downtown.

We have been on string of hits lately but had been noticing that most of the beer and burger places were starting to look the same. Nonetheless we crossed the threshold and took up seats near the back. The barkeep/ waiter was story-filled and with a great knowledge of local brews. His command of small Wisconsin breweries was surprisingly solid. Anyone who can list the hits and misses from New Glarus is god-like in our book.

The place was about half-full on a Monday night at 6:00. But then, none of the local places looked too packed as we walked by. Parking out back was nice. The small lot next to the pub was a good thought at one time. A great beer list with plenty of local representation and priced fairly. Wonderful burger list. Not as silly-long as Lucky’s was and with a better range than most.

The Denny was a remarkable pile of goodness from the tasty beef to the fried egg.  This is the kind of food you eat just before the diagnosis of clogged arteries, hypertension, cholesterol overshoot or oncoming diabetes. It is a wonder to hold and a treasure to consume. Well done Moe, well done.

The other burgers were similarly well received. The Black and Blue was true to its genetics and had a decidedly tastier grind of beef than we have been eating. We did sample the appetizers as well. Happy to report that the ring of onion was well above average. Onion rings have been so disappointing lately that we were not going to order them again. But then we remembered, we always order onion rings. Say La Vee.

So the final analysis says look for a good evening out at a place with tasty brew, intelligent staff, and good bar food on the menu. Seemed like a hit all around. We like the St. Paul stop so much that we walked over to Cossetta’s and had some desert. Mighty nice. We should also mention that the original plan had us spending some time at the remarkable Seven Corners Hardware before eating. Sadly, we ran out of time and somehow they closed for the day. We’ll check it out some other time.

Recently two of us were entertaining two friends from Sweden needing a place to find dinner before heading over to the university to listen to Hans Rosling. To our surprise the Swedish women were aware of this blog and wanted to go to a place like those we review. We were in the western ‘burbs around 5:00 so traffic back into town was rough.  We decided to stop by the local Granite City Brewery.

The two of us had stopped at the Roseville location shortly after it arrived in the area. At that time it seemed pricey and not exceptional. We were excited to see how it had adapted over the years.

Happy to report that the burger/ sandwich selection was outstanding and each one sampled was very good. The Swedes felt the portions were too big which translates into just the right amount of food for us. The home-brews were good as well. The bock was surprisingly traditional, so many Bocks today are seriously flawed attempts at something Bock should never be. The Granite City Bock was the kind of thing you once could only buy at Easter time. Tasty.

I should mention that when staying with a Swedish family during the COP15 conference I started eating my first dinner only to look up and see the family children staring in horror. Seems our way of holding and using a fork is a bit barbaric over there. The setting was repeated at the Granite City as Isaac was frozen in amazement watching the women eat their hamburgers with a fork and knife. Only a tea-partier would fail to see the humor in the diversity of ways to get food into the mouth.

Even when eating peas!

Not far from Kyle’s new place is a bar just far enough from the Twin’s Stadium to not be renovated, yet close enough to have survived the downturn. Cuzzy’s is a fine neighborhood joint with dollar bills signed and taped to the walls and a slanted floor left behind from the days when the stage on the downhill side had partially clad brothel employees.

We stopped by on a Monday night with a small handful of other patrons ranging from suits to brown baggers but an early scouting report had the place with shoulder to shoulder customers on Friday night. The waitress was great. A bit of sass and a friendly air inflated the tip in her favor. It helped that the prices were great and an evening of good eats and a fine beer selection cost much less than we’ve been paying lately.

The food was a mix of sandwiches and burgers.  The SOB (south of the border) was a tasty bit of spice and Mr. Rueben was everything you’d expect. Isaac took the risk and left the sandwich menu for the Sirlion tips with mashed potatoes and fries drenched in the Cuzzy Gravy experience. He was still smiling when I saw him the next morning. Needless to say, plates were cleaned across the board (and table).

The brew selection surprised us as well. From Two-Hearted to Linnie’s original.   Seems to us that many places are expending their selections. Didn’t expect to find such a fine expansion in a place that seemed so neighborhood. Their web site does list a couple other restaurants run by the same folks. The other spots are decidedly surburban. Hopefully they’ll avoid the Bonfire’s problem as they expand.

We often rate places by the bathrooms. This one was perfect. Thick paint on the walls and not a great amount of room. Gotta enjoy a place where you walk by the open kitchen awhile traveling the hall to the head.

This is a place to return to when downtown. They do have a DMC card as well, for the thrifty mancuisine follower. Thanks to Scott for the tip on this place.


Our curiosity got the better of us as we ventured up to Mendota to check out the relatively new Lucky’s 13 Pub.  On the only main corner in town this location used to house an establishment that found at least one of us playing pool in younger years and having a cool tasteless brew in a ten ounce glass not more than a few years back. The reconstruction is great and the warehouse look works well.

A long bar on one half and restaurant on the other greet you as you enter. The bar was busy at 6:00 and looked to be a mixture of suits on the way home from work and stiffs doing about the same. The staff was upbeat and seemed to like working the crowd. We opted for the restaurant and a large table. Many tables of 3-4 friends, one family, some couples and some that looked like they might have just landed at Pig’s Eye. Good music and background sounds.

But let’s get to the task. We were told that this place was somehow related to the Axel’s restaurants (nice places) and the Bonfire’s (still haven’t figured out the bar seating) in the twin cities. We think not. Might be just a rumor. Nonetheless, this place had easily the most awesome hamburger selection in the Cites. Not some silly sixty-hamburger list but a good selection of offerings that covered the ground. AND ALL were great. Not a miss on the order. The beers were varied and met all our needs from the hop-dependent Ike to the British Bitter fan that is Brad. Appetizers were creative and tasty with plenty of spice. The wait staff was upbeat and around enough that no plate nor glass stayed empty for long. Seriously- a good night of food and fun.

The downside was the cost. We usually can spend an evening eating, drinking, and talking smart – when the check arrives it is easy to dig in the pocket and toss out what is due. When this one arrived we had to swallow hard, and it wasn’t just the after-burn of the great buffalo sauce. The cost rivaled the Buffalo Tap in Savage and I still cringe when I drive by that place. I checked back on the Luckys 13 website to see if the menu had been altered to adjust things down a bit but at this time the menu is no longer on the site. Just some dead links. Looks like another version of the place may be open in Bloomington. Maybe things will change- check the site to see.

Often we have stories about the bathrooms that we use at the places we visit. There was the bathroom in Richfield where the lines of something white on the counter lead us to wonder about the giddy feeling we had after eating and the place in Minneapolis where the bathroom floor had a 10 degree angle as measured by the iPod Level app. No such issues here. the Head is upscale. An old-guy mannequin holding a towel would be a fitting addition.