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”.

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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

joestan

With 10-14” of snow fresh on our yards, little did we know that going into this night of the third largest 24 hour snowfall in Minnesota history would have us travelling to three locations in one night. After all, it has been awhile since the men have gathered!

gophercorkThe roadways brought about a staggered and partial arrival to our only planned location for the night, the Gopher Bar in St. Paul. An irreverent place famous for its coneys.Two of the men walked up to the door to find it… locked. All the lights were off, no note on the door and no notice on the web. With a wind chill in the single digits a quick decision was made to hike a few blocks  north to Cork’s Irish Pub.

Cork’s is a hotel restaurant, to begin with. The atmosphere was welcoming and many groups of friends gathered, decided to defer the cold until warm in the stomach and imbibed the liquid courage to brave the bitterness outside. This place has an Irish bar feel – the dark wood, wall hangings and a good number of people-pleasing taps, all within the mainstream producers. Happy hour goes until 6, and as the waiter put it when asked, “pretty much everything is half off”. A round of beers, and orders of scotch eggs, chicken wings and walleye fingers were made as more members trickled in from there extended snow-delayed commute, fingers numb from the cold. The food was worth staying for, but as we had more members still traversing the roadways we decided to go to a place closer to them and with more character for us.

We moved quickly back to our vehicles and caravanned south on West 7th to Joe and Stan’s Bar. One of our members was brought to a halt on a bridge by the car ahead of him and got stuck on the ice! Before his delayed entrance we could only guess what happened to make him pause in our gastronomical journey.

Joe and Stan’s is quite the place. There are locals, stragglers and a helpful bar staff that occupy the room. It had the rural bar feel with a city bar comfort for freshman groups to the bar such as we.  We took over the area next to the pull-tabs and ordered a round, more wings, and the necessary onion rings. Everyone at the table ordered something different, an unusual occurrence for a Guys Night Out. Broasted chicken, multiple types of burgers and a rack of ribs occupied our table as we gorged ourselves on the plethoral variety. The broasted chicken was glorious, the type that when belches happen later in the evening, as they often do, the reoccurring taste does not come as a deterrent for more, but a beckoning to return to its origin. They have nightly food specials and decently cheap beer that made our wallets happy after the bill arrived.

It was a journey from start to finish and I do believe that we ended in the right place. As stated during the night, the Gopher Bar is our Sasquatch – we believe it exists but have yet to experience the Coney because of its elusiveness, and judging by their web site, they prefer it that way. -Isaac

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.

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.

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.

SOME COMMENTS ON THE PLACE

We had driven by this place often and Isaac suggested that it would be good for us to get back to our roots after too many places that seemed similar and safe.  Although safety was never an issue the place provided plenty of atmosphere. Our first greeting was from on one the drunks at the back table. He was selling raffle tickets for the Cedar Inn drinking club. Next was the pool hall Nascar lights hanging about the place and not a pool table in sight. There was a cook on duty and the barkeep who would come whenever we would wave him down. The back table was the hotspot as the group grew to a half-dozen regulars by the time we left. In an economical mood they where ordering pitchers, but not sharing with each other. Fortunately all were certainly in the neighborhood and wouldn’t be behind the wheel. (more…)

During an extended evening walk from one end of San Fran to the other three of us were able to investigate the local color inside a few San Francisco neighborhoods. Brief details are in the boxes in the graphic below. Click to download the full map. If you are in town we’d recommend all of them, for different reasons.  Enjoy-

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SOME COMMENTS ON THE PLACE

The few bikers assembled on the back steps greeted us and asked how we were doing. After answering the other questions about name, quest, and color we were allowed to pass.  Looked like a classic neighborhood bar with some space to dance, play pool, and bang away at the pinball games. The music was loud but well selected and the bar was understaffed but more about that later. Did we mention the odd powder on the bathroom floor? The place seemed like might be a bit rough later at night but we left in good shape. (more…)