Monday, June 27, 2016

Harbor Country Food

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Eating up SW Michigan

Summer is here! And that means lots of Midwest Living for me. I live for this shit. One of the better summertime trips from within Chicago is Michigan's Harbor Country. Hardly a secret as it's been taken over by us FIBs and FISH going on a couple decades. I always make it out this way at least once if not a few times each summer as I have peops with places in these parts. Today's five stops are spots I checked out last summer while lounging in the area. Cheers to a memorable summer.

Your trip begins at Michigan.org (Tim Allen voice)
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Whistle Stop Grocery

Union Pier, MI

Folks renting houses in these parts should take note on our first place up. It's a grocery store where local stuff can be obtained. It's also a sandwich shop and bakery. It's not all that big but the shelves are packed and the coolers are filled. It's where I go to grab a six pack of local brew to go with some baked goods for the house and anything else I might need such as marinades, wood, or juice.

Baked Treats for Sale 

Everything is good here but the best thing they got going are the sandwiches. I haven't tried but a couple though both were awesome with the BLT constantly being good. I mean this is the official sandwich of summer. Locally baked bread with locally cured bacon and some in-season tomatoes.

BLT Sandwich 
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Nani's Cafe & Beach Shop

Union Pier, MI

Nani's Cafe and Beach shop sits on the well traveled Red Arrow Highway. They advertise gourmet sausage and beach supplies. Both of which are things I need. So I stopped in and bought some suntan lotion while getting some lunch last summer. The menu is pretty standard with hot dogs playing the key role. But they also have a tasty shrimp salad sandwich. Best thing about this is the bun itself which was as close to any of the many rolls I had in Maine. I just wish they did lobster rolls here because if they did so with minimal mayo and properly cooked meat they could be outstanding.

Shrimp Roll

I don't know if I'd call Hebrew National Hot Dogs gourmet but that's what they use here for the sausage. Nani's offers a handful of different hot dogs including a Chicago style. But the one that spoke to me was something I;d never seen before. The Egg Roll Dog puts warm pork, with cabbage & ginger slaw, and sweet & sour and Chinese mustard on top of a hot dog. A combo that's surprisingly tasty and a nice snack to have as an option should you be near their spot in Union Pier. They also make sandwiches and salads. If they use the same homemade rolls on the rest of the sandwiches I can see those being delicious as well. So check them out, I think kids will like it.

Egg Roll Hot Dog
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Red Arrow Roadhouse

Union Pier, MI

Passed by this place plenty of time over the years and finally tried it with some friends last summer. I have no shame in saying I enjoy the Gringo-Mex places like this put out however I just didn't think my green chile pork burrito from here was anything special. On top of this they have tourist prices and sometimes waits but this wasn't something I'd want to stand around for. Maybe other stuff is good?

Green Chile Burrito
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bread+bar

Quick stop for a drink at this trendy spot that sits on the harbor in Benton Harbor. It's in an area that was hit hard post factory jobs but the area is taking off again. And it's doing so with the addition of bars and restaurants. We stopped into here in-between lunch and dinner but they still had a transition menu with some small bites for those also seeking booze. We got a plate of well made tartines including a smoked whitefish that was fantastic. We agreed we'd be back when opportunity allowed.

Tartine's in Benton Harbor, MI
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Staymaker

Three Oaks, MI

Regular readers might remember a post from a couple years ago titled 'Eating Up Lake Michigan' in which Journeyman Distillery was featured. Near the end of last summer they opened up a restaurant next door and we stopped in not too long after opening. Beautiful space.

a peek inside 

The menu features shared plates, soups and salad, entrees and Detroit style Pizza. The latter of which is starting to have it's moment as it's been seen around NYC lately. That said it was a trend before NYC picked up on it. People are just reporting on it now. Staymaker makes a B-grade style in my book. It had potential for sure but the middle part in a couple pieces weren't as cooked as they should've been. Detroit style pizza is pan and comes in squares and should be very sturdy when picked up and not flop at all. So that was really my only complaint about this but considering we were there in the beginning I wouldn't be surprised if they fixed this. I'll be back as it's a great place to drink in the back on a nice summer day as the cocktails are pretty good too. See ya next time.

Detroit Style Pizza
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The Whistle Stop Grocery
15700 Red Arrow Hwy
Union Pier, MI 49129
(269) 405-9920

Nani's Cafe & Beach Shop
16117 Red Arrow Hwy
Union Pier, MI 49129
(269) 469-7000

Red Arrow Roadhouse
15710 Red Arrow Hwy
Union Pier, MI 49129
(269) 469-3939

bread+bar
645 Riverview Dr
Benton Harbor, MI 49022
(269) 757-7219

Staymaker
109 Generations Dr
Three Oaks, MI 49128
(269) 820-2076

Friday, June 24, 2016

St. Andrew Ukrainian Kitchen

-Grubbing in Chicago (land)
Church Food

One day while browsing thru Yelp reviews I came across a church with a perfect score. Except I wasn't browsing places of worship but rather food spots. My curiosity ensued and I soon learned of a spot in the Western Burbs where the Pierogi are supposedly second to none. I was soon on my way.

 Bloomingdale, IL

St. Andrew's Ukrainian Church is an absolute beauty. Built in 1970 it sits hidden from the road as you ride toward it only to be revealed once you pull into it's lot. That's about where my knowledge of it ends as I'm not a big church going guy. That said I do love me some locally prepared foods and on Saturday's you can stop into their kitchen opposite the church. It's here where food is sold every Saturday from 8a until about 2p though the food has been known to sell out way before closing time. Everything is prepared fresh in the church kitchen by both the Sophia Sisterhood and the St. Andrew Brotherhood. The recipes used are long time family preparations of a few Eastern European classics.

 Menu (Click Pics to Expand)

When I stopped in this past winter there was a nice sized line of people who were there to pick up their orders. These were orders of 100+ pierogi and such so it's easy to see why they sell out so fast. Aside from the pierogi and prepared foods which we'll get into in a minute they also sell fresh baked rye bread as well as Polish Sausage made by members of the congregate. When I visited in March it just so happened to be St. Patrick's Day weekend and the rye bread I purchased from here was perfect paired with the corned beef my mom cooked for us. I didn't get a chance to try the sausage.

Sausage and Bread for sale

When it came time for me to order I was bit nervous as I saw one of the lady's behind the counter getting annoyed that people were asking for a mixed order of pierogi (kraut, cheese, potato). That lady denied the customers the chance to split their order up but the nice woman who took my order had no problem doing so. Thus I got to try four of each as these are served in orders of 12 ($6). I said yes to onion and soon had my to-go bag ready to roll after paying. I took them to the hood of my car and immediately got a powerful whiff of grilled onion, the type that makes your mouth drool.

St. Andrew Kitchen Pierogi 

What I ended up with were easily the best pierogi I've had in my home state and some of the best anywhere. First thing I noticed with these is just how smooth the skin was. It was so smooth I dropped one upon picking it up. The fillings were pretty standard but I mean that in a good way in that they were what you expect. I liked the cheese option best but all were enjoyed. What really sets these apart in my mind is the onions. The diced product was one of the most potent batches I've ever come across and when paired with the pierogi it was a match made in heaven. Also excellent were their cabbage rolls which came swimming in sauce and stuffed with meat. Cash only. Worth the ride.

Cabbage Rolls 

St. Andrew Ukrainian Kitchen
300 E Army Trail Rd
Bloomingdale, IL 60108
(630) 893-2827
Website

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Art of Chicken

-Grubbing in Chicago
Latin Inspired Grilled Chicken

It took me a long time to try the grilled chicken from this little spot on Western. But since moving into the area it's become an option for a quick snack when I don't feel like traveling all that far. The Art of Chicken opened up a few years ago and has seen a steady stream of business.

Locals Favorite in Bucktown 

The menu here is small with grilled chicken playing the starring role. It comes marinated in two different ways. One is 'El Jefe' which is described as a tangy marinade made with orange juice and the other is 'Crazy Chico' which is heavily seasoned with a variety of spices. I like them both but prefer the El Jefe due to it being a bit juicer probably due to the marinade. Sides are good.

Crazy Chico

There's another spot in Bucktown that gets lots of love for it's grilled chicken but to me there is no contest. Art of Chicken is some of the best grilled chicken anywhere, only thing missing is real charcoal flavor but they still manage to get good charcoal flavor from their gas grill. Nowadays when I want grilled chicken, I don't need to make it on my own when this place is so close.

Chicken Leg Up-Close 

The Art of Chicken
2041 N Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 697-9266

Monday, June 20, 2016

Slurp Slurp

-Grubbing in Chicago
Noodles in Chinatown

In a recent article from the Chicago Tribune it talks of Chinatown's continued growth in Chicago. Despite other Chinatown's across the country shrinking, ours continues to grow. This is most evident in the restaurants themselves. Of late we've seen handfuls of businesses opening up in Chinatown. Today we visit one of these restaurants to have recently opened. Located in the middle of all the action on Wentworth is Slurp Slurp and they're making hand pulled and or shaven noodles either fried or served in soup form. I've stopped in twice now and tried both options. My thoughts below.

Newly Opened in Chinatown 

After two visits in it's safe to say this place is popular with the young crowd.I'd say the average age on my visits was somewhere in the middle or upper 20's. Big groups of Chinese kids have been enjoying the noodles on each of my visits. The menu is pretty small with two types of housemade noodles and your choice of meat served in them. As far as the soup option goes its the same broth for all bowls and it's not ramen-like or anything like that so I think it's best to stick with the fried noodle options. The hand pulled noodles with pork belly were enjoyed on my first visit in. The meat was tender without much fat while the noodles had a pretty nice chew though it could've been bit more.

Hand Pulled Noodles 

At first I was underwhelmed as far as flavor. Texture-wise they were good but they just tasted kind of plain. You can easily remedy this by using the pickled cabbage sitting at each table. Just take a couple loads of it and sprinkle your noodles and you'll turn your noodle dish into a great plate of food.

Pickled Cabbage Condiment at each table 

I slightly prefer the shaved noodles to the hand pulled ones based off texture alone. They taste pretty similar otherwise. This order I got with brisket which was decent, some fatty pieces here and there but there were some tender flavorful parts in there as well. This place kind of reminds me of Sing's which is still there but no longer ran by the expert noodle maker it once was. Since Sing's isn't what it used to be it's nice having a new go-to spot for noodles made in-house. I'll be back for sure.

Shaved Noodles with Beef Brisket

Slurp Slurp
2247 S Wentworth Ave
Chicago, IL 60616
(312) 982-2969

Friday, June 17, 2016

Three More Jibaritos

-Grubbing in Chicago
The King of the Puerto Rican Sandwiches

It's Puerto Rican Pride week in Chicago. And when one thinks of both Puerto Rican and Chicago in the same sentence usually there's thoughts of a jibarito included. So the story goes this sans-bread sandwich is a Chicago original by way of our large Puerto Rican community. All one has to do to see just how large is ride around the Humboldt Park area on a weekend like this. The Puerto Rican flag is flying just about everywhere and it's not much different the rest of the year. The area of Humboldt Park and it's surrounding neighborhoods boast countless amounts of PR food but it's not limited to just that area. These days you can find it all over the city and in many of it's suburbs. All of them serving Jibaritos which if you don't know are the Puerto Rican sandwiches made with flattened/fried plantains. Today we check out three good options in three different parts of the city.
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Jibarito's Y Mas

Logan Square

Sitting on the corner of Fullerton and Kimball is my current go-to stop for Puerto Rican food. Although when I say PR food I usually mean a jibarito. I eat these things in waves and I've been riding one of late. Here they make what i believe to be the most consistent option and I'm not the only one that thinks that as the place has been busy on each of my visits in. I like this one so much because they always fry the plantain into a crisp consistency that lasts throughout. The garlic spread onto the top is just right and not too powerful to where it tops everything else. The steak is always tender and the onions come grilled adding more flavor to the party. The American cheese will always melt once you press your sanwich together and the mayo is never poured on. It's the perfectly balanced jibarito and at $5 or $8 with your choice of rice it's a great deal for the amount of food you get.

Steak Jibarito
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Las Delicias De Puerto Rico

Belmont-Cragin

Here we have a place up on Armitage that I also sampled a perfectly built jibarito. Also enhanced with the use of potent grilled onions. This one is for those who love them some garlic as they really pile it on. I'd like to try some of the other offerings at this place as their jibarito is stellar.

Steak Jibarito
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The Jibarito Stop

Pilsen 

Here we have a food tuck turned brick and mortar success story. The Jibarito Stop started off as and believe still is a truck but they also have a sitdown store on 18th street in Pilsen these days. The food from the truck was pleasing the one time I tried it and I went to the B&M recently and it was pretty much the same. I will say I don't love the steak they use which is chopped bits of meat that almost seems steamed but it's still tender and thats what you want when eating something in sandwich form. I also wish they gave you a bit bigger portion of rice on the side as it's about only 1/4 of what you get at some of the other spots. I'm a big fan of their empandas with the beef and cheese being my go-to. 

Steak Jibarito with White Rice and Beans
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Jibaritos Y Mas
3400 W Fullerton Ave
Chicago, IL 60647
(773) 799-8601

Las Delicias De Puerto Rico
4821 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60639
(773) 622-4191

The Jibarito Stop
1646 W. 18th St
Chicago, IL 60608
(312) 988-0585

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ryhana's Cuisine

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Indian Eats on Taylor Street

The 2200 block of Taylor street is seeing a little bit of a renaissance. You can thank the growing student body at UIC for this. As students move into the area, places that were once vacant are now being rented out by restaurants and such. One of them is Ryhana's Indian Cuisine which opened during the last year or so. It's a small space with one table so it's mostly takeout. 

Newly Opened on Taylor street

I'm by no means an expert in Indian cuisine. I don't consider it to be one of my strong points when it comes to knowledge of different foods. That said the online reviews were all praising this place when I first found it and that in of itself was enough to get me to try it out. Say what you want abut Yelp but more times than not I find the overall score of a place to be just about right.

Garlic Naan 

The only thing I don't really like about this spot is the fact they use store bought breads for naan and all other baked stuff. But when you consider the prices (meals average around $6) this is something you can look past. Just don't look past the Butter Chicken which I've found to be the best thing going here. Its pungent, it's got kick, and the meat is extra tender. I could eat this often if it was near me.

Butter Chicken

Not quite as good, in my mind anyway, was the pepper chicken. I think I was just expecting something completely different as this was more like a stew than a stir fry. It had lots of kick but I'm just not a big fan of shredded chicken so that was probably the reason I thought it to be just ok.


Pepper Chicken

I'd place their Nihari right in-between the butter and pepper chickens. Their take on the classic is pretty textbook with spicy beef being slow cooked for hours in a creamy curry filled with herbs and spices. There's no shortage of heat as my mouth felt the burn upon first bite. Again this was something like $5 for the plate so I don't want to critique every last detail when you're going to be hard pressed to find a better meal for the same price. The family that owns the place is pleasant and the food is dirt cheap while still having flavor so its easy to understand the love online.

Nihari

Ryhana's Cuisine
2253 W Taylor St
Chicago, IL 60612
(312) 251-1234
Website

Monday, June 13, 2016

Googoo's Table

-Grubbing in Chicago  
Cambodian-Chinese in Hermosa

Hey folks, I'm back! Sorry for the delay in posts but I was out of town and rarely near a computer. It's going to be a busy rest of the year as far as posts go. Speaking of 2016 I had made mention earlier in the year how it was the year of Southeast Asian food and today's post is further proof of that. Googoo's Table sits on the corner of Armitage and Kostner is the city's Hermosa neighborhood. It's not the first place you'd expect to find a Southeast Asian spot however it's not the only Cambodian owned business in this area of the city (see: Somethin' Sweet Donuts). The family behind this place are Cambodians that grew up in China so the menu reflects a little bit of both cuisines.

Newly Opened in Hermosa

A quick browse of the menu doesn't really bring your attention to anything specific though there are a few things on it you wont find everywhere. One of those options is the Cambodian Chicken Curry which is indeed a Khmer dish. I found it to be a medium level of pungent which I think is kind of standard in Cambodian cuisine, no? It's coconut based so there was some sweet notes but it's mostly subtle. The big chunks of chicken and potatoes were cooked perfectly. Due to the fact the entire family is most always there this meal felt like I was eating at someone house. The hospitality here is terrific, but even better are the family recipe egg rolls. Again these aren't unique or anything but damn do they hit the spot! There's barely any pork though some is in there, and it's mostly crunch from the veggies inside combined with fact they're fried. I just find them to be as satisfying an egg roll as you'll find when it comes to this style. I'll further explore the menu.

Cambodian Chicken Curry and Family Recipe Egg Rolls

Googoo's Table
4356 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60639
(773) 227-3999

Monday, May 16, 2016

Eating BIG in Minneapolis

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Local Eats of the Twin Cities

I hadn't been to the Twin Cities since my last post from back in 2012. So when my fiancee told me she wanted to drive there to check out wedding dresses I obliged. To me a six hour drive is nothing and I'd heard nothing but good things about the food scene since my last visit so I was down to spend a weekend eating and drinking. Luckily for us the weather had just started warming up so it was in the low 50's which is basically sandal weather for the people in these parts. I have no interest in visiting during the winter. But when it's warm, or not freezing, Minneapolis is very nice.

Fika

First stop I found thru this thread, thanks to those that posted the positive info. I love this trend of hip and happening restaurants opening up inside of museums and cultural centers. Located inside the American Swedish Institute, FIKA is a Swedish focused cafe putting out great plates of food as well as house infused Aquavit. Usually I take a picture of the menu so I can remember exactly what we ate but I forgot to here nonetheless I never forget to take a pic of whats on the plate.

Brussels Sprouts - I prefer my sprouts crisp and these were roasted until soft but still good with a creamy sauce and some chopped nuts did a little add crunch.

Potato Dumplings were as soft as can be without totally falling apart and that was impressive. The combination of slivered apples and roasted peanuts is usually something I find at Thai spots but as this dish showed it works great in all forms of food.

Smørbrød of Seared Salmon over Rye was fantastic even though I'm not a big cooked salmon fan. The Dijon Mustard sauce really made the salmon shine in my mind.

Bachelor Farmer Cafe

I didn't get a chance to try the Bachelor Farmer on this trip but I did shoot over to their new cafe showcasing coffee and all sorts of baked goods with a Nordic influence. Not a coffee drinker, nor a big sweets in the morning guy. That said they also have a Smørbrød (open faced sandwich) section and the smoked salmon with pickled veggies, dill and mustard was calling my name. I love the combo of smoked salmon and dill which I just mentioned it in the Seattle thread. This was good enough to get another but alas there's always another spot coming.

Scandinavian Style Open Faced Sandwich

When it comes to regional eats Minneapolis has some interesting options. Aside from all the Norwegian eating options there's also quite a few Somali spots. This would be due to Minnesota having what might be the most Somalian refugees of any US state. I read somewhere that 1/3 of US born Somalis live in Minnesota so that would make sense.

Afro Deli & Catering

This place too is part of a cultural/developmental center designed to help the well being of newly arrived refugees. The Somali restaurateur and the center split the profits so you're helping a good cause when you eat here. Two good things come of one as the food is pretty damn good. There was a steady mix of college kids and local Somali people and never were they not taking orders. I got an excellent steak sandwich made with thin/tender beef spiced up with African seasoning and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and Swiss. The soft but stable focaccia was perfect for this tasty concoction. A Samosa was also enjoyed.

Somali Steak Sandwich and a Samosa

Strip Mall dining time. I took an early morning ride to the suburb of Burnsville to get my day started with a Somali style breakfast.

Tawakal Restaurant

Early Sunday morning so a few locals and their young sons were in there watching some soccer. I decided to go with the beef suqaar which is a popular breakfast made with cubes of meat mixed with veggies. It's comes served with injera which is a flat pancake to scoop up the meat and eat. Tender well spiced beef and veggies with a tangy sauce served on the side was a great way to start my day.

Beef Suqaar with Injera

Continuing on with the International regional eats offerings I was surprised to find a handful of Tibetan and or Nepali restaurants and as regular readers know I love me some momo. So I had myself a little momo-off. Aside from Jackson Heights in Queens I'm not sure there's anywhere with a higher concentration of momo options. There's actually a Nepalese tea spot coming to Chicago in Logan Square and the family behind it owns a joint in Minneapolis but I didn't make it to that spot. I did get to three others though.

Gorkha Palace

I had wanted to eat an entire meal at this spot featuring Nepali, Tibetan, and Indian food made with local ingredients but it wouldn't happen. I can only go so far when it's basically just me so I stuck with a half order of momo made with local bison meat. This was probably my favorite of the trio I tried as the meat itself was very clean tasting. I've ate my fair share of Nepalese Dumplings and a common characteristic new to me at all these spots was big chunks of green onion as opposed to finely diced-in with the meat which is what I prefer. Nonetheless I love the combination of fresh herbs spices used including cilantro, coriander, and Turmeric. The commonly served on the side dipping sauce is usually a mild tomato and cilantro blend as was the case here.

Bison Momo

Moving onto the next spot I just so happened to be driving by and it was on my hit list so I stopped in for an order of momo to go.

Himalayan Restaurant

This place just smelled great with all the smells coming from the kitchen and what not. Again another spot I would've liked to further explore the menu but a half order of lamb momo was all I was good for. Another nice example, though I'll always prefer beef over lamb when it comes to these dumplings. Like the first stop the insides of these had nice sized chunks of greens to go alongside the meat. The tomato-cilantro sauce really is the perfect compliment to an order of momo.

Lamb Momo

Last dumpling stop up was a place that was open late and doubles as a bar so that made it within reach. When I stopped in there were quite a few drinkers on what was a pretty mild weathered Saturday night.

Tibet Kitchen

Even though these ones here were made with beef they were my least liked of the three. The wrapper itself was too rubbery while the beef was just a ball that often fell out after first bite. I wasn't asked about any preferred style of sauce but ended up with a damn spicy dip that pretty much took over the flavor profile when used.

Beef Momo

Then there's the American style regional eats. Cant do a trip to the Twin Cities and not stop for a Jucy Lucy and since I never had never been to Matt's now was my time.

Matt's Bar & Grill

I've had a Lucy at The Nook over in St. Paul years ago but never one from Matt's (Since 1954) which many say is the original. Many also say it's the best and there's been good word spoken here about it so I wanted to make sure I got in. Good thing I had a couple days because on Saturday when I stopped by sometime mid-afternoon the place had a line to the point where there were a few people waiting outside. Popular spot so plan according, I got there around 11:30a on Sunday and scored a seat at the bar.

The Grill at the end of the bar

Wisconsin tavern setup with the grill being in visible sight at the bar but there's to much traffic to make the bartender the grillmaster so each one held is held down by someone. I wanted as the grill guy remove and then reload the grill as many burgers as he could with each passing round. He was a natural. After a few rounds my wave came up and I had plenty of time to get a pic as you'll burn the shit out of your mouth if you don't wait for the cheese inside to cool down. The Jucy Lucy seems like such a simple burger, and it pretty much is, yet none of the imitators come close to the ones I've tried in the Twin Cities which is weird because you'd think it'd be pretty easy. Great bar burger. Make sure to go grilled with the onions, don't think it'd be the same without 'em.

Jucy Lucy

The Twin Cities also has a little bit of a roast beef sandwich culture and when out in da burbs I spied a place specializing in it.

Penn Lake Roast Beef

Turns out the owner from here used to work at another local spot called Wally's which was closed so I was never able to try it and see how they compare to here and also Maverick's which I stopped into last trip upthread. Special deals on the day I was in so I got two for $5. Considering the price this was a pretty good sandwich. Real, red at that, roast beef sliced to order and served with bbq and horseradish sauce on a lightly toasted burger bun. I can get down with that.

Roast Beef Sandwich

I like the old school roast beef spots but if you want one of the best roast beef sandwiches you'll have head to this new school butcher.

Clancey's Meat & Fish

Clancey's is pretty much like all the other new-school butchers and I mean that in a positive way. They got everything from custom cuts to duck fat and all the other good stuff I was hoping to find some walleye to throw in the cooler and take home but none this trip in. They also make sandwiches with house roasted meats and the roast beef gets lots of love online. I'm clapping with the rest of the applause as this was a masterpiece. Thinly shaved rare roast beef dressed to my liking in a fantastic locally baked bread roll. Deli sandwiches from your local butcher don't get much better.

Roast Beef Sandwich

MSP also has a good pasta culture going on and Italian is heavily enjoyed by both of us so we went around and checked some spots out. Though in hindsight I wish we returned to that which we knew because I didn't think either was on the same level as Bar La Grassa.

ie Italian Eatery

Stopped in here upon arriving in town on Friday night. It was packed and they pack them in so there were tables and chairs everywhere. In some cases good (near the open air kitchen) and in other cases not so much (near the bathroom). We were squeezed in at a small table amongst the bar area, the size of the tale made it somewhat hard to eat. Food was ok. Like I said it just didn't wow like Bar La Grassa did on a past trip.

Pan Fried Artichoke Ravioli - Housemade Ravioli with artichoke, ricotta, lemon, white truffle oil

Mushroom Cappelletti with Crème Fraîche, whiskey barrel-aged shoyu, roasted mushrooms, thyme

Bucatini with Housemade Fennel Sausage, Smoked Paprika, White Wine, Pecorino

Scena Tavern

Popular spot for food and booze here and it was Happy Hour so we were there. Drinks were good as was an order of bucatini that we ate up off the Happy Hour menu.

Bucatini with 'nduja, egg yolk, garlic, herb, breadcrumbs

We also stopped for Happy Hour at a locally liked taco and margarita spot as I always try and doc a taco stop or two on each trip away.

Sonora Grill

The menu features a bunch of options but I could only muster up the appetite for one and settled on the hot shrimp tempura and made sure to ask for housemade flour as opposed to the standard store bought corn tortilla. Not sure why they even bother with the corn when taking the time to make flour in house. This was a massive taco and couldn't be ate as was which was fine since I just nibbled on a few pieces of the fried shrimp until it could all be folded over and ate like a taco. It was enjoyed but the margarita was not.

Hot Shrimp Tempura Taco

I had Spoon & Stable as an option for cocktails and then when we saw they do a Saturday night taco special after 10pm we decided to to head over.

Spoon & Stable

Really nice and thus very popular. We were lucky to snag some seats at the bar around 9:45p but the place quickly filled to the point where it was at capacity. Even with the crazy crowds the bartenders were on point with the drinks. All four scored A's on my report card. The Saturday night taco special changes weekly and this week was a mix of Midwest and Mexican. Modern Chef flavors on homemade tortillas are what these were and they were delicious.

Duck Carnitas Tacos with red mole, ramp salsa & fried cheese curds

Last stop up was on the way out in St. Paul. Lots of good words out there spoken on Saint Dinette the Upscale style diner ala Au Cheval.

Saint Dinette

Luckily for us there were no crazy lines or anything, plenty of people dining in but still room at a few tables and the bar where we took ourselves a seat. I ate a Jucy Lucy earlier in the day and just didn't have it in me to try their lauded double cheeseburger which looked absolutely delicious. If I hadn't had a 6 hour ride home upcoming I would've dove in without hesitation. So we split a few things that sounded good to here, all of it good to both us. The made in-house bologna sandwich was super sandwich material while the crispy smelts were terrific and the fresh crinkle cut fries pretty much a Superdawg replica. A place I'll probably make it back to, hopefully with enough eating power to get both the burger and that bologna. See ya next time.

Fresh Crinkle Cut Fries

Fried Smelt with Remoulade

House Bologna Sandwich with a Fried Egg added on

The Insides
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Fika
2600 Park Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 871-4907

Bachelor Farmer Cafe
200 N First St
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 206-3923

Afro Deli & Catering
1931 S 5th St
Minneapolis, MN 55454
(612) 871-5555

Tawakal Restaurant
12609 Nicollet Ave
Burnsville, MN 55337
(952) 500-8954

Gorkha Palace
23 4th St NE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 886-3451

Himalayan Restaurant
2910 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 332-0880

Tibet Kitchen
1833 Nicollet Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 872-8663

Matt's Bar & Grill
3500 Cedar Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 722-7072

Penn Lake Roast Beef
8911 Penn Ave S
Bloomington, MN 55431
(952) 681-7430

Clancey's Meat & Fish
4307 S Upton Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55410
(612) 926-0222

ie Italian Eatery
4724 Cedar Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 223-8504

Scena Tavern
2943 Girard Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 200-8641

Sonora Grill
3300 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 722-2500

Spoon & Stable
211 N 1st St
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 224-9850

Saint Dinette
261 East 5th Street
St Paul, MN 55101
(651) 800-1415

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