Goodbye Minneapolis

3 Aug

Hello fans of Eating in Minneapolis!

If you are wondering why there haven’t been very many reviews up on the site lately, it’s because I (Ryan) moved to Austin, TX at the end of June and wife Lauren is soon to follow in the coming weeks. We have been wanting to have an adventure and try living somewhere new for a while. Many cities were discussed including Seattle, Portland, Charlotte, Nashville, and Toronto, but in the end all signs pointed to Austin with its low cost of living, mild winters, amazing entertainment options, and of course outstanding restaurants. The average Austinite spends more money eating out per year than any city in the country, so I’m sure the two of us will start up an Austin food blog soon.

Thanks to all our readers for following us the past two years!

Ryan and Lauren

Famous Dave’s BBQ and Blues Club

18 Jun

Famous Dave’s BBQ and Blues Club
Visited Sunday, June 5th 2011

Ryan
Famous Dave’s is synonymous with BBQ in the Twin Cities. Maybe not as legendary as Arthur Bryant’s is to Kansas City, but it is THE place for BBQ locally, and with very good reason. For many years, I declared Famous Dave’s to be my all-time favorite place to eat. The brisket and pulled pork were succulent, and while waiting for my slabs of meat to arrive I would try all the different BBQ sauces at the table with a spoon or knife.

Since I moved to the Twin Cities part-time in 2002, Famous Dave’s has been the “go to” place for family and friends visiting me. I have very happy memories of eating a big BBQ supper on a scorching hot summer night after work at Valleyfair at the Minnetonka location off Hwy 7, with a tall Summit to drink and a Twins game on TV in the corner. I even took a couple first dates to Famous Dave’s over the years. (Not Lauren… we had Indian food.)

Lately, due to our attempt to try more new restaurants rather than revisiting old favorites, Famous Dave’s was sort of put on hold. But once I started thinking about it last week and really craving some BBQ, it was on hold no longer and Lauren and I paid a visit to the location at Calhoun Square on a Sunday evening. We sat outside on a very pleasant night and I intentionally photo-bombed some international tourists’ group photo a table over.

I always get the same thing, every single time—Two-Meat Combo. Included are the corn muffin, corn-on-the-cob, two sides, and two meats, which is usually enough food even for me. This time I opted for the Georgia pulled pork and the catfish, with sides of green beans and mashed potatoes. I like to douse everything in the different kinds of BBQ sauce, and by “douse” I mean “smother.” Famous Dave’s recently introduced Wilbur’s Revenge, a sauce a level above the previously hottest Devil’s Spit. It was pretty dang hot and spicy, although not bursting in deliciousness like the other flavors. I don’t need to tell you the food was all amazing. The catfish came with two dipping sauces (I still preferred the BBQ sauces at the table) and the pork came on a big slice of Texas Toast. Mouth watering as I type…

Since we had been at Beer Fest the day before and I drank my weight in 4 oz. beer samples, I opted to order a Pepsi instead, and our attentive waitress kept it filled all night long. While eating, we noticed that—gasp!—Famous Dave’s has a Sunday brunch buffet. I knew we had no choice but to try it at our earliest convenience, so the following week, Lauren and I met good friend Patrick Lynch to decimate the buffet. (Yes, I know “decimate” means to destroy one-tenth of something, which is approximately what I did.)

The brunch buffet featured a lot of typical brunchy things, along with Famous Dave’s chicken wings and rib tips. They also featured a Bloody Mary bar and omelet station. Everything was pretty good, but the French Toast with the butter and praline sauce was the best I’ve ever eaten. Amazing! Strangely, I also really enjoyed the alfredo pasta dish. With some light bluesy jazz band in the background, it made for a nice atmosphere. I ate three plates full and didn’t need another meal the rest of the day!

Lauren
Ah, Famous Dave’s. So Midwestern! I honestly couldn’t tell you if this is “real” barbecue but it tastes damn good to me. It’s one of those better examples of a small chain restaurant that really does achieve consistent results. Except if you go to the Linden Hills location, where my mother-in-law and I saw a rat once. Swear to God. She wrote to Famous Dave’s and they sent her a $100 gift card, which was a good gesture but it’s also kind of funny – kind of like, “Sorry you saw a rodent in one of our restaurants! Here, come eat at one of our restaurants again, our treat.” Um, thanks? But, I digress. And I sincerely promise that I’ve been to the Calhoun Square location of Famous Dave’s and I’ve never seen any rodents.

Like Ryan, I usually go for the two-meat combo, but for me it’s mostly about being indecisive. UNLIKE Ryan, it’s always too much food for me and I either take half home, or he eats the rest. Can you guess which it was this visit? The latter. I got brisket and fried chicken, with the sides of steamed broccoli and potato salad, and I ate maybe half of it.

One of the things I hate about eating meat, in general (and I know I’m repeating myself here on the blog) is fatty, icky meats. I only eat lean meat. If it’s too….icky….I won’t touch it. Unfortunately, a lot of the times the brisket at Famous Dave’s is “icky” to me, but Ryan doesn’t seem to have any hang-ups about it. So out of three slices of brisket and two pieces of fried chicken I ate one of each. And I ate the broccoli and potato salad. And he ate the rest!

The fried chicken was delicious, though. Very crispy skin and juicy interior. I don’t eat much fried chicken for health reasons but believe you me, if I didn’t have such concerns I would be taking down a fried chicken breast weekly, at least. God damn, that is good stuff.

When we saw the ad for the brunch buffet, I knew it wouldn’t take much convincing of Ryan to go. He LOVES buffets, especially brunch-focused ones. I have to say, it was pretty dang good! I typically don’t like buffets and would rather order off of a breakfast menu – smaller portions, better quality is my motto. But for a brunch buffet this one started out well. They had a massive display of fresh fruit! Mmm-mm! Outstanding pineapple. Most of the rest was standard…eggs, bacon, sausage links, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, barbecued chicken, ham… and of course Famous Dave’s famous bread pudding, because what could be more brunch-ish than ridiculously decadent bread pudding coated in praline sauce? Omigod, I die just thinking about it.

Ambiance – The patio is nice, especially now that the Calhoun Square remodel is mostly done, the area of the patio is pedestrian-only. Inside can be very loud if there’s live music.
Service – Very good, no complaints here. Ryan’s Coke and my Arnold Palmer were both kept filled. However another waitress did trip over one of those cigarette butt tank things and nearly came crashing into me, she started cursing loudly and complaining about it. I felt like she should have apologized for the swearing but whatever.
Food – Always tasty!
Overall experience – Very positive. Ryan loves Famous Dave’s and I like it and am happy to oblige him!

The Necessities
Famous Dave’s BBQ and Blues Club
3001 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis MN
612.822.9900

Have you eaten at Famous Dave’? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below!

Bonus! Eating on the Road: New York

4 Jun

May was a crazy month for traveling! Lauren and I visited New York and Boston on vacation over the span of eight days earlier this month, this past week I visited Austin, and this past weekend we visited South Dakota for my ten-year high school reunion. We thought we’d take you through our whirlwind month of eats and treats, beginning today with New York!

Subs Conscious – 1625 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY – May 4
R:
I had the Nuclear Sub, which was loaded with jalapenos, peppers, and hot sauce. It lived up to the billing and had my nose a little sniffly. Filling lunch, decent price.
L: I had the Valedictorian, which I can’t seem to find on the online menu to recall exactly what went in it. If my memory serves, it was turkey, ham and bacon with blue cheese dressing and veggies. Tasty! A very serviceable sandwich for a quick meal.

McFadden’s – 36-2 126th St, Flushing, NY – May 4
R:
We took in a chilly Mets/Giants game at CitiField and paid extra for the pregame open bar with free app. The wing portions were small and typical tasting. Nothing special here.
L: I’m not a fan of chicken wings so I went with the “Signature Waffle Fries” loaded with cheese, bacon and chives. The menu claims that it has monterey jack and Vermont cheddar, but it tasted more like your average liquid nacho cheese. No complaints though. It was cold out and although the fries were not fine fare by any means, they were hot, salty, bacon-y and hit the spot most certainly.

Jean Georges Nougatine – 1 Central Park West, New York, NY – May 5
R:
Our friend Elise insisted we do a fancy three-course lunch for $32 at Jean Georges in the Trump Tower. I chose the avacado shrimp salad, red snapper, and warm chocolate cake with ice cream. Totally worth the $32, but watch out–Coke is $4.50 a glass with no free refills… oops.
L:
I went with the green pea soup for my starter, which was fresh and delicious but sadly over-salted. I wasn’t feeling very well for lunch, and unfortunately I ordered the salmon for my main course which was a mistake; I should have ordered something plainer as the fish didn’t sit well with me and I barely touched it. 😦 Dessert was a strawberry-rhubarb linzer torte with basil ice cream. Delicious!

B. Café West – 566 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY – May 5
R:
Our gracious NY hosts took us out to a delicious Belgian dinner at B. Café, where I opted to try something new–the steamed garlic mussels. There were 30 of them, so I was filled. And the beer menu was outstanding. High marks!
L: Very tasty. We started out with some yummy cheese croquettes and I had the an amazing dish of sea scallops, asparagus and pureed turnip. Perfect!

B. Cafe - steaming pot of mussels

My steaming pot of mussels at B. Cafe

Street Cart – 350 5th Ave, New York, NY – May 6
R:
We both opted for chicken gyros from a street cart, and they were good but absurdly messy. You really need a table… I had chicken all over the sidewalk.
L: Eh, I was not impressed with my messy, drippy, chicken gyro. Should have tried to find a hot dog cart instead!

McGee’s Pub – 240 W 55th St, New York, NY – May 6
R:
We went in here because of its ties to How I Met Your Mother and mostly drank refreshments, but we also ordered some very tasty Irish curry steak fries.
L:  They had some good drinks and the curry fries were recommended all over FourSquare, and they did not disappoint.

McGee's Pub - New York, NY

Chilling at McGee's, site where HIMYM is based

Dinosaur BBQ – 700 W 125th St, New York, NY – May 6
R:
After a day on the town, we stayed in and our hosts ordered delivery from Dinosaur BBQ. It was good BBQ with some tasty sides, but I think Famous Dave’s is quite a bit better.
L: Wouldn’t think of NYC as the place to order BBQ, but this was pretty good! We were told that it’s sort of a famous place that celebrities are known to haunt. Very good sweet potatoes and delicious chicken!

Le Monde – 2885 Broadway, New York, NY – May 7
R:
We wandered down to Seinfeld landmark Tom’s Diner, but opted instead to eat across the street at a better restaurant for brunch. I had the eggs benedict with extra potatoes… no better or worse than any other benedict I’ve had!
L: I had the smoked salmon benedict which was very tasty, although the eggs were poached quite hard which I did not like. The home fries were most excellent.

Gray’s Papaya – 2090 Broadway #1, New York, NY – May 7
R:
Lauren wanted to try this New York hotdog landmark. I felt a little pressured not knowing how to order. To me they were pretty ordinary hotdogs.
L: Yeah, the ordering system was really confusing but I thought the hot dogs delicious! Mustard, sauerkraut and a pineapple-coconut drink. I was a fan.

Lauren eating Gray's Papaya hotdog

Lauren tries the hotdog at Gray's Papaya

Swagat Indian Restaurant – 411 Amsterdam #A, New York, NY – May 7
R:
We got takeout for 4 here and I ordered everything “extra spicy,” which garnered some caution from the staff. The chicken makhani and chicken vindaloo were both good but not overwhelmingly spicy. Not up to Biryani standards!
L: Pretty standard Indian food, I thought it was very good! Dishes were about the same price as you’d find in the Twin Cities, which I was surprised by. I think they took it easy on the spiciness. It’s so hard to convince an Indian restaurant to make us truly spicy food!

Next time, we’ll take a look at our Boston restaurants visited!

Peoples Organic Café

6 Apr

Peoples Organic Café
Visited Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

peoples exterior

Ryan
Minneapolis has to have the highest number of organic brunch joints per capita in the nation by a wide margin. Every few weeks Lauren has found a new organic/natural place to try. These places continually annoy me because of their poor price-to-portion ratio. But as long as Lauren was paying, I was along for the giving it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised first of all to find out that we wouldn’t be waiting in a line of any sort, and that there was plenty of open seating. I had in my head visions of Good Earth, where we wandered around the Galleria for 35 minutes with a buzzer in hand. This place was quiet with no wait time at all.

peoples mocha

I found an item on the menu, the Peoples Organic Breakfast, that looked like it would be filling and cost-effective. For just $7.95, I received scrambled eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes, and ciabatta toast. It came out in fast fashion, everything tasted good and fresh, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t full at the end of my meal!

classic breakfast

Not much else to say about Peoples Organic Cafe, other than it was good and I’d do it again.

ryan at peoples

Lauren
This past Sunday, on the heels of a marathon 8 straight days of working for my beloved, I suggested a trip to the suburbs for some brunch. I had to pull a few teeth, though, because Ryan senses danger whenever I suggest going to a restaurant that has even a slight natural/locavore bend to it.

Surprisingly, for around 10am on a Sunday, Peoples was empty save for about a half-dozen occupied tables. This was a very refreshing change from any other time we have tried to go to brunch at that time, ever. I wonder if they were expecting a larger crowd at some point because they seemed almost over-staffed for the number of patrons.

peoples inside

We entered from the parking lot side, which made ordering kind of confusing; had we entered from the Galleria we would have walked past the build-your-own yogurt and oatmeal stations and the deli case of sandwiches (which aren’t listed on the menu chalkboards). I found this confusing, but I located them eventually and ended up ordering the egg/bacon/swiss croissant, which came with a side of potatoes, and a coffee.

peoples coffee

I love the mug that my coffee came in something ridiculous. For starters, it’s a decent size, not so small that it’s two sips and done, but not so big that the coffee gets cold before you can finish. But I really love the handle! See how nice and substantial it is? It really felt secure as I carried it from the ordering station to the table. Note to self: Find mugs with thick, sturdy handles, and don’t bring them out when company comes over.

After only a few minutes of sitting and admiring the decor – I really liked it, kind of a pleasant cross between a Starbucks and French Meadow. I love the chartreuse green – our food arrived.

people breakfast croissant

My breakfast sandwich was pretty good. It was very rich; I think the croissant is overkill. For one thing, when a buttery pastry is topped with egg, rich cheese and bacon it naturally all sort of coalesces into one big pile of richness. I think something a little bit sturdier (and, therefore, easier to pick up) would be advised. The potatoes were a real disappointment. They were just, blah. A throwaway side dish.

For what it’s worth, I think Peoples should take note from its big sister French Meadow, and serve a side of lightly dressed greens with their rich eggy breakfast dishes. People in Minneapolis go bonkers for French Meadow’s quiche with spring greens and toast, would people in Edina react negatively to salad for breakfast?

We had a Groupon ***, so Peoples was worth a shot. I don’t see myself returning any time soon — there are too many better options.

Ambiance – Very cute, light and bright with lots of green + brown to reinforce the “natural” feeling. It was very quiet when we were there but I think it would be uncomfortably loud had it been busy; they have a ton of tables jammed into a pretty small space. If I was in the area and had time to kill I think it would be a nice place to sit with a cup of coffee (or a Surly, hello) and use the wifi.
Service – Not really much to speak of; like French Meadow, you order at the counter and your food is brought out to you. The guy who took our order was exceptionally cheerful and eager to help.
Food – So-so. My breakfast sandwich did have the hidden surprise of roasted tomatoes, which provided a nice punch between the rich cheese, bacon and pastry. More would have been better. I think with some small adjustments, it could be much better.
Overall experience – It was fine. I liked that it wasn’t super busy and that we didn’t have to wait to be seated, which is a small miracle on a Sunday. But perhaps everyone else already knew what we didn’t – that Peoples doesn’t quite stack up. It’s better than average, but when you’re asking the customer to pay the “organic” price tag, you have to really deliver on the food.

The Necessities
Peoples Organic Café
3545 Galleria, Edina, MN 55435
952.426.1856

Have you eaten at Peoples Organic Café? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below!

Fogo de Chão

16 Mar

Fogo de Chão
Visited Friday, March 4th, 2011

fogo de chao exterior

Ryan
I had never eaten at Fogo de Chao, but in the days leading up to the big night, many friends and co-workers told me about their experiences and really hyped this up as being more of an event than just another dinner at a restaurant. Like the Mongolian BBQ places and their bowl-stacking techniques, people have developed methods at Fogo to ensure maximum meaty intake. Some of the advice given to me included “avoid the temptations of the salad bar” and “there’s only one side to the card, and that’s green.”

ryan salad bar

I am a big carnivore; meat of all kinds is welcome inside my belly. At Fogo, I was like a kid in a candy store—succulent beef, chicken, pork, and even lamb at every turn! First, however, I ordered the house cocktail which was sort of a boozy Brazilian mojito with an entire lime sliced up. So good, I ordered two (and was only charged for one!) Some people have told me the salad bar is the highlight of Fogo; true, it was loaded with some great breads, vegetables, and even some other cuts of meat, but I knew I was only in this for the meat. I took a big piece of asparagus, a slice of bread, and smoked salmon and then waited for the servers to arrive with the meats.

drink

I don’t even know where to begin. I could sit here for 17 paragraphs telling you about each meat, but for the sake of you actually reading this whole post, I’ll just tell you my favorites. #1 was definitely the filet mignon. I could go to a different restaurant and order a filet only twice the size of the slice I was served at Fogo and be charged $30 for my meal. Here, that portion of filet ended up being about $1.50 when you average it all out, and it was the best I’ve ever had. My mouth has begun to salivate thinking about eating another piece of that!

#2 was the house specialty, the picanha, a cut of top sirloin. Shaped like a C on the poker, it was equally as tender and flavorful as the filet mignon. Other top cuts were the Linguica pork sausages and the bacon-wrapped chicken. If I were to go again, I’d focus on those four first and foremost. But that’s not to say that the others were less satisfactory, because they all were good. Seriously, all 17 were excellent cuts of meat. However, the rack of lamb was probably my least favorite. The leg of lamb was much tastier. Even the pork tenderloin, seasoned in my typically despised Parmesan, was outstanding.

picanha

Remember the Scrubs where Turk eats ten steaks at dinner and goes to the hospital in agony? I was warned about the “meat coma” by several friends and co-workers. And while I didn’t need my stomach pumped like Turk, I hit the uncomfortable stage. My heart rate sped up and I began seeing things—I thought a banana was a sausage and later I thought a piece of lamb was a chocolate-covered strawberry. Ten minutes later I was polishing off Lauren’s cheesecake for dessert, so I guess it was short-lived.

cheesecake

What else can be said? I have not had such a fun restaurant experience before. It was truly an event to anticipate, not just dinner at another restaurant. That said, it must never become a regular thing. I hope that we can visit once per year in the future for special occasions, or during the special restaurant weeks in Minneapolis with the discounted rates.

orchid

Lauren

I had been waiting and waiting for the next Restaurant Week with one goal in mind: Fogo! So when the dates were announced, Ryan hopped on OpenTable and booked us a four-top for the Friday night, and we talked the Rosoks into joining us for dinner. When we arrived it was absolutely slammed! I guess the word about the good deal to be had was out. It didn’t matter though, because the restaurant is so huge that we were seated in no time. After a quick explanation from our waiter about the “card” system and a round of drinks ordered, we were off to the salad bar!

Unlike my dear husband, I could definitely see myself going to town on the salad bar. I like meat but I’m more of a veggie eater than he is! So I found it tough to not fill upon the tasty things lining the salad bar; I limited it to some bread with balsamic vinegar, red peppers, lettuce and endive, mozzarella, broccoli and artichoke bottoms. Oh, and some smoked salmon! All of it was so delicious, the smoked salmon especially was amazing. It was definitely difficult for me to set the salad aside and ready myself for the onslaught of meat.

salad bar 1

So, unlike Ryan I did not try all of the meats. I first tried the garlic beef, which was not a favorite of the rest of the group. I liked it because it had some delicious charred bits and great garlic flavor. Next up were two bacon wrapped items, chicken tenders and filet. The chicken was amazing, but the bacon-wrapped filet was not as good. I think it’s the difference in the two meats – you definitely want to cook bacon fully, but cooking filet to well-done ruins it! Another surprise favorite was the linguica sausage, which was very spicy. With all of the prime beef cuts, I didn’t expect to love the sausage but it was delicious. And of course, I really liked both the ‘house specialty’ picanha top sirloin but the regular, non-bacon wrapped filet mignon was definitely the best – the favorite of the whole group.

meat

I really do think I could be satisfied with a meal at Fogo without the meat, and that is helped by the never-ending sides. The polenta was amazing. Frankly I didn’t think the potatoes were worth eating and the plaintains (which I normally love) were just so-so.

side dishes big announcement

Ambiance – It’s a little hard to get accustomed to the non-stop servers offering you meat, but we did okay after getting over the initial shock. It was very busy during Restaurant Week, of course, filled with happy diners chowing down on what had to be at least 30 whole cows.
Service – Very enthusiastic and prompt…except when it was time for the bill. We sat for quite a long time waiting for our server to bring us back our credit cards.
Food – Deeeelicious! Ryan may have stuffed himself full but I kept my meat intake under control, which was difficult at times. I even managed to order and eat a little bit of dessert!
Overall experience – A very fun night! It was definitely a great bargain during Restaurant Week. If not for the special deal, I wouldn’t have felt like I could have justified the cost but this was an awesome treat. Ryan is already looking forward to the next restaurant week…

The Necessities
Fogo de Chão
645 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, MN
612.338.1344

Have you eaten at Fogo de Chão? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below!

Great Mandarin

12 Mar

Elsewhere on the web: As part of our partnership with FNS Delivers, Ryan & Lauren review Great Mandarin in Eden Prairie.

Ryan’s reviewLauren’s review

Note: Outside of the cost of food, we are not being compensated for our writing at this time. We have no financial interest or stake in FNS Delivers. FNS Delivers is a wholly owned subsidiary of BLACKSUN PRODUCTIONS.

Joe’s Garage

5 Mar

Joe’s Garage
Visited Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

exterior

Ryan
First, I must say this was our most controversial restaurant visit. Controversial in that we received extremely poor service, left a tiny tip, and later complained to management. However, management’s quick and satisfactory response erased my feelings of hostility. Now to relive the story of our visit to Joe’s Garage on Wednesday night.

This week is Restaurant Week in Minneapolis, where a lot of places give customers the opportunity to eat lunch or dinner from a special menu for flat rates of $15 or $30. Lauren suggested Wednesday night that we take in one of the $15 dinner restaurants, and gave me the list of her five finalists. From that, I selected Joe’s Garage due to its largely American menu, just what I was in the mood for.

We arrived and were seated at 6:55 near the kitchen. Lauren wasn’t thrilled with where we were seated, so I asked the waitress if we could move to a booth. The waitress said that shouldn’t be a problem, at which point Lauren changed her mind and insisted she was fine with where we were. I don’t know if this little exchange somehow rubbed the waitress the wrong way or not, but it’s the only possible reason I can come up with for the events that soon unfolded.

The waitress returned at 7:05 and we placed our drink and dinner orders. There were five selections from each of the three courses: appetizers, main courses, and desserts. At this point, a pair of ladies were seated near us in a booth, and another couple was seated beside us. Lauren and I were chatting and enjoying each others’ company when I noticed the ladies in the corner were receiving their drinks and appetizers. “Ours must be coming soon!” I thought, finding it odd that people who sat down well after us were getting their food and drinks before us.

bread

Time continued to tick off the clock, and we were getting confused and impatient. Now the ladies in the corner were being served their main courses, and the table to our side was getting their appetizers. A third table behind us was seated during this time, and I thought “if these people who sat down at least twenty minutes after us get served first, I definitely have to say something.” A few more minutes went by, and they were served before us.

It was now 7:35. I was getting downright angry. We tried to get the waitress’s attention, but she avoided us and wouldn’t even make eye contact. Now we suspected that the wait was not an oversight, but intentional. But why would she do that? Because of Lauren’s tiny little two-second scene about seating? I told Lauren that if we weren’t given some sort of attention by 7:40, we were walking out. Lo and behold, at 7:37, our wine arrived and the waitress informed us the apps were on the way.

bulgogi tacos

Apps were out soon after, and they were good. We split orders of Korean tacos and wontons. The ladies in the corner were now waiting for their check, and the table to our side was on to dessert. The table behind us was finishing off their main course. We had now been at Joe’s Garage for over an hour and were still waiting on our main courses. Clearly it wasn’t backed up because others were being served in a timely manner, just not us. We couldn’t figure it out! It was 8:15 when our main courses arrived, and the tables near us had all paid and left. I had the jerk chicken and it was decent, had a little kick to it. The fries were not very warm anymore, but Lauren was kind to share her hot fries with me.

jerk chicken

The rest of the night, the service was good. Our dishes were cleared, our water glasses stayed filled, and dessert and the tab were out quickly. Dessert was the highlight of the meal for me. The warm chocolate tart and ice cream was excellent.

chocolate tart

I had such high hopes for Joe’s Garage. The food was fine but it was such an afterthought to me after the worst service we’ve received since last summer’s Moto-i debacle. Clearly the poor service had me forgetting about the rest of the night. The food was decent, prices were great, portions were reasonable. Ambiance wasn’t great in the kitchen area, but not awful.

So anyway, for the first time since a similar experience at a local D’Amico & Sons restaurant a couple years back, I wrote a letter to management and let them know we did not enjoy our experience. Within only hours I had heard back from the owner, who apologized and offered a gift card to make up for the poor service. That made me feel a lot better that management is working hard to ensure customer satisfaction. No ill will towards Joe’s Garage; we’ll try it again with our gift card this spring and hope for a much more pleasant experience!

Lauren
Gah. Well, Ryan has already said plenty about the service we received at Joe’s Garage, so I’ll just add this: We would have left much happier about the whole experience if our waitress would have acknowledged some kind of mistake or made some sort of apology. Any indication that she realized that she had messed up would have gone a long way with us.

When we got to Joe’s we were led to an area that I am a little shocked that they seat people in – was this to accommodate extra MSP Restaurant Week traffic? I don’t know, but I did not much care for being shoved into what seemed like a service area. To my point, this was the scene to my right:

ugly ugly ugly

And that’s why Ryan wanted to ask to move tables, but what I would have really preferred was to move sections and I don’t know how I would ask a server to put me in someone else’s section without coming off like a jerk. Having said all that it was kind of fun to watch the cooks do their thing, since I was directly facing the window where the servers picked up orders. Open kitchens are cool and I was liking watching them but you would think that Joe’s Garage could do something to make this space a little less horrid. I would think that for a relatively small investment they could make this into a much nicer space so that people stuck back there didn’t feel like they were secondary citizens, smashed between a service area and storage.

waited 30 mins for wine

Now that I’m being honest, after waiting 30-plus minutes for house wine I was in such a mood that I really wasn’t going to have anything positive to say about the experience, and the wine backed that plan up. I know house wine is by definition not the best stuff, but this tasted halfway to vinegar.

shrimp wontons

The shrimp wonton appetizer I had was good. Chopped up shrimp that was seasoned with curry and a coleslaw that was dominated by toasted sesame oil flavor. Dipping sauce is what you’d expect, some kind of Ponzu sauce.

lamb sliders

The lamb sliders were surprisingly meaty, although they were done more pink than I would have liked, as I have a natural aversion to underdone ground meats. They had a generous slathering of chevre and roasted red peppers which were both slightly warm, but also ice-cold strips of portobella mushroom which were unpleasant against the warm burgers. My fries, in contrast to Ryan’s, were still hot and I was happy to share them with him — I didn’t want to fill up on them when I had a dessert coming anyway. Priorities, people!

coconut creme caramel

For my dessert selection I went with the coconut crème caramel. I had checked out the menu online for Restaurant Week, which turned out to be abbreviated as online it was Banana Cream Pie, and when we actually got to the restaurant it was listed at Chocolate Banana Cream Pie. Bah!

During our extended wait that evening I saw many of the crème caramel being brought out with lots of lovely blackberries and raspberries, so I was disappointed when mine had mostly sad-looking blueberries. Outside of that, the custard itself was very good and was also the highlight of my meal, but that’s not surprising given my love for pretty much all custard desserts.

Ambiance – Bad. Ryan didn’t hate it but I have never been seated in such a terrible area of a restaurant. I don’t understand how they can justify seating people next to an overflowing storage area.
Service – Well, it was just plain terrible. We were ignored, our order was obviously forgotten but there was no attempt to address the situation or even recognize that the server screwed up. It doesn’t even take 40 seconds to pour a glass of wine, much less 40 minutes. However, Ryan and I both appreciated the response of the manager to our email complaint. He knew where we sat and who our server was and said that he was going to address the situation with her.
Food – It was fine. Considering the three courses were a total of $15 the value was there, but when you’re waiting over an hour for a chicken breast, mini burgers and fries it’s impossible to muster anything but the very faintest of praise.
Overall experience – Very bad. If we had not been offered a gift card by the manager I would not plan on going back, ever. We will give it another shot, perhaps in the summer on their rooftop patio overlooking Loring Park.

The Necessities
Joe’s Garage
1610 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, MN
612.904.1163

Have you eaten at Joe’s Garage? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below!