Archive | January, 2011

Common Roots Café

30 Jan

Common Roots Café
Visited Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

common roots


I’m getting worse and worse of thinking of places to eat in the Twin Cities. When Lauren presented me the opportunity to essentially pick any restaurant to eat at and she’d foot the bill, I choked–I couldn’t think of anywhere I wanted to go! After I basically gave up and turned the duties back over to Lauren, she considered the walkable Common Roots just down the street. You know how I feel about local natural type restaurants. They’re typically overpriced and disproportionately small and not outrageously as delicious as led to believe. But, I have a good history with Common Roots. They once gave us a free dessert and they have reasonable happy hour specials with a small but respectable beer list, with an exceptionally inviting patio area in the summer. We like to get bagels from them for breakfast once in a great while and they’re tasty. But I’d never had a full meal there and agreed to give it a shot.

Common Roots has a positive atmosphere; many small two- and four-seat tables conducive to laptop users and casual coffee sippers. There are no waiters serving the tables; instead, you stand in line and order straight from the counter and then take your number and find a table. For a Saturday night, we were happy to have several available seating options.

I ordered the Chicken Cassoulet, described as “cannellini cassoulet with free-range chicken confit, fresh herbs, topped with breadcrumbs.” I didn’t really know what cannellini, cassoulet, or confit were, and quite honestly still don’t, but it sounded good to me! I also ordered a glass of a pilsener beer recommended by the clerk. My meal ended up being a small platter of a stew-like concoction, with the chicken displayed in the middle with a decorative potato slice. Points for presentation, I suppose. I dug right in and found it very agreeable with the pallet, especially for a night with below-zero temps. It was hearty but light. In fact, I really liked my meal and wished I had more of it.

And there it is… you knew it was coming. As I fully expected, the serving size was quite small and although delicious and healthy, left me wanting more… much more. I wouldn’t think it to be an over-exaggeration to say I could have literally eaten four times the amount I was served. While we enjoyed our meals and the inviting surroundings, we ended up going across the street to the Bulldog to get some tator tots to finish filling us up. That, to me, is such a big thing with restaurants. Would I rather have a tiny portion of a delicious meal, or a gigantic portion of a so-so meal? Easy, I’ll take the big portion almost every time. I leave a restaurant happy when I am full, not when I enjoyed the taste of a small portion of food. Nevertheless, I would consider Common Roots for dinner again.


It was partially my fault. I decided sometime in the morning that I was pretty sure I wanted to go to the Strip Club but I wanted Ryan to feel like it was his idea, so I proposed that we go out for a nice little dinner that night. We waffled back and forth about where to go, so when 5 pm rolled around and we finally made a decision, our first through fourth choices failed to see our charms, and it was looking like we’d be either staying in for the night or eating dinner at 9:45.

I was perusing our list of restaurants to try at 5:25 when I popped open Common Roots’ dinner menu, realized that their happy hour was still on and within minutes we were smarted up and out the door to walk the few blocks to CRC in time to grab a Fulton Sweet Child of Vine and Brau Brothers Pilz at happy hour prices. Man, does Common Roots have an amazing beer list. Small, only seven or so taps, but are they ever well-chosen.

We had been to Common Roots a dozen times before, but never gotten meal service – only bagels in the morning and beers at night. It’s the same exact set-up though, where you order and pay at the counter and a staff member brings your food to your table. It’s a little odd to order dinner at a counter, but not a big deal.

CRC’s menu changes monthly, and it seemed to me that the theme for January was comfort food. I ordered the brisket, which came with blue polenta, fava beans, pearl onions and kale with a fruity barbecue sauce (just checked the menu, it was cherry barbecue sauce).


It’s almost impossible to see in that photo because of how dark it was, but there were three or four slices of brisket. The meat was good, there were some fatty bits that I didn’t care for (of course) and given how dark it was in the restaurant it was hard for me to see enough to trim my meat how I like to. The polenta was AMAZING. I don’t think that I have ever had polenta that had been cooled and sliced, I’ve only had it warm and creamy. Consider me a convert because I loved it! I could have eaten just a plate of polenta and kale for dinner and been a very happy girl. The kale, usually not my favorite thing, was good and there were a few bites that had a crispy nugget of fried garlic. I was also surprised by the fava beans, which I had never had before. They are huge! It was disturbing how much I kept thinking about that line from Silence of the Lambs, “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” I myself did not eat anyone’s liver, and I drank beer rather than wine, and the fava beans were pretty good, as far as beans go.

All in all I know we will return time and again to Common Roots for bagels and beers, and I would certainly return for lunch or dinner as well.

Ambiance – Very chill. We were eating pretty early so there was a funny mix of people on laptops or reading, just hanging out and people eating dinner. CRC seems like it would be a fun place to study! We were sitting in the front of the restaurant which I think is darker than the back, due to being by the huge windows.
Service – There’s not much to speak of, since you order at the counter and they bring your food out to you. The guy at the counter was really nice and helped me pick out a beer to drink. Every time I’ve been there the staff is always friendly.
Food – Unlike Ryan, I didn’t have too much of a complaint about my portion size (and he shouldn’t complain so much because I gave him quite a bit of my food!). My brisket was a really nice combination of textures and flavors and I l-o-v-e-d the blue polenta.
Overall experience – Very good! It would have been better if we had ordered a starter as well because Ryan was pretty cranky about still being hungry. Thanks to some quick decision making, Common Roots gave us a lovely and unexpected night out.

The Necessities
Common Roots Café
2558 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55405


Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill

25 Jan

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill
Visited Friday, January 14th, 2011


I’ve only been to Vegas once as an adult, but Ryan has gone a number of times for work and when we were there two years ago, he said we really had to go to Toby Keith’s bar because they had these huge drinks and it was fun and random and a break from all the Las Vegas-y glitz and glamor. I’m not sure if he knew there were multiple locations or if it was just me thinking that it was a Vegas-only thing. I just want to emphasize at the start that I’ve been to the Vegas location and had a lot of fun there.

Ryan was really excited when he found out there would be a location opening up in the Twin Cities, and me less so. Places like that, to me, are only fun when you’re on vacation and you’re not as freaked out over a $10 drink…you’re on vacation! Time to cut loose and enjoy yourself, fer chrissake! But when you’re just a few miles from home your tolerance for price gouging is a lot lower…as is your tolerance for self-important a-hole bouncers and the bros’n’hos cohort.

I was really kind of pissy about going to TK’s in the first place, as I’ve been to the St Louis Park location twice and haven’t had all that much fun…the environment, the crowd, I don’t find any of it enjoyable. But our friend Patrick was having his birthday there so I reluctantly accompanied Ryan there in the snow. We were both starving so we sat with the gang and ordered food, crammed into a tiny booth. To be honest, they should give up the idea of even having a “dining area” as it’s a joke, just a handful of tables crammed into a section that is still SO LOUD from the music, as they didn’t bother building an actual wall. In my opinion they would be better off just having a bunch of big picnic tables to accommodate big groups. They are clearly trying to be more about music than anything else anyway, why not just go with it?

On the advice of one of Patrick’s friends I ordered the pulled chicken sandwich, which was a HUGE DISGUSTING MISTAKE. It wasn’t “pulled” it was “chunks of nasty” chicken, like the icky bits you trim off of a chicken breast or thigh. It was supposed to be a sandwich yet the bun was absolutely soaked, but there wasn’t any discernible flavor from any sauce so I’m not sure what soaked the bun. So I ate what wasn’t disgusting with a knife and fork and the whole night I felt sick to my stomach that I even ate that horrible sandwich. Why didn’t I complain? Despite the fact that I doubt anyone working at TK’s gives a rat’s a** about what food they are churning out, I should have told them how disgusting it was, just to have made my voice heard. The upside, if there could be one, was that the pickle and the fries were decent.


Our server was well-meaning but pretty much incompetent. There were a ton of us crammed into a little booth so maybe that was confusing, but one of the guys ordered just drinks and his tab, and sat there for a long time after getting his drinks, waiting to pay. When she didn’t come back, he left the money with the group and went over to the bar area where some other people were. Some time later after we had all finished eating, she put his drinks on Ryan’s and my tab, because “you guys were the last ones to ask for your bill”. So…? The person who ordered those drinks had asked for his check long before that! Not sure what her logic was. We got it straightened out quickly but we were definitely annoyed.

In the final analysis, if I never return to Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, it will still be too soon.

When I visit Las Vegas, one of my favorite places to hang out is Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Harrah’s. They have these giant super strong mixers for $15 that are actually worth $15. The bartenders pour shots in your mouth whenever “I Love This Bar” plays. And there is a great country cover band every night that doesn’t completely drown out the place. So I was super pumped when we got our own Toby Keith’s in St. Louis Park in 2010.

Unfortunately, in my three visits there, I have been vastly let down. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations. The one in Vegas is so much more fun and infinitely more welcoming, but the one in our neighborhood is wildly trendy and whenever I’ve been there, I am made to feel like I’m in the staff’s way. I just constantly get this negative vibe from the staff. I have been scolded every time I’ve been there or conversed with them; from a manager telling me he is not interested in sponsoring my softball team and to stop wasting his time, to a waitress telling me I can’t sit in a certain booth, to a security guard angrily and forcibly moving me so there was ample walking room near the bathrooms. There is always a line to get in to Toby’s, and I think they plan it that way. Even when there is enough room inside, they still like to keep people waiting to create this aura of a trendy venue. This whole place is just one big joke; it could so easily be a fun country bar but they are trying too hard to make it the next big nightclub in the Twin Cities.

The drink hook at Toby’s is beer served in mason jars. Yes it is bigger than a typical beer, but the prices are kinda crazy. I paid $8 for a Coors Light and $9 for a Summit. I am fairly certain they don’t cost that much in Vegas. The food is a slight positive, in my opinion. Though nothing special taste-wise, the dishes are lightheartedly named after Toby Keith songs and are pretty sizable. I ordered the country fried steak and was pleased to receive a giant steak sitting on top of a bed of mashed potatoes. I also was allowed to choose two additional sides and received a big helping of sweet potato fries and broccoli. Again, I was plenty satisfied with my food and left full, but it was not very memorable.


I had such high hopes for Toby’s, but it has failed on many levels for me. I don’t plan to go there again unless it’s for a concert, a friend’s birthday party or some other special event held by a friend. If I was ever thinking of eating there again, I’d go in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday when maybe there is no line to get in, and maybe one of their very few tables is open. Toby’s serves food but it is definitely not pushing the restaurant part of the business; it seems like an afterthought after creating its elitist vibe. If I was still ranking all of the restaurants we’ve visited for this blog, I am sure Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill would be in last place by a wide margin. I’m just seriously disappointed with this establishment.

Ambience –
Terribly loud and unpleasant. Would perhaps be fun if you were extremely drunk or at a bachelor/bachelorette party. It’s the size of an airport hangar and every corner of it is blasting with music from the stage or speakers, making it impossible to hear people you’re standing right next to, the drinks are expensive, and the only thing the staff seems concerned with is making themselves feel important.
Service – The service we’ve received has ranged from incompetent but nice to intentionally rude.
Food – Seriously, sincerely, not even worth eating. If you must, stick to anything deep fried or impossible to screw up – like I said, my fries and pickle were decent.
Overall experience – We love Patrick and hope he had a great birthday (we were texted a pretty funny photo the next morning that tells us that indeed, he did have a great birthday). If I, Lauren, have any say in the matter, we won’t be returning.

The Necessities
Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill
1623 Park Place, St Louis Park, MN 55416

Lyndale Tap House

21 Jan

Lyndale Tap House
Visited Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Wednesday night, Lauren and I checked out the Lyndale Tap House for the first time since it opened a year ago in our neighborhood. I had bought one of those Crowd Cut coupons—$20 for $40 worth of food. Along for the outing were friends Christopher and Sarah.

We arrived with 30 minutes left to go during Happy Hour. They had some killer specials! 2-for-1 on all domestic beers and 1/2 price apps. When I see domestic taps on special, it usually seems to be just the Budweiser, Miller Lite, maybe Leinenkugel’s kinda thing. But they included all the fancy domestics beers, so I opted for the Bell’s Two Hearted and Lauren went with Magic Hat #9. We sure were thirsty, because we each managed to get in a second 2-for-1 before Happy Hour ended at 7. We also tried the soft pretzels (came in breadstick form) with spicy mustard, and Sarah ordered the pork belly appetizer for the group. Both appetizers were very tasty, excellent ways to start our meal.


Lyndale Tap House is known for their “pit” meats, which are described as slow-cooked meats that are grilled over coals, blended with secret spices and then left to simmer for three days, and finally slow-cooked over an oak fire grill until crispy on the outside. Wow, that sounded amazing! I went the non-traditional route and chose the Latin Pig, which is pit pork drenched in mandarin habanero sauce with avocado, cilantro, and mayo, served with a side of fries. My sandwich was excellent—the meat was as good as described, and provided just a pinch of heat. There seemed to be an excess of bun and not as much meat as I would have preferred, otherwise a solid sandwich. The fries were good, nothing terribly extraordinary.

Lyndale Tap House, Minneapolis

The Latin Pork sandwich with fries

The restaurant itself was very dark—quite a bit dimmer than your typical bar. The wait staff was over to check on us often. Our only issue was our $40 coupon didn’t apply to Happy Hour purchases, so we didn’t actually spend enough money to use it.  Instead, we shared it with Walsh and Sarah. So really I ended up just breaking even on the deal since I spent $20 to get the coupon, and then essentially redeemed it for $20 off.  One thing we’d like to do in the future is check out their brunch menu, which appears to be served Sunday mornings. Anyway, it is a place I’d check out again for sure.


It seems like a recurring theme on this site that we go to a restaurant that was panned during its opening and have a better-than-decent time. Enter Lyndale Tap House. Again, not great reviews when it first opened. But we had a good time!

Ryan bought the Crowd Cut as a little Christmas present for me, and unlike most of those deals that we have, we didn’t let it sit unused for months! We made plans to meet up with Chris and Sarah to have dinner there.

We arrived around 6:15 and perused the happy hour specials. When we saw that “domestic beers” were on special we were expecting to see the usual Coors Light and Budweiser; imagine the shock when Magic Hat #9, Bells Two Hearted, and Crispin Cider were included! And that wasn’t all, they had a shockingly good draft list.

It was a while before Chris and Sarah joined us; they had to find parking whereas we were able to walk from our apartment. So we had lots of time to peruse the menu and knew we wanted to order the pretzels when they arrived around 6:40. We polished those off shortly, and Sarah decided to order the pork belly appetizer as well. I would love to tell you that I tried some; between the very dim lighting and my general fear of unknown meats, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat any of it. Good job on Chris, Sarah and Ryan for being more adventurous than myself!

So Ryan has already spoken of the hook at LTH, the pit meats. Once I saw that they had a Cuban sandwich I was all over that business. HOWEVER. I must not have read the menu entirely because I assumed that they would be doing a faithful adaptation of the sandwich but what was brought to me was NOT a Cuban sandwich. To start out with the bread was about 5″ tall, and it was a Kaiser roll, and it was NOT pressed. After that, there was swiss cheese, and lightly pickled cucumbers…almost sweet. I do recall that the menu said that they were refrigerator pickles, so those don’t get as “pickle-y” as other pickles, so I guess I can live with that.

I need to take a moment before I talk about the last part.

On the sandwich. They put. HONEY MUSTARD. Like any iconic food there is much debate about what makes a “real” Cuban. Are tomatoes allowed? Lettuce? Mayo? But a few things aren’t debated: Pork. Swiss cheese. Yellow mustard. NOT honey mustard.

So let’s just leave it at this: The meat was good. The Cuban sandwich was NOT a Cuban sandwich.

However: Sarah and I spied on their brunch menu something called “Hard Cider French Toast” so that’s been occupying my thoughts pretty intensely ever since…

Lyndale Tap House, Minneapolis

Lauren's Cuban Sandwich

Ambiance – It was a little heavy on the “Bro’s ‘N Ho’s” environment when we were there… it feels like one big bar, which could be good or bad. It was quite dim when were were there, but I bet it’s really bright and friendly during daylight.
Service – Decent, no complaints. We were hanging out for quite a while before ordering food and she was cool with that, and she sneaked in a second happy hour drink order at the last second for us. Props!
Food – THAT WAS NOT A CUBAN SANDWICH. But the meat was tasty.
Overall experience – Good! I think it would be a fun place to go during a football game or for a happy hour get-together.

The Necessities
Lyndale Tap House
2937 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Café Levain

18 Jan


Café Levain
Visited Friday, January 7th, 2011

For my Christmas present, Lauren planned to take me out for a fancy French dinner on New Years Eve! Unfortunately, Lauren got violently ill that night and we were forced to put off our dinner until January 7. Lauren presented me with a list of French restaurants in the Twin Cities and told me to take my pick. Not wanting her to break the bank, I chose the one that seemed the most reasonably priced, Café Levain in south Minneapolis.

The restaurant was very inconspicuously located on a side street. The seating area was very unlike a typical restaurant; it just seemed very open, bright, quiet, and airy. Lauren made reservations, but they clearly were not needed; I would say the place was 40% full at best. Our waiter promptly greeted us and poured water and dropped off the menus. We opted for the Les Launes Croze-Hermitage Syrah (France, 2006) which was a chef’s recommendation. I believe it cost around $37, one of the lower-priced bottles on the menu.

I also chose the Cauliflower Leek Beignets as an appetizer. I did not know, and still don’t really know, what exactly that is. The menu describes it as “Piquillo Pepper Rouille, Frisée.” Whatever… they were good. I would go so far as to say the appetizer was the highlight of my meal. They were these decent-sized, breaded, fried balls that were served with some greens and a dipping sauce. At first taste they seemed relatively flavorless, but soon I was surprised by a little heat! The dish was probably meant for two people, but I ate it all and it was filling.

Cauliflower Leek Beignets

Cauliflower Leek Beignets... very tasty!

The dinner menu was succinct with basically five options: chicken, beef, steak, salmon, and vegetable dishes. There was also a special, the pork tenderloin. I am always a sucker for specials and chose the pork. It was a moderate wait for our food, which we could see being prepared in the open kitchen.

My meal arrived and I questioned if we had indeed come to a French restaurant, or rather a German restaurant! The plate consisted of two slabs of pork tenderloin, very soft mashed potatoes, red cabbage, and what I believe was some sort of tomato jam sauce. The giant bowl/plate made my portion seem deceivingly small, but in reality it was quite a lot of food. To be perfectly honest, my meal visually didn’t look very enticing. But I let my taste buds be the judge! I had never before eaten pork that was still pink in the middle and wondered if it was a mistake or not, but gave the chef the benefit of the doubt and ate it all up… and I’m here to tell about it, so it must have been alright to eat. The potatoes were tasty—nice and buttery. The cabbage was a very German addition to the meal. The tomato jam was really unusual—I may have done without it.

Cafe Levain, pork tenderloin special

The pork tenderloin special

All in all, I was happy with our meal. If we were to do it again, I would order the same appetizer but get a different entrée. Lauren’s beef was better than my pork, in my opinion. Nevertheless, for a Friday night moderately-priced ($20-range entrées) meal, I would recommend giving it a try. A very nice Christmas gift from Mrs. Wife!

I was absolutely heartbroken when my vicious cold hit its peak on New Year’s Eve. Instead getting gussied up and heading to St Paul for a romantic dinner at Meritage’s “Celebration” 10pm seating, Ryan ran out to buy a $10 bottle of sparkling wine and we watched the Dick Clark NYE TV special, complete with a performance by NKOTBSB, in our sweatpants.

When I was feeling better I researched French-influenced restaurants in Minneapolis and sent him a list. I was happy when he chose Levain as it seemed like a nice place with good value. I made a reservation on OpenTable, which later proved to be totally unnecessary.

When we arrived, I actually thought the place was more like 25% full – honestly, as I later remarked to Ryan, Levain has way too many tables…if it had been full, it would have been insanely loud and I sincerely doubt the waiters would have been able to squeeze between tables with plates of food. But it was a really nice space with an open kitchen – I think it would be fun to go back and sit at the “bar” facing the kitchen to watch the cooks work.

Maybe it was because I was so hungry when we arrived, but the bread and butter they served when we sat down was shockingly good. They don’t advertise if they use Hope Creamery butter, but the butter we were served was so good that I would be surprised if it was from anywhere else.

Unlike Ryan, I knew exactly what I was getting for my first course – onion soup! I love onion soup and this was a faithful rendition of the old classic…not breaking any culinary barriers, but a very tasty and warming standby for a frigid January night.

imageI had a bit more trouble picking out my main course. I had talked Ryan into ordering a red wine, as I think it’s the best defense against the bitter cold that we endure during winters in Minnesota. I had been tossing around the idea of the chicken or salmon but my desire for red wine somewhat ruled those out. Enter another bistro classic, beef bourgogne (although I’ve always known it as beef burgundy). Red wine, potatoes, onions, carrots, more red wine… absolute perfection for a January night, and Levain’s interpretation did not disappoint. My only complaint, is that the cook had a heavier hand than necessary with vinegar in the jus, as the dish had too much sourness. When the liquid was mixed more with the potato puree, though, the sourness was better balanced.

imageWhen all was said and done Ryan and I were far too full to even consider dessert. Although it wasn’t the plan we had in mind, we had a lovely meal and we left, warm and content, suitably fortified to face the Minnesota winter once again.

Ambiance – Very nice modern space, light with very high ceilings. If it had been very busy I think it would be terribly loud.
Service – Our server was prompt and fairy attentive. He didn’t fill my water glass as often as I would have liked. He was also serving a party of ten a few tables over so I think they commanded more of his attention, and we were more of an afterthought.
Food – I loved mine. The soup wasn’t as salty as some I’ve had, which is a very good thing (and somewhat difficult to accomplish, it seems). My beef was on the sour side but still delicious.
Overall experience I had a really lovely meal, and an even more lovely time. It was more expensive than a typical night out for us, but it was a special occasion so we ordered a bottle of wine. The prices are not outrageous and the food, well executed.

The Necessities
Café Levain
4762 Chicago Ave S. Minneapolis, MN 55407

Burger Jones

15 Jan

Burger Jones
Visited December 9th, 2010



At my company, we go through Medica health insurance, and Medica has this nice little program where they reward you for taking surveys and challenges involving your health. Super easy to do, well worth the effort. Anyway, I cashed in $105 worth of rewards on a $75 Target gift card and a $30 Burger Jones gift card. Score! So recently, Lauren and I went to Burger Jones to redeem my $30 worth of healthy behavior in 2010.

I am a big fan of hamburgers, probably because I grew up on a cattle farm where we had freezers stocked full of beef products. It has been a personal food quest of mine to scour the Twin Cities for the perfect burger. I’ve had dozens, from Matt’s Bar to The Nook to Green Mill to Fuddrucker’s, and while many of them were awesome, none stick out in my mind as being the great “go-to” burger I’m seeking. I had hoped Burger Jones could fill that void.

I started my meal off with an adult “hard shake” called the Georgia Peach that included ice cream, vanilla wafers, peaches, peach schnapps, and best of all Jim Beam. The $10 price tag seemed steep, but it was free to me! Mmmm-mmmm was it tasty! My only complaint is it wasn’t enough for me… for $10 I could have had two regular milkshakes and skipped the Beam.

Not being a big cheese guy, I opted for the build-a-burger once again, and chose a medium hamburger with jalapeños, mushrooms, and smoky BBQ sauce, with a side of thick-cut onion rings. Our food was out in less than ten minutes, and I dug right in to that beast of a burger, which was piled high with slices jalapeños. It truly was delicious, as well as I would expect from a restaurant with Burger in the name. However, I would still not say that I’ve had a hamburger at a restaurant that is better than a burger I could cook myself at home using authentic Grade A South Dakota Glanzer beef. To be honest though, the onion rings were among the best I’ve had. It was truly the shake and onion rings that stand out to me about this place.

Our waitress was very pleasant and attentive, the food was great, and we were served in a very timely manner. The food wasn’t outrageously expensive, and they had a lot of unique food and drink options. I really enjoyed myself and would go back again.

Burger Jones, Minneapolis



I was a little wary when Ryan told me he opted for a Burger Jones gift certificate as I had not heard the best things about it when it opened a year ago. But that husband of mine sure does love his hamburgers! I’m not as much of a meat eater. Oh, the things I do to keep that Ryan Glanzer happy. 😉

For some reason, I was in a rotten mood that night, and when we were originally seated at a table that was right in the middle of the server stations it did not improve. I swear that we were in the center of a triangle of the silverware and napkins, the register and the drink station. I was not having any of that so we asked our server if we could move, and she was fine with it.

They had a decent selection of tap beers but I opted for the cheaper but tasty Grain Belt Nordeast. For food I had for the Green Chile Cheeseburger, with cilantro, salsa verde and an onion ring, along with white cheddar cheese and a side of the maple-bacon sweet potato fries. Ordering fries in addition to a burger is a good idea, I would say, as frequently I can’t even finish a burger at a restaurant. But with most of the specialty burgers priced at $10 and fries for $2 or $3, it’s pretty spendy for a basic meal.

Having said all that, I was actually pretty pleased with the food at Burger Jones. The salsa verde on the burger was decently spicy and I really liked how it came out of the kitchen – the onion ring was a cute little bowl for the salsa. The burger itself was tasty, but given the way they rave about their special blend of different cuts of beef I didn’t find anything too extraordinary about it. The sweet potato fries were not worth the hype to me; the maple-bacon flavor was in the form of little crystals that had been sprinkled over the fries like salt and I thought that given the $3 price tag, the portion was small. For me, that was okay. If we were to go back, however, I would skip ordering fries entirely.
One thing that really annoyed me about Burger Jones was some of their menu items were priced strangely. For instance, Ryan ordered a side of onions rings for $3, which came with three onion rings. The appetizer portion of onion rings is $7 and comes with six onion rings. The appetizer onion rings come with a dipping sauce, but ordered a la carte the dipping sauces are $.50, so it still doesn’t make sense.

Our service was good – it took us longer to decide what to order than it did for the kitchen to whip up our food, but I suppose that makes sense when you’re just toasting buns, frying burgers on a grill and sticking fries in a deep fryer. Impressive nonetheless, though.

Ambiance – I was actually very impressed with what they’ve done with this former Applebee’s space. It was chic, which you don’t expect in a burger joint.
Service – Friendly and accommodated my request to change tables. Food came out very fast.
Food – It was good, but I wasn’t blown away. It wasn’t the best burger I’ve ever eaten.
Overall experience – I had a good time, and I could be persuaded to go back. Burger Jones seems to be more about style than substance, but based on other reviews from when they opened it seems like they have come a long way in a year and a half.

The Necessities
Burger Jones
3200 West Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55416
Hours: 11 am-11 pm every day

Black Forest Inn

6 Jan

We are anything but newcomers to the Black Forest Inn fare. Lauren and I on many occasions have frequented the BFI in the summer to sit on their cozy fenced-in patio, complete with plants, fountain, and fun lighting. Of course the selection of great German beers on tap are the real draw for our summer nights out. I’ll take a Hackerr-Pschorr or Paulaner over a Budweiser or Coors any day! We once or twice have sampled the food menu, but it is a little on the spendy side and definitely is for special occasions only.

But lucky for us, it was a special occasion on a recent Saturday when brother-in-law Tim chose the Black Forest Inn to celebrate his 32nd birthday. We arrived for beers at 11am and an hour later ordered from the lunch menu. I had recently won $100 in gift cards for designing the Oktoberfest menu cover, and was prepared to go all out!

After 1.5 liters of Hacken-Pschorr Oktoberfest beer, Lauren and I received our Bratwurst Dinner, which for $18 included a bratwurst, a Polish sausage, and the special sausage of the day, the chicken curry sausage, along with hot potato salad, seasoned sauerkraut, and fresh rye bread. Those sausages were all amazing, especially the special chicken curry one. Lauren gobbled up almost all of the potatoes, but what I had were excellent. And it seems weird to eat hot sauerkraut with a spoon, but there was so much of it that’s just what I did. Could I have eaten the whole thing by myself? Uh, yes, no problem. But we were sharing and that was fine.

Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis, Bratwurst Dinner

Bratwurst Dinner (for lunch, for 2) at Black Forest Inn

Again, since I was more or less eating on the Black Forest’s dime, I opted for dessert and chose a piece of chocolate cake with butter cream frosting. It was very dense and heavy, and the waitress assumed I’d be sharing it with others, though I ate 90% of it myself.

Chocolate cake for dessert at Black Forest Inn

Chocolate cake for dessert at Black Forest Inn

Black Forest Inn does a great job of making patrons feel like they’re really in Germany! Much like Gasthof zur Gemutlicheit in Northeast Minneapolis, Black Forest has a great beer selection, authentic German delicacies, and going there is more of an all-around experience than just a meal. As usual, high marks on all accounts from me.


I don’t know quite what to say that Ryan already hasn’t, since we shared one meal. BFI’s patio is my absolute  favorite of all in Minneapolis. It has the most divine quality of making you forget that you’re sitting feet away from a very busy intersection of Minneapolis (26th & Nicollet) but you feel like you’re in a garden, with the sparkling fountain and the pretty little lights at night.

On to the food, I liked both the bratwurst and the sausage but I thought that the chicken curry sausage was lacking, it was rather pathetic in appearance and flavor, even with the curry, compared to the other sausages.

But I’m not here to talk about that. What I’m here to talk about is the potato salad. It was hot. And sour. I’ve never had anything like it. And oh, oh, I loved it so.

And that’s all.

The Necessities

1 East 26th Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404