Archive | February, 2011

Greek Grill & Fry Co.

19 Feb

Elsewhere on the web: As part of our partnership with FNS Delivers, Ryan & Lauren review Greek Grill & Fry Co 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.

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Hot Plate Diner

16 Feb

Hot Plate Diner
Visited Saturday, February 12th, 2011

hot plate exterior

Ryan
Saturday morning, I was given three choices by Lauren for places to have brunch before a fun-filled day of wine-tasting and celebrating Chinese New Year. I selected Hot Plate Diner by default after eliminating the other two choices for various reasons. After picking up our trusty friends Walsh and Sarah, we arrived at the inconspicuous location on Bloomington and 52nd in south Minneapolis. When I walked inside, I about crapped myself. The inside of this place was crazy! I’ve seen many restaurants that litter the walls with random memorabilia and signs and stuff, but Hot Plate Diner was jam-packed wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with everything from paintings of cats to hanging art to 70s handheld video games. It was quite the interesting place to look at.

the dude

We arrived around 10:30 on a Saturday; a wait was inevitable. We were directed to the coffee cups and took our seats in the waiting area, and after fifteen minutes were seated at a booth in the corner. The waitress greeted us and asked if there was anything we wanted to get started. My first instinct was “no,” but then she announced “Maybe a caramel roll? They’re hot out of the oven!” It took all of about 0.5 seconds for both me and Sarah to say “okay!” The caramel rolls were out quickly and we dug in. They were big and gooey and fresh out of the oven, and featured an excess of caramel on the plate for dipping. I felt this was an excellent start to the meal.

now that is a caramel roll
caramel roll clean plate club

When it was time to place our orders, I scanned the very brief menu and chose the Eggs Benedict, mostly because it was one of the few cheese-less items and I wasn’t feeling up to making special requests. It wasn’t a long wait before our food arrived, and my heart sank just a little when I saw that the serving portion of my meal was only about 1/2 that of Lauren’s scramble. Granted, I had just had a gigantic calorie-riddled caramel roll, but I was hoping for an equally ginormous portion of Benedict and potatoes. Nevertheless, I was satisfied with my breakfast. The American fries were cooked just right and really came to life with some hot sauce. The Eggs Benedict, although good, was nothing at all out of the ordinary compared to other Eggs Benedict meals that I’ve ordered in the past. When it comes to the Benedict meals, all else is judged against Hell’s Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis, the best I’ve had, and Hot Plate’s version fell short. Not to say I didn’t enjoy it, because I did.

eggs benny

Overall, my experience was positive at Hot Plate Diner. I thoroughly enjoyed the kitschy decor, the short wait time, and the caramel roll. Prices were pretty standard, maybe just a tiny hair on the spendy side. If I were to go back, which I could certainly see ourselves doing, I would get one of those scrambles that looked like a lot more food for one’s money.

snowflakes

Lauren

There was a funny moment as we were pulling up to Hot Plate where Sarah, sitting in the backseat, told Chris, “This looks like your kind of place…” Meaning, a greasy spoon, small-town diner. We were all surprised when we walked in and saw a cute, down-to-earth little restaurant jam-packed with young families and twenty-somethings.

lamp

There was a little bit of a wait for a table (see: aforementioned twenty-somethings and young families. Damn our demographical love of brunch!) but I loved that they had a couple of airpots of coffee to make the wait a little bit sweeter and more caffeinated. I only had a bit of trouble balancing my cup of coffee on the arm of a chair at the same time as I was trying to take photos with my beautiful new Canon T1i! So if you’ve noticed a big step up in the photo qualities on the blog, you’re right!

beagles paint by numbers

Hot Plate’s menu is short and sweet, with the wildest item on their menu probably the “Grand Marais Scramble” with cream cheese, smoked trout and asparagus on home fries with toast, and that is exactly what I got. It was a very nice and unusual twist on a traditional scramble. The home fries were delicious and perfect – not greasy, not mushy, just perfect little pillows of potato. My only complaint would be that I would have liked it better if there had been more asparagus, and if it had been chopped up and mixed in the scramble as opposed to just sitting on top. This girl likes her veggies mixed in with her eggs!

big marsh scramble

I definitely disagree with Ryan’s assessment of the portions, as I could only finish about half of my scramble (I did have a bite or two of his caramel roll, though). My leftovers made a delicious breakfast the next day. Surprisingly, when Ryan finished his meal he did not attack what I had yet to eat! This was only the third time in our relationship that I was able to bring leftovers home from a cheese or olive-free dish.

sunshine

Ambiance – Busy, but we were there on a Saturday morning. The decor is cute and very fun, and not annoyingly busy in an Applebees kind of way.
Service – Our waitress was great. I actually didn’t drink very much water so I can’t comment on her water refilling chops. She definitely hit the nail on the head when she dropped that line about caramel rolls straight from the oven!
Food – Really good, I loved my Grand Marais scramble. It was just a little different, enough to pique my interest. I would love to go back and try their buckwheat pumpkin waffles, which I hear are in the running for best pumpkin waffle in the city!
Overall experience – Mmm, very good! Great breakfast spot. With all of the awesome spots for brunch in the cities I don’t know when we’ll get back there, but it has my vote for a repeat.

The Necessities
Hot Plate Diner
5204 Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis MN
612.824.4794

Riverview Wine Bar

12 Feb

Riverview Wine Bar
Visited Friday, February 4th, 2011

Ryan
Lauren and I ended up at Riverview Wine Bar with friends Walsh and Sarah Friday night because I maaaaay have dropped the ball on my beautiful lovely wife’s birthday dinner. I had agreed to take Lauren anywhere she wanted for her birthday dinner, and she chose a small popular local restaurant called Alma for Friday night after work. Thursday night, I attempted to make a reservation and was dismayed to see they were totally booked. All of Lauren’s other choices also were all booked—I couldn’t believe my eyes! Needless to say, Lauren was very disappointed that I hadn’t acted sooner. After a few hours of contemplation, she announced to me that “I’ll allow you to take me to Riverview Wine Bar instead.” I knew it wasn’t quite what she had in mind, but I was quick to agree and out we headed to pick up friends Walsh and Sarah for a night at a cozy venue in south Minneapolis.

We were seated at the lone remaining table, situated right in front of the drafty entry way. This was unfortunate but couldn’t be avoided; the place is quite small to begin with and I imagine all tables felt a little rush of cold when the door opened on this frosty winter’s night. I’m warm-bodied; I got over it. The waitress took our drink orders, and all four of us tried different flights. I opted for the Espana flight, featuring four 2 oz. glasses of premium wines from the Spain region. I had one white called Las Brisas (my favorite) and three reds–Massroig, Conde Valdemur, and Mas Donis. I nursed these glasses for over an hour, attempting to get the most for my $12. I enjoyed their wine flight options… a tad spendy, but a fun treat!

The dinner menu was totally what I expected–mostly things like cheese plates and salads. But they also featured a short list of original pizzas. I scoped out the menu and deducted that the Corleone was the one for me, featuring locally produced spicy sausage, mushrooms, and olives. I hate all olives, so I picked those off and handed them to Lauren, a lover of olives. And likewise, I enjoy mushrooms, while Lauren is still a little cool on them. What a team we make! The pizza was just enough for one person, even me! It tasted good to me, but I’m not a pizza critic and won’t even begin to explain flavors to you. It was just good. Eventually the bread we ordered showed up and I gobbled about half the loaf down using their great seasoned butter. Later I had a pint of Old Speckled Hen, a delicious European beer.

I liked the ambiance of this place a lot. It was cozy, dark, and featured some vibrant yet bold colors and tasteful lighting. I commented to Lauren that I envisioned a room in our future house looking like this. The restaurant is attached to a coffee bar, which on this night featured a small jazz ensemble that we could hear through the glass doors. It had seating for maybe 30 people, tops. Our final bill was about $65, a bit spendy for a meal but considering the wine was a big part of it, I was hardly surprised.

Riverview is a place I would return to on a balmy summer night for a glass of wine, but is probably not the kind of place I would make a point to eat a full meal in the near future even though I was perfectly satisfied by the experience as a whole. I think it’s more of a girls’ place to go.

And oh, how did I possibly forget the service. If ever a centimeter of water was missing from my glass, a waitress was over immediately to fill it up. They don’t mess around with their water service there!

Lauren

Yup, my dear old husband sure dropped the stinkin’ ball on my birthday. He somehow didn’t think that any of the six, six! popular, special occasion restaurants on my birthday list would require more than 24 hours notice for a reservation.

Ahem.

I decided that he could take a step towards making it up to me by taking me out to a girly wine bar with cheese plates and appetizers that I would love but he would surely hate.

Ryan has already described our table, which was freezing cold whenever anyone walked in. Unfortunately nothing could be done about that and I’m sure that most of the cafe got some of the draft.

Riverview has a cute, almost kitschy list of wine flights like “Sauerkraut” (German wines) and “No Trees Killed” (Un-Oaked Whites). I went for the cheesy “K-Syrah, Syrah” which was four of my favorite (for now) varietal of wine. I don’t remember much of the wine, other than I liked them all… 🙂

I also ordered a pizza, which I didn’t know the name of at the time and I don’t know now. I ordered by telling the waitress “the last pizza on the list, please”. Scarpino maybe? It had bacon, prosciutto, blue cheese and three other kinds of cheeses. It was sooo salty and delicious and totally hit the spot.

The pizzas at Riverview are small and cracker-crusty, which is my favorite, but I don’t think that the crusts are house-made. For some reason I looked on the bottom of one of my slices and it had these little dimples which reminded me of commercial pizza crusts. Oh well.

After my Syrah wine flight I ordered a class of “Acrobat” Pinot Noir from Oregon which I found very nice, a little bit of spice and lots of flavors. It’s a wine I’m going to be on the lookout for in the future!

One thing that I did think was ridiculous – we ordered a side of baguette, which was $6 for ten or so slices of bread with herbed butter. Both things were very good but it seemed incredibly expensive for something that is usually free at restaurants. I don’t mind paying for bread but $6 seems pretty stiff, all things considered.

Riverview is a place I would like to return to for a glass of wine and a dessert or a bowl of olives, but I doubt it will be somewhere we go to for dinner again.

Ambiance – Very cute. They have done an outstanding job with the decor, it is very cozy. There are a couple couches around a fireplace that look like a really nice place to lounge and have a glass of wine…too bad though, that we were by the door where it was very cold.
Service – They were OUTSTANDING with the water! I loved it! I was in heaven!
Food – My pizza was delicious, very salty and savory. The bread was good but overpriced.
Overall experience – Very nice. I would return. I would like to go back in the summer to sit out on the patio.

The Necessities
Riverview Wine Bar
3745 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN
612.729.4200

Announcement

10 Feb

We at Eating in Minneapolis are thrilled to announce that we have partnered with the great team at FNS Delivers to write reviews for featured restaurants in the Southwest Metro!

If you live in, work in or visit Eden Prairie and you get hungry, be sure to check out FNS Delivers for delicious delivery options beyond Chinese food and pizza. Their rates are insanely good!

See our review of Kabuki Japanese & Korean here: Lauren’s reviewRyan’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.

Pizza Nea

2 Feb

Pizza Nea
Visited Saturday, January 29th 2011

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Lauren

First off: Let us not delve into the endless battle of factions between those devoted to Punch Pizza and the lovers of Pizza Nea. I want no part in that war because I love pizza, and in my humblest of opinions I believe that the options and the competition make everyone better. There is room in my heart, and stomach, for Neapolitan, Chicago style deep dish, Midwestern square-cut, and even occasionally the Pizza Hut Pan Pizza of my childhood memory in all of its oily, bread-y deliciousness.

That said, Pizza Nea sets the bar for itself mighty high with the title bar of their website: “Pizza Perfection in the Neapolitan Tradition”. So rightly I had high expectations walking in and immediately they were disappointed as we stood in the foyer of Nea, awkwardly, for several minutes waiting for one of the two servers to notice us. There was a sign in between the two doors advising us to wait for service but no clear direction of where we ought to wait. Once one noticed us, the other did and for a little while every question was in stereo, separated by a minute or two. Have you been assisted? No, then yes. Just the two of you? Yes, yes. Hang on a moment while I clean this table off for you. Okay, okay.

I was hungry! I had wanted to get a salad in addition to the pizzas, but Ryan confessed that he had eaten nearly an entire bag of frozen potstickers while I was curling my hair, so he wasn’t all that hungry. Was that a cost-saving strategy on the part of my beloved? I suppose I will never know, but it did save us from ordering that salad.

I ordered a mid-range Carmenere from their wine list while Ryan ordered one of the pricy bottled beers and I set about trying to find a pizza to order. Too many choices, that is always my problem. After he took our drink orders, I asked the server if there were any specials that night and he looked at me like I was a mental defect – umm, sorry?

We had both scoped out the menu online prior to leaving and independently thought that the Gambero sounded good, and when we checked into Pizza Nea on foursquare on our Droids, all of the tips left there advised us to order the Salsicce, which was the other pizza we both thought sounded good. I was tempted by the other offerings that had artichokes and olives on them, but I knew I wanted to try some of whatever Ryan got so it was easiest to get something else that he would enjoy as well! Next time I will definitely get something with olives and goat cheese that Ryan will refuse to touch. 😉

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Our pizzas were out in just a few minutes and they did not disappoint! I was very pleased how the shrimp on the Gambero was plump and juicy. I am sure that it helps that Neapolitan pizzas are only cooked for a few minutes in a very hot oven, to keep delicate meats from drying out. The Salsicce was very spicy, as advertised, and not as greasy as I would expect from a pizza with sausage, and I loved the chiffonade of basil on top.

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One thing I did enjoy over Punch (though disclaimer: I have only eaten at the satellite locations, never at the Highland Park site) was that the crust wasn’t as greasy and floppy at Nea, as it is at Punch. I don’t enjoy mushy, soft bread so the squishy middle is a real turn-off at Punch for me. I suppose we will have to go to the Punch in Highland Punch soon to get the full experience, just out of fairness! 🙂

I found the portions at Pizza Nea to be more than satisfactory, probably because the crust seems to be a little more substantial than at Punch. If Ryan hadn’t eaten a first dinner, I am sure that we would have ordered a salad to share in addition to the pizzas.

Ambiance – Cute, and very small. The atmosphere is very down-to-earth, almost similar to a coffee shop with the local art for sale on the wall. We were seated right near the door so we got a shot of cold air whenever someone came in, however.
Service – It was weird, honestly, almost like they weren’t sure who should do what. Two servers tripping over each other at first, and then the guy who ended up actually serving us looked at me like I was some kind of crazy when I asked about nightly specials. Other than that, they were very hands-off, which I think is a good thing.
Food – Really tasty! Basic neo pizza, but jazzed up – if you want it to be. We really liked both of the pizzas that we shared. I thought the crust was just about perfect, with no mushiness. However, I was just a little annoyed that the menu spelled out the phonetic pronunciation of Every. Single. Item. Is it really so offensive if I mispronounce “Siciliana”? And, seriously: “Caesar (SEE-zur)”? Is that necessary? Given that the Caesar salad is a menu staple at approximately every restaurant in the world, ever, how many people really come in off the street and order the “Kaiser” salad, hmm?
Overall experience – We really got a weird vibe at first from the servers but everything settled down and we totally forgot about it when we got our pizzas – they were both so good. It would be fun to return and sit at the bar to watch them make and fire the pizzas. I thought it was a relatively simple but quite tasty meal, and definitely was an affordable night out.

Ryan

As we sat waiting for our server to come over, I told Lauren that as recently as two years ago, I never would have predicted I’d be willingly sitting at a pizza restaurant, and even ordering something off the pizza section of the menu. Having been a lifelong hater of cheese, I had just taken all pizza totally out of the equation. But thanks largely to Lauren’s cooking and our trip to Jamaica, I have finally, at age 28 1/2, warmed up to trying just about anything as long as it doesn’t have goat cheese on it. I was really good at being stubborn and picky for many years but dammit, even I can’t avoid pizza for a lifetime. I don’t have that kind of energy to argue anymore.

I found two pizzas that looked appealing to me on the Pizza Nea menu, and Lauren must have agreed with me because we decided to get those two and share them. The Salsicce consisted of Spicy Italian sausage, roasted red pepper, cracked red pepper, fresh mozzarella, crushed San Marzano tomatoes and basil. The Gambero was topped with shrimp, roasted red and yellow peppers, pesto, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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I foolishly ate 14 Trader Joe’s potstickers not more than an hour before we left home, so I wasn’t as hungry as I would have liked. I usually complain about small portion sizes, but on this night, the two pizzas were almost too much for us to handle. I surprisingly think I preferred the Salsicce even though it looked less appealing than the Gambero, which included a handful of big shrimp and strips of bell peppers. The pizzas were baked to my liking with a thin crust, and plenty of outer bready crust.

The atmosphere of Pizza Nea was pleasant; not overly busy for a Saturday night. Our service was fine, nothing terribly noteworthy good or bad, though I had some troubles hearing our waiter who talked in an unusual voice. The prices were reasonable all-around. Two pizzas, a beer, and glass of wine for about $40 was right on par with what I expected. If I had a gripe with Pizza Nea, it was that they didn’t have any chicken pizzas on their menu and those are always my favorite.

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The Necessities
Pizza Nea
306 East Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
612.331.9298