Archive | June, 2011

Famous Dave’s BBQ and Blues Club

18 Jun

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

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!

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

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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!