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Kieran’s Irish Pub

1 Mar

Kieran’s Irish Pub
Visited Saturday, February 26th, 2011

kierans exterior

Ryan
Saturday morning, I was in the mood for a long walk despite the driving snow, howling wind, and zero-degree temp. My plan was to venture from our Uptown apartment to Downtown Minneapolis. Lauren decided to come along as well and test out her new camera. After close to three miles of start-and-stop walking, pausing to take pictures of squirrels on branches and snow on Target Field, we were cold and hungry and decided to duck into Kieran’s Irish Pub for a pint of lager and a wholesome lunch.

beer list

Kieran’s was surprisingly festive and busy for noon on a Saturday in the winter, but there was some sort of costumed pitch-n-putt competition going on. Lauren and I were seated in a back dinner area that was much quieter than the main bar floor. We arrived during happy hour, which meant $4 pints of all the good draught beers. I opted for the Kilkenny, a Boddington’s-like frothy beer from Guinness, which was a quality brew, no doubt. I had two, in fact.

kilkenny full

The brunch menu was still in effect, so our choices were a little different than normal. I was very hungry and immediately shifted over to the section of the menu that featured a handful of dinner-like options. I was in the mood for something warm and heavy, also something authentically Irish. That’s when the “Green Ox Sausages and Champ” struck my attention. Described as “Green Ox black pepper & leek sausages on a bed of champ with peas, topped with rich caramelized onion gravy,” I couldn’t help but wonder what to expect. The waiter insisted it was an awesome choice, so I went with it.

green ox sausages etc

The waiter, Bryan G., asked me to give my honest feedback on the sausages after I was finished. These sausages are produced locally especially for Kieran’s and have recently been classified as gluten-free. My first impression was that this meal was exactly what I had in mind, only a little smaller in portion size. Two homemade sausages covered in gravy, sitting on a bed of champ (mashed potatoes, essentially), with peas and onion straws: this looked like a hearty meal on a cold winter’s day.

ukelele

The sausages were really tasty, though they fell apart and tore badly before I could get them into my mouth. This, Bryan explained, is because they no longer use bread crumbs in the recipe. The champ was tasty, probably a bit thinner than regular mashed potatoes. The peas were surprisingly tasty, and the onion straws, although likely there for garnish, added some liveliness to the meal. I told Bryan that this meal was positioned perfectly on the menu in that it was more brunch/lunch-like than dinner-like. I would order this again as a daytime food because the sausages more closely resembled breakfast sausages than a grilling-type brat on a bun. Additionally, I would have liked one more sausage. That would have earned my highest rating. But the meal was borderline filling for noon-time.

samuel beckett

Lauren
I’ll cop to being a little perplexed when Ryan announced his intentions to walk downtown from our apartment on Saturday morning. It was driving snow! Zero degrees outside! Add to that his initial plan to walk from our apartment to Target Field to the Metrodome and then back, just over six miles. In the zero degree, driving snow weather! He reconsidered and I decided to accompany him on a brisk march to Target Field, so long as we stopped at our favorite bagel spot first for carbs and caffeine. Admittedly, I was excited to try out my new telephoto lens! In addition to my Canon T1i with the 18-55 kit lens, I recently bought a used 55-250mm telephoto lens from the awesome crew at National Camera and was excited to play with it.

wall mural

After walking through Loring Park and taking about 412 thousand pictures of a squirrel eating some bread, we made it to Target Field. We warmed up in the pro shop before I took photos of Ryan with all of the statues. However, after we spent a solid ten minutes in the pro shop feeling all warm and toasty, going back outside was absolutely miserable. I told Ryan that a Guinness was just the ticket back to warmth for this gal! So we set course for Kieran’s Irish Pub. We’d been there a time or two before, of course, most notably for the US-England 2010 World Cup game, but it was much quieter this time. Not too quiet though! My oh my was there a rowdy crowd in downtown Minneapolis.

crispin

I started my afternoon out with a Crispin, which is always a favorite but I really regretted it this time. I was freezing cold and Crispin is served on ice!! But it was very tasty, as always.

I was still feeling pretty full from my Common Roots bagel and Honey Nut latte (mmmm delicious!) so I went for a bowl of the Whisky Tomato Soup and I requested a bit of bread on the side. It was warm, creamy but not too heavy with just enough spice to warm me up inside…mmmm, perfect. Ryan seemed shocked that I was just getting a bowl of soup but I could barely finish it! How that husband of mine has such an appetite, I will never know.

whisky tomato cream soup

After that I switched it up and finally got my Guinness. Much better choice.

artsy guinness

When all was said and done I knew I didn’t have it in me to walk all the way back home, so I convinced Ryan to hop on the bus. We parted ways when I got off at Franklin & Hennepin to go to the Wedge for a few groceries, and he went further down Hennepin to Penzey’s Spices to pick up some Sweet Hungarian Paprika for me. What a guy!

empty kilkenny glass

Ambiance – Traditional Irish pub look and feel, I like the bar area with its little nooks and crannies better than the dining area we were in. I really liked the lamps on the ceilings, like the one above of Samuel Beckett…really cool.
Service – Bryan, our server, was very friendly and engaging and talked with us quite a bit about Green Ox, which I had heard of before as I keep up with local food blogs. It was fun to try some of the product! He was also telling us that they are producing their own whisky for just the Local, Kieran’s and Cooper’s starting soon…very interesting. It’s always great to chat with a server who is genuinely interested in the food they’re serving and not just pushing crap from the back of a Sysco truck.
Food – My soup was perfect for the weather, a touch of richness from the cream but not too heavy, and of course I loved that it had some spice! The bread I requested ended up being unnecessary because of how filling the soup was, but I didn’t have any complaints.
Overall experience – Very good, definitely hit the spot on a cold Saturday afternoon to spend a little time in a cozy Irish pub. Kieran’s has my vote for a return visit for food and drinks!

The Necessities
Kieran’s Irish Pub
601 1st Avenue North, Minneapolis MN
612.339.4499

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Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill

25 Jan

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

Lauren

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.

image

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.

Ryan
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.

image

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.

(Lauren)
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
763.450.9999

Lyndale Tap House

21 Jan

Lyndale Tap House
Visited Wednesday, January 12, 2011

image

Ryan
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.

image 

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.

Lauren

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
612.825.6150

The Bulldog (Uptown)

18 Jul

Visited July 5th, 2010

The Monday after the Fourth of July, we killed the day by hanging out at The Bulldog’s Uptown location at 26th & Lyndale with friends Chris and Sarah. This was far from the first time any of us had been there. It has long been one of our favorite places to grab a drink as they serve a wide range of European beers, including my all-time favorite, Kwak, which comes in an oddly shaped glass held in place by a wooden stand. We also have enjoyed their selection of burgers, hot dogs, and tator tots. Just a little twist on typical bar food.

Ryan
It wasn’t particularly busy when we arrived at 12:40pm the day after the 4th of July. It appeared as though there were two people on staff—a man working the bar and a woman waiting tables. The woman was completely disheveled. She was running to and fro at top speeds. It took us over 20 minutes for our drink orders to be taken. While we were slightly irritated with the slow service, we were also entertained by the waitress’s manic “drive-by” style of taking our food order and replenishing our drinks throughout our four-hour stay. She didn’t really stop walking, just passed by us and talked as she did other things. I truly have never seen waitressing quite like it, and am not sure I totally hated it.

For lunch, I ordered their special Burger of the Week, which sounded very peculiar—all-beef patty topped with pig cheek, and seasoned with Cajun spices and sauces. I opted for regular tator-tots on the side. Surprisingly enough, being from a farm, I didn’t know if pig cheek literally meant the cheek, or if it was just the name for a particular cut. Some quick research later showed it is a cut of pork located between the head and shoulders, so it’s not actually the lining of the pig’s mouth, thankfully.

I ordered the Burger of the Week special.

I ordered the Burger of the Week special.

The food took quite a while to arrive. We had been at the Bulldog for almost 90 minutes by the time our food arrived, but we weren’t too upset considering we planned to spend the whole afternoon there drinking beer. I had three pints of Rush River Unforgiven (an amber ale) at $5 each, followed by three pints of PBR at $3 each. Yes, six pints in succession is the definition of binge drinking, but it was a holiday!

My burger was well worth the wait though. I can’t pinpoint the exact flavors used for the sauces and the spiced mayo, but I do recall they were Cajun flavored. The burger, which I ordered medium-done, was juicy and flavorful, and was really brought to life by the thick cuts of pig cheek, which was a cross between bacon and ham. I thoroughly enjoyed the burger and side of tator tots. I noticed I got way more tots than Lauren—so much so that I couldn’t even finish them all.

Later, we shared a plate of chips, salsa, and guacamole. This was just average. The salsa left a lot to be desired in the heat department, and the $1 cup of guac wasn’t nearly enough for all the chips we were given. Lauren found it funny to load up a chip with a ton of salsa and fly it like a plane into my mouth, whether I was willing to cooperate and open my mouth or not.

The chips and salsa, in Ryan's opinion, were average at best.

The chips and salsa, in Ryan's opinion, were average at best.

If you check my Rankings page, you’ll see I gave The Bulldog the following points. This is good for 13th of 17 restaurants on the list. The strong point of The Bulldog was the portions; the weak point was the waiting staff, but far from the worst I’ve seen.

Food: 6
Portions: 8
Value: 6
Atmosphere: 5
Staff: 3
Experience: 5

Lauren

The Hawaiian Volcano Burger

After spending the Fourth of July holiday visiting Ryan’s family in South Dakota, we were looking forward to a relaxing Monday off of work. Our friend Chris called, in the neighborhood and looking for a bite to eat and a cold beer. That sounded like a fine plan to us, so we walked the achingly-long three blocks from our apartment to the original Bulldog location. (side note: I ate at this same restaurant location when it was the vegetarian restaurant Mud Pie, ten! years! ago! Where does the time go?)

As Ryan noted, although the restaurant was mostly empty, the lone server was running back and forth, calling out orders and instructions to the kitchen staff and bartender. It made me feel as if I was a great disturbance, sitting at a table waiting for her precious attention. But it mattered little as we were planning on staying a while to enjoy a few cold beers.

Once we finally ordered and were delivered our beers, our waitress came back at length to take our food order. I made the whole waiting situation much worse by asking what the “Burger of the Week” was, sending our waitress off in search of a slip of paper that had the specials written down on them. She also delivered a few food orders before coming back to us — this was after Chris had given her his order. I passed on the specials, going for the “Hawaiian Volcano” burger, with jalapenos, grilled pineapple, bacon and gouda. The gouda sounded a little incongruous on a tropical burger, but tasted good. I have become a little bit obsessed, lately, with grilled pineapple, so that with the spicy jalapenos was very welcome. I also ordered the tater tots, though in the end I could have skipped those, as the burger more than filled me up. That paired with a couple of Ommegang Hennepin pints, and our waitress finally chilling out, made for a relaxing observed Independence Day.

All in all, the Bulldog is a reliable neighborhood joint. Good beer selection, good food and usually a pretty relaxed environment. It’s probably my favorite of the spots in our immediate vicinity.

Green Mill (Uptown)

17 May

Saturday afternoon, Lauren, Jason, Patrick, and I made a stop at the Green Mill for a couple beers and a bite to eat.  Since we had a buy-one-get-one-free coupon for an entrée, I opted to do Green Mill’s Build-a-Burger!

I chose the following: Black Angus burger done medium on a ciabatta bun, with buffalo sauce, sautéed mushrooms, and onion straws, topped off with a fried egg.

Lauren teased that it would be disgusting, but our server said he actually thought it sounded pretty good… and it was!

Green Mill Build a Burger

While it may not have been the healthiest thing I’ve ever consumed, it couldn’t have been that bad for me.

And a special thanks to Jason LaPlant for paying our tab!  Jason offered to pay for everyone, saying he now had everyone’s birthdays covered for the year.

The Gunflint Tavern

15 Oct

On our final night of the honeymoon, Lauren and I took a day trip even further north of the Lutsen Resort and went all the way to the Grand Portage national monument and then made our way back to Lutsen, stopping in Grand Marais for dinner at The Gunflint Lodge.

I said I was going to order something adventurous.

I said I was going to order something adventurous.

Of everything on the menu, I decided on the Nova Scotian Fisherman’s Stew, the most obscure thing that I thought I might like.  Now this is a dish I never would have seen myself ordering in the past, but we were on vacation and I wanted to be different.

Turns out, it was pretty decent!  The meal was served with tapenade, an olive-based spread on bread.  I hate olives, but I found that dipping the bread in the tomato-based sauce was rather enjoyable.

The stew itself consisted of a full salmon fillet at the bottom of the plate, covered in the sauce filled with tomatoes, onions, and herbs.  Also included in the stew were a number of mussels, something else I’d never tried before.  It was a bold adventure digging into this meal, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t lick the platter clean, save for the mussel shells.

This meal was odd but good, and for someone like me who’s not very often an adventurous eater, it took some courage to not only eat but order this meal.  I found it was best served with a glass of Lake Superior Red.

Lauren:

I had no idea what to expect from dinner in Grand Marais, MN. But I loved the Gunflint Tavern. They had an eclectic beer selection and a gourmet menu fit for South Minneapolis.

Initially, Ryan and I were both thinking about ordering the walleye – when in Northern Minnesota! But I threw a little fit about ordering the same thing, so he switched to the seafood stew and he ended up loving it, which, as I told him, proves that he should always do as his wife says.

My walleye came with a chilled wild rice salad, which seemed appropriate, but I didn’t much care for it. It also had sourdough toast points with an outstandingly delicious smoked paprika butter. I could have eaten an entire loaf of that stuff.

We debated ordering dessert, but nothing on the menu really jumped out at us. So we agreed that on the way back to Lutsen, we would keep our eyes peeled for a Betty’s Pies location. We did find one, and ducked in right before the proprietors closed shop for the evening and stole away with a truly divine slice of sour cherry-blackberry pie. We ate it sitting on the flour of our hotel room, drinking champagne and reveling in newlywed happiness.

Ryan: 3/5 Noms.

Lauren: 4.5/5 Noms! If you’re in the Grand Marais area, I highly recommend the Gunflint Tavern.

Liffey’s Pub

2 Aug

Today, Lauren and I visited St. Paul to tour the Titanic exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum (I touched part of the Titanic), but before that, we stopped for a late lunch at Liffey’s Pub in St. Paul, right down near the XCel Energy Center.

I ordered the Shepherd’s Pie and a pint of Boddington’s.  The food was excellent.  I am all about thick gravy, meat, and vegetables, so this was right up my proverbial alley.  And of course the Boddington’s is always a favorite.  As my good friend Patrick once described it, “it kind of tastes like air.”

I ordered the Shepherd's Pie, which came with a side salad.

I ordered the Shepherd's Pie, which came with a side salad.

Lauren opted for the bison burger, which she enjoyed but wondered if it was as lean as it could have been.  She also sampled four half-pint glasses of Guinness beers, including the original, the 250 special lager, Harp, and Smithwick’s.

Lauren opted for the bison burger.

Lauren opted for the bison burger.

Lauren also slammed back sample-sized Guinness brews.

Lauren also slammed back sample-sized Guinness brews.

The real fun was dessert.  The waitress talked me into ordering a 3-dessert sampler, supposedly small portions of their three desserts.  I anticipated little shooters or something, but I was shocked to receive full-sized portions of chocolate cake, apple crisp with ice cream, and a carmel apple cheesecake.  This was definitely the highlight of my meal, and all for only $6.99!  I made certain to hit the gym extra hard that night to work off what had to have been a couple thousand calories.

This 3-course dessert could have fed a family, but I did it proud myself.

This 3-course dessert could have fed a family, but I did it proud myself.

Aside from the food, I enjoyed the quiet, empty atmosphere of the 2:40 Sunday crowd, and the attentiveness of our vocal waitress, who did an excellent job with recommendations.  We tipped her well for her efforts.

Lauren:

It’s impossible to dislike the Liffey. I love it when I get the option to order a salad with a burger, and out of the kitchen comes a pile of mixed baby greens. But the burger itself was, unfortunately, very forgettable. For supposedly being a bison burger, it was incredibly greasy! I didn’t quite understand how that happened, unless it had been marinated in butter. Blech.

The real highlight of our visit to the Liffey for me, was the four teeny Guinness beers on a tray. Guinness 250 has just come out, so as a long-time fan of the dark Irish stout I had to try it. My verdict? I prefer the original Guinness. The anniversary brew had too much sweetness for me. I had tried Harp and Smithwick’s before, of course, but I enjoyed drinking out of the teeny little glasses.

When we go out to restaurants, it tends to be Ryan who wants to order desserts. I am actually not a very big fan of most restaurant desserts. I’m not a huge fan of dense, fudgy chocolate concoctions, and most cheesecakes you will find in an average restaurant are grainy and worth neither the calories consumed nor the money spent.

However, I can rarely resist a tasty fruit-based dessert. Don’t be fooled that I am trying to be “healthy” if I ever order a fruit dessert in front of you – I simply prefer desserts that are centered around seasonal fruit! So it was with gusto that I tucked into the apple-pear cobbler portion (middle) of the ridiculous dessert trio that Ryan was convinced into ordering. Nothing speaks of the approaching fall (and our approaching wedding!) like a spicy, fragrant apple crisp. Mmmm.

Ryan: Overall, I’d recommend Liffey’s for food and drink before or after your next Wild game.  4.4/5 Noms + bonus points for atmosphere and staff friendliness.

Lauren: Our waitress was very friendly and attentive, talking to me about the new Guinness 250, but the restaurant was also empty but for us. I didn’t care for my burger, to be honest, but the Liffey is still a great place to grab a beer and an appetizer before a Wild game. 3.5/5 Noms.