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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

Common Roots Café

30 Jan

Common Roots Café
Visited Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

common roots

Ryan

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.

Lauren

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).

image

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
612.871.2360

Gasthof Zur Gemütlichkeit

16 Jun

Ryan:

Tuesday evening, Lauren and I went to Gasthof Zur Gemütlichkeit, a Minneapolis landmark German restaurant featured on a recent episode of “Man vs. Food.”  Lauren’s brother Matt and his new girlfriend Calla were also on hand, as was Lauren’s sister Kate.

Located in Nordeast Minneapolis, Gasthof Zur Gemütlichkeit (or Gasthof’s, as it is more commonly known) is an authentic German experience, from the Hacken Pschorr beers on tap to the waitresses in dirndl dresses. Most locals will tell you it’s something worth experiencing if you’re visiting the Twin Cities.

This was definitely not the first time I’ve been there. Lauren and I were there for my company’s Christmas party last year and were treated to a buffet and all the liters of beer we could drink. I had also been to the downstairs bar, Mario’s Keller Bar, a few times in the past. But Tuesday was the first time I came as a guest and just ordered food off the menu.

After starting off with a half-liter of Paulaner Hefeweizen, we were given loaves of bread and salads. Lauren, Kate, and I then decided to split the Gourmet Platter, which consisted of Wiener Schnitzel (breaded veal), Sauerbraten (marinated roast beef), Kaseschnitzel (breaded pork chop), Huhnchen (chicken with peppercorn sauce), spätzle, potato croquettes, red cabbage, vegetables, and shots of Apfelkorn Liqueur.

Gourmet Platter at Gasthof zur Gemulichkeit

Our Gourmet Platter, full of heavy breaded meaty goodness

Between the three of us, we failed to finish the whole Gourmet Platter. But that was more than okay with me, as I saved the leftovers and ate them for a hearty lunch the next day. My favorite of the items on the platter was probably the chicken, which was delicious when combined with a forkful of cabbage and spätzle. Everything seen above was very delicious, though. I don’t know if I have had veal before or not, but it was tender and succulent. I’m a big fan of gravy, so the roast beef smothered in gravy was also to my liking.

After dinner, the waitress came by with her springboard contraption that shoots a menthol snus into the nostrils, clearing the sinuses and providing a clean after-dinner feel.

Ryan Glanzer snus Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit

I have some snus shot into my nose.

Since we were all meeting Calla for the first time, we stuck around a while after dinner and chatted amongst ourselves. Oh, and we ordered a 2-liter glass boot filled with beer, which has many rules for drinking. The group must share “das boot” and pass it around to one another. The boot must never touch the table until it is empty. Once you get down far enough, an air bubble pops out of the toe of the boot, sometimes splashing the drinker in the face. If you are splashed, you must drink again. You must also clink the boot with your fingers to signify the end of your turn; forget to do so and you must drink again. I was too full to get much enjoyment out of it, but it was pretty cool and I want to buy a glass boot for our apartment!

Matt Poulter drinks from das boot.

Matt Poulter drinks from das boot.

The accordionist also paid our table a visit and sang some funny German songs. Soon it appeared we were the last table remaining, and we were visited by the owner of the restaurant, Mario himself. He even sent us over a round of free shots to show his gratitude for our patronage.

The accordionist at Gasthof zur Gemulichkeit sings to Matt and Calla.

The accordionist sings to Matt and Calla.

Not only was the food and drink excellent, but everything else was great too—the music, the waitresses, the owner, the atmosphere. The bill was pretty steep, but that was expected going in. Our platter was $48 with an additional $8 charge for splitting it between three people instead of the intended two. Beers were $5.50 each and the glass boot of beer was $22. Nevertheless, I’d say we probably got our money’s worth.

Gasthof Zur Gemütlichkeit is one of my favorite places we’ve reviewed so far and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting from out of town. The only bad thing I can mention is their lack of patio. Minneapolis’s other German restaurant, The Black Forest Inn, has the city’s very best patio.

5/5 Noms!

Lauren:

I was surprised when my brother told me he wanted to organise a little dinner at Gasthof’s for us to meet his new girlfriend, Calla. “German food”, I thought, “in the summer? And not even on the heavenly Black Forest Inn patio?” But I think it was a success despite the unseasonable fried, gravy-laden food.

As Ryan mentioned, we and my sister split the “Gourmet” platter of chicken, beef, veal and pork, along with cabbage, potato croquettes and spaetzle. It was delicious. And heavy. And filling.

But the evening was a rousing success. I think that Matt and Calla, being first-timers to Gasthof, were in for a surprise as far as the atmosphere is concerned. The dozens of “ziggai-zaggai-ziggai-zaggai-hoi-hoi-hoi!” cheers would put off a squeamish newbie, as well as the shots of Apflekorn that were included in our meal!

I was a newbie at something, though, and that was “das boot”! I had heard a thing or two about the deposit-requiring 2L glass vessel, but had never experienced it myself. I suppose I can check that off me “Things to Do Before I Turn 30” list!

All in all, Gasthof’s is an expensive evening but very fun. I would recommend it more in the fall or winter, when one’s body craves carbs and gravy-laden fried meat. Whatever season you go in, though, you’re guaranteed a fun evening.

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.

Town Hall

20 Jun

Ryan

After attending the Twins/Astros game on the evening of Saturday, June 20, Lauren and I met up with friends Christian and Jaime at one of our favorite local restaurants/breweries, Town Hall.  Located at Seven Corners in Minneapolis on Washington Ave, Town Hall has long been Lauren’s standby for excellent food and drink.

A couple of Town Hall's craft brews went down smooth on a muggy summer night.

A couple of Town Hall's craft brews went down smooth on a muggy summer night.

In my experiences there, I’ve found their home brews exceptional.  On this night, I tried the Oatmeal Stout and was once again very satisfied!  This isn’t the kind of place you should go to get drunk.  I think Town Hall is better for occasions when you’re going to just sip on a beer or two and savor the flavor.

I didn't think to get a picture until I was halfway done.  But, better late than never.

I didn't think to get a picture until I was halfway done. But, better late than never.

I had no choice but to order the Seven Corners Burger, the best burger I’ve tried so far in the Twin Cities.  Of course I’m biased because I don’t like cheese, so I can’t consider most people’s favorites like the Juicy Lucy.  The Seven Corners burger is a 1/2 lb. burger topped with smoked bacon and Oatmeal Stout BBQ sauce, served with a lettuce, tomato, and pickle.  I’m not sure what it is that makes it so good.  Maybe it’s the BBQ sauce or even the bun, but whatever it is, it blows me away!

Lauren

It’s true, reviewing Town Hall Brewery, for me, is like interviewing someone I’ve known for years. I took many a date there for dinner before Ryan convinced me to settle down. I particularly love the sidewalk patio.

Like Ryan, my typical go-to choice of entree at Town Hall is the Seven Corners Burger.  But this night in particular, I decided to deviate from the beaten path for something just a bit lighter.

Lauren raved about her Raspberry Chicken Salad.

Lauren raved about her Raspberry Chicken Salad

Don’t let the salad fool you — I stole at least a few fries off of Ryan’s plate. I loved this salad, though! The bright pink dressing was a bit heavy for my taste, as I usually prefer to order my dressings on the side and drizzle them on lightly. But the red onions had a little bit of bite, the blue cheese was tangy and the chicken tasty.

I think the Seven Corners burger will always be my favorite menu item at Town Hall, but for a lighter option I was very pleased with this salad.

Ratings:
Ryan: 5/5 Noms!  The food and drink were delicious, the atmosphere was great, and the prices were very reasonable.

Lauren: I agree with Ryan! I love this place. Reasonable food prices, delicious beer and a friendly, casual atmosphere.