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Peoples Organic Café

6 Apr

Peoples Organic Café
Visited Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

peoples exterior

Ryan
Minneapolis has to have the highest number of organic brunch joints per capita in the nation by a wide margin. Every few weeks Lauren has found a new organic/natural place to try. These places continually annoy me because of their poor price-to-portion ratio. But as long as Lauren was paying, I was along for the giving it a try.

I was pleasantly surprised first of all to find out that we wouldn’t be waiting in a line of any sort, and that there was plenty of open seating. I had in my head visions of Good Earth, where we wandered around the Galleria for 35 minutes with a buzzer in hand. This place was quiet with no wait time at all.

peoples mocha

I found an item on the menu, the Peoples Organic Breakfast, that looked like it would be filling and cost-effective. For just $7.95, I received scrambled eggs, bacon, breakfast potatoes, and ciabatta toast. It came out in fast fashion, everything tasted good and fresh, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t full at the end of my meal!

classic breakfast

Not much else to say about Peoples Organic Cafe, other than it was good and I’d do it again.

ryan at peoples

Lauren
This past Sunday, on the heels of a marathon 8 straight days of working for my beloved, I suggested a trip to the suburbs for some brunch. I had to pull a few teeth, though, because Ryan senses danger whenever I suggest going to a restaurant that has even a slight natural/locavore bend to it.

Surprisingly, for around 10am on a Sunday, Peoples was empty save for about a half-dozen occupied tables. This was a very refreshing change from any other time we have tried to go to brunch at that time, ever. I wonder if they were expecting a larger crowd at some point because they seemed almost over-staffed for the number of patrons.

peoples inside

We entered from the parking lot side, which made ordering kind of confusing; had we entered from the Galleria we would have walked past the build-your-own yogurt and oatmeal stations and the deli case of sandwiches (which aren’t listed on the menu chalkboards). I found this confusing, but I located them eventually and ended up ordering the egg/bacon/swiss croissant, which came with a side of potatoes, and a coffee.

peoples coffee

I love the mug that my coffee came in something ridiculous. For starters, it’s a decent size, not so small that it’s two sips and done, but not so big that the coffee gets cold before you can finish. But I really love the handle! See how nice and substantial it is? It really felt secure as I carried it from the ordering station to the table. Note to self: Find mugs with thick, sturdy handles, and don’t bring them out when company comes over.

After only a few minutes of sitting and admiring the decor – I really liked it, kind of a pleasant cross between a Starbucks and French Meadow. I love the chartreuse green – our food arrived.

people breakfast croissant

My breakfast sandwich was pretty good. It was very rich; I think the croissant is overkill. For one thing, when a buttery pastry is topped with egg, rich cheese and bacon it naturally all sort of coalesces into one big pile of richness. I think something a little bit sturdier (and, therefore, easier to pick up) would be advised. The potatoes were a real disappointment. They were just, blah. A throwaway side dish.

For what it’s worth, I think Peoples should take note from its big sister French Meadow, and serve a side of lightly dressed greens with their rich eggy breakfast dishes. People in Minneapolis go bonkers for French Meadow’s quiche with spring greens and toast, would people in Edina react negatively to salad for breakfast?

We had a Groupon ***, so Peoples was worth a shot. I don’t see myself returning any time soon — there are too many better options.

Ambiance – Very cute, light and bright with lots of green + brown to reinforce the “natural” feeling. It was very quiet when we were there but I think it would be uncomfortably loud had it been busy; they have a ton of tables jammed into a pretty small space. If I was in the area and had time to kill I think it would be a nice place to sit with a cup of coffee (or a Surly, hello) and use the wifi.
Service – Not really much to speak of; like French Meadow, you order at the counter and your food is brought out to you. The guy who took our order was exceptionally cheerful and eager to help.
Food – So-so. My breakfast sandwich did have the hidden surprise of roasted tomatoes, which provided a nice punch between the rich cheese, bacon and pastry. More would have been better. I think with some small adjustments, it could be much better.
Overall experience – It was fine. I liked that it wasn’t super busy and that we didn’t have to wait to be seated, which is a small miracle on a Sunday. But perhaps everyone else already knew what we didn’t – that Peoples doesn’t quite stack up. It’s better than average, but when you’re asking the customer to pay the “organic” price tag, you have to really deliver on the food.

The Necessities
Peoples Organic Café
3545 Galleria, Edina, MN 55435
952.426.1856

Have you eaten at Peoples Organic Café? We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below!

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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

Birchwood Cafe

29 Aug

Visited Saturday, August 14th with Sarah and CM

Ryan
On a recent Sunday morning, Lauren and I met up with friends Walsh and Sarah to take in the Birchwood Cafe. This really hit home for Sarah as her sister Rachel is a waitress there!

My first impression—it reminded me a lot of French Meadow in Uptown, a trendy natural/organic restaurant that would likely serve healthy but overpriced, under-portioned local items… not my cup of tea. In fact I feel downright out of place and uncomfortable in a restaurant like that. The fact that a restaurant serves local items just doesn’t do anything for me. But I didn’t want to judge too quickly!

At Birchwood, just like French Meadow, you walk in and order from the counter, then go sit down and wait for your food. The four of us must have stood there for five minutes studying the menu before ordering. The breakfast menu consisted of about ten options, plus the lunch menu was about to begin. I eventually opted for the $9 savory waffle special which came highly recommended by Rachel, and also ordered some of their homemade lemonade.

We found a booth and sat down moments before the big rush. Good timing! Things like condiments, silverware, napkins, water, etc. were not to be found at each individual table, but were available near the counter. Our food was relatively quick to arrive, and I was very surprised at what was set before me.

The wildly imaginative waffle I ordered.

The wildly imaginative waffle I ordered.

This waffle was unlike any I’ve ever ordered or seen before. When I think waffle, I think a plain circle waffle with butter and syrup. This concoction basically used the waffle as a plate for more traditional breakfast items. In one quarter there was an over-easy egg. On top of that were pieces of bacon. On another quarter was some sort of mango-based salsa Lauren note: Ryan’s fruit salsa was muskmelon based — very exotic! — not mango. Another quarter featured tomato-basil butter and walnuts. And lastly there was a cup of natural maple syrup. I was pretty intrigued!

The waffle itself was one of the best waffles I’ve ever had—way fluffier and delicate than most tough waffles. I enjoyed sampling each bite with a different combination of toppings. The thick-cut free range bacon was really tasty. Lauren and I shared an order of wild rice pork sausage as well. Astoundingly, between the single waffle shown above and that one sausage patty, I was nearly full! I had held out almost zero hope that this breakfast/brunch would leave me fulfilled, and maybe it was just a one-time fluky thing, but it left me only slightly hungry after consumption.

Birchwood's house-made Pork Wild Rice Sausage

Obviously our waitress was very attentive and helpful. Despite all the rave reviews I’ve heard of this place, there was amazingly no line to get in on a weekend at 11am. Between the $9 waffle, the $3 lemonade, and the $2 for my portion of the sausage, I thought perhaps things were a little overpriced, but one must know what they’re getting themselves into when they go into a place that serves local natural ingredients. Not a bad experience at all, but I must say I’m still not sold on paying extra for local/natural items. I’ll go back with Lauren if she wants to.

Food: 8
Portions: 5
Value: 6
Atmosphere: 8
Staff: 10
Experience: 7

Lauren:
I always draw a blank on breakfast places. On a recent Saturday morning, I even pulled up this blog on the computer, scoured it and told Sarah, who was on the phone, “Uh, I don’t think we have any breakfast places on the list. Where do you wanna go? French Meadow?” Duh! Birchwood Cafe has been on our list since the very beginning! Luckily Sarah’s older sister works there, so she thought that it would be fun to visit her, and I agreed (plus, Ryan and CM both hate French Meadow and most of the other Uptown-y breakfast joints).

We met up with Sarah and CM and attempted to decipher the menu. I was a little bit overwhelmed by all of the choices, as it was getting towards lunch time, maybe I would like to have a nice turkey sandwich? Instead I went for the “Saturday Scramble” which had eggs, cheese, onions, and fennel (and maybe some other bits and bobs that I can’t quite recall; their menu changes very frequently). Sarah ordered a side of the pork-wild rice sausage and that sounded delish and came recommended by Rachel, so Ryan and I ordered a side of that as well. I got a tasty cold press coffee to sip on.

The "Saturday Scramble"

My dish came with a side of whole grain toast (very tasty) and rosemary roasted potatoes (sounded good, execution not so great) and a bit of fruit.

The scramble was quite tasty, I very much enjoyed the fennel and caramelized onions but as I told Rachel, I found it far too salty, but that perhaps it was just too much cheese? She said this was a frequent comment and that she agreed that a lot of their savory dishes came out salted with a heavy hand. (why hasn’t the kitchen staff been told to chill out with the sodium then?! I am perfectly able to add salt at the table if I feel it’s necessary, but I am not able to remove it.)

All in all, I thought Birchwood was good but not great. I give it points for local sourcing, fair trade et cetera but I cannot forgive a kitchen staff that abuses the salt for no good reason. It’s worth another try, perhaps to pick up a pastry or two (we did grab a German chocolate brownie for the road, more for Ryan than for myself although I did try a nibble and it was pleasingly fudgy).

Ambience – 4/5. It wasn’t too busy when we were there, so we were not crowded, but I could see it getting cramped on a busy weekend morning.
Service – 5/5. Thanks Rachel D! Although, I have to say that I am confused by restaurants that have “self serve” water and condiments as they never seem to have enough little dishes for jam or what-not. Should I just bring my whole plate over? Just my toast? Or try to manoeuvre a knife-full of jam back to the table? But really, I think that’s just my personal issue to work through… 🙂
Food – 3/5. My eggs were intensely salty. Loved the bread and the house-made sausage patties; rosemary potatoes were OK. Ryan was pleasantly surprised by his savoury waffle.
Overall experience – 3.5/5. Good! I would try other breakfast places before returning to Birchwood (that is, if I can remember them in a pre-coffee haze of decision making) but it would be a place I’d like to visit again.

Good Earth

21 Jun

Ryan

On the morning of Father’s Day, June 21, Lauren and I went looking for a new place to try breakfast.  We originally stopped at the Original Pancake House, but it was backed up for 55 minutes, so we went across the street to the ritzy Galleria and tried Good Earth, a restaurant known for its natural and organic ingredients.  Our wait was about 20 minutes, but that was to be expected at 11am on Father’s Day.  Our waitress kept saying things like “I hope you don’t think I’m ditzy” and “I’m not normally so uncoordinated!”  I thought she did a good job, but she kept apologizing to us for various things!

To be different, I started out with one of their specialty juices, the Watermelon Wahoo, which includes watermelon, pineapple, and apple juices.  This drink was small and expensive, but very tasty, healthy, and frothy.  Lauren opted for a latte.  Since I was wildly hungry, I opted for a caramel roll before the main course.  Good Earth’s hyper waitress informed me they had none left, but they made me something sorta like it and gave it to me for free!

Father's Day breakfast at Good Earth

My breakfast at Good Earth

For my main course, I ordered the Turkey Sausage Scramble, which was a moderate-sized serving that included turkey sausage, roasted potatoes, tomatoes, scrambled eggs, purple onions, diced peppers, and green onions.  (I asked for no cheese and minimal sour cream.)  My initial thought was this was not enough food for $9.50, and it was a little bland.  But like always, a healthy dose of Tabasco sauce really brought this dish to life!  I also found something hard and black in my food, but later discovered it was a huge piece of unground peppercorn.

Lauren ordered some 10-grain hotcakes and turkey sausage.

Lauren ordered some 10-grain hotcakes and turkey sausage.

Lauren

I love Good Earth. As one of three children with food allergies, my family was extremely limited in our selections for a night out at a restaurant when I was young. Thankfully, the majority of my allergies dissipated as I came into adulthood, so I am not so limited now — but I do try to eat as naturally as possible.

As Ryan said, we attempted to go to OPH but were driven off by the incredibly long wait, so dashed across the street to the Galleria and put our names on the Good Earth list. I was actually a bit surprised by the crowds as I tend to think of Mother’s Day as a brunch holiday, whereas Father’s Day is more of a holiday to throw a couple hunks of meat on the grill.

I went for an unusual breakfast choice… that is, unusual for me! I never order pancakes. I just don’t really enjoy them at that much, truth be told. They are always much too sweet, much too filling, and the texture is never satisfying like a good piece of toast is. However, the Good Earth boasts 10-Grain Hotcakes, which sounded heartier and more satisfying than your typical Aunt Jemima variety. And they were! I ordered a side of turkey sausage for some protein.

As Ryan noted, I ordered a small latte. Our waitress was slightly flustered, and took nearly ten minutes to bring me a packet of raw sugar, but to my surprise I discovered that I needed no sweetener. I almost never drink coffee without something to sweeten it just a bit, but perhaps due to the natural milk the latte was naturally sweeter than I expected.

Ratings

Ryan: For me, my Good Earth experience was just okay.  Though the ingreidents were fresh and healthy, I thought it was slightly overpriced and slightly bland.  2/5 Noms.

Lauren: I knew Ryan wasn’t going to be wild for the Good Earth. I think we would have had a slightly better experience if we had been seated on the patio – the atmosphere in the dining room is only slightly better than a Perkins. The Good Earth has been an Edina landmark for most of my life so I would say it’s time for the Parasole group to give it a face-lift, non? It’s on the spendier side, but not at all unreasonable for a natural restaurant for breakfast. 4/5 Noms!