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Blue Door Pub

27 Aug

Visited Tuesday, August 24th with Dick and Marcie Glanzer

Ryan
With my parents visiting from South Dakota, we decided to take them out to a restaurant on our “must try” list. Something casual and local was the thought, so we took in St. Paul’s Blue Door Pub, one of the area’s four restaurants claiming to have the best Juicy Lucy type of burger. At Blue Door Pub, their famous burger is known as the Blucy.

Much like competitor Matt’s Bar, the line to get a table stretched outside with a 15-20 minute wait for indoor seating. But there were outdoor tables, and on an unseasonably pleasant August night, we opted to sit outside. The only catch is they don’t serve alcohol outside, and their beer list was supposedly very impressive. That was disappointing, but clearly the outdoor area was a far more pleasant place to sit.

I scoured the menu up and down looking for a burger that didn’t have much cheese, but I was out of luck. As I’ve said many times before, I’m not a big cheese fan, but will certainly eat it in smaller doses if it’s part of an entrée. I could have done a custom build-a-burger, but I was really wanting to try one of their original concoctions. With that in mind, I thought the Bangkok Blucy was my best bet. The mozzarella on the inside of the burger was soaked in coconut oil first. The burger was then prepared with  some Thai-style vegetables on top, and came with a side of spicy curry dipping sauce. I also ordered the fries. Dad opted for the Bacon Blucy, while Mom tried the weekly special Guadalupe Lucy.

Bangkok Blucy

Ryan tried the Bangkok Blucy

Coming from a family that raises its own cows, I have eaten many hamburgers over the years, and always have a freezer stocked full of hamburger, so it takes quite a bit to impress this guy. But I must say the Bangkok was pretty awesome. The first few bites were good, but I wasn’t getting a blast of Thai flavor like I expected, but I had overlooked the dish of curry sauce at first. When dipped in that, the Bangkok really came to life! I believe it was a 1/3 lb. burger, which is a bit smaller than the burgers I usually make for myself, but it was filling. I barely noticed the cheese since it had more of a coconut flavor to it. For me, this was a winning burger.

I don’t have much to grade other than the food for the Blue Door Pub, seeing how we didn’t really get to  see the inside of the restaurant or experience their beer list. The service was good, the menu had lots more options than the other local burger establishments, and the food was very tasty. Between the four of us, our bill was in the $40 range, so it was also affordable. I’d go there again.

Lauren:
I had suggested the Blue Door Pub once before, but we ended up going to Saji Ya instead that night – and thank God! We went with Ryan’s parents on a mild Tuesday night at 8pm and found ourselves in the peanut-sized restaurant, yelling back and forth over the din (and probably ruining the dinner of the table we were practically standing on top of) if we should wait for inside seating or sit on the sidewalk and forgo the BDP’s supposedly awesome beer list. We chose the quieter, beer-less route and sought immediate seating outside. I can’t imagine how busy it must be on a Saturday night!

I think it took me longest of the four of us to decide on what I should order… everything looked so tasty! I was torn between the original Blucy and the Merriam Park, which was just like the original (blue cheese and garlic) with the addition of bacon and red currant jelly. In the end I went the sweet-savory route with the Merriam Park. I also ordered tator tots, which I love but ended up being COMPLETELY unnecessary as I could only finish half of my burger.

Merriam Park Blucy

Lauren went the savoury-meets-sweet route with the Merriam Park Blucy

Unfortunately I think I made the wrong choice as the red currant jelly was more sweet than I was expecting…I had hoped for a savory-sweet-tart experience. I thought Ryan’s Bangkok Blucy was FANTASTIC though! That coconut curry dipping sauce they served with the burger was outstanding and I definitely dipped most of my tots in it. He was definitely on the fence about whether to build his own burger or to get one of the house specialties, but I did my part to badger him a little bit about not re-inventing the wheel, and I think he was pleased with his decision.

On all technical notes I think the Blue Door Pub hit all the right notes. While the M.P. Blucy wasn’t my favorite from a taste standpoint, from a Jucy Lucy standpoint it was prepared very well…toasty bun, melty cheese without having a charred meat exterior…mmmmm. I have attempted my share of home-Jucy Lucy making and I can *never* get it right. I always overcook the meat and the cheese leaks out from the burger.

Service was fine, I don’t think any of us had any complaints. I think the server may have forgotten about us once or twice and didn’t check on us very often (I recall her apologising) but I wasn’t bothered; my water and Diet Coke were both kept reasonably filled.

All in all, the Blue Door is definitely a place I would like to go back to. I would love to try another Blucy and experience this beer list I keep hearing so much about! Someone tell me, though, is there a time when they’re not busy? Early Wednesday morning? Sunday at precisely 4:19 pm?

Ambience – 4.5/5. We sat outside. Although BDP is on somewhat of a main  street, it’s a dead end so there isn’t too much traffic past the front of the restaurant
Service – 3.5/5. No complaints here. Our waitress apologized for not checking in with us more, but I don’t think any of us minded being left alone to eat our burgers.
Food – 3.5/5. I think I would have liked it more with a different burger – but that was my fault for bad ordering.  Next time I will know better! Also, I really wish something could be done so you could sit on the sidewalk AND have a beer!
Overall experience – 4/5. I really liked it! It was small, of course, and had an upscale neighbourhood pub feel…although, to really pull off the neighbourhood pub thing, they would need to have about seating for about 50 more, just MHO. But all of the people waiting outside near our table were very mellow, so to have them standing around was not really a bother. I can say that the Blue Door Pub is a place that I would definitely go again!

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Saji-Ya

26 Jul

Visited July 17, 2010

Ryan

On a recent Saturday night, Lauren and I were invited out to dinner with three friends, and sushi was the popular choice. As you have seen on this blog, we have already been to a fair number of sushi joints in the Twin Cities, and I have a difficult time telling them apart food-wise, so it really comes down to presentation, ambiance, staff, etc. After Lauren and I both nixed the original idea of Tiger Sushi in Uptown due to unfavorable marks on yelp.com, we all agreed on St. Paul’s Saji-Ya, located on Grand Ave.

Lauren and I arrived early and took a seat at the bar, where we were promptly served some drinks as we watched the Twins game. Lauren went for one of the fun house drinks, while I opted for a summery gin and tonic. Before long the rest of the crew arrived and we were seated near the kitchen. My first impression of the restaurant was positive; the staff seemed professional and courteous, but it took a while for the others to place drink orders. The decor was nothing special, and our table was oddly shoved in the back corner away from the other tables, but that really didn’t bother me at all.

Calamari appetizer at Saji-Ya, St. Paul, MN

The calamari appetizer was a great way to start the meal.

Lauren and I decided to start with an appetizer and ordered the calamari. Unlike most calamari we’ve tried, these came in giant onion ring shaped pieces. There were about 12 pieces, served with a tangy soy-based sauce. The appetizer alone at $9 was relatively filling, earning points from me. For the main course, the two of us split three rolls—Manny (albacore, spicy mayo, crunchy red, black, and green tobiko – $16.95), Spider (soft shell crab, cucumber, and gobo – $12.50), and Dynamite (hamachi and habanero – $7.25). The Manny roll was undoubtedly the best and most festive looking with its pink top. The other two rolls were pretty standard in appearance and tasted pretty much the same to me. Drowned in soy sauce and wasabi, I thoroughly enjoyed all three. Combined there were 16 pieces—I had 9, Lauren had 7. We were full by the time dinner ended.

Saji-Ya main course, St Paul, MN

The two of us split three different rolls - 16 pieces total.

Overall I have to say Saji-Ya was a place I’d go back to again, but then again so were all the other sushi places we’ve been, in my opinion! I’m still looking for that WOW factor—something that separates one sushi joint from the next, whether it’s amazing food, unusual decor, excellent service, or something else.

Lauren

I was originally hoping to try either Anchor Fish & Chips or the Blue Door Pub this evening, but when our friend Sarah called us to say that she was planning on a big run the next day – she’s training for a marathon – and would prefer a lighter meal, sushi sounded good to both of us.

We got there just a bit early and decided to spend a bit of time in the bar area. Ryan ordered a standard drink but I decided to go off of the drink menu. It’s not something I normally do, because those specialty drinks can cost quite a pretty penny!

But the drink I ordered, the “Plum Kiss” was delicious!! It was plum wine, prosecco, and something else. It was much sweeter than drinks I typically order, but it was a lovely pink-purpley colour and the friendly bartender stuck an orchid in it, so I consider it well worth the price.

As Ryan noted, we ordered our favourite, calamari! It seems that about 50% of the time we got out to eat, we end up ordering fried squid. But who can blame us, it’s delicious! The calamari at Saji-Ya was so strange … VERY large pieces. It looked more like onion rings than anything else. All of us at the table joked how it must have been one huge squid!

Surprisingly, I am much more picky than Ryan is when it comes to sushi. As much as I love it, I just cannot handle large pieces of raw fish… I cannot do nigiri (which is what most people think of when they think ‘sushi’. Nigiri is slices of fish on a rice bed). I would love it if I could split each typical nigiri piece into three pieces! I know this is gross: Whenever I try to eat nigiri, I get very freaked out by the “mouth feel” of the larger piece of fish and have trouble chewing and swallowing.

Sorry for that information.

So I prefer, greatly, to order maki (which are rolls, typically with rice on the outside and fish on the inside, but this can vary), where I can get the flavor of fresh fish but in smaller amounts that are texturally easier for me to deal with. I definitely wish that I could be more adventurous! But the texture of raw fish is too much for me to handle in that quantity.

I really enjoy that Ryan has become more open to sushi – it’s so much fun to be able to order a few different rolls and share everything! I really enjoyed the “Manny” roll with the albacore – I don’t believe I had had albacore before – and a bit of spice. I always enjoy a good spicy roll!

The service was pretty good. I love the warm towels you get at Japanese restaurants; Saji-Ya’s smelled of almond, which I loved. But our table was right next to the kitchen and despite that, sorry to say, our server was rather an absentee. Perhaps it was because Ryan and I had already got drinks while we were waiting at the bar, but she essentially forgot to take drink orders for the rest of our table until they told her that they wanted to order beverages.

As fans of the blog (are there any????) probably are aware, I base a huge portion of my review on how often my water glass is refilled. I am a very thirsty person and I can take down a typical 8 oz water glass in mere seconds. The service was good, except for the fact that for most of dinner I did not have any water.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed Saji-Ya. I would still say my preferred sushi restaurant in the Twin Cities is Wasabi (but it’s been a very long time since we’ve gone there) but this came close. I loved my fun specialty drink and I was very satisfied by our order. When the bill came, we felt it was fairly reasonable, which was nice – it can be scary to receive the check at a sushi restaurant in a land-locked state!

Ambience – 4/5. Our table was next to the kitchen, which was a downfall. There were much better tables but we were a strange party (five people).
Service – 3/5. Our bartender while we were waiting was very fun and engaging. Our server was tolerable.
Food – 4/5. I liked it quite a bit! The calamari was a bit tough, does that mean it was an older squid? The sushi was fresh and very tasty. Our dinner companions all had very positive things to say. However, like Ryan said, we’re both far from experts in the field of sushi.
Overall experience – 3.5/5. I enjoyed myself quite a bit! Saji-Ya has a very intimate feel, which is nice. It’s actually much larger than it feels. I wasn’t a big fan of where we were seated (when the kitchen door opened we became privy to all manner of staff conversations, some of which I would have preferred not be aware of). That being said, we had what seemed to be the one table in the restaurant that was geared for a party of more than four; the rest of them were in a more proper dining area and looked to have a better time of it. Overall, one of my more preferred sushi dining experiences in the Twin Cities.

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.