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Black Forest Inn

6 Jan

Ryan
We are anything but newcomers to the Black Forest Inn fare. Lauren and I on many occasions have frequented the BFI in the summer to sit on their cozy fenced-in patio, complete with plants, fountain, and fun lighting. Of course the selection of great German beers on tap are the real draw for our summer nights out. I’ll take a Hackerr-Pschorr or Paulaner over a Budweiser or Coors any day! We once or twice have sampled the food menu, but it is a little on the spendy side and definitely is for special occasions only.

But lucky for us, it was a special occasion on a recent Saturday when brother-in-law Tim chose the Black Forest Inn to celebrate his 32nd birthday. We arrived for beers at 11am and an hour later ordered from the lunch menu. I had recently won $100 in gift cards for designing the Oktoberfest menu cover, and was prepared to go all out!

After 1.5 liters of Hacken-Pschorr Oktoberfest beer, Lauren and I received our Bratwurst Dinner, which for $18 included a bratwurst, a Polish sausage, and the special sausage of the day, the chicken curry sausage, along with hot potato salad, seasoned sauerkraut, and fresh rye bread. Those sausages were all amazing, especially the special chicken curry one. Lauren gobbled up almost all of the potatoes, but what I had were excellent. And it seems weird to eat hot sauerkraut with a spoon, but there was so much of it that’s just what I did. Could I have eaten the whole thing by myself? Uh, yes, no problem. But we were sharing and that was fine.

Black Forest Inn, Minneapolis, Bratwurst Dinner

Bratwurst Dinner (for lunch, for 2) at Black Forest Inn

Again, since I was more or less eating on the Black Forest’s dime, I opted for dessert and chose a piece of chocolate cake with butter cream frosting. It was very dense and heavy, and the waitress assumed I’d be sharing it with others, though I ate 90% of it myself.

Chocolate cake for dessert at Black Forest Inn

Chocolate cake for dessert at Black Forest Inn

Black Forest Inn does a great job of making patrons feel like they’re really in Germany! Much like Gasthof zur Gemutlicheit in Northeast Minneapolis, Black Forest has a great beer selection, authentic German delicacies, and going there is more of an all-around experience than just a meal. As usual, high marks on all accounts from me.

Lauren

I don’t know quite what to say that Ryan already hasn’t, since we shared one meal. BFI’s patio is my absolute  favorite of all in Minneapolis. It has the most divine quality of making you forget that you’re sitting feet away from a very busy intersection of Minneapolis (26th & Nicollet) but you feel like you’re in a garden, with the sparkling fountain and the pretty little lights at night.

On to the food, I liked both the bratwurst and the sausage but I thought that the chicken curry sausage was lacking, it was rather pathetic in appearance and flavor, even with the curry, compared to the other sausages.

But I’m not here to talk about that. What I’m here to talk about is the potato salad. It was hot. And sour. I’ve never had anything like it. And oh, oh, I loved it so.

And that’s all.

The Necessities

1 East 26th Street
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
612.872.0812

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!

Amore Victoria

18 Aug

Ryan
Lauren had been gone to some sort of family function the weekend of July 25, so when she arrived home late Sunday afternoon, I wanted to go grab a bite somewhere with her before heading back to work for the week. We walked downstairs and outside our apartment and debated which way to go. It was a perfect summer evening with no bugs, mild temperatures, and clear skies, so we wanted to sit outdoors. Lauren remembered reading about good happy hour specials at a local Italian place called Amore Victoria. We had tried to go there on Valentine’s weekend this year and found it was insanely packed, and we had wanted to go back sometime when it was less busy.

We were greeted by the host who seated us, and proceeded to tell us a three-minute story about how he watched Top Gun on LaserDisc many years ago with his ex-girlfriend who now lives in Fargo. It was very odd but he was funny and we felt sufficiently warmly greeted.

The drink specials included a short list of half-price bottles of wine, $3 house taps, $5 featured taps, and a selection of inexpensive glasses of wine. We opted to start out with a half-price bottle of Riesling for $17, an excellent choice for a nice summer night. The happy hour food menu featured some $5 appetizers, $5 one-topping pizzas, and Angus hamburgers or steakburgers for $5.50. As per usual, we agreed on the calamari fritti appetizer, while I ordered the Angus steakburger with fries.

Service was pretty good to start the night. Our waitress Liz was pleasant and stopped by frequently to check in. The view of the intersection of Lake and Irving was nice as the sun went down. The outdoor tables were pretty well full most of the night and everyone around us was in cheerful spirits.

Our calamari with marinara sauce arrived, and we dug in. I ate the big pieces with visible tentacles while Lauren stuck to the ring-shaped pieces. We’ve had calamari as an appetizer so many times recently. I don’t know if this was as good as Saji-Ya’s calamari, but I would say it seemed lighter. My burger arrived shortly thereafter, but without fries. The waitress admitted her mistake and didn’t charge us for them, and soon a heaping basket of steak fries were delivered.

Amore Victoria, Minneapolis - calamari fritti

Our $5 appetizer, the Calamari Fritti

My burger was kinda odd. I guess I’ve never had a steak burger like that before. The texture seemed as if it was ground-up steak that was pieced back together in the shape of the original piece of steak. Slightly unusual, but filling and relatively agreeable with the palate. It was served with a mound of lettuce, onions, and tomatoes. My only complaint was the burger was over-seasoned with salt.

Amore Victoria, Minneapolis - happy hour Angus steak burger

The happy hour special, $6.50 Angus steak burger.

Amore Victoria, Minneapolis - happy hour french fries

Our big plate of french fries for just $1.50!

As the night went on, we ordered a couple more drinks and chatted as it became dark outside and a few bugs came out. Amore Victoria was close to closing, and most of the outdoor patrons had left. Our service became a little sparse towards the end of the night, but I left a 14% tip anyway.

Overall, I liked my experience at Amore Victoria. Next time I will try one of their more authentic Italian dishes, which seemed reasonably priced, ranging from $13-$20 a plate.

Food: 6
Portions: 7

Value: 8
Atmosphere: 8
Staff: 7
Experience: 7

Lauren:

After I returned home from a family weekend in La Crosse, WI, Ryan and I were eager to have a little bit of weekend to spend with each other. He didn’t attend the family party due to his having to DJ a wedding. We wanted to enjoy the truly stunning  late July weather on a local patio, and I recalled seeing Amore Victoria’s charming sidewalk tables a few days earlier so I suggested that…I’m a sucker for a good sidewalk cafe!

As Ryan mentioned, when we first arrived we were bombarded by a truly bizarre story from the host about watching Top Gun with a girl on her dad’s Laser Disc. Wow. It was extremely awkward, made more so by the fact that Ryan and I admitted that we have not seen the movie, which always garners shocked expressions and admonitions that we “just HAVE to watch it as soon as possible”.

We quickly settled on the Alice White Riesling, which was cold and crisp and a bit fruity. The perfect antidote to a hot summer day!

Of course, we HAD to get the calamari! It’s almost a joke at this point…but we love calamari. This was no disappointment! I am definitely in disagreement with Ryan as I thought this was much better than the large, tough pieces at Saji-Ya.

I wasn’t too hungry, but Ryan was so he ordered the Steak Burger with fries. I thought the burger was almost terrible… SO salty. But the fries were delicious! Absolutely terrific.