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Riverview Wine Bar

12 Feb

Riverview Wine Bar
Visited Friday, February 4th, 2011

Lauren and I ended up at Riverview Wine Bar with friends Walsh and Sarah Friday night because I maaaaay have dropped the ball on my beautiful lovely wife’s birthday dinner. I had agreed to take Lauren anywhere she wanted for her birthday dinner, and she chose a small popular local restaurant called Alma for Friday night after work. Thursday night, I attempted to make a reservation and was dismayed to see they were totally booked. All of Lauren’s other choices also were all booked—I couldn’t believe my eyes! Needless to say, Lauren was very disappointed that I hadn’t acted sooner. After a few hours of contemplation, she announced to me that “I’ll allow you to take me to Riverview Wine Bar instead.” I knew it wasn’t quite what she had in mind, but I was quick to agree and out we headed to pick up friends Walsh and Sarah for a night at a cozy venue in south Minneapolis.

We were seated at the lone remaining table, situated right in front of the drafty entry way. This was unfortunate but couldn’t be avoided; the place is quite small to begin with and I imagine all tables felt a little rush of cold when the door opened on this frosty winter’s night. I’m warm-bodied; I got over it. The waitress took our drink orders, and all four of us tried different flights. I opted for the Espana flight, featuring four 2 oz. glasses of premium wines from the Spain region. I had one white called Las Brisas (my favorite) and three reds–Massroig, Conde Valdemur, and Mas Donis. I nursed these glasses for over an hour, attempting to get the most for my $12. I enjoyed their wine flight options… a tad spendy, but a fun treat!

The dinner menu was totally what I expected–mostly things like cheese plates and salads. But they also featured a short list of original pizzas. I scoped out the menu and deducted that the Corleone was the one for me, featuring locally produced spicy sausage, mushrooms, and olives. I hate all olives, so I picked those off and handed them to Lauren, a lover of olives. And likewise, I enjoy mushrooms, while Lauren is still a little cool on them. What a team we make! The pizza was just enough for one person, even me! It tasted good to me, but I’m not a pizza critic and won’t even begin to explain flavors to you. It was just good. Eventually the bread we ordered showed up and I gobbled about half the loaf down using their great seasoned butter. Later I had a pint of Old Speckled Hen, a delicious European beer.

I liked the ambiance of this place a lot. It was cozy, dark, and featured some vibrant yet bold colors and tasteful lighting. I commented to Lauren that I envisioned a room in our future house looking like this. The restaurant is attached to a coffee bar, which on this night featured a small jazz ensemble that we could hear through the glass doors. It had seating for maybe 30 people, tops. Our final bill was about $65, a bit spendy for a meal but considering the wine was a big part of it, I was hardly surprised.

Riverview is a place I would return to on a balmy summer night for a glass of wine, but is probably not the kind of place I would make a point to eat a full meal in the near future even though I was perfectly satisfied by the experience as a whole. I think it’s more of a girls’ place to go.

And oh, how did I possibly forget the service. If ever a centimeter of water was missing from my glass, a waitress was over immediately to fill it up. They don’t mess around with their water service there!


Yup, my dear old husband sure dropped the stinkin’ ball on my birthday. He somehow didn’t think that any of the six, six! popular, special occasion restaurants on my birthday list would require more than 24 hours notice for a reservation.


I decided that he could take a step towards making it up to me by taking me out to a girly wine bar with cheese plates and appetizers that I would love but he would surely hate.

Ryan has already described our table, which was freezing cold whenever anyone walked in. Unfortunately nothing could be done about that and I’m sure that most of the cafe got some of the draft.

Riverview has a cute, almost kitschy list of wine flights like “Sauerkraut” (German wines) and “No Trees Killed” (Un-Oaked Whites). I went for the cheesy “K-Syrah, Syrah” which was four of my favorite (for now) varietal of wine. I don’t remember much of the wine, other than I liked them all… 🙂

I also ordered a pizza, which I didn’t know the name of at the time and I don’t know now. I ordered by telling the waitress “the last pizza on the list, please”. Scarpino maybe? It had bacon, prosciutto, blue cheese and three other kinds of cheeses. It was sooo salty and delicious and totally hit the spot.

The pizzas at Riverview are small and cracker-crusty, which is my favorite, but I don’t think that the crusts are house-made. For some reason I looked on the bottom of one of my slices and it had these little dimples which reminded me of commercial pizza crusts. Oh well.

After my Syrah wine flight I ordered a class of “Acrobat” Pinot Noir from Oregon which I found very nice, a little bit of spice and lots of flavors. It’s a wine I’m going to be on the lookout for in the future!

One thing that I did think was ridiculous – we ordered a side of baguette, which was $6 for ten or so slices of bread with herbed butter. Both things were very good but it seemed incredibly expensive for something that is usually free at restaurants. I don’t mind paying for bread but $6 seems pretty stiff, all things considered.

Riverview is a place I would like to return to for a glass of wine and a dessert or a bowl of olives, but I doubt it will be somewhere we go to for dinner again.

Ambiance – Very cute. They have done an outstanding job with the decor, it is very cozy. There are a couple couches around a fireplace that look like a really nice place to lounge and have a glass of wine…too bad though, that we were by the door where it was very cold.
Service – They were OUTSTANDING with the water! I loved it! I was in heaven!
Food – My pizza was delicious, very salty and savory. The bread was good but overpriced.
Overall experience – Very nice. I would return. I would like to go back in the summer to sit out on the patio.

The Necessities
Riverview Wine Bar
3745 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN


Pizza Nea

2 Feb

Pizza Nea
Visited Saturday, January 29th 2011



First off: Let us not delve into the endless battle of factions between those devoted to Punch Pizza and the lovers of Pizza Nea. I want no part in that war because I love pizza, and in my humblest of opinions I believe that the options and the competition make everyone better. There is room in my heart, and stomach, for Neapolitan, Chicago style deep dish, Midwestern square-cut, and even occasionally the Pizza Hut Pan Pizza of my childhood memory in all of its oily, bread-y deliciousness.

That said, Pizza Nea sets the bar for itself mighty high with the title bar of their website: “Pizza Perfection in the Neapolitan Tradition”. So rightly I had high expectations walking in and immediately they were disappointed as we stood in the foyer of Nea, awkwardly, for several minutes waiting for one of the two servers to notice us. There was a sign in between the two doors advising us to wait for service but no clear direction of where we ought to wait. Once one noticed us, the other did and for a little while every question was in stereo, separated by a minute or two. Have you been assisted? No, then yes. Just the two of you? Yes, yes. Hang on a moment while I clean this table off for you. Okay, okay.

I was hungry! I had wanted to get a salad in addition to the pizzas, but Ryan confessed that he had eaten nearly an entire bag of frozen potstickers while I was curling my hair, so he wasn’t all that hungry. Was that a cost-saving strategy on the part of my beloved? I suppose I will never know, but it did save us from ordering that salad.

I ordered a mid-range Carmenere from their wine list while Ryan ordered one of the pricy bottled beers and I set about trying to find a pizza to order. Too many choices, that is always my problem. After he took our drink orders, I asked the server if there were any specials that night and he looked at me like I was a mental defect – umm, sorry?

We had both scoped out the menu online prior to leaving and independently thought that the Gambero sounded good, and when we checked into Pizza Nea on foursquare on our Droids, all of the tips left there advised us to order the Salsicce, which was the other pizza we both thought sounded good. I was tempted by the other offerings that had artichokes and olives on them, but I knew I wanted to try some of whatever Ryan got so it was easiest to get something else that he would enjoy as well! Next time I will definitely get something with olives and goat cheese that Ryan will refuse to touch. 😉


Our pizzas were out in just a few minutes and they did not disappoint! I was very pleased how the shrimp on the Gambero was plump and juicy. I am sure that it helps that Neapolitan pizzas are only cooked for a few minutes in a very hot oven, to keep delicate meats from drying out. The Salsicce was very spicy, as advertised, and not as greasy as I would expect from a pizza with sausage, and I loved the chiffonade of basil on top.


One thing I did enjoy over Punch (though disclaimer: I have only eaten at the satellite locations, never at the Highland Park site) was that the crust wasn’t as greasy and floppy at Nea, as it is at Punch. I don’t enjoy mushy, soft bread so the squishy middle is a real turn-off at Punch for me. I suppose we will have to go to the Punch in Highland Punch soon to get the full experience, just out of fairness! 🙂

I found the portions at Pizza Nea to be more than satisfactory, probably because the crust seems to be a little more substantial than at Punch. If Ryan hadn’t eaten a first dinner, I am sure that we would have ordered a salad to share in addition to the pizzas.

Ambiance – Cute, and very small. The atmosphere is very down-to-earth, almost similar to a coffee shop with the local art for sale on the wall. We were seated right near the door so we got a shot of cold air whenever someone came in, however.
Service – It was weird, honestly, almost like they weren’t sure who should do what. Two servers tripping over each other at first, and then the guy who ended up actually serving us looked at me like I was some kind of crazy when I asked about nightly specials. Other than that, they were very hands-off, which I think is a good thing.
Food – Really tasty! Basic neo pizza, but jazzed up – if you want it to be. We really liked both of the pizzas that we shared. I thought the crust was just about perfect, with no mushiness. However, I was just a little annoyed that the menu spelled out the phonetic pronunciation of Every. Single. Item. Is it really so offensive if I mispronounce “Siciliana”? And, seriously: “Caesar (SEE-zur)”? Is that necessary? Given that the Caesar salad is a menu staple at approximately every restaurant in the world, ever, how many people really come in off the street and order the “Kaiser” salad, hmm?
Overall experience – We really got a weird vibe at first from the servers but everything settled down and we totally forgot about it when we got our pizzas – they were both so good. It would be fun to return and sit at the bar to watch them make and fire the pizzas. I thought it was a relatively simple but quite tasty meal, and definitely was an affordable night out.


As we sat waiting for our server to come over, I told Lauren that as recently as two years ago, I never would have predicted I’d be willingly sitting at a pizza restaurant, and even ordering something off the pizza section of the menu. Having been a lifelong hater of cheese, I had just taken all pizza totally out of the equation. But thanks largely to Lauren’s cooking and our trip to Jamaica, I have finally, at age 28 1/2, warmed up to trying just about anything as long as it doesn’t have goat cheese on it. I was really good at being stubborn and picky for many years but dammit, even I can’t avoid pizza for a lifetime. I don’t have that kind of energy to argue anymore.

I found two pizzas that looked appealing to me on the Pizza Nea menu, and Lauren must have agreed with me because we decided to get those two and share them. The Salsicce consisted of Spicy Italian sausage, roasted red pepper, cracked red pepper, fresh mozzarella, crushed San Marzano tomatoes and basil. The Gambero was topped with shrimp, roasted red and yellow peppers, pesto, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano.


I foolishly ate 14 Trader Joe’s potstickers not more than an hour before we left home, so I wasn’t as hungry as I would have liked. I usually complain about small portion sizes, but on this night, the two pizzas were almost too much for us to handle. I surprisingly think I preferred the Salsicce even though it looked less appealing than the Gambero, which included a handful of big shrimp and strips of bell peppers. The pizzas were baked to my liking with a thin crust, and plenty of outer bready crust.

The atmosphere of Pizza Nea was pleasant; not overly busy for a Saturday night. Our service was fine, nothing terribly noteworthy good or bad, though I had some troubles hearing our waiter who talked in an unusual voice. The prices were reasonable all-around. Two pizzas, a beer, and glass of wine for about $40 was right on par with what I expected. If I had a gripe with Pizza Nea, it was that they didn’t have any chicken pizzas on their menu and those are always my favorite.


The Necessities
Pizza Nea
306 East Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis

Sea Salt Eatery

23 Oct

Sea Salt Eatery

visited Friday, September 24th, 2010

Sea Salt exterior

Sea Salt Eatery in Minnehaha Park

On a recent Friday night, Lauren and our friend Sarah decided we best take in the Sea Salt Eatery before it closes for the season. Walsh and I were more or less along for the ride, but once I saw the menu I was very excited to try a few of the seafood offerings. The menu seemed very reasonably priced, but then again that only made me feel like I could order more things. Aside from Lauren and I splitting a bottle of white wine ($22) and the peel-and-eat shrimp appetizer ($8.95), I chose the scallop tacos and marlin tacos ($6.95 each). For a Friday night dinner on payday, it seemed like a good opportunity to splurge just a little!

The shrimp app was really good! I don’t know how one can make plain cold shrimp taste any different than the next guy, but these big shrimp were a pretty solid deal for the price. Paired with a spicy cocktail sauce, it was the perfect way to get my taste buds juiced up for the main course.

A few minutes later my two kinds of tacos arrived. The marlin tacos came two to an order and were served in doubled-up tortillas with salsa, pico de gallo, and greens. I had never tried marlin and must admit I ordered it only because I was thinking of the Florida Marlins, but it was a delicious, savory piece of fish and the tacos were excellent. The scallop tacos featured lots of breaded, fried scallops and were topped with a tangy chipotle sauce instead of salsa. These were much more flavorful and filling than the marlin. A little difficult to hold and eat, but worth the mess.

Sea Salt Eatery, Minneapolis, scallop taco

My scallop tacos were the highlight of the night.

Sea Salt Eatery, Minneapolis, marlin taco

The marlin taco was good too, just not as good as the scallop.

The Sea Salt Eatery had more of a cafeteria feel to it than a sit-down restaurant. Plastic chairs were slid up to small, circle tables barely large enough for all our food. The first thing we did when we entered the building was went through the order line, then found a place to sit. They call out the names and deliver the food, but the service was hardly tip-worthy. That said, I enjoyed my unusual experience there. It was a lot less formal than I had expected, and I’d like to try some other items from the menu next summer.


I had been wanting to visit Sea Salt for ages and ages. It felt like I was the last person in the greater metro area to eat there. So suffice it to say, my expectations were perhaps a bit high. After talking all summer about how I desperately wanted, nay, needed to get to Sea Salt before their season ended, I made it happen at the end of September.

While the boys were figuring out the park’s parking system, Sarah and I ran ahead in case we had to fight for a table. The restaurant was just picking up at about 6:30 pm, so we had our choice of tables. We might have sat outside except that I don’t think Sarah or Chris (or Ryan) were expecting the kind of atmosphere that we encountered and hadn’t dressed for the great outdoors. Once the boys joined us we started to scour the menu. I was a little overwhelmed by the number of choices, and the ordering system gave me a little bit of stress as I was not ready to order when we got to the front of the line. I was bound and determined to order something a little unusual. We went with a relatively safe choice, cold shrimp cocktail, for our appetizer and after panicking and asking the cashier what sandwich was the best, I ordered the crawfish po’ boy.

Once we located a table and set our drinks down, the appetizers were out – guess it doesn’t take too much time to put cold shrimp on a plate! Like Ryan said, the shrimp were mighty tasty and the horseradish-y cocktail sauce was perfect. Sarah and Chris ordered both the shrimp cocktail and the calamari, which I stole a piece of. It was probably the best calamari I’ve ever tasted, and I would have stolen another piece if Sarah hadn’t threatened me.

Crawfish Po' Boy

Before we had a chance to finish our first course, our main dishes came out. I was shocked at how big the po’ boy was! I made a venture over to the famous, impressive display of hot sauces and took a few back to the table. My favorite, which nearly burned a hole in my throat?

Hot hot hot sauce

Really, the sandwich was huge and oh, so tasty. I’m not typically a fan of mayonnaise, but I had put so much of that hot sauce on there that it was necessary. My only complaint about the whole experience is that the tiny little fried crawdaddies would not stay put in the sandwich! I ended up eating a lot of them straight from the basket.

Dinner for 4 at Sea Salt Eatery, Minneapolis

Dinner for 4 at Sea Salt Eatery, Minneapolis

By the time we had all either finished our food or given up hope on it, it was nearing 8pm, the restaurant’s closing time. I was surprised to see many people still waiting in line, but I guess this must be more of a place where closing time means the kitchen is closed, but not yet time to kick everyone out. Good to know for the future!

lots of trays

The carnage

Ambience – 3.5/5. The cafeteria style ordering and paper/plastic utensils are a bit surprising, but you have to remember that you’re in a city park. It would have been nicer if we could have sat outside, but we had a good view of the action in the kitchen and lots of people-watching around us. Everyone was really mellow and just enjoying their food.
Service – 3/5. I almost feel like it should be “n/a”, since the only time you are in contact with a server is when your food is brought out. The cashier was great, giving us samples of wines that we were considering buying and advising me to order the crawfish po’ boy.
Food – 4.5/5. Everything was outstanding – I don’t think anyone at our table had any complaints with the food, other than perhaps having too much of it. It’s a little spendy when you order alcohol, though $22 for a bottle of wine in a restaurant is not outrageous – it just all adds up fast. We LOVED the huge selection of hot sauces.
Overall experience – 4.5/5. I loved it! Sea Salt closes for the season in just over a week and I am trying to convince Ryan to go back there before it closes.

The Necessities
Sea Salt Eatery
4801 Minnehaha Avenue S, Minneapolis, MN
(612) 721-8990
Hours: Varying, seasonal