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Sea Salt Eatery

23 Oct


Sea Salt Eatery

visited Friday, September 24th, 2010

Sea Salt exterior

Sea Salt Eatery in Minnehaha Park

Ryan
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.

Lauren

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

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Red Lobster Gift Card winners!

2 Oct

Thanks to all who commented on our Red Lobster post!

The lucky winners are:
#37 Judy: “Red lobster is one of my favorite places for lunch or dinner.”

#6 Anne: “I love the Red Lobster shrimp! My favorite is the scampi. It is so addictive. And the biscuits are too too good!”

Again, thank you all so much and congrats to the winners! We hope you enjoy!

Red Lobster

30 Sep

Red Lobster
Red Lobster

Ryan
Typically on our food blog, we’ve reviewed restaurants that are unique to our area and not chain restaurants, but this time we made a special exception! A few months ago, Red Lobster’s headquarters found our blog and asked us to go check out the Bloomington location (on the house!) as there have been a number of big changes, including a head chef who chooses the daily menu. This makes each Red Lobster location a lot more independent. I had to turn the offer down as we were heading to Niagara Falls during the grand opening, but Erica from Red Lobster HQ in Orlando offered us the chance to go back during Endless Shrimp Fest to do our review.

Red Lobster has always been more than just a chain restaurant to me. Our family went there when I was about to turn 6 in 1988 in Sioux Falls, and I remember very distinctly folding up the kids menu into one of those finger crab things. More specifically, Endless Shrimp Fest at Red Lobster has long been one of my favorite restaurant promos. In 2006, a group of us went to this same Bloomington location and I managed to eat 88 shrimp in various forms! In 2008, Lauren and I went to the Golden Valley location and I disappointed by eating barely half that number. Friday night, Lauren, Jason, and I were back in Bloomington for more shrimp. I had hoped to accomplish two things—eat a ton of shrimp while at the same time really enjoying my meal and not stuff myself to the point where the belt was being unbuckled.

Lauren and I hung out at the bar for about an hour before Jason arrived, where we had a comfortable spot to have a couple of drinks and watch the Twins game. Eventually we were seated and soon Jason arrived. It didn’t take us long to decide what to order, though Lauren opted for something other than the shrimp promo. Along with my endless shrimp, I chose the mashed potatoes and garden salad as sides.

There were five varieties of shrimp to choose from, and I intended to have them all, so I started at the top with the traditional Hand-Breaded Shrimp and also a serving of the Shrimp Linguine Alfredo, because as the heaviest and most filling of the varieties, I wanted to make sure I had room for it! The food took very little time to arrive, and I dug in. The hand-breaded was the basic, safe shrimp choice—simple but delicious, especially when dipped in the cocktail sauce. The linguine dish included a large number of tiny shrimp. It really was satisfying and I wish I could have a second helping of this.

The waiter was very prompt in coming back to take our “refill orders.” As soon as one plate of shrimp was delivered, a new order was immediately sent to the kitchen, creating zero wait time in between plates. My third plate was the Garlic Shrimp Scampi, which although equally tasty was smaller pieces. The waiter told us a man and woman came in recently and between them ordered 32 plates of scampi alone, which at first I thought was insane but later was able to believe it. The scampi is the only dish where that would be a plausible story.

Next I ordered the Garlic Grilled Shrimp, which came ten to a skewer. At this point I might have forgotten to actually taste and savor my food, and instead just wolfed it down, not paying attention to whether or not there was a noticeable difference between this and the Garlic Shrimp Scampi. After eating this portion, I began to get full very quickly. But there was one left to try, the new Parmesan Shrimp, which came in a shallow bowl with some seasonings and toppings. I agreed that this was equally tasty, and decided to call it a night. But the waiter announced to me that there was one more shrimp not on the menu that I could try—the Coconut Shrimp. When dipped in a sweet white sauce, the Coconut Shrimp cracked my top 3. But I was beginning to get light-headed and opted to not kill myself on this particular night by forcing myself to finish this dish.

Overall, I decided the Shrimp Linguine Alfredo was my favorite, but all six were very good and I would order any of them again. As usual, I simply overate and went home feeling bloated. Red Lobster remains one of my favorites, and is still the most reasonably priced sit-down delicious seafood restaurant in my book! Even as often as we eat out, Red Lobster still maintains the “special occasion” type of feel and is one of the few places I excitedly make plans to visit annually.

Lauren
I admit that I was a bit skeptical when Ryan told me that Red Lobster wanted to give us & two readers gift cards. One because we really started this blog to focus on small, locally owned restaurants and two, because I knew about the FTC’s rules about compensation and new media and I was worried that I would accidentally run afoul of the law. However, I was swayed when we learned that they were taking strides to become fresher and more locally relevant, with each restaurant updating its menu constantly with what fresh fish they had in-house. Also, I was excited to share the love and give away gift cards to two of our loyal readers!

Like Ryan, Red Lobster was a fancier place for my family to go when I was young. I wasn’t very adventurous, though, and would only get the popcorn shrimp. Things have changed! I always remember being half terrified by, and half amazed by, the tank of live lobsters (which I honestly thought were called “monsters”) at the front of every restaurant.

Anyway, on a recent Friday Ryan and I asked Jason to meet us at Red Lobster. He had to work late so Ryan and I killed a bit of time at the bar, where the bartender was kind enough to switch the television to the Twins game. However, when I ordered a beer and a glass of water, the bartender only gave me the beer. The bar area was quite busy between people waiting for their tables, like us, and servers making drink orders for people sitting in the dining room. I didn’t get my water until twenty minutes later, when he asked me if I wanted another beer and I reminded him. Regular readers around here know how much I HATE IT when servers or bartenders forget my water or don’t fill it up. I am just an extremely thirsty person and I need a lot of water! So that unfortunately got the night off on the wrong foot.

Ryan was going to get Endless Shrimp from the get-go, but the all-you-can-eat thing has never been my preference, so I went for one of the specials off of their new Wood-Grilled menu, which was a wood-grilled lobster tail, wood-grilled skewer of shrimp, and shrimp scampi, along with salad and a side. Attempting to be healthy (really just justifying to myself eating TWO of the awesome cheddar-garlic biscuits) I got the broccoli for my side.

Shrimp, shrimp and lobster

My lobster was delicious – everything was delicious, but lobster is such a rare treat for me. I really could taste the smoke of the grilling which gave it a very nice dimension. The grilled shrimps were very succulent and the scampi delicious, of course, how could butter and garlic with shrimp not be tasty?

Overall I very much enjoyed our visit to Red Lobster, after I finally got my glass of water. I am sure that we will be back again next time Endless Shrimp Fest is on!

shrimp shells

Comment to Win a $10 Gift Card!
Leave your name and e-mail in the Comments of this blog and you will be entered to win one of two $10 Red Lobster gift cards! 2 winners will be chosen at random from all comments left on this post before 9 pm Central time on Friday, October 1st, 2010. Limit one entry per person.

Legal thing: Red Lobster gave us a gift card to dine at and review their location in Bloomington, MN, as well as two $10 gift cards to give away to readers of our blog. We did not receive any other compensation and were under no obligation to write a positive review.

Laredo’s

23 Oct

Tonight after work, Lauren and I stopped off at Laredo’s in St. Louis Park in the Excelsior & Grand neighborhood.  This Tex-Mex bar & grill is new as of last year, and I’d always been tempted to try it.  When the Twins had a deal on their website selling $50 gift cards to Laredo’s for $25, I snatched one up.

My first impression of Laredo’s was very favorable with a country atmosphere.  Our very attentive waiter made sure we were good to go on free chips & salsa and drinks.  Their drink menu featured a few signature cocktails, including the Excelsior & Grand, which I tried.  I believe it was a type of margarita with cactus juice served in a martini glass.  I would have to look up the ingredients again, but I rather enjoyed it.

The menu wasn’t very expansive, but we both found entrees we wanted to try and ended up sharing each other’s meals.  I ordered the Seafood Combo Platter, which consisted of two San Diego fish tacos and two seafood enchiladas served with refried beans and desert rice.  Lauren opted for the Drunken Tequila Shrimp—five jumbo grilled shrimp served with a tequila-lime tomato broth, fried plantains, pineapple & desert rice.

Laredo's Seafood Combo Platter

I made a bold choice with the Seafood Combo Platter.

Laredo's Drunken Tequila Shrimp

Lauren also opted for seafood, trying the Drunken Tequila Shrimp.

My meal was excellent!  It took me until I was 25 to try tacos, enchiladas, or burritos, but as long as they’re light on the cheese (which I specifically requested) then they’re good.  The fish tacos were my favorite.  The only downside was they went a little overboard on the refried beans.  Lauren’s shrimp was also tasty.  I’ve never been one to fill up on a handful of jumbo shrimp, but for someone with Lauren’s appetite they’d do just fine.

I would recommend ordering the extra spicy salsa, both with the free chips and with your main course.  It truly was a sweat-inducer.  Lauren offered me a dollar to eat the little container of spicy salsa, but I turned her down.

This place filled us up.  We were nowhere near finishing the two meals when we threw the towel in.  True, we went a little overboard on the free chips, but these portions are bigger than expected.  It was also a little on the spendy side.  Expect to drop $16 per plate.  Those fancy drinks were also spendy at about $7 each.  Thankfully I had that gift card, but even then I owed another $20 on top of that.

Overall, I’d recommend this place.  Excellent atmosphere, excellent service, great freebies, and huge portions.  Just beware of the prices and don’t overeat!

Lauren:

When Ryan decided to buy one of those 1/2 off gift cards, I was skeptical. So many Tex-Mex places really are total garbage, loaded down with sour cream and boring fare that you could make, easily and cheaply and much more healthful, at home.

Laredo’s surprised me in that sense. In the first place, the salsa that comes with the free chips actually has a bit of spice to it, better than the marinara-sauce-in-masquerade that you’ll find at most joints. Secondly, sangria! I love a good, authentic margarita made from triple sec, tequila and lime juice (and ONLY those three ingredients) as much as the next gal, but I adore sangria and don’t get to have it often enough. I ordered a small carafe and quenched my thirst with the fruity, boozy concoction.

I also liked that Laredo’s had some options that weren’t loaded down with sour cream. Nothing puts me off Tex-Mex food like a giant glop of sour cream covering up some kind of spicy dish. So the shrimp in a smoky, spicy, tomato-y broth was just up my alley. I did try a few bites of Ryan’s seafood platter, and that was pretty good. But if he had let me have my shrimp to myself, I would have been just fine with that 🙂

Ryan: 4/5 Noms

Lauren: 3.5/5 Noms.

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.

Lutsen Resort

13 Oct

For our honeymoon, Mrs. Glanzer and I went up north to the Lutsen Resort on the shore of Lake Superior.  While there, we had the chance to dine at the fancy lodge, which had surprisingly excellent fine dining!

Course 3 of 4 at Lutsen Resort, the Mahi Mahi

Course 3 of 4 at Lutsen Resort, the Mahi Mahi

I ordered the Prix Fixe, which I guess means the chef’s special hand-picked four-course meal.  Each portion of the meal was quite delicious.

Appetizer – For an appetizer, I received an artichoke dip with bread.  This is one of those things I never really find very appealing, but it was as good as I’ve had.  Lauren also got an appetizer with her meal—a set of beef kabobs, which I thought were outstanding.

Salad – My next portion was the house salad, a tossed salad with walnuts and a blueberry dressing.  Our waitress assured us most patrons say this is the best salad they’ve ever eaten.  While I wouldn’t make that claim, it was pretty good.  Salads with fruit-based dressings always set well with me.

Entree – The main course for the night was the mahi mahi, served with steamed greens and pureed Jerusalem artichoke… though I thought it was mashed potatoes until Lauren told me otherwise.  The mahi mahi was very tasty—a lighter option but bursting with savory goodness.  The artichoke and greens were nice complements.

Dessert – For dessert, I had little choice but to order the loganberry cheesecake after seeing someone else order it earlier.  It was everything I hoped for!  With a little help from Lauren, I polished it off rather quickly and left my four-course meal comfortably full.

Overall, the Lutsen Resort provided us with some outstanding service and great first-class dining.  I’m not sure about the price, as we cashed in an $80 meal voucher and paid the balance, but it seemed reasonable enough!

Lauren:

I decided against the Prix Fixe, as I knew that Ryan would let me steal nibbles from his dessert. Instead, I ordered a la carte, with some delicious beef kabobs, and an even more delicious ribeye steak. Beef with a steak chaser? I’m in! As pictured above, it came with sautéed squash and one prawn on top. Complemented by a rich, warm zinfandel, it was a delicious dinner in a perfect honeymoon.

Ryan: I’d give Lutsen 4/5 Noms.

Lauren: I agree! 4/5 Noms.