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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

Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue and Pirate Bar

27 Jun

Ryan

On Saturday around noon, Lauren and I stopped in at Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue in Stillwater, a restaurant we’d never heard of before.  Something about this place intrigued me—I thought the food would be extra spicy.

Our first impression of the restaurant wasn’t great as we walked up to the podium where a pair of hostesses were exchanging some heated words, but we were promptly seated and our beverages were out within minutes.

A pretty healthy portion of food from Smalley's.

A pretty healthy portion of food from Smalley's.

The menu item that interested me the most was one of the combo platters, not unlike those of Famous Dave’s.  We both ordered the Chicken/Brisket combo but with different sides.  I opted for the curried vegetables and rice.  While we waited for our order, we sampled the various sauces.  They were all unique and certainly did have that Caribbean vibe.

The food was out relatively quickly and I dug right in.  My beef brisket was awesome as I doused it in the jerk sauce, but Lauren’s helping seemed to include lots of fatty pieces.  Maybe I just snarfed mine down too fast to notice, but I was impressed with the brisket.  The chicken seemed like maybe it was a little pink, and wasn’t the easiest thing to eat, but I found it adequate and finished it off.  The side dishes were both delicious.  The rice had a hint of coconut flavor while the vegetables were sauteed just right.

I was nervous to try the atomic pepper, but it was a big dud.

I was nervous to try the atomic pepper, but it was a big dud.

One thing that I found troubling was this atomic pepper that you can order for free.  Apparently it’s supposed to be super hot, but I found it to be more salty than anything.  The heat level was about 2/10.

The atmosphere was pleasant, the waitress was attentive, and the food was good for the most part.  The prices were reasonable as well.  Nothing really stood out as being overly good though, just a whole lot of adequacy and a little disappointment in the heat department.

Lauren:

Ugh. Nothing disgusts me more than a fatty piece of meat. I think it was the years of being a vegetarian, but anything that resembles tendons or ligaments or squishy, icky fat turns my stomach. The chicken, however, was smoky and delicious. I think I would have enjoyed the whole thing more if my brisket had been leaner. As a side, however, I got the mac & cheese with chiles AND bacon – delicious, and of course, low-cal!

I tried a bite of the supposedly “atomic pepper” and couldn’t believe how not spicy it was. Although I I love spicy foods, I was afraid and was expecting my mouth to be on fire – what a joke! It tasted salty and pickled, if anything. Definitely not spicy.

The atmosphere in Smalley’s is fun; after all, how often do you find a pirate-themed bar in the upper Midwest? But our Saturday afternoon lunch clearly wasn’t the time to be there as the restaurant was mostly empty and the staff milled about, bored.

Ratings

Ryan: 3/5 Noms

Lauren: 2/5 Noms. I want to like Smalley’s. But fatty brisket is inexcusable.

Ryan’s Quasi-Edible Beef Stir Fry

20 Jun

Saturday night, I decided to cook up a little dinner for the two of us.  We enjoy spicy food a lot.  So much so, in fact, that we routinely bury our food in Sriracha sauce.  A little burn is to be expected with just about any meal that we make.  But on this occasion, I went too far.

beefstirfry

Looked pretty, didn't it?

The ingredients in my beef stir-fry included the following.

  • Beef
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 1/2 onion
  • Handful of bean sprouts
  • 4 Habanero peppers
  • Handful of chile de arbol peppers
  • About a cup of broccoli
  • Asia-Asia Spicy Teriyaki Sauce
  • Spoonful of Sriracha sauce
  • Spoonful of Srirachi chili garlic sauce

I stir-fried these ingredients together until it was sizzling hot, then served it up in equal-sized bowls to the two of us.  I am all about the heat, but as Clay Davis would say, “sheeeeeeeeeeeeit!”  It was damn-near too hot to enjoy.  Lauren ate most of hers, and I ate all of mine then finished what she couldn’t, but it wasn’t without a battle.

In the process of eating this stir-fry, I guzzled two cans of Coke Zero and two 20 oz. glasses of water.  I then ran to the bathroom and ate a few Gaviscon tablets.  After much perspiration, I finally recovered.

Overall, the flavor was good and all the ingredients were very tasty and fresh.  But the Sriracha additions and the overload of Habanero peppers was too much to overcome.

Ratings

Ryan: I give it 2/5 “Noms”.  Had I toned down on the heat, it would have been very tasty.  And it needed some rice, which I didn’t have time to prepare.

Lauren: 2/5 “Noms.”  Too spicy, and sauce got too watery.

Jasmine 26

30 May

Lauren and I recently went out on a romantic late-night dinner for two at Jasmine 26 on 26th & Nicollet.  We used to live just a block or two away, and it was a favorite spot to go for happy hour and good Asian food.

Jasmine 26's Chicken Pad Thai

Jasmine 26's Chicken Pad Thai and Pomegranate Lychee Martini

Ryan

We opted to sit outside at one of their tables on the sidewalk since it was a nice, cool night, despite the fact that no one else was out there.  The waitress was very attentive to us and was outside numerous times to check on us, so she gets an A!  We started off with some specialty drinks.  I had the Pomegranate Lychee Martini, as I’ve often been known to down the “girly” drinks.  Lauren had the Midori Mojito, and the two of us shared hot sake.

My Pomegranate concoction was excellent!  It was made of pomegranate juice and pomegranate vodka, I think, and garnished with a lime.  My bright pink drink sure went down smooth.  Although it was very sweet, I could taste the alcohol.  That’s one drink that could get me in trouble!

We ordered a variety of food that night as well.  I got the Pad Thai with chicken, Lauren got the Pho with beef, and we split orders of spring rolls and wontons.

Chicken Pad Thai may very well be my very favorite food.  Jasmine 26 provided us with a variety of sauces, and I loaded the chili garlic sauce onto my Pad Thai.  It’s a very simple, standard meal, and I would imagine fairly difficult to screw up.  Jasmine passed the test, providing me with a healthy portion of chicken and bean sprouts, and that chili sauce made all the difference.  I thoroughly enjoyed eating my food.

The spring rolls with the peanut sauce were outstanding, and the wontons were hot, crispy, and delicious when dipped in the sweet & sour sauce.

Lauren

Jasmine 26 is the second restaurant by the siblings Le and Vinh Truong, proprietors of the fantastic Jasmine Deli just around the corner from Jasmine 26. My hand to God, the chicken pho at Jasmine Deli cures hangovers.

So it is only natural that Jasmine 26, the grown-up version of the deli, hits the spot. And then it chases the spot with a Midori mojito.

Mmmm… midori mojito. And beef pho. And spring rolls! I love spring rolls. And I love the little tray of sauces that Jasmine 26 brings out – hoisin and chili garlic, and something else that I can’t quite place.

While dinner itself at Jasmine is great, the real can’t-miss is the late night happy hour – most of the entrees are around $5, a large hot sake is $5, and all of the items you would expect to find on an Asian fusion menu in the upper Midwest are there (I’m looking at you, cream cheese wontons!)

Rating

Ryan: I give Jasmine 26 the maximum “Noms”: 5 out of 5!  One of my favorite places to go in Minneapolis!

Lauren: Jasmine 26 is delicious! 5 Noms!