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Archive for the ‘restaurant thoughts’ Category

Do you like sammies?  Go to Jimmy John’s.  You like Mexican?  You live in Minneapolis (or…wherever)?  You like Tortas?  Go to Manny’s Tortas.

Quite honestly, a torta is not much different from a sammy.  Bread on both ends and any variety of meats and other garnishes in the middle.  However, instead of typical American fare of mustard or mayo, tortas carry an array of sauces.  But in an effort to not tick off an entire population, I will espouse the greatness of what we know as a torta (and not a sammich).

The Manny’s we go to is a small sandwich shop seating no more than 40 torta eating people at a time, but the decor is bright and inviting only aided by the large storefront windows.  The dining area is modern and consists of a variety of open and more private seating, but in a deli fashion is mostly an open layout. You order, sit down, and have your torta delivered to your table with a side of Lays potato chips.  It’s quick, easy, inexpensive and extremely delicious.

Despite their myriad offerings, I have no reason to stray from the beloved Cubano torta.  On it’s toasted bread it contains ham, seasoned pork, cheese (don’t poke fun, but was it provolone?), avocado, and chipotle sauce.  This is based on the picture and partial memory so there are more than a variety of veggies I am missing from this list.  But it matters not.  It is an awesome sandwich…err torta… and you should go get one.

As Manny says: “Want a “sammich”?  Any place that stuffs some meat and cheese between a couple of slices of bread and calls it good might do the trick.  Want a torta?  You gotta go to Manny’s!”  (a little shameless self-promotion never hurt anyone anyway.)

Manny’s Tortas
2700 E Lake St, Minneapolis
(612) 728-1778

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You need to go to Alma.  Stop what you are doing, check the balance on your checking account, pick up the phone and make a reservation.  Luckily I had to do none of that and I just showed up, ready to eat and meet some of David’s friends and have a good time.

Alma deserves to have its prices at what they are. The meals are not overpriced.  The atmosphere is wonderful, and the company and service great.  Moreover,  down in the kitchen is a James Beard award winning Chef!  It’s a huge deal in the world of food.  You entirely get what you pay for.

Due to Alexander Robert’s commitment to sustainable and organic food, the diners get to experience an often rotating/changing menu.  The menu that was featured last night was completely different than the one we experienced in May for David’s birthday.

To start, David and I stuck with the mixed lettuce and tomato salad which is self explanatory.  What was fantastic, aside from the chevre and hidden sliced of potato, was the pesto sauce.  It was sweet, fresh and abundant enough to act as oil dressing on the bread at our table.  My plate was wiped clean.

For the entree, everyone got something different.  David with the scallops, Chrissy with the pork tenderloin (it appeared to be cooked through perfectly and not a bit dry – amazing!), Brian with the duck, Tony with what appeared to be Tubetti pasta and spicy sausage.  Despite everything looking absolutely gorgeous in presentation and smiles of gastronomical satisfaction all around, I am sure I ordered the most phenomenal dish: the swordfish.  Two steaks of swordfish, served atop a bed of arugula and fresh olives, next to a blanket of fennel.  I ate my meal s o  s l o w to enjoy every single bite.  Despite his French culinary background, Chef Roberts did not douse my fish in glaze or sauce, but instead let the quality of the steaks stand out on their own after a fine grilling.

This meal was one of those times where you think, “(insert resturant here) is good, but i didn’t know it could be this good.”  Although in such situations you use more colorful adjectives besides “good” to begin with.  No matter.

The only issues that I have noted with Alma in the whole two times I have had the opportunity to dine the was the noise level.  Located in a small space containing a dining area next to the open kitchen as well as an open upstairs dining area, the noise carries as it has nowhere to halt itself.  This is somewhat resolved by using intimate tables, thus creating a romantic atmosphere you look for in…a romantic restaurant, which Alma is.

*sorry for not posting picture – I forgot my camera, and then my phone was dead so…you know…I couldn’t take any.

528 University Avenue SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
612-379-4909

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We didn’t have much time to get to the Edina Lagoon to catch Tell No One (which by the way, was fantastic), eat and actually travel to the theater.  But we found time, and had a great dinner at Broders’, where I had never been.  It is a tight space where 80% of the place is dedicated to showing, serving, sitting and eating the food that is prepared daily, and 20% to a small Italian food goods store.  We got in line and examined the chalk board menu.

David opted for a large slice of sausage pizza with a side salad.  The sausage did not overwhelm, and added a nice spicy kick to the otherwise standard fare.  It was not at all greasy, but perfectly prepared.

I was hankering for a New Jersey hoagie, but instead opted for a cup of minestrone (soups change regularly) and the Emilia salad.  The minestrone had no noodles, but large pieces of carrot, zucchini, and tomato.  The stock was not thick, but light as a summer soup ought to be.  It also came with two pieces of foccacia (but it was not as good as my homemade focaccia).

However I did not eat much of the bread because I also had the prosciutto-laden Emilia salad to accompany my soup (which too, came with bread).  I have had a mad craving for prosciutto lately, and it was mostly this salad that steered me away from the NJ Hoagie.

Greens topped with Parmesan, pine nuts, my lovely prosciutto and a balsamic vinegar – I was in heaven.  All of the flavors played nicely together, and my entire meal felt light and healthy, much unlike I may have felt after a monster sammich.

Despite that, there is always room for dessert.  With plum season nearly coming to an end, David and I split a piece of the glistening plum tart.  The natural sugars glazed over the fruit, yet kept the tart crispy and crunchy with every bite.  It was beautiful to look at as well.

Broders’ is good food, great ingredients, and a sweet atmosphere, but be prepared for the possibility of eating outside on a bench.  But hey!  We are Minnesotans – we like eating outside when we can, right?

Broders’ Cucina Italiana
2308 West 50th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55410-2202

612.925.3113

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On Friday, David said he would take me anywhere I wanted to go for dinner – ANYWHERE.  Thoughts of Kafe 421, and Brasa and even Pop ran through my head.  But then so did…Outback Steakhouse.

I was embarrassed for even mentioning it.  But that my friends, is just one of my food’s guilty pleasures.  In fact, it doesn’t stop at Outback Steakhouse, whose interior decorations I abhor.  It spills over into other Suburbia establishments such as Chili’s and their mass produced baby back ribs that I often crave in the dead of winter.  It’s not just the ribs, but the sweetened, sauteed cinnamon apples as well, alongside crispy fries that have seasoning salt on them.

My guiltiest pleasure lies in the fast food realm, and the nastiest of the nasty: White Castle.  I fully understand and comprehend the disgusting smells that emanate from the steamy kitchen.  But those teeny tiny burgers that I eat in 3-4 bites are cute, and filling when it is 2am and you have no where else to go.

Call it disgusting, low-brow, or simply comfort food.  I eat it every now and then, knowing full well the embarrassment that could ensure.  But during those cravings, nothing hits the spot better.

What about you?  Do you have any guilty pleasures in the food realm?

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Ever since Jonah made first mention of Sea Salt weeks ago, my interest was piqued.  When Chris started talking craw fish and Po’ Boys, and proceeded to email pictures of it, I was head over heels.  Then Andy and Kim were all about Sea Salt.  A bike trip was planned to go to the pavilion that houses Sea Salt in Minnehaha Park, but those plans turned moot for my first excursion to the park and instead a date was made with Andy and Kim before our trip to Quebec.

The line was especially long this Friday night at 7pm, but after an hour and a half we had a feast: a pitcher of Summit (which I couldn’t drink any of since I was already buzzed from Snus), a crawfish po’ boy, a catfish po’ boy, two orders of oysters and a fish basket that Andy and Kim split.

Please ignore all horrible pictures, as it was already dark out by the time we got our food, thus resulting in using the camera flash.

The oysters were insanely fresh for the landlocked Midwest in which we live.  They were accompanied by lemons, horseradish and Tabasco sauce, none of which were necessary, but certainly heightened the raw flavor.  Also of note, was the fact that the horseradish was slightly acidic and spicy, but overbearingly so as i was eating it raw out of the condiment container.

david's catfish po' boy

The picture does little justice to the fantastic taste of the catfish.  It was not over grilled, or over seasoned, but let the fish come out in the sammich, albeit dead.

crawfish po' boy

crawfish po' boy

What was actually very interesting about taking these shots, is that I got to see what I was eating, as it was not at all visible while chowing down in the dark.  I knew there was a sammie in there, with lettuce and deep fried craw fish but I could not tell where the spiciness came from until I saw the hot sauce on this shot.

I never had crawfish before, and this was a great treat.  It was crunchy, a little spicy, but overall tastes very much like shrimp, yet when they are alive, looked like wee-lobsters.  The sammie bread was toasted so it had a hard crunch as well, something I need when chowing down on a po’ boy.  Overall it was absolutely delicious, and not overfilling (at the time).

Words of wisdom when going to Sea Salt:

  • Don’t go alone, see why next
  • You or your mate must get in the initial line which may stretch far outside to be able to order.  However, the beer and beverage line is a different line, and you or your mate should tend to that line to get some adult drinks to…drink while you wait to order.
  • If you are lucky enough to be with at least three people, one stand in food, one to get beer and the other grab a seat on the pavilion premises – just a thought.

4825 Minnehaha Avenue, Mpls
612/721/8990
http://www.seasalteatery.com/

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Le Ste. Laurent was one of three restaurants located in the towering, castle-like Fairmont Hotel we stayed at Pointe-au-Pic in the Charlevoix region of Québec.  After pre-dinner cocktail in the hotel lounge, where David had the most expensive martini of his life ($20), and talking to some ladies from Michigan we made our way to the white tabled clothed restaurant.

There were two things I definitely wanted to try while on vacation: poutine, and foie gras.  We already had the poutine for lunch so now was time for foie gras.  I know many people, and PETA activists find this delicacy absurdly cruel, and it is, and so are other forms of animal consumption.  I will not wax animal politics on this though, but rather explain that it was truly delicious.

biscuit, chutney, foie gras, figs

Foie gras looked much like a slice of spam, but tasted infinitely times more complex and better.  It had a spicy, almost salami-like taste to it, while the texture was firm, hard and certainly not spreadable like pâté.  It was served with a cranberry/raisin chutney alongside the only figs (traditional accompaniments) I have ever had in my life, which were sweet and smooth, and utterly fantastic.  Given the opportunity, I would definitely eat fois gras again.

For our main course, David and I both decided on rack of lamb.

The presentation was not fancy, but the food was spectacular.  The steamed veggies were meh, as steamed veggies tend to be.  But the potato/cheese layered cake was great.  The potatoes were worked in such a way that they acted like pastry sheets, and in between was rich, soft cheese, then topped by broiled cheese.  Underneath the mountain of lamb was a small tomato cake where the cake tasted much like polenta with a broiled tomato on top, making the cake a tasty surprise.  The rack of lamb itself, was perfectly cooked to medium, with plenty of pink inside.  It was seared and only lightly spiced, which was brought out by the sprigs of rosemary that decoratively stuck out of it. This rack of lamb far surpassed the lamb shank i had at It’s Greek To Me.

It was a truly delightful meal, despite being on the wrong side of animals lovers and activists alike.

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There is nothing more prominent within Québec’s Walled City than souvenir shops, other than restaurants.  Everyone wants you to dine in their establishment and has people standing in the doorway in order to answer any menu questions.  We had decided upon a place near the entrance, but as we explored further we stumbled upon a gem, but were not ready to eat yet and we couldn’t get a reservation.  The old lady owner (Madonna in 20 more years) told us to try back again at 8:30.  We tried before 8:30, and it was not packed, there was plenty of seating, but the old lady/owner grinned and told David that he’s “Good” (for coming back).

We were immediately seated next to a foursome consisting of tourists and a Québec City 400th Anniversary showman dressed in old time garb.  (I postulated that the women of the group were a result of mail-order-brides.  Merely a consideration.)  Regardless, they were all head-over-heels about the fresh made ravioli stuffed with goat cheese and lightly covered in a pesto cream sauce.  We both had to have it, but first, the gazpacho:

No,it’s not the best picture, but it’s cold tomato soup in a dark romantic restaurant.  It was served in a glass the size of an old fashion.  It was freezer cold, but the flavors were vibrant and garlicky.  After we were finishing off our soups, the table next to us got into an annoying conversation.  Then just as our main courses arrived, they started talking to us about our visit, when we should have been eating.  They were nice and all, but some of the manners were missing; e.g. MY FOOD IS HERE!  STOP TALKING TO ME!

Anyway, my food is here.  It was all things great, topped with a broiled tomato and sprigs of thyme.  The abundance of sauce was well used with the extra bread that we requested as well.  It was worth the commotion that the folks next to us were uproarious about and definitely hit the spot.

The old lady owner was very nice, and had explained the menu to us before we ordered.  We both got a kick out of her for being exclusive in who she wanted to let eat at her joint.  I suppose she has the right, but it was fantastic to listen to people complain.

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