I’m an amateur. Amateur food blogger and restaurant critic, that is. Part of being an amateur is learning the rules.

Food Blogging Rule #1 : Never write a review before making multiple visits (3+). Unless you get food poisoning the first time (my addition).

“All you goddamn hack bloggers think just because you have the WordPress app, you can do what I do? I’m a James Beard Award winner, you…. ” Sorry, I was just psychically channeling a professional food writer.

But anyway, what the pro food writer would say about multiple visits: We have the power to crush that restaurant, so if we’re going to slam them, let’s make sure we have our facts straight. Visit multiple times.

Food Blogging Rule #2: Never write a bad review.

How many professional food writers do you see writing negative reviews? Almost none. Why?
*Readers don’t respond well to prolonged negativity.
*They would rather read about where to go rather than where not to.
*See Rule #1, “power to crush”. Sometimes it’s more humane to skip a review than to throw cold water on a sinking ship.
*Writers need access to the food community. The critic walks a fine line. Too negative, too often, and they can find themselves frozen out.
*Some food writers are pussies.

With all that in mind, enjoy these blurbs on places that have recently let me down.

@eatWSK
World Street Kitchen is a good food truck. I loved the Yum Yum Rice Bowl and enjoyed the Chicken Bahn Mi. I was accosted by a homeless man while I ate, and the food was good enough that my dining experience was still well above average.
Based on that, I took a friend to the new WSK location at 28th & Lyndale. Cool space, friendly staff, food disappointing, except for the hummus sampler. I’d slap my momma for that recipe. Rice bowl was weird this time. Rice too firm. Tough short ribs. Flavors were off. Not yum yum.

Spill The Wine–Uptown
Went to Spill 2.0 for a late night bite. Was admittedly bitter that they forced out my bike shop, but liked the original Spill, so gave it a try. Tres Leches cake was good. Lots of lime zest. Service was smothering. The space is sooo bad, you wonder if they made it bad on purpose. Furniture is wrong, and too small. Fluorescent light glares out of the open kitchen. Too modern. Too cold. Build booths or benches against the windows. Get some more wood in the space. Maybe a rug, or a drapery. The space is not defined well.

Uchu Peruvian Cuisine
Plymouth, MN
Underwhelming. Chimbarazzo would humiliate Uchu in a slap fight. Solidly middle of the road. My food did not look like what the Heavy Table guys got.

Jax Cafe
You go to Jax for the history. You go for the classics. You go because Grandma likes it.
You don’t go for horrifically overpriced food that arrives luke warm and uninspired.
But you do go for the ice cream drinks. They still do the Pink Lady & the Golden Cadillac. Soucheray should get ready to recycle a column lamenting the passing of this icon. Their customer base is dying, and no-one under 40 is going to put up with this shit, especially with the Strip Club & Burch in town. Fire the kitchen staff and start over.

Prohibition Bar
Pretty good for hotel food. Excellent cocktails. Views are over-hyped. Waitresses dress like it’s a First Ave. nightclub. At least we went during Happy Hour.

Krung Thep
Eat Street
There is a rumor going around that Krung Thep is the Mpls. outpost of Bangkok Thai Deli. This is a vicious lie. At the Bangkok Thai Deli, steaming platters of food and bowls of pho stream out the of kitchen, and are warmly received hesitant Caucasian foodies and hungry Asian regulars. The food is authentic in that unfamiliar, and slightly forbidding way that great Asian food often is to Westerners. At Krung Thep, depressing food trickles into a depressing room, ultimately disappointing the hopeful.

Loyal readers, you know I went into the bricks-n-mortar Smack Shack ready to be let down. After all, the FoodFighter lives to expose the unfounded hype, and decry the crimes against food lovers, perpetrated by food scenesters, and their assorted hangers on.

Plus, I loved the truck. That’s alot ‘o lobster on that roll, me boy, even if it’s a little spendy. Would this massive new shack, smack dab in Mpls’ new food trend central area (North Loop) maintain the truck’s standards?

Truck good doesn’t always mean restaurant good (see my upcoming blurb on @eatWSK).

But the Smack Shack confounded my (negative) expectations.The food was fantastic, the service was friendly/competent, and the space brings to mind the overused A-word of 2012 (a-a-a-amazing). <please excuse me while I descend into self-loathing for a moment or three).

Yes, folks, the Smack Shack delivered.

Side note, I have immediately vaulted the Smack Shack to my Number One Spot to take out-of-town guests. The food and space are impressive enough to entertain guests, but the vibe is laid back enough to accomodate any age group, taste, or dress code (okay, maybe no top hat & tails).

Food

You’re gonna get the Lobster Roll. Sure, you’ll look at the menu, and pretend it’s a decision, but let’s be honest with each other. You’re getting the roll.

Don’t hate yourself for conforming. Instead, branch out with an app or three. I tried the fried oyster sliders (mini-po boy, anyone?), and they were fantastic. Butter grilled bun, spicy mayo, and a roasted plum tomato really complimented the PERFECTLY fried oyster.

I also grabbed the delicious pork tacos. They arrived simply dressed with cilantro, lime, and a chipotle aioli, on corn tortillas. People, there are taco joints allover Central Ave & Lake St. that could learn something from these tacos. No b*llsh*t.

If you’re gonna branch out from the roll, try a po’ boy. I had the Fried Shrimp, and it was all good. Good roll, good shrimp, good dressing & good veggies. Good good good.

On another visit, we had the Lobster Boil.You pay by the amount of lobster, and they add smoked sausage,corn on the cob, & potatoes, all boiled with the lobster, low country style. You also get a decent slaw and grilled bread. The boil is expensive, but please note, two people can split the 1.5 pound boil, for $29, and it’s more than enough, especially if you get an app.

Space

Imagine the two level, brick & timber, exposed beams, concrete floor space of your dreams. Now, add multiple, bi-fold garage doors from the era of the Model T, that open onto a raised cement loading dock. Yup, instant patio, and all kinds of air & sunshine coming inside on nice days. Folks, we have a bingo.

The bar is also super well done. The Shack folks built a glass a steel keg cooler that runs about 40 feet from the front door to the dining room. Very cool to look at, and a great way to move traffic and delineate the bar space.

My only suggestion? Place a funky, custom, blinky open sign at the front entrance. The entry gives no visible indication that anybody’s home, and you can’t see the host stand from the front enterance.

Executive Summary of Smack Shack Restaurant:
Go. Eat like it’s 1999.
Go again. Eat like you did when Y2K didn’t destroy us all.
Go a third time. Bring your friends and relatives from Osh Kosh & Minot. Revel in their envy.

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You say you need a little Persian in your life?

Vitals:

http://www.caspianbistro-mn.com/

2418 University Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 623-1113
Tue – Thur 10:30 am – 8:45 pm
Fri – Sat 10:30 am – 9:45 pm
Sun 12:00 pm – 8:45 pm
Mon Closed

On the Quick:

Food: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Vibe: Relaxed, unique, & satisfying.

Price: $-$$

Booze: Nada

Beware: Umm, in a FoodFighter first, not much to beware. Guy at the register will flirt with your lady?

“Welcome, Dr. Jones, to the Temple of Meat!”

Aww, shit. Now the owners of the Caspian wil be after me. “We have many vegetarian options, you Capitalist Imperialist American dog!”

Aww, shit. Now I just made the cardinal error of equating Persians with Iranians. Man, am I in trouble now.

Disclaimer: The Caspian serves vegetarian food. The modern state of Iran contains a majority of ethnic Persians, however, the positions of the current Iranian government in no way reflect the opinions of all Persians.

Wheew.

All that nonsense aside, the Caspian is great place for groups, a casual night out, and to demonstrate your foodie cred (“Oh, you’ve never had Persian food? We simply must go to the Caspian. No dear, Iranian and Persian are not the same thing, not exactly. Yes, this menu can be confusing. Let me guide you…”)

Food

Time to get your meat on. Meat platters. Grilled meat. Kebabs. And, wonder of wonders, grilled meat formed around a skewer? (How do they do that?) No matter. Dive into meated bliss.

-Beyond Meat-

The dill rice is an affordable, and delicious upgrade to your side dish.

All the platters come with a grilled, whole tomato on the side. Perfect contrast in flavor & texture to all that meat. (yup, added that to my backyard grilling repertoire.)

Try one of the signature, Persian beverages (tart cherry, mint, or quince & lime). Just do it. They are delicious and unique. Remember, foodie cred.

Space

The owners better take out life insurance, because this space has so much potential, aspiring Twin Cities chefs are probably already plotting some sort of Spy vs. Spy type takedown. Open, airy, big windows. Nice. (Warm in winter & cool in summer.)

The Market

Walk off your meat coma with a little shopping. Caspian is a restaurant and a neat little ethnic grocery & deli. Get your date fix here, people.

It’s clean, well organized, and the prices are fair.

Etc.

  • Good for groups.
  • Oodles of free parking in the back.
  • Mad foodie respect.

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Nuff Sandwiches

November 12, 2012


Good sandwiches. Get here and beat the inevitable crowds.

 

Vitals:

http://www.nuffne.com

2851 Johnson St NE Minneapolis, MN 55418
(612) ???-????

On the Quick:

Food: 5/5

Atmosphere: 3.5/5

Service: 4/5

Vibe: Sandwiches good enough for a neighborhood joint to draw beyond the neighborhood.

Price: $-$$

Booze: Beer/Wine

Beware: People, who are generally stupid, will take your food, when your name is called, because Kathy sounds just like Steve. #morons

Once you have a sandwich at Nuff, you will say, “Geez, I wish we had a joint like this in our neighborhood.”

Well, you don’t.

Just like you don’t have an Anchor Fish & Chips, but that doesn’t stop you from INSISTING on showing up with 10 friends at 7pm on a Friday, thereby barring normal people from eating. Behold, the future of Nuff.

Unlike The Anchor, there is ample, free parking across the street. Welcome, tourists.

I will spare you all the bullshit and tell you the food rocks, it ain’t cheap(but man do you get some food), and the space could use some pizazz.

Food

If you aren’t a big eater, or are on a budget, get a half sandwich and split the fries. It’s more than enough.

True Sandwich Kings will love to go with a whole sandwich. I said they aren’t cheap, but they aren’t outrageous, and you get alot of meat for your money. Yes, I said meat. These sandwiches are stuffed.

I am convinced they are baking their own bread. It’s a pitch perfect sandwich roll. (I probably say pitch perfect too much, but this one was.)

Ingredients are top notch, and the chef knows his stuff.

Five stars for the pulled pork. Smoky, fatty, sweetish sauce, and a scoop of cabbage salad on top. De-fucking-lish.

Space

It’s a little spartan, a little bare. You can tell these are some food guys steering this ship, and the spouse chose the paint. I would prefer if it was a little more of a “joint”, but I think they got the vibe right for the neighborhood. Neutral is probably best to start. Let the food be the star of the show. They can add things over time.

Etc.

  • It’s very kid friendly.
  • Order at the counter, pick up in the back.
  • Staff clears the tables, so flip ’em a tip at the register.
  • Houston, we have a social media problem: This link is featured prominently in search results for “Nuff Sandwiches”.

Rye Deli

August 1, 2012

If you have a complaint about Rye, you probably need to fuck off.

Vitals:

www.ryedeli.com

1930 Hennepin Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 871-1200

On the Quick:

Food: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Vibe: Quick,hip deli tries to be a bar at night.

Price: $-$$

Booze: Beer/Wine/Liquor.

Beware: Really shitty East Coasters who need to move home. Now.

If you’ve been to Rye, as we will henceforth refer to Rye Deli, you have probably enjoyed delicious food, in a cool/functional space, delivered by nice people. Then you read some reviews and internet comments, and concluded that you must be crazy. Rye must really suck.

Let me sum up the case against Rye:

  • I am from the East Coast.
  • The food at Rye does not taste like the deli fare I knew and loved back East.
  • I decided to take my frustration with the entire Midwest out on Rye.
  • Maybe I should move back where I came from. That way, I can enjoy delicious deli food at Schwartzman’s, and maybe see if Mommy will breastfeed me again, since it’s obvious we stopped that too early.

Enough about D-bag ex-pat East Coasters. Let’s talk Rye!

Located in the former Auriga, the team behind Rye did a nice remodel on the space. Lots of natural light, and each of the three seating areas feels like a distinct space. Nice job on the patio, too. The bar is cute, but I wouldn’t drink there (sometimes we can’t be all things to all people).

The staff is very attentive, pleasant and competent. I don’t know who is hiring and training in there, but they need a raise. (No, I am not sleeping with the GM).

So, the food. Good. Food good. Of course, I’ll go into detail about the dishes I had, pros & cons, etc, but let me start by saying, someone in that kitchen knows there shit. There is some talent back there. Some feeling. Exhibit A: The Breakfast Sandwich.

THE BREAKFAST SANDWICH
Fried eggs, crisp bacon, tomato and burnt onions and cheese on grilled challah or your choice of bagel 7.5

Fucking sublime. I had it on challah. Perfectly crispy, charred, melty, and savory, exactly where it needed to be. Spot on. Go eat that sandwich.

KNIFE AND FORK REUBEN
Open faced corned beef or smoked meat, rye, sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Swiss cheese 13.5

Also good. Not more than the sum of it’s parts, but at Rye, they use good parts.

CHALLAH FRENCH TOAST
Hope Creamery Butter, local maple syrup 9

It was fine. Won’t change your life.

EGGS & POTATOES & MEAT
Two eggs any style, hash browned potatoes, Montreal style smoked meat or Thielen’s bacon or grilled Vienna salami 9

Solid, large portion. Just what you want on a weekend morning.

KNISH POT PIE
Roasted chicken and vegetables in a rich gravy under a flaky crust 13

Winner. Even the East German judge would give the crust & gravy a ten.

My quibble with Rye:

The portions are a tad small for the prices. I know it’s 2012, I know you’re in Lowry Hill, and I know that building was listed for $800K(that’s before remodel, kids). I know these things. You gots to get paid.

But I also know this is still Midwest-sota. My suggestion: starch it up. Add a side of starch to your sandwiches (home-made bagel chips?), and bulk up the starch on the entrees.

People say they want right-sized portions, but they also want to pay $2 less for those portions.

Starch, my lad. Starch.

Gorkha Palace

July 18, 2012

Nepalese Gem, cleverly hidden in a hot restaurant district.

Vitals:

http://www.gorkhapalace.com/

23 4th Street Northeast Minneapolis, MN 55414

612-886-3451

On the Quick:

Food: 5/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Vibe: Casual, yet charming.

Price: $-$$

Booze: Beer & Wine.

Beware: Nothing, really.

It isn’t often you finish a meal, look around the restaurant and think, this is my spot, but that is exactly what I felt after my first meal at Gorkha Palace

The Palace, or G-P, or whatever nickname I decide on, is located in the old St. Martin’s Table space. It’s a pain in the ass to get to, parking isn’t great, and is very “drive-by-able.”

Which is weird, because it’s in such a great restaurant neighborhood. You can walk to Namu or the Red Stagg, from the front door.
So fight the power, and go. Just park a block away, and go. Just fucking go!
Why?

Because the food is sublime. Sub-f’ing-blime.

Start your meal with the Veggie Pakora: Crispy fritters of cabbage, onions, jalapenos dipped in chickpea batter & fried – served with mint/tamarind chutneys. How do they get these things so light and non-greasy. It’s a miracle, and they are delicious.

The Mo-Mo (dumplings) are pretty good too.
Entree time: I could talk all day about the Lamb Paalak (halal):
Boneless lamb cooked with spinach and garlic in tomato onion sauce. Tender lamb,and a pitch-perfect sauce. I am not screwing around here. Pitch-perfect.
The Paalak Paneer:Spinach & paneer (Indian cheese) simmered in a rich creamy sauce of organic tomatoes and cream,is another winner. Can’t. Stop. Eating.

The Naaan is off the charts, btw.

Last but not least, they have a lunch buffet. Now wait, I know what you’re thinking. Greasy, starchy crappolla, but it’s not. The food is just as fresh and delicious as ordering off the menu. even the Veggie Pakora(deep fried) were still light and crisp.

Now that I’ve raved about the food, let me fill in the blanks.

Nepalese food seems to share alot of roots with Indian. If you dig Indian, you will LOVE Nepalese.

The decor is awesome for a small, ethnic restaurant (by Twin Cities standards). It’s quaint, charming, a little modern, clean, and well kept. Nice enough for a date, but you can still go casual.

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NE Mpls eatery lays out the Ecuadorian comfort foods.

Vitals:

http://www.chimborazorestaurant.com/

2851 Central Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
612-788-1328

On the Quick:

Food: 4/5

Atmosphere: 4/5

Service: 2/5

Vibe: Casual

Price $-$$

Beware: Foodie douche bags.

 

We must ask ourselves, why haven’t we been eating at Chimbarazo? Why haven’t we heard about it? We’ve all driven past it, but no-one has gone inside.

We must learn why, so it doesn’t happen again, because the food at Chimbarazo rocks. Not like Bruce Springsteen. Like the Clash. Ok, maybe more like an older, wiser Paul Westerberg.

I had the llapingachos twice, as an app and part of my meal. They are described as potato pancakes, but they are more like big, filled potato dumplings. The app was served on a thin bed of scrambled egg, with a peanut sauce & a chimichurri. Outstanding.

We also had the beef empanada. It was good, and cheap. $2.

One of the highlights of night was the amazing tomato-onion curtido that seemed to come with everything. It was a sort of pickled onion-tomato salsa, made with vinegar & herbs. Lots of fresh onion flavor.

Another thing I like about this joint is they use egg in a lot of their dishes.

Some of the entrees and sandwiches come with fresh cut fries. Skip them.

On my second visit, had the Chaulafan, an Ecuadorian fried rice with pork, chicken, shrimp, and egg. Holy smack, Batman. This dish rocked my face off. Just writing about it made me so hungry, I think I’ll go back for some Chaulufan tonight.

The service the first night was a train wreck, but the staff finally figured it out, apologized, and comped us a beer. Life goes on. (Fine on the second visit.)

Chimbarazo is billed as an Ecuadorian restaurant. Seems to focus on the mountain/peasant foods (Andean highlands). Think homey, comfort foods.

Beware, the foodies are circling. Spray tans, wedge sandals, and those “oh, we’re slumming” smiles were in some evidence. Weekend nights may be out at Chimbarazo, in the very near future.

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