30 September 2013

Pig Ate My Pizza in Robbinsdale, MN

I never ate at Travail. That was the ultra-trendy chef-driven restaurant that thrived for 2+ years in Robbinsdale. There are two reasons why I never ate there, despite enduring derisive comments from friends along the lines of: “How can you not want to go? You’d love it!”

Reason 1 (and the main reason) – No reservations. Sorry, but I feel that policy reflects a bit of snobbery as well as disrespect for a customer’s time. The word was, you had to show up by 5:30 to get a table at Travail, or contend with an undefined wait that could be hours long. And no disrespect for Robbinsdale intended, but there just isn’t that much to do while killing time waiting for a table.

Reason 2 – The other word was that if you did manage to get a table, you really had to order the tasting menu. Well, I’m probably venturesome enough to try the tasting menu. But I guess I really would like to have the flexibility to order what I want, not take what the chef feels like serving that evening (though I’m sure that it would be noteworthy). PigPizzas

There was a big hue and cry about Travail’s decision to close and reboot this spring. But the creative minds behind the restaurant had ambitious plans in the works, including a rebirth in a new location and a pizza joint in the old. The pizza joint was named Pig Ate My Pizza. I don’t know why.

But curiosity got the best of me. I needed to meet my son recently. He lives in North Minneapolis, not far from Robbinsdale. I suggested we get lunch. We considered a few options, and then I suggested Pig Ate My Pizza. Ben quickly agreed. He brought along his wife and son.

We got there right at noon, when the restaurant opens. We had our choice of tables. Ben chose a funky booth. The interior and d├ęcor is pretty rustic. The menu is posted on a couple of chalk boards. The lunch menu is somewhat abbreviated from the dinner menu, but enough choices to satisfy most palates.

For the five of us (four adults and a three-year old), we ordered two pizzas, but no salads or starters. The amount of food was ample.

One pizza was the margarita. It was a pretty classic presentation – nice chewy crust, garlicky tomatoes, and big creamy puddles of melted mozzarella cheese. This was my favorite.

The other pizza was called Blind Melon. It had arugula, prosciutto, goat cheese, and tapenade.PigPizzas2

The pizzas were creative and tasty. The service was friendly and attentive. The ambiance is relaxed and friendly.

We asked about the pizza tasting menus that were posted on the chalkboard – $60 for two people, $110 for four. My son thought it sounded good. He may give it a try. But Linda and I aren’t likely to drive to Robbinsdale for pizza dinner. Still, I did enjoy it enough to return for lunch someday.

And did I mention? Still no reservations.

20 September 2013

Parlour offers casual alternative to upstairs Borough, Mpls

My wife and I went to Borough (North Loop, Minneapolis) earlier this year. We loved it. The drinks were creative and expertly made. The food was delicious, and the menu offered enough variety so that we and our friends could find things that we liked.

When we had finished upstairs, we wandered downstairs to the ‘below street-level’ bar called Parlour. We really liked the ambiance. We bumped into some friends who were dining there, and they said it was great. So we filed that recommendation away for future reference.

Fast forward to September. We had a rare open Saturday. We decided that North Loop sounded fun. There was a Prince cover band playing at Bunker’s. All we needed was to find a place to eat before the first set. Borough/Parlour is right across the street. So our plan was – we’d go to Parlour. If we could get in in a reasonable amount of time, ok. We’d eat there. Otherwise, we’d head back west to St. Louis Park, eat at Figlio and catch some Irish music at the Cooper.

Well, much to our surprise, when we walked into Parlour, we practically had our choice of tables. We settled in to a high top with a sidewalk-level view of the street and started to peruse the cocktail menu. The special cocktails are very appealing. Linda had a hard time deciding, and the server was very accommodating with a spot-on recommendation. She chose an Old-Fashioned. I was tempted by several on the menu. But I asked if the bartender made a Sazerac. He did. That’s what I ordered, and it was great.

We planned to eat light. (If we’d wanted a more extensive dinner, we would have tried Borough upstairs.) Linda chose the burger. It was a delicious, meaty sandwich. I chose the fried cauliflower which was served with tempura-fried oysters and pickled jalapenos. We also split a plate of fries. It was just what we wanted.

Over the short period of time that we were there, the place gradually filled up. We asked our server where the crowds come from. We speculated maybe Twins games. She said ‘no.’ It’s a lot of locals and regulars.

On our way out, we struck up a conversation with the bartender. Linda commented that on our visit to Borough, she had a brandy-soaked cherry in her cocktail. We tried to replicate it, but it resulted in an over-whelming alcohol flavor. The bartender gave her a cherry to sample and talked a little about the technique of preparing a cherry for a cocktail. We were impressed by his accommodating personality and willingness to take time to talk to us.

Of course, part of our entertainment for going out is people watching. We were amused to note the difference in male vs. female attire. Most of the men at Parlour wore jeans and shirt, generally not tucked in, kind of sloppy. Most of their dates were wearing long sheath dresses.

Afterwards, we went across the street to Bunker’s. We really enjoyed the Prince cover band. But ‘Wow’! What a difference in personal style. We really got the impression that not many people walk across from Parlour (or Bar La Grassa) to spend the rest of the evening at Bunker’s.

Too bad. It’s a fun place for live music.

18 September 2013

Delicious nostalgia served for lunch at Black Forest, Mpls.

When a friend/colleague (all right, my first boss) came for a visit in September, she chose an old favorite for a lunch – the Black Forest Inn. (Why do they call it an ‘Inn?’ I don’t know.)BlackForestMpls

My wife and I readily agreed, and we specified a table in the outdoor courtyard. Now, you can never depend on Minnesota weather. But this happened to be an absolutely gorgeous, beautiful day. The courtyard has a sun screen, but we enjoyed all the amenities of eating al fresco. (The internet says that the German for ‘al fresco’ is ‘Unter freiem Himmel’ or under an open (or free) heaven/sky.)

So first of all, the venue was perfect for a co-worker reunion. It was relaxed, warm, casual, with a judicious dose of nostalgia. While I like the food at Black Forest, it’s not on our list of restaurants that we regularly patronize. It’s good and unusual enough to be noteworthy.

I had the Alsatian lunch - Slices of potato, sauerkraut and smoked sausage. Delicious.

Sausage is a specialty at the Black Forest. My friend/former boss had the daily special of two sausages. Her husband had the bratwurst lunch.

Our little group did ask for some modifications of the menu. For example, my friend’s husband wanted red cabbage instead of sauerkraut with his bratwurst. They went along with that. My wife wanted fried cabbage with her lunch. At first they resisted. But the crowd was thin and the weather was so disarming that the server relented and let her substitute.

There’s a reason why the Black Forest has been around since 1965. It’s good. We’ll keep it on our list of reliable standbys and won’t wait so long before our next visit.