Archive | Minnesota RSS feed for this section

Surly Brewing Company (Minneapolis, MN)

When I lived in Minneapolis, one of my major activities was playing Ultimate (aka “Ultimate Frisbee”) in the Twin Cities Ultimate League, and I met a lot of interesting people playing in that league (including a future mayor of Minneapolis). One of the people I’d regularly encounter in league play was a pretty talented player named Omar, who really liked beer and brewing. He’d occasionally brought some rather good homebrew, and even commented, somewhat jokingly it seemed, that one day he was going to open a brewery. Fast forward a few years to a visit of mine in 2006, we were visiting Gluek’s (a former brewery that still runs a nice tap room and restaurant), and the bartender urged me to try this new, extra-hoppy (this was 2006, before the great IPA explosion) beer from an upstart brewery called Surly, run by a local guy called Omar Ansari. Yup. He did start. First in Brooklyn Center, growing like crazy, and then in late 2014 opened a $20M flagship brewery in Minneapolis’ Prospect Park, in a former industrial area that, in the 1990s, I would have never in a million years thought would become a “beer destination”.

Continue Reading ...

The Wienery (Minneapolis, MN)

Another former haunt of mine of Minneapolis that I wanted to visit was a little restaurant over on the West Bank in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood: The Wienery. Originally opened in the early 1980s in the location of the former “Edna’s Diner”, sitting in the shadow of the large Riverside Plaza apartment complex (those not from Minneapolis may recognize them from the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show), The Wienery continues to serve up a variety of hot dog. Started by a pair of transplanted Chicagoans who wanted to offer up Chicago-style hot dogs to the locals, The Wienery has had several changes of owners over the years (I know it changed hands at least twice while I lived in Minneapolis, and at least once since then), but even as the neighborhood has slowly changed from the 1960s hippie neighborhood adjoining the University of Minnesota’s West Bank, to the current mix of “Little Mogadishu” and slightly seedy bars, the Wienery is basically unchanged.

Continue Reading ...

Shuang Cheng (Minneapolis, MN)

Like my review of Al’s Breakfast, several of my dining choices in Minneapolis were picked to revisit old favorites and see how they are doing. While Al’s Breakfast is one of my most-frequented restaurants (having eaten there pretty much once a week for 6.5 years), around the corner in Dinkytown is a pretty close second place: Shuang Cheng. AS a long-time tradition when I was at the University of Minnesota, my IT coworkers, led by my boss Bob, would go out for a group lunch every Friday. Most Friday’s that would mean rounding up a posse and heading over to Shuang Cheng (the name means “Twin Cities”), grab a large table, and have a big lunch. Indeed, we went so often that my boss Bob had his own special, the “Bob Special” (Sesame chicken, an egg roll, and a large wonton soup), that those in the know could order off-menu even if they didn’t know “Bob”. Indeed, Bob wasn’t available on this particular Friday, but we managed to round up a number of my former coworkers and make a lunch posse.

Continue Reading ...

Health Check: Al’s Breakfast (Minneapolis, MN)

Every once in a while it’s nice for me to do a followup on old favorites, revisiting them and make sure that they are staying in form. In this case, my trip to Minneapolis gave me a good chance to stop by and check in on what remains as perhaps my favorite breakfast place ever, Al’s Breakfast. It’s best if you read over my older review, but it’s basically a small, 14-stool diner wedged in what’s literally a roofed over alleyway in Minneapolis’s “Dinkytown” neighborhood. “Narrow” is an understatement, since a limber person literally can touch both walls at points, and as you sit enjoying your breakfast (aside from special events, it is a breakfast-only joint), if it’s at all busy there’s someone hovering mere inches away waiting for your seat. And the food? The breakfasts at Al’s are fantastic, ranging from egg dishes and omelets to pancakes to house-made CBH, and it’s the ultimate in the short order experience: your order belted out by the staff, echoed back by the person running the grill (back in the days, it was almost always one of the two owners, Doug or Jim).

Continue Reading ...

Khyber Pass Cafe (St Paul, MN)

A recent trip for a conference in Minneapolis gave me plenty of opportunities to both check up on some of the new happenings in the Twin Cities dining scene, and revisit more than a few of my old favorites. In this case, I was heading out to dinner with Prof. Simon, my PhD adviser, and his wife Nancy, who were kind enough to take me to an old favorite that I hadn’t visited for many years: Khyber Pass Cafe. I rather liked Khyber Pass as a graduate student (scary how events when I was in Graduate School include things happening almost 25 years ago). At the time, Khyber Pass was an established small cafe on St Clair Ave a few blocks east of Macalester College, and was a notable exception to the generally “American” food offerings of most of the local places (Groveland Tap, the now-defunct St Clair Broiler, etc). But the owners, who had come to the Twin Cities and opened Khyber Pass in the early 80s after leaving Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. The Afghani offerings on their menu were a welcome addition to St Paul’s up and coming food scene, and Khyber Pass got a lot of good coverage in the food media.

Continue Reading ...

Surdyk’s Flights (Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport)

One of our vacations this year was a trip to Oahu, and, quite frankly, coming from New Hampshire, there’s no easy way to do the trip. Most every option either involves multiple hops, a very long layover, or a red-eye flight. Indeed, our trip this time was BOS-MSP-SEA-HNL, with moderate layovers at MSP and SEA. And that means airport dining. There are good and bad airports for layovers, and I’ll have to say Terminal 1 (the Lindbergh Terminal) at MSP is one of the better places to have a layover. The terminal is huge, and has more than a few good options for food and drink. Previously, I’ve enjoyed sandwiches and beer at Ike’s (including indulging in a rare pint of Surly Furious), and just about every coffee company in Minnesota (Starbucks, Dunn Bros, Caribou, …). There’s even a reasonably good burger place (TwinBurger) and a good sushi place (Shoyu). But a fairly recent addition has been an old Minneapolis favorite of mine: Surdyk’s.

Continue Reading ...

Caffe Biaggio (St Paul, MN)

As you can see from all of the other Twin Cities postings, earlier this month I was visiting Minnesota. The reason for my visits was than I was an invited guest speaker at the University of Minnesota Mechanical Engineering Department (where I got my PhD, for those that don’t know about my ‘day job’ as an engineer). After my seminar, several professors from the department took me to Caffe Biaggio in St Paul for dinner.

Continue Reading ...

Butcher and the Boar (Minneapolis, MN)

After an afternoon of work in Minneapolis, and a quick trip over to St Louis Park to visit The Four Firkins (one of the finest beer stores I’ve ever been to), it was time to have some dinner. I decided to meet up with my friend Andy from my MSU days, along with a former FIRST robotics student and intern of mine, Mas (and his fiancee) for dinner at Butcher and the Boar, one of Minneapolis’ newer bars located on Hennepin Avenue on the edge of the Loring Park neighborhood (looking at a Minneapolis Map, I guess technically most folks call this the “Harmon Neighborhood”). Opened by Jack Reibel, formerly the chef at the well-respected La Belle Vie in Stillwater and the Dakota Jazz Club, Butcher and the Boar is really about two things: beer and meat. First of all, the beer: one of the two centerpieces of the restaurant is their large bar (the other is the open kitchen across the dining area), with a rather impressive tap list, indeed, the beer list was one of my main reasons for coming. With a good list of American beers, with particular emphasis on regional brewers, it’s one of the best beer lists I’ve recently found in the Twin Cities. Indeed, I was able to have some local Surly, some “Goes to 11” by Bells, and some Deschute Mirror Pond. They’ve also got rather good wine and whiskey lists, although I wasn’t in the mood for indulging those that particular night.

Continue Reading ...

Izzy’s Ice Cream (St Paul, MN)

A few years ago I did a review of Toscanini’s Ice Cream in Cambridge, MA, in which I mentioned that their burnt caramel ice cream is my second favorite ice cream ever, losing out to my favorite ice cream, the salted caramel from Izzy’s in St Paul, MN. However, I recently went to go point someone to my review of Izzy’s, and I realized that I’ve never actually written them up. Well, last week’s trip to the Twin Cities gave me another opportunity to visit Izzy’s, and this time I figured I should actually write them up.

Continue Reading ...

The Nook (St Paul, Minnesota)

Last week’s schedule had me flying to the Twin Cities to give a guest lecture at the University of Minnesota (anyone want a lecture on radioisotope power supplies for space exploration?), and my flight arrived at lunchtime, so I decided to check out one of the area’s better-regarded Jucy Lucy joints; the Nook. First of all, some background for those not familiar, a “Jucy Lucy” is a hamburger with a layer of cheese crimped between two patties. Done right, it’s a nice combination of cheese, crispiness, and juice, albeit with more than a bit of a hazard of hot cheese burns on one’s lips. As you can read over on my review of another Twin Cities stalwart, Matt’s Bar, there’s always the perennial question of who makes the best Jucy Lucy in the Twin Cities. When I lived in the Twin Cities, there were always two places that claimed supremacy and had their followers, the abovementioned Matt’s Bar, and the 5-8 Club located a few miles south on Cedar Ave. But since I left the cities in 2001, the Jucy Lucy phenomenon has spread greatly, with over a dozen places selling them (and the trend is even national, I noticed a “Juicy Lucy” is on the menu at Richard Blais’ place now). The Nook is a relative newcomer to the Jucy Lucy scene in the Twin Cities, opening in 2000, but in the last few years, their Nookie Burger (their variant of the venerable Jucy Lucy) is now frequently mentioned in Jucy Lucy supremacy discussions, so I figured it was worth dropping by.

Continue Reading ...