Category Archives: dining

Rojo Mexican Grill – St Louis Park

Last Friday, my family and I had the opportunity to have dinner for a second time at Rojo Mexican Grill in St. Louis Park.  Rojo is located at The Shops at West End

Even though we had to wait 45 mins for a table, it was well worth the wait.  We started off with the complimentary chips and salsa and also ordered a side of the fresh guacamole.  Rojo has a open-kitchen concept and on our first visit, we were able to watch the guacamole being prepared.  We thoroughly enjoyed the chips, salsa, and guacamole.  My son, especially enjoyed the guacamole.  What we noticed about the guacamole was that it was quite mild and not overpowered by any one flavor.

For dinner, my wife and I had tacos and a cup of tortilla soup and my son had a quesadilla. The tortilla soup is probably the best here in the Twin Cities, but not quite as good as Wood Ranch or Stonefire Grill (both of these places are in CA, it would be nice to have them here in MN!) .  I had the carne asada tacos and they were outstanding.  Each of the taco dishes is served with a side of sticky rice and black beans.

Overall, I would say that Rojo is an excellent restaurant with great food and service.  Be prepared to wait on busier nights – like Fridays, but it is well worth the wait.  The only caveat is that the prices are a bit high, but the food quality and service are well worth the cost.  I would call Rojo an “upscale Mexican restaurant”

Recently, they just took over the adjoining space and are creating a private dining room for parties, events, etc.  Personally, I think they should use it for expanding their current dining room which is small.

If you have visited Rojo, let me know your comments….

Pittsburgh Blue – A Great Experience!

In honor of my wife’s birthday last Saturday (no, I will not reveal her age)  we decided to try Pittsburgh Blue in Maple Grove.  We live close to this location but have never been before.  My wife’s first two choices:  Benihana and Fogo De Chao were booked solid, so I decided that we should try Pittsburgh Blue and we were glad that we did.

I used the OpenTable App on my iPod Touch to make our reservations and was very pleased with the app and that everything was correct.  After our arrival, we were seated after a short delay.

I had looked at the menu earlier in the day and had already decided what I would have. We were also pleased that they had a children’s menu and that our server was very kind and accommodating towards our son.  There are some places that are not very kid-friendly (P.F. Changs is one of them).

My wife had the halibut.  I had the petite filet and my son had pigs in a blanket. We ordered the green beans and mashed potatoes for our side dishes. Everything that we ordered was great.  Tasted great.  Right temperature.

They also brought a red velvet cupcake to the table in honor of my wife’s birthday.  The cupcake was large enough for all three of us to enjoy it!

Even though the dinner was a bit pricey ($100 for all three of us including tax/tip) it was well worth it!  We will definitely be back (when funds are available) and glad that we had a great experience!

Famous Daves Revisited

I realize that my last post about Famous Daves may have been a bit harsh, but sometimes those things will lead to improvements.  Last Friday, when my wife was away at a ladies retreat, my son and I went to Famous Daves.  I initially was not going to go because I did not want to be disappointed again, but we went because he had a free kids meal postcard, so I figured we could risk trying it again.

After about a 20 minute wait, which was not bad for a Friday evening, we were seated and definitely hungry!  We were greeted by Eric who we have developed a friendship with. Eric is a great server, very friendly and very customer focused!  I decided to avoid the brisket and was still a bit upset about the tri-tip being gone.  I played it safe and ordered one of the boneless wings combos and my son decided to go with a cheeseburger.  Not exactly BBQ fare, but when you are hungry, it will do.

Not only was the service great and the food was very good!

I did tell Eric about our last experience with the beef brisket and he gave me some good advice and I learned a couple of new things about brisket.

An old favorite… revisited

Tonight we went to dinner (as is our usual custom/tradition on Fridays) at an old favorite for me, but the first time for my wife and son.

We went to Jason’s Deli in Eden Prairie.  This is a new location for the Twin Cities.  I have been to Jason’s Deli quite often when I lived in Jacksonville, FL.  It has been at least eight years since I have been there, so I was definitely looking forward to our visit.  I heard about this location from a tweet from one of our distinguished local news reporters who seems to have a penchant for food,  Jason DeRusha from WCCO.  I saw Jason’s tweet and was surprised that the Twin Cities actually got another decent eating establishment I knew was good and would represent quality.  Jason’s only gripe was the price of the soft drinks at $1.99 which is a bit expensive, but that is where eating establishments make their profit (another post for another time). I enjoyed reading his tweets and comments about the new establishment.

We arrived around 7:30 pm and found the place quite busy with people arriving for take-out orders as well as those dining in.  The menu has definitely changed in eight years.  My wife had the salad bar.  My son had a ham & cheese wrap.  I had a Pecos Grill sandwich (turkey, avocado, swiss cheese, pico de gallo, bacon, onion) along with a cup of southwest chicken chili. I thoroughly enjoyed my food and was remembering some great times that I shared with co-workers over lunch at the Jason’s Deli in Jacksonville, FL.  My wife really enjoyed the salad bar and said that she wished that we lived closer because she could eat there every day!  Maybe it is time for me to get a higher paying job to afford that request. We each tried of one those $1.99 beverages. We tried the Organic Pomegranate Melon Green Tea.  When I ordered it, the clerk advised me to try it because I might not like it. We enjoyed it, but it was definitely a different taste than what we expected.  To complete the evening, we all had a small dish of the free vanilla soft serve ice cream complete with dark chocolate topping (the ice cream is free with the meal).

We will be back and will probably take friends and out of town guests here.  The food is outstanding.  Prices are a bit higher, but you get what you pay for.

The menu states:

In every deli, select meats and real cheeses are sliced fresh daily, original family recipes are made in deli kitchens, organic ingredients go into dozens of menu items and market fresh fruit and vegetables are delivered 6 days a week…so the same sensational, just right, handful of a Reuben that’s a hit in Virginia Beach can be enjoyed in Vegas.

What’s not in Jason’s Deli food is just as important.  0% artificial trans fats, 0% processed MSG, 0% artificial colors & dyes and o% high fructose corn syrup (except in some fountain drinks)

With a commitment to quality and good food, I can see that Jason’s Deli will be very successful, especially since Eden Prairie was just named the #1 place to live in the US by Money Magazine (dethroning another MN favorite, Plymouth).  Only regret, is that it is a distance away from where we live.

Souplantation/Sweet Tomatoes – I am still waiting for you to make an attempt to penetrate this market and see that you will succeed and have a niche here where no else would be competing with you!  You have would the market to yourselves.

La Casita – almost a disaster

Last night we had the opportunity to try a new place that we have passed by a couple of times and curiosity got the best of us.  We tried La Casita in Columbia Heights last night for dinner.   The parking lot was full, so I thought we might have to wait.  I was surprised when we were seated right away.  The lobby of this restaurant is one of the largest I have ever seen, complete with a nice fountain.  If one has to wait, then this is not a bad place to do it.  From what I could tell, they have two dining rooms (one to the left and one to the right with the bar in the middle between the two).

We were seated right away and we almost did not eat here because it took almost 8 minutes for us to be waited on.  I know if my mother were still alive and if she were here, she would have left at the 5 minute mark.  We stayed and I am glad that we did.  The food was outstanding even though the service was seriously lacking.

My wife and I tried each of their soups.  I had the black bean soup and she had the tortilla soups.  Both soups are homemade each day and they were outstanding.  The chips and salsa were good.  Chips were okay, salsa was great ( a bit spicy, but I do not mind that). I had the Baja tacos which were outstanding and my wife had the one of the salads (I cannot remember the exact salad, I think it was the Southwestern Chicken salad).

We hope the service improves if we visit again.  This could have been a disaster, but the food quality made up for the lack of service.

Mediocre is still unacceptable.. A plea to Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation

I have long been a fan of restaurants that serve soup and salad either as a buffet or a menu item combination.  When I lived in Southern California, these restaurants were just coming on the scene in the late 80’s early 90’s.  Places like Fresh Choice and Soup Exchange were wonderful additions to the vast amount of gastronomical choices that one had in the area.  When I lived in Jacksonville, FL  I was equally spoiled with the addition of the Sweet Tomatoes chain in the area.   They have some of the best soups and salads around for a reasonable price.

When I left Jacksonville in 2002 to move to the Twin Cities, I figured (erroneously) that they would have something similar to Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation in the large metro area.  I was quite disappointed that the chain had not found its way North.  I had inquired around and several people told me about two places in the area:  Eddingtons and Q-Cumbers

I found Eddingtons to be expensive and not very convenient.  The soups were good, but very expensive for the quantity received.  They are only open until 8:00 pm and closed on Sundays.

QCumbers was good at one time, but seems to have gone through some quality issues.  The salad bar is great.  The hot bar leaves a lot to be desired.  Our family has visited a couple of times recently and we have been disappointed.  Most recently we were there on the oriental night.  The fried rice was nothing more than Spanish rice with some oriental seasoning.  The beef in the beef and broccoli dish was tough and hard to chew.  The soups will change rapidly, so if you see something you like, grab it or it might be gone.  Soups seem to rotate often.

For what you pay, QCumbers is not a great deal anymore because of the degrading quality of the food on the hot bar.  We used to enjoy it, but after this visit, we will not be returning.

I have emailed Sweet Tomatoes/Souplantation and asked why they are not in the Twin Cities.  I have told them repeatedly that if they come to this market, they will succeed because there is not much competition in the first place and what competition does exist, is mediocre at best.

Maybe someone from SweetTomatoes/Souplantation will read this and respond.

If you build they will come….

Two Restaurant Reviews

Recently, my family and I had the opportunity of dining at two different restaurants. Our experiences were vastly different, one being great and one being very disappointing. We will start with the favorable review first.

After the Christmas holiday, we discovered that there was a new restaurant that had recently opened near us. We had heard some friends had tried it and they enjoyed it.

Mongo’s Grill

Mongo’s Grill has recently opened in Maple Grove, MN in the Arbor Lakes Shopping Complex located near Costco on Fountains Drive. We went on a Thursday evening and really liked it. Mongo’s is a Mongolian BBQ restaurant similiar to other Mongolian BBQ’s like Khans and others. We were seated right away and our server came up and explained everything to us. She also took our drink orders and when we were ready to start, she took each of us up (one at a time, so we could watch Joseph) and explained everything in detail.

This was an unbelievable experience! There were loads of choices as far as food items and other toppings for the BBQ were present along with a large number of different sauces. Once you load your bowl with the ingredients and sauces, then it is off to the grill, which occupies a large section towards the front-middle section of the restaurant. There are several cooks in this pit area and they take your food and ask you what you would prefer for a side (choices are a wrap, flour tortillas, brown rice, fried rice, etc.) While your food is being cooked, the cooks sometimes will sing or tell jokes. They are very interactive with the guests along with their attention to detail with your food. In watching them cook, they never once gave anyone the wrong food. They must have a system to keep track!

Pros:

Food

Service

Location

Staff – very friendly and customer oriented

Cons

Bowls for food are small

Price – $14.00 for all you can eat. They do have a one-bowl option for $12. Prices are cheaper at lunch

Overall, I enjoyed our time at Mongo’s and look forward to returning. It is well worth the price!

Royal Buffet

We have been to Royal Buffet several times in the past. We found this place via some coupons in a small paper and tried it once and the food was pretty good. Royal Buffet is in Crystal on Bass Lake Road, east of 169. The buffet is three long stations with two of them being hot food items and one being cold food items. We went at my wife’s suggestion. I initially was not real enthusiastic about it because I had noticed that there was a decline in service and food quality since our first visit and subsequent visits. I really hoped that I would have been proven wrong, but I was not. This was probably one of the worst meals I have ever had at a Chinese restaurant. First, the price was quite steep $10.55 per person. Second, the food was not very hot. Everything that I seemed to eat that night was barely hot. The hot and sour soup was very disappointing. There were no beef dishes on either line. The food was not being replenished. About 45 mins into our meal, the kitchen staff came out and started mopping the floor like they were getting ready to close. They also started removing some items from the buffet line while they were still seating people. Nothing like making them feel welcome!

I finally quit eating after two plates of mediocre, lukewarm food. The only bright spot was the friendliness of the wait staff with my son. After we paid the bill and left, we went to the car and my wife told me that we did not have to go back there again. She came to the same conclusion that I did!

After experiencing this bad meal, it makes me long for a grading system in restaurants similar to LA County where a grade is given (A,B,C,D,F) and that grade is posted near the front entrance. A and B restaurants are ok. You would never eat in a C restaurant. D &F places are usually closed down. I wish we had that type of rating system here!