Category Archives: Downtown Restaurants

Esker Grove

My friend Heather (formerly known as RFO) had a birthday last week.  And all birthday girls deserve a good dinner to celebrate.  We chose to go to Esker Grove at the Walker Art Center.

We arrived about 45 minutes prior to our reservation for dinner.  This gave us time to check out a few of the Walker exhibits.  The Walker is a contemporary art museum and we definitely had a lot of discussion about what constitutes art in a few of the exhibits.  We both are more into the art at the MIA across town.  However, it’s good for us to get out of our comfort zone every so often.

After being confused, awed, and amused, we ventured to the new restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant was well-appointed and had interesting lighting and decorations throughout.  A nice atmosphere and not too loud, but rather an energetic vibe.  The wait staff dressed in gingham shirts – seems to be a theme as our recent trip to Red Rabbit also has a similar “uniform” for the wait staff.  Our server was very nice and spent quite a bit of time explaining the menu to us.  It’s not a large menu, but it was nice to have a few things explained and get her opinion on favorites.  The menu is grain/vegetable forward, so if you are looking for this type of food – definitely some choices for you.

We started with a glass of Malbec which was a tasty, full-bodied red at a reasonable price.  We both ordered the Celery Root Tart which was served with sour milk, crispy chip, and dried apple skin.  This was definitely the highlight of the meal for me.  It was warm, creamy goodness wrapped in a crisp shell.  The dried apple skin was a great add to the dish.  We discussed if it was tacky to lick the dish.  Agreed it probably was.  So good and definitely a must have if you go!

For our entrees, Heather went with the NY Strip which was dry aged and served with carrot, black truffle, and cabbage.  The preparation recommended was a bit on the rare side.  Not being one to question the chef’s opinion, Heather went with the reco.  It arrived and was almost borderline too rare.  I had a bite of the meat and we were a bit disappointed in the lack of flavor.  Perhaps it was missing a bit of salt?  The rest of her dish was fine, though a bit of a disappointment after the awesome start with the tart!

My entree was the Capon with a chestnut pain perdu, artichoke, and jus.  The chicken was really good!  Very tender and full of flavor.  The chestnut pain perdu had a bread pudding texture.  My entree was good and I would definitely recommend it if you are there and it’s on the menu.  I ordered a side of Potato with harissa and olio verde.  The potatoes were a very creamy mashed potato and the harissa added a little kick.

Next up was dessert.  It was a birthday celebration after all, so dessert was a no-brainer.  We ended up getting the same thing – the Budino which was a butterscotch, chocolate, pretzel layered dessert that was served with a scoop of malted vanilla ice cream.  I think Heather enjoyed it slightly more than I did, but it was still a great way to end our meal and time together.

I think we both would agree that Esker Grove was fine and a nice option if you are going to the Walker.  We might be interested in trying their brunch sometime.

Happy Eating!  (And happy birthday to Heather!!)


Red Rabbit

This past Friday we ventured out to Red Cow’s sister restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, Red Rabbit.  The impetus for the evening was a text earlier in the week from the blogger formerly known as RFO.  “Ok, for whatever reason I’ve been craving pizza – what are you guys doing on Thursday or Friday?”  While she gave several options, I went with Red Rabbit on Friday.

First thing to note, they do not take reservations.  This is not an issue for the three of us as we tend to go early and get the early bird specials.  However, by the time we left at 6:45, the entry way was packed with parties waiting for a table.  The good news is that the waiting area is very close to the bar.  So, grab a drink and wait if you go after 6ish.

The space is great.  Tall ceilings, brick walls, space between tables which is always a plus.  Nothing worse than having a dinner with someone and being so close to the other patrons that you hear their conversation better than your own.

The hubby and I arrived early and enjoyed a social lubricant prior to RFO’s arrival.  He tried the Zen and Now – matcha infused vodka, lemon, honey, mint, on tap… on nitro.  A great refreshing drink.  I ordered the Drunken Latte which was rye, averna amaro, branca menta, espresso, steamed milk, coconut whipped cream.  The drinks arrived and mine was super sweet and strong.  About half way through the drink, another latte arrived at the table.  The bartender didn’t like how the cream on top was for the first drink and redeemed himself with another one on the house.  This one was not nearly as sweet but still packed the same punch as the first.  Social lubricant indeed.

While we waited, we ordered a starter of Grilled Toasts with ricotta, local bare honey, and black pepper.  Two generous slices of toast arrived right before RFO sat down at the table. The creamy ricotta spread over the grilled toasts was out of this world.  Moment of silence at the table after the first bite – so good.  We ordered another toast with bresaola, lemon aioli, and arugula.  It was also very good, but didn’t touch the ricotta toast in my opinion.

We then ordered the main entrees.  RFO ordered the pasta croquettes – trofi pasta, pesto, triple cream.  She paired this dish with the Roasted Cauliflower entrée which was a head of cauliflower roasted and served with turmeric, pistachio mousse, rosemary and black olive oil.  It was fabulous and would be a great dish to share as a table.  She didn’t eat the entire dish – but had some great leftovers.

The hubby went with the grain salad which consisted of farro, rutabaga, pine nuts, fresh herbs, creme fraiche, and lemon vinaigrette.  For his entrée, he chose the tortelloni (“killer good”).  The pasta dish was served with swiss chard, chevre, roasted garlic, spiced hazelnuts, and rosemary.  He gave it a 5 out of 5 and thoroughly enjoyed the leftovers the next day.

I went with the cauliflower soup special.  Very good and always a nice addition to a winter meal.  I then went with the pasta dish of Bolognese pappardelle which was fresh pappardelle, house bolognese, and grated parmesan.  The dish was good – though I had Broder’s bolognese dish not that long ago and it is hard to beat.  My main complaint about the dish was how salty it was.  I drank a ton of water with that meal in part because of all of the salt.  I did have leftovers the next day and the salt didn’t seem as bad second day.

All in all it was a good dinner and I would definitely recommend Red Rabbit to others.  I would order something different next time.  I liked the space, the vibe, the gingham shirts of the wait staff and the fact that while there is an energetic atmosphere, you could still hold a conversation among your party.

Good meal, good friends, but no one ordered pizza.  Maybe next time.

Happy Eating!




4 Bells

Hard to believe it’s been so long since I posted.  Maybe 2016 will be the year that I get back to it regularly!  Keep me honest folks!  Instead of trying to catch up on the new restaurants I’ve tried since my last post, I’ll start with the restaurant that was our 2015 restaurant of the year.  Those of you who know me, may know that we pick our favorite restaurant of they year and make that our New Year’s Eve plans.

In November, we went to 4 Bells with our good friend Heather and decided after that meal that this was the NYE choice.  It did not disappoint us on 12/31/15.

The restaurant itself is fun – wood, steel, and plenty of space that you never feel crowded.  There is space on the top-level that we’ve not been to, but I understand it has a slightly different menu offering and there is a 4 season patio type area.  The cooking has a southern theme to it, so you can find fried chicken if you so desire.  They also are known for their seafood.

We started off the evening by arriving early for a drink at the bar downstairs.  Given it was NYE, we went with a glass of Prosecco and toasted 2015 goodbye.  We didn’t have to wait long before we were escorted to our table for the evening.  We were seated in Ricardo’s area.  Side note:  I highly recommend if you go to 4 Bells (or Murray’s on the weekend), ask for Ricardo.  He is the best waiter in the cities in our opinion.  He takes his profession seriously and really makes the meal that much better!  We first became aware of Ricardo when he worked at the now defunct Pane Vino Dolce.  He then moved to Al Vento for a while.  We then lost track of him, but was so happy to see him at 4 Bells.

Ricardo came to the table and welcomed us back – stating it was good to see us and he remembered us, etc.  Even if this is part of his schtick, he makes it sincere!

We put in an order of the Boiled Peanut Hummus as a starter.  It was delivered with Aged Cheddar Crackers and Crisp Vegetables (carrots, celery, and radishes).  It was a great start to the meal, but the main entrees are so good that I don’t know if I’d get it again.

For our main entrees, the hubby went with the Grilled Pork Chop with Graham Grits and Huckleberry.  His take on the pork chop was “best in the cities.”  I went with the Seared Scallops with a Sweet Corn Cake (pancake), Bacon, Chicory, and Coffee-Maple Jus.  The scallops were fabulous!  The pancake was good, though I don’t know that it added a lot to the dish.  The corn mix was great.

As for drinks with dinner, Ricardo suggested a great red wine that would be fine with the scallops.  A California wine – Smith & Hook- Cabernet Sauvignon – very good!  The hubby stuck with water, but the previous visit we ordered a couple of their cocktails – Moscow Mule and the Gin Fizz.  They make a great cocktail if that is what you’re looking for.

We ordered a couple of sides to go with our entrees.  The Cauliflower Au Gratin – amazing!  Hard to go to a southern style restaurant without getting biscuits.  So glad we made the call.  The biscuits were served hot and with plenty of butter to slather on top.  The order came with 4 – 2 of which we brought home as leftovers.  (Now I see why we thought we didn’t need the hummus – we had a ton of food.)

We decided to skip dessert, but I’ve heard they have some “to die for” desserts.

This is a great restaurant and one that I would highly recommend. The location across from Loring Park in Minneapolis is fabulous and I think they will do well!  Such a great restaurant destination area now with Cafe Lurcat, The Third Bird and now 4 Bells.

2015 ended on an extremely high note!  2016 has started well, but that will be a post for another day.  For now…

Happy Eating!

2015 So far through Burch Pizza

It’s been awhile, but never fear…Debbie’s Discourse is still here. While I’ve not been posting much, I have been eating out and exploring the twin cities food scene.

Some highlights of the year so far include:

  • Red Wagon Pizza – Awesome!  We had the Bar Chips and the Red Wagon Pizza.  We will be back!
  • We had a great dinner with our friend Colleen at Hola Arepa – fun space, great food.
  • Revisiting Heyday Restaurant for Easter brunch.  We went there last year for dinner with Heather, but didn’t love it.  (Though she did.)  Gave it another try for Easter brunch and it was really good.  We will be going back again for dinner!
  • We had a great day of going to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to see the Hapsburg Exhibit.  We had been to Spoon & Stable when they opened and weren’t that impressed with the food – though the space is fabulous!  Heather hadn’t been so we followed up our museum visit with dinner.  It was much better this time.  I think they worked out some of the early opening kinks.
  • We tried Pilgrimage Cafe for brunch one Sunday before going on a tour of the Eames designed Christ Church Lutheran.  Both are worth a visit.  The donuts at Pilgrimage Cafe were unlike any other donut I’ve had before and very worth the calories.
  • Sassy Spoon made the list before we went to hear Steve Winwood in concert a few weeks ago.  Sassy Spoon is a great addition – especially for the gluten-free population.  Great food and the entire restaurant is gluten-free.

Last night we went back to Burch.  Our previous visit to Burch was in the upstairs steakhouse part of the restaurant.  This time we decided to try out their pizza restaurant in the basement.  The space was great – very cozy, original masonry walls, cool lighting.  We got their early since we went right after work.

The hubby ordered his usual Crispin Cider and I had a nice Bradford Mountain Dry Creek Zin – smooth and full-bodied.  A nice toast to a long work week!  We started with an order of the Fried Semolina Dumpling with Brown Butter and Sage.  Definitely worth getting if you go there!  The one downside is that there are only 3 to an order and some people don’t like to share.  Seriously though I let the hubby have 2 as i had ordered a salad too.  My salad was Belgian Endive with Blue Cheese and Bacon.  The endive was bitter, but the mix of flavors was great.  We shared a pizza – Coppa Cotta – wood roasted red peppers, smoked pork shoulder, mozzarella, and hazelnuts.  The combination was fabulous and the hazelnuts were a great crunchy addition.  We decided to finish out the meal with dessert.  Definitely worth it!  The hubby had a lemon tart with “the best meringue ever” and I had a great carrot cake.

Burch was a great start to the weekend and might make the annual Girl’s Weekend schedule in July.

Happy Eating!

Burough and Parlour…Saturday Night in Minneapolis

The hubby and I had date night downtown and started it with a cocktail at Parlour before our dinner at Burough. 

The Parlour is located in the basement of the Burough restaurant.  It has a separate entrance, but you can also access it from the restaurant  We walked in and liked the atmosphere.  Dark wood at the bar, cozy chairs with low tables in some areas and high tops in others.  There was light streaming in from the street level windows to give it a nice ambience.  We picked a low table towards the back.  After reviewing their list of interesting cocktails I picked the Purple Crush which consisted of Harvest Organic Vodka, Lychee, Lemon, Crème Yvette, Seltzer, and Orange Bitters.  It was seriously one of the best drinks I’ve had in a long time.  I’m more of a wine drinker, but I could easily have had a few of those.  Alas, I only had one. 

The hubby went for the Buzz Around Town which was made up of G’Vine Nouaison, Apple Liqueur, Oolong Tea Honey, Lemon, and Orange Bitters.  He thought his was better than mine.  I thought his was fine, but I had to finish my Purple Crush before I could say that. 

After our drinks we made our way upstairs to the Burough restaurant.  The server was very good and after finding out we had been there before he tailored his spiel to the return customer.  It is clear he is definitely a professional and knows the restaurant biz.  He brought a basket of house made bread which had the most awesome flatbread as well as some other bread and butter.

We perused the menu and decided on two starters.  The cauliflower and the green beans.  When a different server brought our starters to the table and explained them he commented that they “weren’t your normal cauliflower and green beans.”  The cauliflower was fried and served with pickled chiles, oyster, caper berry, and parsley.  The green beans were sauteed and served with chermoula, house made yogurt and marcona almonds.  The result was outstanding!  The green beans were fresh and the yogurt was a nice touch to give a creamy, almost dip-like, sauce to go with them.  The cauliflower is listed as fried, but it seemed more roasted to me.  Either way…I could get used to eating cauliflower this way.

Next came the entrees.  The hubby ordered the Tofu which was served with rice noodles, peanuts, green onion, and a soft poached egg.  I understand from him that it was very tasty, but interestingly I am unable to give a first hand account.   

My entree was spectacular!  I went with the Chicken.  This dish used about every part of the chicken it could – and best part, no bones to pick around.  It came with a pan-seared breast on top of black beans, green chile puree and some other awesome sauce.  There was a smoked quesadilla which was made from thigh and wing meat in between two small flour tortillas topped with an overeasy fried egg.  A fried nugget of chicken leg meat was also included in the dish.  It was served with a “cornucopia of love” which was a cone shaped fried tortilla filled with fresh avocados, corn, tomatoes and onions topped with cojita cheese.  There was something for everyone in this dish.  I think the best part of it was the cornucopia side and the chicken breast.

We decided not to have dessert at the restaurant and instead finished date night at the new Izzy’s in downtown.  Salted Caramel is my favorite and I should have had that as my regular scoop instead of the Izzy scoop.  My regular was chocolate chip.  It was the lowpoint of an otherwise great night out!

Happy Eating!