The Commodore Bar & Restaurant

We started off 2016 with several new restaurants.  So many that I didn’t do a great job of keeping up with them on the blog.  I’ll take a few days and try to get caught up before any new February restaurants need to be posted!

The Commodore Bar & Restaurant

Heather, the hubby and I tried an old but new restaurant in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill area early in January.  The ambiance of the restaurant was fabulous.  I felt like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda would arrive at any time.  A great 1920’s vibe.


Upton 43

We celebrated the end of a two week break from work over the holidays by trying a new restaurant, Upton 43.

The restaurant is in the Linden Hills neighborhood and has been highly anticipated as another restaurant by the folks behind Victory 44.  While they share the same minds behind the restaurants, I would say they took the opportunity to create something totally different from each other.  This is probably a great idea so as not to take away business from each other.  Victory 44 is a great place to stop for a beer and a burger.  Upton 43 is more fine dining with a glass of wine.  Upton 43 has its roots in Swedish cuisine, but with a French cooking flair.

We arrived and were quickly seated in a “floating” booth in the center of the restaurant.  This made it easy for the staff to refill our water glasses from either side.  The ambiance of the restaurant is a little stark and cold, but in a good way.  The light fixtures pinpoint LED lighting directly in the center of the tables.  Plenty of light to see the menu and what you are eating, but preserves the ambiance of the restaurant by creating a sense of darker space around you.  The overall color scheme was a grayish blue with wood tables and booths.

The restaurant was pretty quiet the evening we were there with just a few tables besides us.  This made for plenty of attention by the staff.

I had a good glass of red wine.  It paired nicely with the meal.  Unfortunately they don’t have their wine list on their website, so I can’t tell you what wine I had.

We each ordered a starter and an entree.  The hubby began with a starter of fried goat gouda balls on a bed of kale and lingonberry.  The cheese just melted in your mouth.  I went with the dried apple & acorn squash soup, onion, burnt cream, and linseed.  It was absolutely fabulous.  The bread basket was a nice addition to the starters.

For the main entree, I went with the Swedish meatballs, potato puree, and charred cucumber.  Great comfort food pick.  I’m not a pickle person, but the charred cucumber was essentially a sweet pickle that I really enjoyed.  Still don’t think I’ll be adding pickles to my sandwiches and meals in the future, but I’d eat the charred cucumber again in a heartbeat.  The hubby went with the warm grains, sunchoke, apple, truffle, and onion petal entree.  He enjoyed it, but I don’t think it was the best option on the menu.

We ended the dinner by splitting dessert.  The soder tea cremeaux, pear, burnt honey, and white chocolate was great.  Hard to describe it, but definitely worth getting it – below is a picture of the funky, but awesome dish!  Also note that all of the dishes were made specifically for Upton 43.


All in all it was a good meal and good experience.  I think the type of restaurant it is seems a little odd for the location.  The location would be better served by a restaurant with a little lower price point and a few more options on the menu so as to attract repeat neighborhood visits.  It seems more like someplace that should be downtown Mpls or in the Uptown area.  However, I’m sure it will do fine where it is located.  Great restaurant for a special occasion, but probably not somewhere I’d go on a weekly basis.

The prices on the menu are a bit on the higher side, but this is a no tip restaurant.  They pay their staff higher wages so the tips are not necessary.  They build this into the cost of the dinner.  Keep that in mind when you see the prices.  Even with that said, we shared a dessert because we couldn’t comprehend each getting dessert and paying $14 a piece for them.

Definitely a place to check out if you are interested in trying a new restaurant and like the Scandinavian cooking scene that seems to be rather hot in Mpls at this time.

Happy Eating!


Brassiere Zentral Closing

Sad foodie news today.  After not quite 2 years, Brassiere Zentral is shutting its doors.  This was our favorite restaurant of 2014 and where we spent our NYE that year.  Unfortunately we never made it there in 2015, though we did visit the associated wine bar Foreign Legion.  So many restaurants in the cities to try that we sometimes miss going back to good ones like this.  We did make it to Zentral 4-5 times in 2014, but 0 in 2015.  Maybe if we would have gone once during the last year…

It’s open until January 16th for those in the cities that want to give it a try.  Thankfully Russell Klein’s other restaurant Meritage is still doing well in St. Paul.  We had dinner there with a good friend of mine in December before going to the Ordway.  Klein was in the restaurant that evening, perhaps that was a foreshadowing of the news that hit the papers today.

Do me a favor, get to Meritage for brunch, dinner, or a late night snack.  Foreign Legion is also remaining open and will accept Brassiere Zentral gift cards.  Let’s make sure Klein’s cooking still continues in the Twin Cities!

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!

Saturday in Waconia

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring/summer Saturday and so we hopped in the car and headed out on a short road trip west to Waconia.  I continue to be amazed at all the interesting places around the Twin Cities.  It really is a great place to live!

Our first stop was to take a tour of J. Carver Distillery.  The location is in an old car dealership space and the remodel was fabulous! We learned about the different ingredients that go into the distillation process of gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon, and grappa.  Also learned the specifics around what can be called a bourbon, brandy, etc.  So many rules and regulations…who knew?

After learning about the process, we were back in the sampling room where 3 samples were included in the price of the tour.  The hubby and I made sure to pick different samples so we could really decide what we liked.  I was less fond of the grappa than the hubby – grappa is made with grape skins left over from wine making.  It was fine, but I’d rather just drink wine if it’s going to be involving grapes.  I did like their gin and vodka.  The gin is not the pine tree gin that most of us remember.  Yes there was a bit of smell of pine to one of their gins, but it was smooth and quite tasty.  The vodka was also very good and went down nice and smooth.  One of the employees came over to ask how things were going and gave us a sample of their barrel gin (it’s brown) – if you like scotch, this beverage is for you!  I ordered a Minnesota Mule which was so refreshing on a warm sunny day.  It was a cocktail featuring gin, ginger beer, lime, and mint over ice.  So refreshing and will likely make an appearance for the upcoming girl’s weekend in July.

After the sampling, we headed over to Lola’s Lakehouse on Lake Waconia.  We sat outside by the lake and enjoyed a starter of walleye cakes followed by a Caesar salad with chicken for the hubby and an order of fish and chips for me.  We finished the meal by sharing a blonde brownie with vanilla ice cream.  It was a good meal and the ambiance of sitting by the lake made it a nice finish to our afternoon in Waconia.

This is definitely a good day trip for anyone in the cities.  There are wineries in the area so lots to do and see in Waconia.

Happy Eating!

Peppers & Fries

We tried a new Minneapolis restaurant on Saturday – Peppers & Fries.  As usual, we were on the early side for dinner and were able to walk right in and get a table.  Also as usual, they seated us in an odd location – right near the bar and the pass-through for the food.  We could have asked to move, but just stayed where we were.  I could probably do an entire post on getting horrible seating in restaurants, but not today.

The menu had a nice story about how the restaurant came to be and why they focus their menu on burgers and burritos.  I guess “peppers” is for the burritos and “fries” is for the burger and a nod to the restaurateur’s name?  Also Peppers and Fries sounds more interesting than a restaurant called “Burgers & Burritos” – however, I know of a restaurant in the Phoenix area called Cheeseburgers & Beer.  No need to do additional advertising with that name!  Speaking of beer, Peppers & Fries has a great selection of craft beers.  I was in the mood for a Diet Coke, so passed on the beer.  Definitely a good place for beer connoisseurs though.

The decor of the place was nice.  The owners are big baseball fans and there were a number of TV’s showing different games.  They have garage doors that they open up to include outdoor seating.  We were inside, but had a nice view of outside and had the fresh air coming through.

Now, on to the food….

Shockingly the hubby went for a burrito instead of a burger.  He went with the Carolina Burrito, which was pulled pork, BBQ sauce, creamy coleslaw, and refried beans.  The burrito was served with tortilla chips and salsa.  While the pork was good, the burrito just didn’t work for him.  The salsa was bland and the chips were average.  He would not get the burrito again and is not likely to head back there anytime soon.

I was the winner in the menu selection game.  I ordered the Bacon & Bleu burger – Applewood bacon, blue cheese dressing, tomato, lettuce, mayo, and blue cheese crumbles.  I had a side of tater tots with the sandwich.  I thought the burger was amazing!  The hamburger patty did not seem to be one of the frozen, pre-made patties that you often get at restaurants.  It seemed handmade and the flavor was amazing.  The blue cheese on top of the burger just added to the awesomeness of the sandwich.  Very flavorful.  The tots were good.  Not sure you can go wrong with tots.  I enjoyed using the blue cheese dripping off my sandwich as a sauce for the tots.  I would definitely come back to this place for a burger.  Given that the hubby didn’t enjoy his meal and we don’t live close to it at all, it’ll probably be some time before I go back.

I give it a thumbs up for trying out – just go with the burgers!

Happy Eating!

Victor’s on Water

Finally a decent afternoon/evening in Minnesota.  We decided to head out for a drive and enjoy the countryside and grab an early dinner in Excelsior.  We went to Victor’s on Water Street in Excelsior.  It’s a relatively new restaurant and was definitely worth the 60+ mile round-trip drive.

We walked into the restaurant and we both were taken back to a restaurant in Australia.  Interestingly enough, we were thinking of different restaurants.  They both had a similar feel though.  Relatively small with a bar and open kitchen against the back.  It took a few minutes for them to escort us to our table, but we were seated against the window and had a prime people-watching view.  And in Excelsior, there are a lot of people to watch!  The area was busy with lots of groups of teenage girls walking around, people walking their dogs, and couples heading to various restaurants for dinner and a cocktail.

Inside Victor’s, we were perusing the menu to determine what to order.  The menu is Italian and they make their pasta onsite every day.  They had an extensive wine list and so I ordered a Malbec-blend while the hubby stuck with water (see mileage note above).

I ordered the Caesar Salad sans anchovies and the hubby ordered the Green salad radishes, sunflower seeds, farro, and white balsamic vinaigrette.  Our salads were delivered fairly quickly and were quite tasty.  My salad was a bit odd in that it had quite a bit of sea salt flakes on it.  Don’t get me wrong, salt is tasty but I think it was prepared with a heavy hand.

We both ordered pasta dishes.  I ordered the waitress-recommended pappardelle hand cut Bolognese, sautéed vegetables, and parmesan.  The hubby ordered the Uovo di Raviolo ricotta, egg yolk, jamon royale, and fava beans.  Both entrees were great and the pasta was definitely fresh!  My bolognese was a bit different than what I’m used to as it was pieces of short rib instead of a beef/veal/pork mixture.  Was very good though and the vegetables were a great addition to the dish.  Half of the dish came home with me; looking forward to leftovers at some point this weekend!

We decided to skip the dessert in favor of a great ice cream shop down the block called Licks Unlimited.  I ordered a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in a cup and the hubby got the raspberry chocolate truffle in a waffle cone.  Neither of us veer too far off the beaten path with our ice cream choices.  I always figure that if you get the same ice cream at each place then you can better discern who has the best ice cream.  That’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

A great evening with good food.  We’ll be back to Victor’s at some point and the area has a number of other good restaurants to try.  Skip dessert at the restaurants though and saunter down to Licks for some great ice cream.  And then if you have time, continue walking over to the lake for a stroll.

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!

2015 – Off and Running

I didn’t post much in 2014, but never fear – I didn’t give up trying restaurants!  In fact, we had many great meals in 2014.  We did some traveling too, so our meals included restaurants in Helsinki, Finland, Singapore, and Sydney, Australia.  In the States we also ate in Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, Champaign, and of course Minneapolis/St. Paul.

I can’t recap the entire year, but I can let you know that our favorite restaurant of 2014 was selected back in April.  We tried Brassiere Zentral one week after they opened in April.  Our meal was excellent and we were so confident that it would win our favorite of the year that we went ahead and made our New Year’s Eve Reservation for BZ in April.  Nothing surpassed it in the remaining months and so we kept our reservation for NYE.  Right before Christmas, Brassiere Zentral was named Minneapolis Startribune’s restaurant of the year as well.

We enjoyed closing out 2014 with one of our regular dinner companions and good friend Heather at Brassiere Zentral.  The one downside of the night was that we were seated in a booth right by the front door.  We were slightly annoyed as we felt that they should have noted in the reservation book that we were the first to reserve a table and they should have given us a bit of a better table.  We could have asked to move, but didn’t.  The service and food were great, it was a bit cold being that close to the door but we didn’t let it ruin the evening.

2015 has started out very well with new restaurants to try.  We also frequent some of our favorites quite a bit.  Cafe Levain is a solid restaurant that we find ourselves going to when we don’t necessarily want to try a new restaurant and be disappointed.  They recognize us there and know the hubby likes his polenta.

We have become a bit of a breakfast/brunch couple and have tried the following restaurants this year already:

Tiny Diner – We technically ate here in 2014, but it was so close to the new year that I’m going to count it.  We grabbed breakfast here during the week of New Year’s.  I had an awesome Breakfast Burrito with chorizo, bacon, eggs, cheddar cheese, spinach, fingerling potatoes, green chili sauce, and crème fraîche.  It had a bit of a kick to it, but nothing too spicy.

The Ettlins Cafe – We had breakfast on New Year’s Day at this cafe.  Awesome pancakes!  If you go, don’t get tricked into thinking you need the standard 3 pancakes.  These pancakes are each bigger than your head, so don’t order more than 2.

Tongue in Cheek – This east side St. Paul restaurant was a great find!  I had the Chorizo & Potato Hash which was served with scallions, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce.  I asked for the sauce on the side and that was a great move as it really isn’t needed for the dish.  The flavoring of the fingerling potatoes, arugula and chorizo was spot on and the sauce would have just confused the taste buds.  The hubby had the Poached Eggs & Grits with chermoula, Parmesan and grilled bread.  We both managed to completely clean our plates.  We had to wait quite awhile between ordering and consuming, but it was worth the wait.

Looking forward to trying more restaurants this year and sharing reviews on this page.

Happy Eating!

Oregano’s – Peoria, Arizona

Escaping the winter that never ends in the upper midwest, I took flight to Phoenix to visit my BFF last weekend.  Phoenix…where jackets aren’t needed, pedicures are mandatory, and the sun is always shining.  It was a fun weekend that included catching up, learning how to play Bunco and of course…great food!

The BFF and I had a great gab session over lunch at Oregano’s while her husband was at work and “the boy” was at school.  We arrived promptly at 11:00 a.m. when they opened as it is a small place and known for the long lines.  We were seated in the patio section at a high top and soon the place was buzzing with conversation.

We decided to create our own pizza and went pretty standard with the pepperoni and sausage thin crust.  We decided to split a house salad to start the meal.  We ordered the small to split and it easily could have fed a family of four with some leftover (guess maybe that would be a family of five).  It was a fairly simple salad of greens, tomatoes, red onion, cheese, and croutons.  I got the blue cheese dressing which the BFF ended up preferring over her house dressing that she ordered.  It was very tasty – the only complaint was there was not a lot of tomatoes which would have been good.

The pizza arrived and was awesome!  It is billed as “chicago style thin” which I guess means cut into squares.  There is something deceiving about eating pizza squares.  Easier to track how many slices you’ve consumed but it’s easy to lose track with squares.  Oh well – it was a vacation weekend!  The crust was crisp with just the right amount of char here and there.  It was a little more salty than I normally like, but the overall taste and crunchiness of the crust more than made up for the salt.

The great news was that we ordered a medium so we’d have leftovers.  We had a few slices for breakfast the next morning.

I would highly recommend Oregano’s when in the Phoenix area.  There are a number of locations and now one close to my friend’s house.  I’m starting to get a list of “need to go to” restaurants when I’m in town including:  In ‘n Out, Rubio’s and now Oregano’s! 

Heading to Phoenix again for girl’s weekend with my other BFF next month.  More restaurants to review after that weekend for sure!

Happy Eating!