The Local — Minneapolis

20150411_135512

The Local
931 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(612) 904-1000
http://www.the-local.com/
map

The Parking: The Local is on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. There is always ample parking downtown though you will likely need to pay to park in a ramp unless you are lucky enough to find a meter within a reasonable walking distance.

The Beer: The beer selection is outstanding. I counted 17 different brews on tap. There is a fantastic mix of Irish, English and Minnesota beers to choose from.

The Old Fashioned: With all of the great tap beers, I didn’t have a chance to get an Old Fashioned. That said, I would guess it would be excellent as the bar staff appeared to be top-notch and the liquor selection was huge. The selection of whiskeys is amazing.

The Wait: We stopped on a very busy afternoon and were immediately seated. There is a deceiving amount of seating space.

The Service: The service was excellent. Our waitress was back often to check on us and keep our drinks coming.

The Atmosphere: The Local is an Irish Pub with an amazing amount of seating. There is a monstrous bar and beautifully carved back bar. There are many little gathering spaces away from the crowds and this is a great spot for catching a soccer game. The prices are very reasonable for downtown Minneapolis. There is a great outside patio during the summer months and it is a perfect spot to people-watch.  Nicollet Mall is filled with interesting characters and spots to check out.  This place can feel very upscale or very down-home depending on where you sit and what you order.

The Sides: The fish fry is usually accompanied by french fries. As I have stated many times before, in my opinion, french fries are for happy meals… That said, as far as fries go, these were serviceable.

The FISH: The fish fry is actually an English “Fish and Chips.” I should also note that this is not an all-you-can-eat. The fish comes either in the form of North Atlantic Cod for $13.99 or Canadian Walleye for $16.99. I went with the walleye and it was really terrific. It was a moist flaky fish coated in a crispy and perfectly seasoned breading. It was exactly as it should be. A squeeze of lemon and a little salt was all this fish needed.

The Score: The Local is a great Minneapolis spot and I would strongly recommend you give it a try. There is something for everyone. I would also recommend checking out The Local during a soccer game as the atmosphere is phenomenal. It is strange to see such a ravenous soccer crowd in the United States. Overall, I give The Local an 7.5 out of 10.

Magnolias Restaurant — St. Paul

IMG_20141228_195856(1)

Magnolias Restaurant
1081 Payne Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55130
(651) 774-3333
http://www.magnolias-stpaul.com
map

The Parking: The parking on Payne Avenue can be difficult.  It is a fairly busy street and quite frankly, probably not the kind of street one wants to take a long walk on in the dark.

The Beer: No beer at Magnolias.

The Old Fashioned: No old fashioneds at Magnolias.

The Wait: We were seated immediately on a fairly busy Friday night.  There is a deceptive amount of seating in what appears to be a small diner.

The Service: The service was excellent. Our waitress checked in often and was very responsive.  She even brought a few extras for our toddler.

The Atmosphere: Magnolias is an interesting spot.  It is certainly not fancy–in fact, it appears time stopped here in 1987.  This is not a place for ambiance.

The Sides: The fish fry comes with a choice of baked, french fries, mashed, garlic mashed, au gratin or hash browns.  Of course, I went with hash browns and I was not disappointed.  This place serves breakfast all day and they do hash browns to perfection.  You also get a choice of soup or salad.  The soups are all homemade and are great.

The FISH: The fish fry is All You Can Eat and costs $12.99 or you can get three (3) giant pieces of cod for $9.99.  It is also worth pointing out that this three (3) piece fish fry is available every day for $11.99  The fish comes in the form of extra thick center-cut cod loins.  The fish seems to be more of a chicken batter and I must say, is very good.  The fish was seasoned well, crispy on the outside and deliciously moist and flaky inside.

The Score: Magnolias is a typically east-side St. Paul institution.  There are no frills here.  However, the service is great, the prices are right and it is an experience worth having.  Overall, I give Magnolias a 6.5 out of 10.

The Machine Shed — Lake Elmo

20140307_191245

The Machine Shed
8515 Hudson Boulevard
Lake Elmo, MN 55042
(651) 735-7436
http://www.machineshed.com/lake-elmo/
map

The Parking: The Machine Shed is located on the same property as a Holiday Inn Suites and there is a huge parking lot. That said, this place was packed on a Friday night. You should find a spot but you will do some walking.

The Beer: The beer selection was pretty weak. There was a couple of local brews but the overwhelming majority of the selection was Coors/Miller/Budweiser products.

The Old Fashioned: The Old Fashioned was good but a little too sweet for my taste. One was enough for me.

The Wait: We were told it would be a 30 minute wait; however, it was only about 10 minute wait. There is a small gift shop to browse around in while you wait. I was impressed how smoothly the process was given how busy they were.

The Service: The service was excellent. Our waiter checked in often was very responsive.

The Atmosphere: The Machine Shed is nice place for a family. It is not fancy but it has a nice feel to it. The decor is sort of a country/farm feel–like an upscale Cracker Barrel.

The Sides: The fish fry is usually accompanied by french fries. However, when given a choice, I always choose something else. The options were seasonal vegetable, wild rice, potato (baked, sweet, garlic mashed, mashed, french fries, or sweet potato fries). I went with the mashed potato and chicken gravy (choice of pork, beef, or chicken gravy) and I was not disappointed. I should also mention that all meals come with family style coleslaw, cottage cheese, giant dinner rolls and an unbelievably good banana pumpkin bread.

The FISH: The fish fry is All You Can Eat and costs $11.49. The fish comes in the form of hand battered and fried crisp pieces of fresh North Atlantic Cod. The fish was done to perfection. As advertised, it was perfectly crispy and flaky and tender inside. The fish was seasoned well and was fantastic.

The Score: The Machine Shed is a nice place with a good atmosphere. The portions are massive, the service is excellent and most importantly, the fish is great. I strongly recommend trying this fish fry. Overall, I give The Machine Shed an 8 out of 10.

The Bungalow Inn Restaurant and Bar — Lakeland, MN

20130628_193036

The Bungalow Inn Restaurant and Bar
1151 Rivercrest Road N.
Lakeland, MN 55043
(651) 436-5005
http://www.bungalowinn.net/home.html
map

The Parking: The Bungalow Inn is located just north of I94 off of MN95 in Lakeland, MN (just down the road from Stillwater, MN). There is a large parking lot and even on a crowded Friday night there should be plenty of parking.

The Beer: The Bungalow Inn has a strong selection of tap beers including Bell’s Oberon which is a summer must-have.

The Old Fashioned: Being a supper club, this place knows how to make a proper Old Fashioned. This cocktail had the right amount of Brandy and just the right amount of sweet.

The Wait: We had reservations so there was no wait. However, when we arrived at 7:00 I overheard the host telling people they should expect a very reasonable 15-20 minutes wait. There is a huge comfortable bar area, a game room for the kids, televisions and plenty of pull-tabs to pass the time.

The Service: The service was fantastic. Our waitress was over immediately over to take drink orders and brought out some very tasty garlic bread. She was back often to keep drinks and plates full.

The Atmosphere: The Bungalow Inn is classic supper club. The walls are wood and the lighting is all hanging Tiffany style lamps. This place is loud without being too loud. Everyone is having a good time here on a Friday night. The setting great as well. There are trees everywhere and it certainly does not feel like you are still in the Twin Cities metro area. The crowd was made up of young and old and a large number of families.

The Sides: Sides are excellent. The fish comes with french fries; however, for an extra dollar you can choose between garlic mashed potatoes, baked potato, hash browns, cheesy au gratin, or flash roasted veggies. I was torn between the hash browns and the cheesy au gratin. I ultimately decided on the hash browns and I was not disappointed. I did see the cheesy au gratin potatoes though and they looked excellent. Next time I am going to try them out.

The FISH: The fish fry is $13.75 for All You Can Eat Icelandic Cod. The fish came in a good range of sizes. The larger pieces were battered properly, having a crispy thin layer of batter and moist white chunks of great tasting cod on the inside. Some of the smaller pieces were a little too heavily battered for my liking. Overall, the fish was very good and I will definitely be back here again. I am not a fan of tartar sauce; however, I do make a point of at least trying the sauce. This was easily one of the best tartar sauces I have ever tried.

The Score: The Bungalow Inn Restaurant and Bar is a great place to spend a Friday night. I suspect I will be back here many times in the future. I will definitely be bringing some visiting family here as well. Overall, I would rate The Bungalow Inn Restaurant and Bar a 8.5 out of 10.

Brit’s Pub & Eating Establishment — Minneapolis

20130614_183950

Brit’s Pub & Eating Establishment
1110 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 332-3908
http://www.britspub.com/
map

The Parking: Parking is ample but you will pay for it. Street parking is possible but probably not probable. Plan on parking in a ramp and walking to Brit’s.

The Beer: Brit’s has a great selection of draught beers, including a large number of English Ales. I counted 23 beers on tap (all of which come served in a true pint glass).

The Old Fashioned: No Old Fashioned necessary at Brit’s. I do recommend Brit’s signature cocktail, the Bootlegger, consisting of mint leaves, lemonade, vodka or gin mixed with Brit’s own secret recipe. The Bootlegger really is a perfect summer drink.

The Wait: Brit’s is always crowded in the summer. The downtown after-work crowd shows up for happy hour and it stays busy all night. Plan to stand around a bit waiting for a table to open up if you want to dine on the patio. Finding a table inside is a bit easier.

The Service: The service is excellent. Our waiter stayed on top of drinks and was very attentive. I was impressed because he was waiting on a large number of table simultaneously.

The Atmosphere: Atmosphere is the reason to check out Brit’s. The rooftop patio is set in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. The patio has a massive lawn bowling area (looks similar to a golf green) and is surrounded by skyscrapers and blue skies. A more beautiful spot in Minneapolis is difficult to imagine.

The Sides: The “fish and chips” accompanied by chips, or what we call “french fries” in Minnesota. As one can infer from prior posts, I am not a fan of fries. I think fries belong in a happy meal and not as part of a $15 meal. That said, as far as fries go, they were fine.

The FISH: I went with the two piece option for $14.95. There was also a one piece and a three piece for either $12.95 or $17.95, respectively. The fish comes in the form of huge pieces of cod. The fish was fried nicely and was appropriately crispy on the outside. However, something was just off. The fish seemed oily and had a flavor I could not decipher. That undecipherable flavor was not a good flavor either. There is no nice to put it; I did not like this fish at all.

The Score: Brit’s is a great summer bar and has a beautiful outdoor space in the middle of downtown Minneapolis. Overall, I would rate Brit’s a 5 out of 10. The only reason I even rated Brit’s a 5 is because of the great atmosphere. I have had my last fish fry at Brit’s.

The Glockenspiel — St. Paul

20130607_190848_edited-1

The Glockenspiel
605 7th Street West
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 292-9421
http://www.glockenspielrestaurant.com/
map

The Parking: Glockenspiel has a fair amount of parking. There is a decent sized lot behind the restaurant and ample street parking as well.

The Beer: Glockenspiel has a great selection of German beers. There were probably a dozen beers on tap and a huge selection of bottles as well. My wife and I each had a sampler of nine different German beers for $10. I highly recommend the sampler.

The Old Fashioned: No Old Fashioned necessary after nine beers.

The Wait: We has a reservation and were seated immediately in the dining “hall.”

The Service: The service was great. Our waitress was back often to check on us and to offer suggestions.

The Atmosphere: Glockenspiel is a fun place. They have a fun bar area and a large eating area as well. The place is decorated with fun German stuff and there is a large German mural painted on one entire wall. You may even encounter an accordion player and some traditional German music.

The Sides: The fish fry is usually accompanied by french fries. However, I was not about to have french fries with a fish fry at a German restaurant. The waitress was happy to substitute spaetzle and gravy for french fries. My buddy got a potato dumpling instead of fries. I must say the spaetzle and gravy was amazing. The spaetzle is obviously fresh and it has a wonderfully chewy consistency.

The FISH: The fish fry is a little spendy at $14.95 but it is All You Can Eat. The fish is Cod but is long skinny pieces instead of the large chunks one usually sees with a Cod fish fry. The fish was lightly battered, crispy on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside. My only gripe is the cut of the fish. I prefer a larger piece with a little less batter. I did see some people actually eating the fish with their hands and cut of the fish was conducive to dipping in tartar sauce (if you’re in to tartar sauce).

The Score: Glockenspiel is a fun place with a great atmosphere. While the fish is not my favorite, the excellent sides make up for any shortcomings. The staff is great and the beer is plentiful. I strongly recommend trying this fish fry. Overall, I would rate The Glockenspiel a 7.5 out of 10.

Obb’s Sports Bar & Grill — St. Paul, MN

obbs

Obb’s Sports Bar & Grill
1347 Burns Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55106
(651) 776-7010
http://www.obbsbar.com/
map

The Parking: Obb’s has a large new parking lot attached to the property and a great deal of street parking as well. This place can be very busy on a Friday night but finding a parking spot should not be a problem.

The Beer: Obb’s has a great tap and bottled beer selection. Beers are reasonably priced as well.

The Old Fashioned: Obb’s is not the kind of place that you order an Old Fashioned…

The Wait: We arrived and were seated immediately in the large basement eating space.

The Service: The service was great. Our waitress was very attentive. She kept the drinks full and the fish coming.

The Atmosphere: Obb’s is a great place to hang out and watch a game or enjoy a meal. This is a legendary St. Paul spot and it always full on a Friday night. It is well-lit, clean and there are ample televisions so you don’t miss any action in the game.

The Sides: The sides are standard fare. The fish fry was accompanied by coleslaw and a potato choice. I went with a baked potato. The potato was cooked nicely; however, it was cooked in tinfoil. Tinfoil bakers, in my opinion, are not as good as a potato with a crispy skin.

The FISH: The fish fry is listed at $12.45 and is All You Can Eat. The fish comes in the form of giant pieces of Pollock. The fish was lightly battered, moist, and flaky. Pollock sometimes tends to be very thin. At Obb’s the fish comes in thick chunks and it is cooked to perfection.

The Score: Obb’s is a must for any fish fry enthusiast. The staff is friendly, the service is great and the fish fry is even better. Overall, I would rate Obb’s a 8.5 out of 10. They really know how to do it at Obb’s.

Gluek’s Restaurant & Bar — Minneapolis, MN

glueks

Gluek’s Restaurant & Bar
16 N. 6th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 338-6621
http://www.glueks.com/
map

The Parking: Gluek’s is located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. Parking can be a challenge if you are looking for something cheap; however, there is always somewhere to park downtown. There is actually a large lot immediately west of Gluek’s on the same block but it fills up fast when there are events at Target Center/Target Field.

The Beer: Gluek’s has 21 different beers on tap plus a beer-of-the-month on tap as well. I suggest trying one of Gluek’s own beers. You can score a 33 ounce mug for $8, which is pretty good for downtown Minneapolis. There is also a great selection of bottles.

The Old Fashioned: Gluek’s is not the kind of place that you order an Old Fashioned…

The Wait: I must say I was impressed with the lack of a wait. We only waited about 5 minutes for a table and that was prior to a Twins game and there was also a concert at Target Center.

The Service: the service was great. The waiter was working about 10 tables but somehow kept it together and was very attentive.

The Atmosphere: I must admit this is the first time I have had a meal at Gluek’s. I spent a lot of time there as a younger man but that was mainly for music and beer. Gluek’s is a historic old place and has a great atmosphere. They have some great local art and photography. It has the feel of a old cabin up North.

The Sides: Sides are different. The fish fry was accompanied by red beans and rice, hush puppies and cole slaw. I am not a big red beans and rice fan but I understand if was, this was very good. The hush puppies were good but the cole slaw was quite pedestrian.

The FISH: The fish fry is listed at $11.95 on the website; however, it was actually $13.00 for All You Can Eat cajun catfish. The catfish was moist and flaky but lacked something. It really didn’t have any flavor and quite frankly, I am not sure what made this “cajun” at all. I also think the fish would be better if it were fried in a more of a corn meal type batter. That said, the fish was not bad but it wasn’t great either. I was a little disappointed for $13.00.

The Score: Gluek’s a is a fun place to hang out but I am not in any hurry to have a fish fry here again. Overall, I would rate Gluek’s a 6 out of 10. I think a few minor changes could make a big difference here.

Guldens Restaurant & Bar — Maplewood, MN

SAMSUNG

Guldens Restaurant & Bar
2999 Highway 61 North
Maplewood, MN 55109
(651) 482-0384
http://www.guldens61.com/
map

The Parking: Guldens has a large parking lot and lots of street parking as well. Parking here is rarely an issue.

The Beer: Guldens always has a great beer selection. The taps seem to change with some frequency. Further, they have some great happy hour specials (don’t forget to try the chicken wings in the lounge if you find yourself there during happy hour).

The Old Fashioned: Simply put, I have never had a better Old Fashioned in the State of Minnesota.

The Wait: Friday nights can be quite busy but the wait is never too bad. There is an excellent lounge to wait in where some great beers can be sampled and some money can be wasted on pull tabs.

The Service: Service is always superb at Guldens. Upon entering the establishment you are always greeted by the smiling and friendly owner, Mike G. The waitresses are all great. They are attentive and quick with drinks and re-orders of fish. Further, you will find the owner frequenting the floor making small talk and assuring that everything is going well.

The Atmosphere: Atmosphere at Guldens is great. Guldens is everything a supper club should be. There is a great lounge/bar area with televisions, specials and karaoke. The dining area is filled with character and a history of Maplewood, MN. The patrons are friendly, loud and fun to be around.

The Sides: Sides are outstanding–namely the salad bar that comes with entrees. The salad bar is filled with options including pasta salad, potato salad and every veggie imaginable. Guldens does offer a hash brown with dinner so my choice was easy.

The FISH: The fish fry is a bit pricey at $13.49; however, it is All You Can Eat and it is fantastic. The fish is an Alaskan Pollock and comes in huge pieces. The batter is really different. The fish is coated and fried in a panko-like breading. The breading is both very crispy and light at the same time. The fish was moist and flaky and they can it bring as fast as you can order it.

The Score: I must admit that Guldens is my “home fish fry” and I am probably a bit biased. Though I promise I wouldn’t go back so often if the place was not so great. Overall, I would rate Guldens a 9 out of 10. Guldens has just about everything you could want in a Friday night.

Al Baker’s — Eagan, MN

albakers2

Al Baker’s
3434 Washington Drive
Eagan, MN 55122
(651) 454-9000
http://albakers.biz/
map

The Parking: Parking is a piece of cake. Al Baker’s has a large lot with plenty of off-street parking.

The Beer: Al Baker’s has a pretty good beer selection. I would guess they had about 12-15 beers on tap but nothing out of the ordinary or particularly exciting.

The Old Fashioned: The Brandy Old Fashioned was alright though nothing to write home about. They just don’t do them in Minnesota like they do in Wisconsin.

The Wait: There was no wait. We walked in and were seated within seconds. In retrospect, I wish we had started with a drink at the bar.

The Service: Service was excellent. Our waitress was quick and very attentive.

The Atmosphere: I am not sure about the atmosphere in this place. I did make a trip to the bar area to score some pull-tabs while we waited for our food and it looked like a blast. The bar area had some loud music, was dimly lit and had a good crowd of young and fun people. However, we were seated in the dining area where we appeared to be the only people under 60 years-old. The dining area was well-lit (too well lit for my liking) and clean but just seemed to be lacking something. The dining area has sort of a Perkins vibe. It really seemed that the two different eating areas were different places entirely. I would definitely sit in the bar area if I ever return.

The Sides: The fish was accompanied by french fries and coleslaw though I upgraded to a baked potato. I would always prefer to see a hash brown option but the baked potato was cooked perfectly. A lot of fish fry baked potatoes are a pile of mush wrapped in aluminum foil but Al Baker’s does it right.

The FISH: The fish fry was $9.99 and was All You Can Eat pollock. The batter was crispy and seasoned well. My usual gripe with pollock is that the pieces of fish are very thin and the batter-to-fish ratio is just too high. Tonight was no exception. The fish was good but not great and there was just too much batter in my opinion.

The Score: Overall, I would rate Al Baker’s a 5.5 out of 10. There was nothing extraordinary about Al Baker’s but I cannot say that it was bad either.