Saturday, May 16, 2009

Midtown Fewd: Jade Asian Bar & Restaurant

As with most things I enjoy, great caveats often accompany them. Jade Asian Bar & Restaurant is no exception. Oh, nothing like 'great place, if you can get a seat', or 'you have to drive out to the suburbs to get it'. More like 'please everyone, go there, before it has to close like all the rest!'

I stopped in to the Midtown Global Market last night to grab some dinner. It was a very long week, and I was in the mood for comfort food. Midtown, with Holy Land Deli, Safari, Manny's Tortas, etc., more than satisfies for comfort food, but when we happened by Jade (somewhat busy in the bar) and saw a sign for a $7.95 Pu Pu Platter for two, the call had been made.
We were greeted and seated by possibly Minneapolis' kindest waiter, then sadly not at all surprised we were the sole table in the dining room. The menu at Jade is pretty impressive. Not long, mind you, just stocked with staples and delicious sounding specialty items. Immediately I declared my desire to come back - if for nothing else but the sushi ... but more likely for everything else. This of course came before we even ordered.
We decided on the Pu Pu, and a happy hour order of cream chee won tons (8 for $3!). House wine and rail drinks are also on special at happy hour, but I had to nab a Kirin Ichiban 241 at $4. Four dollars, man!

Our food arrived nearly as quickly as the drinks, and we dove in. The Pu Pu features mini chicken egg rolls, shrimp bread, foil steamed chicken, beef skewers, and bacon-wrapped tofu, along with three dipping sauces (plum, sweet and sour, and red pepper). Each item was perfectly delectable. The mini rolls were crisp, but not brittle. The steamed chicken was subtle, yet flavorful. The shrimp bread was positively delightful and full of flavors of the sea. The two heads-above winners on the platter are the beef skewers and the bacon-wrapped tofu. The beef skewers are perfectly fired with caramelized black bits on the outside, and wonderfully juicy pink meat on the inside. These were org-tastic. A party in your mouth. The tofu was everything pu pus ought to be. bite-sized and beautiful. The smokey flavor of the bacon and the soft creamy texture of the tofu were perfect partners in what has to be named one of favorite new dishes.
I cannot forget to mention the won tons. For your $3 you get eight of these monsters. Each won ton is large, crispy, and filled with warm soft cream chee. If I'd had these and these alone, I'd have been happy, but the Pu Pu sealed it. (Two Kirin's didn't hurt, either).

All told, our bill was $15.07. Are you kidding me? The waiter, again, the kindest in town, was nothing short of spectacular, so rounding it out to $20 almost felt cheap.
They've been in the MGM roughly one year, and man, I hope they make it. My only caveat for Jade is you might miss if it if you don't seek it out. I'm looking to try more of their menu the next time around, but if you do nothing else, hit the Pu Pu some night between 3 and 7 (or 8-10). Delicious and cheap. My favorite kind.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Suburban Fewd: Wagner's Drive-In

Three decades ago my family would hop in the brown Chevy station wagon, cross the railroad tracks along Old Highway 169 in Brooklyn Park, and tip a glass of A & W Root Beer at our very own neighborhood A & W Drive-In Restaurant. It was never anything short of badass. The frostiest mugs, the trays on the rolled-down window. Seriously cool. Then it closed.
Years passed, and it lay vacant. Another tenant moved in, failed. Then Wagner's Drive-In took the reins, and for what must be the last fifteen years, they've been solvent enough to stay in business.
Yesterday, while making the familiar trip to my parents' house, my driving companion Jodi and I decided we were in the mood for some drive-in fewd. As previously stated, this building has been there for 30-plus years, but it had been nearly that since I'd given it a go. Why? No idea. Always meant to, and now have. And now, in one visit, Wagner's Drive-In has taken a rightful place in my Twin Cities Top Ten. As the man once said, it was gorgeousness and gorgeocitiy all in one.
Unassuming, the place barely has a sign visible from the highway (now Hwy 81), but when you notice every stall is taken, you figure people must not need direction.
The first thing I noticed, amid the nostalfgia and flashbacks, were the menu prices. You know I'm a sucker for the cheap, and brother, this food is just that. Burgers for $2.50 (1/4 lb), hot dogs for $1.95, chicken, fries, rings, sandies, all way under $4. Adding fries and a drink runs a paltry $2.15, or something. I say 'or something' because I was too giddy to keep track of my own bill.
With prices like this, I made the foolish assumtion that said burgers would be McD's-like small ... thus, I ordered the double chee combo. Jod opted for the BLT combo. When the food arrived - yeah, on a tray!, yeah, perched on my open window! (and yes, thoughts of Clark Griswold and the Family Truckster entered my head) - it was most pleasantly shocking. The double chee was not only laege (1/2 lb), it was carefully prepared. Not squished, not all lop-sided. Just two beef patties, two slices of chee, and a bun. Simple, and maginificent. A top 10 burger. Like it was cooked on a grill in your back yard -- only it was cooked by a professional, not your father who burns everything.
The fries are crinkle-cut (is there any other kind at a drive-in?) and salty/delicious. Jodi's BLT was, as she proclaimed, "a total mom sandwich" -- that is, it was made like your mom would make it. Square white bread, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo. That's it. No fancy seven grain, no bacon as thick as your thumb, no pretense. Just a good freaking sandwich.
The two combos ran us a little over $12. Mine rang in a bit higher of the two, as the double chee more than warrants a $4+ price tag. We ate, and we laughed, and man, it was soooo damn good. It was happy food, served from a happy place, with happy employees, and no doubt, a happy owner. We weren't a block from the joint when I gleefully declared Wagner's Drive-In a 9 of 10. Then wondering aloud what they could possibly do better to earn the nearly impossible 10 of 10 ... the answer was roller skates. Everyone can improve, but with Wagner's you really have to nit-pick to find a spot where they need it.
Just off the 694 and Hwy 81 in Brooklyn Park. Take your kids. Teach them how it was when you were young. Wagner's is an istant classic, and an instant fave ... and I'd driven by it a thousand times. I feel both foolish and blessed. And full.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Downtown Eats: 501 Club

Fans of the NE Mpls. music and drinking establishment 331 Club rejoice. The very same folks bring the NE Side to the DT area in the form of the 501 Club. A live music, cheap eats joint, located in the former Matty B's spot on Washington Ave.
501 is in their third week of existence, and according to our lovely server O'Calla, the place is still honing its menu. That being said,
WHAT a menu. Seriously. Seriously cool. Vegan, Vegetarian, Carnivore, whateves ... the slew of choices is only outdone by the jaw-droppingly low prices. Hamburgers (All sandies and burgers come with choice of fries, sweet potato fries, or fruit -- no upcharge!) run a super low $7. Not a Burger-Buddies sized burger, either - as ample as any you'll find in town. My Black Bean & Brown Rice burger was delicious, and freaked me out being only $6. The fruit cup alone would run $4 at Byerly's a la carte lunch.
My next trip will be for Made-to-order guacamole with chips $3.75 and Chili (vegan or meat) $3.75/cup, $5.50/bowl. Barely an item on the menu breaks the $7.50 mark, and there isn't one choice over $10. Not one. You hearing me Harry's? You and your shitty $11 burgers and morbid service can suck on it.
Drink specials also impress, with cool Tallboy nights - 2 for $5, and whiskey/Coke nights - $3 (among others). Drinks would go nicely with 501's already gaudy line-up of local bands -- Night in the Box, Como Avenue Jug Band, and Retribution Gospel Choir are just a few lined up for the coming week.
Trivia also takes over on Wednesday nights, joining a long list of spots doing it on the same night of the week. If I had to guess, 501's will be a hit.

To put it mildly, I LOVED the 501. It's two doors down from my workplace, and River Road ride from home. Excited? Yes I am. Damn good DT food for under $10, and never-a-cover charge entertainment ... My bet is this overtakes Grumpy's as the hip spot for the art-heavy warehouse side of the downtown area.

501 Club

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What I'm Eatin'

Torta Cubano from Eli's
1225 Hennepin Ave Minneapolis, MN 55403).
Nine buck, and worth every penny. Fried ham, sliced hot dog, jalapeno, tomato, romaine, and guacamole. All toasty and perfect. Best sandy in a loooong time. The photo, courtesy of the Palm, does not do proper justice.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Can Football Save The World?

According to AC Milan footballer Kakha Kaladze Milan owner and Italian PM Silvio Burlusconi contacted Russian PM Vladimir Putin to discuss Russia's invasion/intervention into Georgia's South Ossetia region at Kalaze's request.

Milan defender Kaladze, a Georgian who personally asked Italian PM Berlusconi to help, has revealed that it was the Rossoneri owner who was responsible for stopping the war. "The world does not know it, but it was Silvio Berlusconi who stopped the war in Georgia. For this reason I thank him," Kaladze revealed to ANSA (Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata). "Berlusconi has always been very close to the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. "The two of them are very good friends. It was his intervention to stop the war between Georgia and Russia. I know that the Italian premier spent over five hours on the phone with Putin to try to stop this delicate situation.

So the answer is yes ... evidently Football can save the world.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Music: Take Back Labor Day 2008

Tom Morello started it, the audience finished it... "It has to start somewhere. It has to start somehow. What better place than here? What better time than now?"
Monday, September 1st, 2008 saw the Take Back Labor Day festival at Harriet Island draw a full mix of labor union supporters, peaceniks, wannabe-hippies, hippies, hip-hoppers, preppies, moms, dads, kids, and joe-sixpacks. When the main stage music began, the casual atmosphere reigned -- Billy Bragg chanted protest songs and genuinely engaged the audience with heart-felt appeals. The relaxed feel remained through Steve Earle and Allison Moorer, depsite Earle's harder-edged lyrics and his frequent use of the F word; and continued on well into Tom Morello's set. Morello, or as he is calling himself, The Night Watchman, is of course the lead guitarist for Rage Against the Machine, and everyone seemed eager for him to split their ears and tear some riffs up to get the crowd going ... but he didn't. Not really. He stuck to the script of unmelodic protest songs, speak-singing his way through most of those, to boot. Suffice to say, Morello, though inspirational, should stick to guitar playing. His voice is about as melodic as mine. Even less-so. Yes that's possible.
The vibe didn't really get charged until, nearing the end of his final song, Morello sang the lyric that began this post ... "It has to start somewhere. It has to start somehow. What better place than here? What better time than now?" And by the end of it, the crowd was ready for something big -- and man, when Tom Morello tells you to jump and shout, brother you jump and shout.
Following another short speech from a Union rep, local talent Atmosphere took the stage, and like moths to a flame, the young and old pressed forward. A migration. Waves of people moved in closer and closer, and finally, after two hours, the festival became a concert. Atmosphere rocked that joint. Hands and arms of thousands of kids went up, and the bass rolled down. Slug and his mates played for about 45 minutes, and it was the highest injected 45 minutes we'd seen. By the time he'd finished, the exodus to the beer tents and biffys began.
Most were still not yet re-settled when Mos Def came in and pumped out three songs before even addressing the crowd. Naturally a guy in a Members only jacket and hat might comment on the day's 90' heat ... and he did. "Man, Minnesota's hotter than a muhf*cker." And it was. So was his set. Infused with some old school jams, a crowd of mostly late teens and early twenties joined him on choruses from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "The Message"; prompting my festival companion Jodi to wonder how many kids had yet been born when that song was released. It was determined by approximation that "very few" were indeed born before 1980.
But hey, it was a peaceful time, a rallying point of inspiration, and a joy to behold -- I just wish we could have heard one, just one full-on Rage song ... Harriet Island would still be shaking.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Design: Ericsson Ericofone

This phone makes me want to get a land line again. Found at Classic Retro @ Pete's on University and Vandalia, this model ran $180 (though eBay occasionally has them for far less -- $50 to $100 -- the red is the most popular. I think it's obvious why).