Monday, November 12, 2018

G's Cafe, Anoka - Restaurant Review

While I was in Minnesota, one of my good friends suggested G’s Café in Anoka for breakfast. It was a bit of a drive (about 10 miles) from Ham Lake to Anoka, but the food and service were well worth the trip.


We arrived a bit later than the typical breakfast time and the Café only had a couple other patrons so seating was easy. We ordered coffee and began reviewing the menu.  

G's Cafe - Interior
G’s has an Irish theme to the restaurant. Because of that, I decided to try the “Irish Skillet” – Fried corned beef with hash browns, onions, green peppers, and tomato. Topped with two eggs and Hollandaise. It was served with toast, but I opted for the English muffin. My companion settled on 2 eggs over easy with bacon and a pancake.


My skillet was one of the better skillets I’ve ever had. Clearly, the hash browns were started, then the corned beef was added. Then the onions and peppers, finally the tomato was added to warm them but not make them soggy and overcooked. The tomato added a brightness to an otherwise rich dish. The eggs were as expected, but the Hollandaise sauce was amazing. Very flavorful, rich but light, smooth and creamy. There was enough corned beef to taste it but not so much as to overpower the rest of the ingredients.  

My companion’s bacon was beautiful – crispy and long, exactly the way he likes it. The eggs were a perfect over easy and his pancake was good.

Service was excellent. Our server anticipated our needs for more coffee and condiments.


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 5 (Every item was cooked perfectly.) 
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 5 (Breakfasts average under $10, not including drinks)
Value: 5 (I really felt it was great food at a reasonable price with excellent service.)


The only detraction is that parking can be difficult in downtown Anoka. There is on-street parking along Maine Street and there is a small lot with space for about a dozen vehicles next door. As a last resort, there is a municipal lot about a block and a half away that offers free parking for three hours.


I liked it. I will definitely return anytime I’m in Anoka. Hopefully, next time I’ll be there for lunch and can try their Reuben, it looks yummy.

G’s Café222 E Main St Ste 101
Anoka, MN 55303

Friday, October 26, 2018

Ole Piper Inn - Blaine, Minnesota

During my recent visit to Minnesota, I was able to try the breakfast at the Ole Piper Inn in Blaine.

We arrived at the end of the breakfast rush and before the lunch service began (about 10:30). We were seated quickly and were able to order coffee right away.  I was surprised to see that a spoon was not included in our silverware set, which consisted of a knife, fork, and a smallish paper napkin. After the coffee was brought, I used my knife to stir my cream into the coffee. The waitress didn’t ask me if I wanted a spoon for my coffee, finally, when she refilled the cups asked for one.

I was hungry and ordered the Chicken Fried Steak with eggs, I added the cheese and onions to my hash browns and substituted “biscuits and gravy” for the 3 pancakes. My friend ordered a sausage omelet (actually, it was a “Ham and Cheese” omelet with sausage substituted). As a side, he too opted for the “biscuits and gravy.”

Food arrived in a reasonable time for breakfast.


My Chicken Fried Steak was greasy on the bottom and the coating was quite doughy. It was also one of the smallest chicken fried steak portions I've ever had. The gravy pretty good, not as spicy as I’d like, but okay.  The single biscuit in the “biscuits and gravy” was horrible. It is the kind of biscuit that gives southerners the notion that Yankees can’t do biscuits. It is rare that I don’t eat my entire meal, but even I couldn’t eat this biscuit, so I left most of the biscuit on my plate and used some of the gravy to spice up my potatoes. The tiny sprinkling of cheese and a splat of onions on top was what the $1.25 upcharge provided. No onions in the hash browns, just a splat on top. Also, the hash browns were only barely browned on the top only.

My companion was happy with his sausage omelet. He said the sausage was spicy and tasty.  Too bad the same sausage isn’t used in the sausage gravy. He, too, found the biscuit very doughy and not very good.


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open -- booth seats were comfortable.)
Food: 2 (horrid biscuits and greasy chicken fried steak.)
Service: 3 (Server should notice that when a person orders coffee and cream that the customer will want a spoon to stir it.)
Price: 3 (Breakfast and coffee ran $34.00 plus tip. lots of upcharges that weren't worth the amount.)
Value: 3 

With so many places north of the Cities serving breakfast, I can not imagine ever returning to the Old Piper Inn for breakfast.


Ole Piper Inn
1416 93rd Lane NE
Blaine, MN 55449

Monday, October 22, 2018

Keys Café & Bakery

Restaurant Review

When I lived in Minnesota, I probably drove past Keys Café & Bakery every week and I never stopped there for a meal.  There are nine Keys Café restaurants in Minnesota/Wisconsin area and although I had heard of them before, I had never eaten at one. Was that ever a mistake – I wish I had eaten there many times before. My friend, Doug, said Keys was very good, so we went to the Spring Lake Park location for breakfast one morning while I was visiting Minnesota recently.

We arrived at the peak of the breakfast rush, about 10 am on a Sunday morning. The place was packed and had a waiting list. We were told it would be about a 10 to 15-minute wait. I was pleased when we were seated in about 10 minutes. The person apologized for seating us in a smaller two-person table and assured that we were okay with the smaller size. We were.

Service at Keys was top notch. After being seated, our waitress, Lauren G., asked what we would like to drink and given menus to review. The manager (or owner?) arrived very quickly with our coffees and waters. Shortly after we lowered our menus Lauren returned to take our orders.

I decided upon a Greek Omelet, three eggs with gyro meat, onions, tomato, black olives, and feta, served with tzatziki sauce and hash browns. Doug decided on the “Loon Omelet,” three eggs with Minnesota wild rice, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, provolone, and a mushroom cream sauce. It sounded very exotic in a Minnesota way.  

"Loon Omelet"
The food arrived quickly, even in the ultra-busy time, and was amazing. The omelets were made very thin, the way they should be made, with lots of filling added and rolled nicely. The tzatziki sauce was on the side as was the “Keys Jam” – a homemade jelly much like a cranberry applesauce. Very tasty. I had the “Cranberry Wild Rice” toast for $1.00 more.  It was good, but lacked any of the texture I was hoping for from the wild rice or the taste I expected from cranberries. The Keys Jam helped save the toast, which I wouldn't pay extra for again.

Doug thought his “Loon Omelet” was excellent, lots of filling and a great mushroom cream sauce that covered the omelet.

The hash browns were uninspired and a bit underdone for my taste as was Doug’s English Muffin.

Lauren came by about a minute after we received our food to assure that we had everything we wanted and or needed and to freshen our coffee.  I could not have asked for better service; her service was a pleasure.

Checkout was at the register by the entrance. It was a little hectic with people checking out and people crowded, waiting for seats. But again, the manager was double checked that everything was good with our meal.  


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 4 (The omelets were excellent; the sides were mostly fine.
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 4 (Breakfast omelets were $12 (+$1 for special toast) and $12.50, a bit high for breakfast.
Value: 4 

The Keys Café philosophy is simple, “Memorable service and absolutely the best food… breakfasts…. Created from scratch recipes ‘you grew up with.’” Their service was memorable in a good way and their food was delicious with just a touch of the exotic. I’ll certainly include Keys Café in my breakfast places whenever I am in Minnesota.


Keys Café & Bakery - SPRING LAKE PARK
8299 University Avenue NE
Spring Lake Park, MN 55432

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Hy-Vee Market Grill - Restaurant Review

Hy-Vee Market Grill

I often say, “I love good food that is reasonably priced and great service which makes a meal truly enjoyable. With that in mind, I may have a new favorite restaurant – Hy-Vee Market Grille. During a visit to Minnesota, a friend suggested eating at the restaurant associated with a Hy-Vee grocery store. I had never been to a Hy-Vee, as they came into Minnesota after I moved out of state.  I was skeptical, but I trusted my friend and said, “Sure. Let’s try it.”

I was immediately impressed when we arrived and saw they had a very nice bar area. The restaurant was clean and bright. We were immediately greeted and taken to a booth. Although we didn’t have drinks, my friend said they make great drinks, and I believe him.


We ordered two coffees plus one water with lemon and one plain water and reviewed the menu.  


When the drinks we ordered arrived we placed our food order. My friend decided on two eggs, hash browns, sausage, and toast. I decided on the “Corned Beef Skillet” – Two eggs, corned beef, breakfast potatoes, Swiss cheese, and onions.


My friend indicated that his potatoes were cooked perfectly – right at his preferred level of crispness. He stated his sausage was delicious.

My skillet was excellent.  The corned beef was just a little greasy, but for the most part, the fat was cooked off, and the corned beef had no large fatty chunks. And there was a lot of the corned beef, and it was clearly cut from a brisket, not from something rolled and pressed. The hash browns in the skillet were done perfectly, and the eggs on top were done nicely, not overly crackly or burned. It may have been one of the best Corned Beef Skillets I’ve ever had. Loved it.

Service was excellent, Courtney O. was very pleasant, she checked back often, and kept our coffee fresh.


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, good for conversations.)
Food: 5 (Every item was cooked perfectly.) 
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 5 (Our two breakfasts with coffee averaged less than $11.00 each)
Value: 5 (For breakfast I don’t know of many places nicer, more civilized, with better prices.)


I will definitely go back to a Hy-Vee Market Grill whenever I am in an area that has one. The food and service were awesome.


Hy-Vee Market Grill
9409 Zane Ave N
Brooklyn Park, MN 55443

Monday, September 3, 2018

Muddy Rudder – Yarmouth Maine - August 2018

Restaurant Review

It has been quite a while since I’ve been to the Muddy Rudder in Yarmouth, and even longer, nearly four years since I’ve reviewed the restaurant. My wife and I were recently returning from Bangor and stopped at the Muddy Rudder for lunch.


We arrived, quite intentionally, right after opening and were the first customers of the day.  We were immediately greeted and taken to a table by the windows with a picturesque view of the marsh and the Cousins River (tidal river).  


We decided to order an appetizer, the Rudder Chips, “House-fried potato chips topped with Parmesan cream, crumbled bacon, scallions, and your choice of shrimp or chicken.” We decided upon the chicken.

I decided on the Rudder Burger, “An 8oz Angus beef, blue cheese, onion rings, and house demi-glace.” I asked for medium and opted for a side of Onion Rings instead of French fries.

My wife chose the Steak Tips, “House bourbon marinade, mashed potatoes, and green beans” and asked for medium-rare.


Rudder Chips with Chicken - Excellent!
After a few minutes, the Rudder Chips arrived. They were like a meal themselves. I could have done without the chicken. The crumbled bacon was great; next time, instead of getting chicken or shrimp, maybe I’ll try to get them with extra bacon instead. I think that would be better. Knowing we still had food to come, we ate less than half of the order, then boxed it up to heat up at home.  It was excellent the next day as leftovers.   


The steak tips were very good, although more like the medium well side of medium. The mashed potatoes were creamy and delicious. Instead of green beans, the plate had asparagus. The meat was a bit chewier then she expected. 

My burger was presented nicely with plenty of lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, and meat. The demi-glace tasted more like a barbeque sauce than a traditional demi-glace. The burger itself was fine and the blue cheese component was delicious and added zest to an otherwise bland burger and plane bun. The onion rings were unremarkable. 

The service was excellent. As we ate our appetizer, the place filled up and our server was quite busy, but she, Molly, was attentive and efficient.


Ambiance: 4 (Clean and open, great for conversations.)
Food: 4 (A few minor hiccups, but excellent overall.) 
Service: 5 (Server was friendly and attentive.)
Price: 4 (Lunch was under $15 each, not including drinks or appetizer)
Value: 4 (Excellent place for lunch, classy yet casual..)


The Muddy Rudder is an excellent place for lunch. It dropped off the list of my favorite 3 restaurants in Maine but it certainly remains in my top 10. We both liked it and we will return.