Burger Jones First Impression

Tammy, Mazie and I joined my sister-in-law Angie, Mazie’s cousin Nora and Grandma Olson for lunch at Burger Jones today. We’d been meaning to try out Burger Jones since before it even opened and this was our first opportunity.

Burger Jones

First impression was good, but unfortunately the whole experience just stayed there at just good. I got a burger because, hey, you’re at Burger Jones. I ordered the burger medium, but it came well without any pink at all. It was a pretty uninspiring burger and I would take a burger of my own off of the Big Green Egg most any day. We also tried the cheese curds as they were supposed to be very good. They were pretty good, when they had cheese in them. The way they were prepared made a lot of the cheese come out of the breading. Mazie and I decided to give the Nutella Malt a try and it was good, but how can you do a malt wrong. Lastly everyone split the stack of fries trying the regular fries, sweet potato fries (my absolute favorite) and waffle-cheese fry. The sweet potato fries seemed like they came right off of a Sysco truck and into a fryer. Another yawn.

For the cost, I would have expected something better. It was all fine, and everyone left happy, but there wasn’t anything about the food that left me wanting to return quickly.

Kopplin's Coffee

kopplins_logo.jpgI’ve been doing plenty of complaining lately about coffee shops that are so inept that they cannot serve a passable shot of espresso. Note, I’m not complaining about the use of an automated espresso machine. I use an automated machine at home. I’m not that high maintenance. No, I’m vocal about putting 1 to 2 ounces of espresso in a 16 ounce paper cup. Or not even knowing what it is to just order an espresso. I recently suggested legislation to remedy this and Peter Vader commented about Kopplin’s Coffee and suggested I should try it.

With this sturdy recommendation I asked my neighbor and coffee connoisseur Mike if he wanted to join me and drive over there, about 30 minutes one way, to give this place a try. Obviously I’m not going to make a habit of driving 30 minutes to get a coffee, but if it really was special I thought it would be fun to try.

Kopplin’s is totally unassuming. It seemed like a simple, notably small, coffee shop with a few laptops open and a couple of people chatting at tables. The guy behind the counter was the owner, Andrew Kopplin, although I didn’t know that until I looked at the newspaper clipping on the wall with his picture in it. The first thing I noticed at Kopplin’s were the two Clover machines on the counter.

images.jpegI knew a little about the Clover from a thread that had spread around the Internet a while back. Mainly, I knew they were $11,000 coffee machines. Not espresso machines, but single batch brewed coffee. Check out this video of the Clover in action to see what this is all about. There was a very big hubbub when Starbucks bought them [nofollow link] in a desperate grasp for authenticity and coffee that tastes less horrible. To be clear, I’m no fan of brew, but I had to give this a try. We ordered a 16 ounce pot of the Guatemalan and gave it a try.

It was really good coffee. Extremely smooth. But, it was still brew. I enjoyed it, but the taste wasn’t what I like. For those that love brew, the Clover is probably a gift from the heavens. For me, the $11,000 is lost.

Onto the real reason for the trip, to give their espresso a go. In short, it’s about the best espresso that I’ve gotten in a coffee shop in town. It is incredibly deep with a very thick crema. The service is perfect, in an appropriately sized ceramic cup that has been preheated for a while on the top of the espresso machine. Kapplin’s seems to do a very fine grind, and the resulting espresso just drips into the glass.

We chatted with Kopplin himself for a little bit and he’s a really cool guy. Very nice, obviously knows his stuff. I give him huge respect for being in his mid-20′s and opening up his own place and making that all happen. And on top of making great coffee he is sourcing local ingredients, and even using milk from grass fed cows in his drinks! I don’t think you can go wrong with a trip to Kopplin’s.

Kopplin’s was named Best Barista by City Pages, listed as Ultimate Brew in Twin Cities Business and has great reviews on Yelp.

And last but not least, I really dig the logo.

First ALT.NET Meetup

altnet2_small.pngI received an email this morning from Ira Mitchell clueing me in on a group that Freemind is helping get going called ALT.NET. The first thing I noticed was that they have a really cool Minneapolis-inspired logo for the group and then I started trying to figure out what it was all about. From the ALT.NET site:

At it’s purest, the driving force behind the ALT.NET developer community may be described simply as “The pursuit of happiness.” While Microsoft has provided developers with a powerful framework and a bunch of very good tools and packages to build upon, it often feels like too much effort was put into a “one-size-fits-all” design philosophy that can make it complex, tedious, or just plain impossible to do things that don’t follow Microsoft’s prescribed approach.

With other development platforms and languages offering so much choice (Java and it’s many quality open source offerings) and elegance (Ruby on Rails with its “beautiful” code and “convention over configuration” philosophy), .NET developers longed to craft cleaner, more elegant solutions without having to leave a framework that has so much to offer.

ALT.NET is about following your own beliefs about application design, and using the .NET platform to support your ideas, rather than retro-fitting your ideas to the platform.

Sounds cool! The first meet-up is at The Bulldog NE, the same place where people meet before Ruby Users of Minnesota meetings. Check it out; the beer will be good, the food will be good and hanging out with hip people working with cool technology will be good as well.

Al's Breakfast

A few days ago I got a hankering for hash browns. It seems most breakfast places have moved to potato wedges which are a far, far cry from hash browns as they were intended to be. I was thinking hash browns, and got thinking about Al’s Breakfast. It had been a few years since I had been to this college mainstay so I emailed Jim and Kent to see if they wanted to hit Al’s for breakfast before work soon. Off we went!

It turns out that this was a big trip to Al’s. Jim had never been and had wanted to go for years and years. Kent wasn’t sure if he had been there. He thought no but let’s just say his recollection was foggy. We all had a great breakfast. I couldn’t resist ordering a single “whole wheat wally black” and one of their great omelets. And of course, with a side of hash browns.

Aside from the food, the place is a total dive. :-)

Fugaise Restaurant

Fugaise-Restaurant.pngTammy and I just got back from a fabulous evening out. We were invited to join our friends across the street, and a number of other folks, at Fugaise to celebrate his 40th birthday. It was a wonderful evening and we met some cool new people. However, it was also my first trip to this great Minneapolis restaurant.

If you want to cut to the chase, just stop reading and go there. The food was impeccable. We had a large group so the menus was set with options. I had a great salad with a variety of flavors that just kept you guessing. The main dish was one of the best beef tenderloins I’ve ever had. The meat was fabulous and prepared perfect. The mashed potatoes had this amazing consistency. It was all followed with a Toffee Bread Pudding with Ice Cream that was stunning with every bite. After the great dinner Chef Don Saunders came out and said hi. A very nice touch.

The restaurant was more relaxed than I expected. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I figured it would be a bit more stuffy. Not at all, jeans welcome, but no t-shirt. The layout of the dining room was cool and the way you enter makes it sort of a reveal.

I highly recommend Fugaise for a special night out, or just any night you want some exceptional food.

Butter Bakery

Tammy and I checked out a new restaurant this weekend. Butter Bakery is in south Minneapolis and serves a brunch menu as well as traditional baked goods and coffee. We had lunch there on Saturday and the food was so good we returned for breakfast on Sunday.

The bakery items are all great. However, most notable was the pancakes. I have no idea what they do to their pancakes but they are amazing. They are gooey, and incredibly flavorful. Go there, and get some pancakes!

Yum Kitchen and Bakery

Continuing my trend of mentioning new restaurants that we really like I would be remiss without highlighting Yum Kitchen and Bakery [mentioned at The Rake]. Before you go looking for a website, it seems they do not have one yet. They are very new, but it”s a bit shocking to me that they do not have a website. Luckily though they have great food.

We tried it out today and it was very good. It’s a very interesting deli/bakery kind of setup. The inside is designed in an interesting way — you order food in one place, get beverages in another, pay in another. Now that I think of it, kind of like a cafeteria. Don”t let that worry you though!

We had the chicken chili and it was very good. I also have been on some odd trip to find really good macaroni and cheese. I”m pleased to say, theirs is very good. Last but not least, the desert counter is pretty amazing. Definitely worth a visit!

Salut and Ravello

We stopped by two new restaurants yesterday and were happy with both. We had lunch at Salut in Minneapolis, at the 50th and France area. Salut is a fairly new French bistro. Don’t let the French part scare you off — they have an extremely approachable menu. It’s owned by the same people that own Manny’s (my favorite steakhouse!), Chino Lationa, Good Earth, etc. so you can rest assured that it’s going to be at least passable.

We entered the restaurant and I was shocked by it’s size. Much bigger inside than I expected from the outside. The menu was very good. Tammy and I had a glass of the Riesling. Wine at lunch? Sure, we’re on vacation! It was great. I had the steak frites for my lunch and Tammy had the steak sandwich. My tenderloin was amazing, and the frites were equally impressive. Highly recommend this place.

We then had dinner with our friends Jim and Suzie at Ravello. We ended up here because of a recommendation from a friend at the office, and really liked it. It’s in Long Lake so a bit of a drive unless you live in the western suburbs. They have a nice wine menu, and the lamb shank was delicious.

Restaurant: Naar Grille

Tammy and I went to our first movie since Mazie was born today. We saw Walk the Line if you are interested (and yes, it was very good). We also went to a new restaurant for lunch before the movie. We tried out Naar Grille. They opened up about 2 weeks ago. If location really matters I worry for them. They are not in an ideal location, there is no major road with people zipping by. The food however was very good. We went on Sunday which we did not know was buffet only, but it was quiet tasty.

The food is billed as Mediterranean fare. The gyros were very good, and everything looked tasty. I’d encourage people to give it a try – particularly if you like this cuisine.