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BBQ Shroom

Before leaving the STL I had time to hit an old favorite, Sugarfire BBQ, now with a location downtown. I’ve never had anything here other than the phenomenal staples of brisket and ribs. 

But in keeping with Lent, it seemed like the perfect time to try the highly regarded portobello mushroom sandwich. 

What a delicious, hearty meal, reinvigorating my meatless juices and the knowledge that yes, you can take a serious break from meat without sacrificing flavor and culinary excitement. 

First off, it was huge, with a toasted middle bun. The two round, thick mushrooms were large enough to cover the entire bun and were dripping with juices and a smoky BBQ flavor, a signature of great BBQ. 

Add the pickles covered in the house special sauce, melted cheddar cheese,  lettuce and grilled onions, and you’ve got a fantastic sandwich I’d order anytime. 

The augratin-style potatoes were solid but I like their fries more, which my buddy Jake got to compliment his ribs. 

Sugarfire

605 Washington Avenue, St Louis, MO, 63101. 314-394-1720.



I’m baaack..

Well friends and loyal followers, after taking a long break to get my groove back, I’m back. And I’m bringing my new titanium hip and healthy appetite with me. Tonight I find myself spending the evening at the Marriott Grand in lovely downtown St Louie..

While I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately I thought I’d stay put and try the hotel’s slick looking lobby restaurant bar, Zenia. 

In the spirit of trying to keep up with a meatless Greek Lent, I went with the tuna and avocado tartar. It was fantastic. Larger than I expected with a perfect ratio of light dipping chips to tuna. The last chip hosted the last chunk of fresh red tuna and creamy avocado. We all know the sad feeling of finishing the appetizer with half the chips still left. Not tonight in downtown St Louis. 

The Caesar salad was fresh and flavorful, with crunchy croutons and a half dozen anchovies packing a zesty but not overpowering punch. 

Zenia Bar and Grille, Marriott Grand Hotel, 800 Washington Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63101.  314-621-9600



Fire Wings

Watching the boy at one of his first practices on the FIRE youth team (I’m so proud), and the FIRE Pitch on Chicago’s north side is showing off its new restaurant, Heineken Pub 97.  

I’m a sucker for any place that offers Heineken on tap and figured my inaugural practice viewing food should come from the left side of the menu. 

12 wings, buffalo style, with a side of ranch and blue cheese. A fresh tasting wing with solid flavor, not breaded nor covered with too much sauce. 

A fine light meal on their outdoor patio with a great view of all their pitches. 

Enjoy the peaceful patio along the river and away from traffic while the weather lasts. I will. 

Heineken Pub 97 at the Private Bank FIRE Pitch, 3626 N Talman, Chicago, IL  60618, 773.327.3473


Fast Casual Indian

I’m in Cleveland this week and came across a wonderful little fast casual restaurant specializing in Indian. 

For those who haven’t given Indian food the chance it deserves, this place would undoubtedly change your mind. Suburban Cleveland is the first location for Choolaah and I can only hope that new spots opening soon in Pittsburgh and Fairfax portend huge things to come. 

Watch out Chipotle, Panera and fast fired pizza concepts. This place could pass all ya’ll. 

Choolaah Indian BBQ, 27100 Chagrin Blvd, Orange Village, OH 44122. 844-728-8731. 

Chicken plate with white rice, veggie masala soup/sauce and wheat naan bread. All outstanding:


HOLA MN!

Well here I am back in one of my favorite cities. The Minneapolis food scene NEVER disappoints. There are so many hot and popular restaurant choices and tonight I settled on Hola Arepa. 

Their menu has over a dozen options celebrating the arepa, Latin cornmeal cakes filled with meat, cheese and other ingredients. 

I got the Chimichurri Chicken which included tomatoes, Chimichurri sauce, greens and aioli verde. All the flavors worked so well together but the most amazing part of this meal were the freshly cooked arepa griddle cakes which create the sandwich. Along with the yuca fries, the sandwich was absolutely bursting with flavor.

My friend Jordan got the Cuban arepa which looked phenomenal. I’d love to go back and try this one next. A great vibe both in the restaurant, at its bar made out of what looked like reclaimed wood, and several tables outside.

Hola Arepa is a perfect example of what’s so great about the Minneapolis food scene. Delicious, thoughtfully created dishes playing on the staples of a centuries-old cuisine, in a lively and fun setting.

Hola Arepa, 3501 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55408, 612-345-5583

http://www.holaarepa.com

@holaarepa



Masterpiece Burger

Working in Louisville this week but all work and no play makes Billy a dull boy. Nothing dull about this bad boy at The Mussel and Burger Bar. 

I’m a sucker for Gruyere so even with the multitude of well thought out burger creations I jumped all over the C.E.O. burger. It was bursting with flavors, succulent and juicy with great quality beef cooked perfectly at medium temp. One of the best burgers I’ve had in recent memory. 

C.E.O. Burger:  Gruyere Cheese, truffle aioli, caramelized onions, baby arugula and oven roasted tomatoes; steak truffle fries. W/out Foie Gras $16.99 W/Foie Gras add $7.50

I passed on the Foie Gras..


Mussel and Burger Bar, 113 S 7th St, Louisville, KY 40202

It’s Yummy Dummy

The food truck scene continues to be one of the nicest culinary experiences Chicago has to offer, especially for those who work downtown. 

I got to experience Yum Dum food truck’s  offerings this week and it was just as good as I had heard. 

I tried several truck specialities, including the chicken and pork steamed dumplings, the Korean chili chicken baowich and crispy shrimp baowich, and the best of them all, the Kimcheesy rice ball. I’d search this truck out just for the rice balls. 

www.yumdumtruck.com



LOVE the Kimcheesy Rice Balls.  

Cheddar jack cheese, house kimchi, jalapenos and scallions topped with jalapeno sriracha mayo and cilantro.

GYST Fermentation

It’s official..Minneapolis is one great restaurant city. After having the chance to sample several creative and unique menus, I now see why some our calling this the hottest new restaurant town in the U.S.

No other restaurant exemplifies the spirit of the city’s gastronomic identity better than GYST Fermentation Bar in the city’s Whittier neighborhood. From its peanut butter and cabbage kimchi to its motherboard of cheeses, meats, olives and fermented vegetables, sisters and owners Ki and Mel Guse also feature wines from family run vineyards they discovered in France, Slovenia and the Black Sea Republic of Georgia. 

Fermentation isn’t an experiment. We eat fermented foods every day..bread, cheese, yoghurt, chocolate, beer, coffee to name a few. 

As owner Mel says, “Preservation has now become innovation.”

GYST, 25 E 26th St, Minneapolis, MN 55404

Gorgeous and delicious motherboard of cheeses, meats, olives and fermented vegetables:


Can’t beat the price

You won’t find me reviewing many chain restaurants, or even spending much time in them, but I used to go to the first Kona Grill in Phoenix before they took their act on the road. 

Half the menu is still solid quality sushi, with a lot of options. It’s great tasting at their normal price, but at massive Happy Hour slashed deals, I’ll pretend I’m still eating at the one and only. 

Kona Grill, 11997 Singletree Lane, Eden Prairie, MN  55344

Checkerboard Roll:  Habanero, tuna mix, avocado, asparagus, tuna, yellowtail, spicy motoyaki sauce.

Only $8.50 during 6-7p Happy Hour (normally $13.50).  They also offer half priced bottles of wine on every bottle on the menu. 

Excelsior the Excellent

Continuing our work in different parts of the Twin Cities metro area, Sara, Dave and I found ourselves in Excelsior, a Minny suburb in the upscale and picturesque Lake Minnetonka region. 

I loved the look of the farm to table menu at Coalition. Once inside, I just as much loved how they utilized the space in a decades-old brick building with hand decorated ceilings. 

Now I like a grilled cheese as much as the next bloke, and the menu looked so appetizing I figured they’d have to do a good job on such a trendy staple. 

Trapped in the melted combo of white cheddar and baby Swiss was peppered bacon, tomato and a very soft oatmeal wheat bread. It was excellent.

227 Eater Street, Excelsior, MN 55331


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