Knockout ‘Norwegian’ Ribs???

I met a few friends at the Blue Moose in East Grand Forks recently. I previously sang its praises regarding mac and cheese and the Outlaw Burger but I had never tried the “Norwegian” BBQ ribs.

Norwegian BBQ Ribs

I ordered the BBQ rib taster appetizer and the insanely good spinach con queso. The ribs are billed as “Norwegian,” but I don’t know how it applies. All I know is they’re among the best ribs I’ve had in the area.

The sauce is a bit sweet, not spicy all. But there was quite a bit of meat on the bones and it fell off easily.

Properly cooked ribs are one thing, but a tasty sauce brings it over the top.

Also, try the gooey, cheesy spinach con queso with tortilla chips. It is one of the best appetizers I’ve ever had.

Spinach Con Queso

The red pepper in it and the garlic make it irresistible.

The Blue Moose Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Rhombus Guys Plan ‘Happy Hour Series’

The good fellows at Rhombus Guys in Grand Forks are starting a “Happy Hour Series” starting tomorrow. It’ll also be on the last Thursday of each month for the coming six months. It goes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For $15 you get two pints and some “great Rhombus food,” according to their Facebook page. The first beer is from the Fargo Beer Company. It’ll be their Woodchipper infused with ginger and lemongrass. Sounds tasty.

No idea what the food will be, but it’ll be good no doubt.

Summer Ale at JL

Also, over at JL Beers on Columbia, they just tapped Sam Adams’ Summer Ale. It has lemon peel and Grains of Paradise. Just thinking of those tasty burgers is making me hungry.

Corral Kerfuffle

The last post about Golden Corral was one of the top three entries in the history of the blog. There were also quite a few comments, mostly negative. I’ll try to get some more info on the expected opening date. As always, thanks for reading.

Saddle Up! Golden Corral Coming Back to GF? (UPDATED)

First Denny’s, now Golden Corral?

It seems the buffet on 32nd Ave. S. will be reopening soon. Re-branded as the “Iron Kettle,” the place shuttered in late February. A sign on the door said it was closed due to “required maintenance.” No idea what this maintenance could be or why it would take nearly two months, but it does indeed look like the Corral is coming back.

And a few recent job postings seem to confirm it. They’re looking to hire a hospitality manager, kitchen manager and general manager. I also got a tip from “Big Guy” that the restaurant was taken over either by Golden Corral corporate or a Texas franchisee, but I couldn’t confirm that on Tuesday.

The Grand Forks Denny’s also closed up shop, but recently a few jobs were posted and on the application it said the owners were looking to re-open.

Golden Corral received a warm welcome in the area, considering there are no other American-style food buffets in Grand Forks beside the Royal Fork and Ponderosa, which are both no longer.

Spaghetti

But ever since a few months after opening, I’ve heard horror story after horror story about the place. It also got the lowest sanitary rating from the Health Department late last year.

Customer reviews cite cold, dried-out food, mushy pasta and neglectful service. One diner said the employees were rude, silverware not out, dirty dishes and poor food selection. Out of 20 reviews on UrbanSpoon, Golden Corral got an average of 2 stars.

The only bright spot about the restaurant re-opening is that it means more jobs for those who need them. But other than that, color me unenthusiastic.

Buffets are always hit and miss, and I usually try to avoid them. But my recommendation for a good buffet in GF would be the Panda Buffet on Columbia Road. The normal Chinese food offerings are there and are usually tasty, but the real selling point is the big, circular grill tended to by an expert cook with just a wooden stick.

You can choose from fresh vegetables and frozen meats to add, along with any combination of sauces. The cook throws the ingredients on the screaming hot grill and slides them around until they’re cooked. This has got to be the best way to eat vegetables, piping hot and picking up some of the flavor of the grill. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, what do you think of the possible re-opening of Golden Corral? Were you a fan?

UPDATE:

A person who seems to be in the know adds this:

What happened is the people/person who had the franchise agreement for the 3 Golden Corral locations in ND (Bismarck, Fargo, GF) got in a dispute with Golden Corral Corporate and tried to operate outside of the franchise/corporate agreements and not follow Golden Corrals corporate requirements. So the franchise owner got mad and the stores were all reopened as the Iron Kettles, well the quality suffered big time without Golden Corral Corporate overseeing things and all 3 locations closed down shortly after. Golden Corral took the franchise owners to court and got the stores back because of the franchise/corporate agreements that the previous franchise owners viloated. So Golden Corral corporate is now reopening all 3 locations. Bismarck opened last month, Fargo end of this month and GF probably the end of May. So I will give the place another shot, because you should definitely see an improvement all around.

We’ll see what happens.

The Great ‘Juicy Lucy’ Debate

To say one version of a much-loved, local creation is bounds above another is dangerous. People have severely strong-held opinions on their favorite place. And there has been a debate brewing for years among those in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area about the best Juicy Lucy burger.

For the uninitiated, a Juicy Lucy is a normal cheeseburger, but with the cheese embedded inside the patty before cooking. The burger is fried on the flat-top, turning the cheese into a molten core.

There are two places in Minneapolis that claim to be the originator of the burger and they’re on the same street. Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club have been featured on national TV and in countless stories, making them both eternally busy, filled with fans looking for the Lucy.

The main difference in the burgers from Matt’s and 5-8 is that at 5-8, you can choose which type of cheese is nestled inside the meat. You can get the classic American cheese or have Amablu Blue, Pepper Jack or Swiss. At Matt’s, it’s only American.

5-8 Club Juicy Lucy

I was able to hit up the 5-8 Club last weekend and had (I’m ashamed to say) my first Juicy Lucy. Reggie has been raving about them for a while. I didn’t have time to try out Matt’s or any of the other places in the area that serve the burger, but I plan on trying as many as I can and keep a running tally of the best.

We went to the 5-8 at about 2:30 on a gloomy Sunday and the place was absolutely packed. It’s fairly small, but every seat was taken. We were forced to do takeout.

The 5-8 has sort of an Applebee’s-type decor, with kitschy stuff nailed to the walls. I’m told Matt’s is far more of a dive and even smaller than 5-8.

We ordered three Lucys and they were out surprisingly fast. As it was starting to rain, we drove looking for a sheltered area at a nearby lake. We found one and dug into the burgers and fries. But that short drive cost the burger dearly. It was no longer the piping hot perfection it is when you get it at the restaurant and eat it there. This was a mistake on our parts.

But beside the heat issue, there was also a taste issue.

I was thoroughly surprised at the lack of flavor of the meat and accompanying grilled onions we had added. I took a bite of the meat without the cheese and it seemed there was little, if any seasoning used. All a good burger needs is a bit of salt and pepper added while it cooks. Maybe some other type of seasoning like garlic powder or cajun spices to liven it up.

The grilled onions tasted similarly unseasoned. And the cheese looked like it was pushed to one side of the burger’s pocket, resulting in uneven bites.

The fries were also disappointing. They weren’t crispy and appeared to be of the frozen variety. Although for a place like 5-8 to hand-cut all their fries is a tall order with the amount of volume they do.

I don’t know if I had unrealistic expectations for my first Lucy experience, but I had hope it would have been better. But that’s not going to stop me from finding the best one. How can you not love a burger with a molten cheese core?!

I’ll be checking out the local Lucy at the Blue Moose, the Green Mill, El Roco, and Southgate soon.

Tons to Taste at Target Field

I spent last weekend in the Twin Cities and had some great stuff to eat, so expect this post and a few others to follow detailing what I found. I won’t go overboard, though, and we’ll be back to local cuisine soon.

Not being a huge baseball fan, the prospect of sitting for 3 hours or more on stiff plastic seats doesn’t sound that fun. But at Target Field in Minneapolis, there are so many things to eat, you would never need to actually watch a pitch. You could just eat your way around the concourse and stumble out of the gates at the end, clutching your stomach in over-stuffed agony.

But after grabbing the ubiquitous hot dog and finding my seat, I actually really enjoyed watching the Twins try their best against the Texas Rangers. And the stadium is beautiful. But let’s get to the food already.

Target Field Hot Dog

That aforementioned hot dog, a ball park staple across the country, was my first stop. And there are quite a few places to get a dog. Schweigert meats has a few different varieties like the Original Twins Dog, the Tenderbite which is a version made from the original recipe served at games in the ’60s, the Twins Big Dog (a monstrous quarter-pound dog), the Twins Dugout Dog which has “coarse ground pork and beef,” and the extra long Dinger Dog.

I got the original and loaded it up with relish, ketchup and deli mustard. The condiments came out of their dispensers quicker than I though they would, resulting in the messy photo. As for the actual dog, it was tasty but nothing really Earth-shattering. I didn’t really care for the bun, which was too big for the hot dog and seemed to be dusted with flour on the outside.

If you’re looking for other meats in tube form, check out Kramarczuk’s which offers Polish and Hungarian sausages made fresh daily. You can also get dogs and sausages at Hennepin Grille, Halsey’s Sausage Haus and Taste of Twins Territory. 

Also give the Bloody Mary at Hrbek’s a try. They’re a meal in a cocktail with garnishes like a pickle, pepper, olive, beef stick and two types of cheese.

Hrbek's Bloody Mary

Oh, and they’re $12 a pop. Bring plenty of dough to Target Field or any other stadium, for that matter.

Hrbek’s and The Town Ball Tavern are the two full-service restaurants in the stadium if you’re not looking to nosh on the many concessions.

At about the sixth inning, our stomachs were rumbling again, so we set out to find the Tony O’s Cuban sandwich cart. Named for former Twins player Tony Oliva, the Cuban sandwiches are quite large and feature ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese and pickles on a roll that’s flattened and crisped up on a panini press.

Tony O's Cuban Sandwich

I heard about the sandwich from a friend who gave it a glowing review and said it was a must-try. But I have to be honest: I was slightly disappointed. Yes, the bread is toasted perfectly and the cheese is warm and gooey, but the ham and pork don’t bring much to the ensemble. The pork tasted only a tiny tiny bit like smoke, but not like pork. The ham wasn’t much better than the store bought variety. And it needed a spicy, tangy kick that only yellow mustard could provide. It comes on a classic Cuban but was nowhere to be found on this version. There are a few places to pump some mustard on the sandwich around the concourse.

I could only put away so much, but when I’m back I’ll be trying some of these delicious offerings:

The Vincent Burger - Find it at the Hennepin Grille stands. It’s an Angus beef burger stuffed with braised short rib and smoked gouda cheese. Oh. my.

Bacon Sloppy Joe - A sesame bun is topped with ground beef, bacon, shredded pepper jack cheese and fried onions.

Señor Smoke’s - Empanadas, nachos, burritos and tacos.

There is definitely something for everyone to munch on at Target Field. Have you had something that was great at the game?

More info on Target Field concessions

Pizza Hut Unveils ‘Hot Dog Stuffed Crust’ Pie

I love it when restaurants feel the need to add an item to their menu that most would find at the very least odd in an effort to ramp up sales and bring in new customers. Remember Burger King home delivery that was tested? Well Pizza Hut has entered the fray with a head-scratcher of a pizza by bringing together two of Americans’ favorite foods.

Behold the Hot Dog Stuffed Crust pizza.

Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza

The monstrosity comes with “mustard drizzle” but unfortunately is not available in the U.S. and there are “no plans” to introduce it to us ever-larger Americans. Perhaps it’s for the best.

But I would jump at the chance to try it. Just to say I did.

Nutrition info isn’t available for the new pie yet, but ABC News reports that a slice of normal stuffed crust pizza has about 265 calories and 11.6 grams of fat. A hot dog has about 170 calories and 15 grams of fat. Add the two together and you have a cardiologists nightmare.

Would you give the Hot Dog Stuffed Crust pizza a try?

Anthony Bourdain Drops Tidbits About Upcoming Marilyn Hagerty Book

Chef, writer and TV personality Anthony Bourdain will be publishing a book from Marilyn Hagerty on his imprint Ecco Press, but we hadn’t heard anything about the book’s content. Bourdain, in an interview with Eater, dropped a few tidbits about the book.

Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain said it was his first instinct to laugh at the 85-year-old’s succinct review of the “long-awaited” Olive Garden, but after he found that she has worked at the Herald for so long and she writes five columns a week, he changed his tone, saying “That’s a woman who has been showing up at work and doing a job.”

He referenced in the interview a tweet he received saying that the Olive Garden was “the only restaurant that resembles an independently owned and operated Italian restaurant” within 150 miles. I think that the tweeter was misinformed. There is Giuseppe’s in Grand Forks and Mamma Maria’s in East Grand Forks to start. Not to mention other places in Fargo.

Anyway, on to what he said about the book.

Bourdain said he looked at the archive of Marilyn’s work and found the articles will tell “an amazing story.” He also said that there will be other material in the book about the changes that have come to restaurants she has reviewed in the past. Also, “What do they eat out there? I think it’s something we need as a reality check before we start talking down to people, which is our instinct. We are all too happy to tell people how they should or shouldn’t be eating.”

He also hints that there may be more writing from Marilyn. Not sure if Bourdain means he’s “commissioning some stuff” to supplement the other content or a whole separate book. We’ll have to wait and see.

“I’m also commissioning some stuff from her that explains what it’s like to be her and what it’s been like to do that job for thirty years. I think it’s going to be an important book. It may be charming, but it won’t be funny. We’re not laughing at this lady,” Bourdain said.

He also talked about Marilyn on CBS:

Hit and Miss at Whitey’s

The well-known and historic institution, Whitey’s in East Grand Forks, reopened late last year under new ownership and with a remodeled interior. The old management closed up after service and food slipped drastically. But there is still work to be done at the new Whitey’s.

The area near the iconic horseshoe bar has been remodeled, but has unfortunately lost its character. There’s a drab-looking “game room” next to the bar and I believe they took out a wall to open the dining area near the bar more open.

The area closer to the river used to be a back bar and had some booths, tables and chairs. It was a casual place to grab a beer. But now it’s been converted to a “fine dining” space with white tablecloths and no bar space. When a friend and I sidled in last weekend, we asked to be seated at the “back bar” but were told that it was all converted to fine dining. I was a little disappointed.

But we grabbed a side booth at the other end of the restaurant, lured in by the happy hour special of $2 domestic pints. Having had a few brews here a week prior, I quickly found the premium beers came with a premium price tag. But $2 for a pint of Bud Light is a good deal. Plus I had been wanting to try the new menu for months.

My first reaction at my perusal of the menu was that many items were severely overpriced.  For instance, the shrimp entree consists of five “succulent shrimp served deep-fried or grilled over rice pilaf with garlic lemon butter.” Five shrimp for a whopping $19.99. Granted, you get a choice of two sides including Au Gratin potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, baked potato, French fries, sweet potato fries, vegetable of the day, cottage cheese, rice pilaf, soup or house or Caesar salad.

Those sides also come with other entrees like the baby back ribs, stuffed pork chop, cedar plank grilled salmon, or the prime rib (served only Friday and Saturday).

Philly Cheese Steak

We were seated quickly. Service overall was fine, but could have been more attentive.

We ordered the mini mac, crab cakes and Philly cheese steak.

The food was out relatively fast and presentation was pretty good, but the Philly cheese steak sandwich could have looked better.

Digging in, we found the crab cakes to be mushy, on the inside and out. Ideally, there should be a slight crunch on the outside, with a nice warm, crabby inside. A good cake should also be coarse, with big lumps of crab. This iteration was mushy and over-seasoned with black pepper. The mayo concoction squirted over the cakes tasted of nothing and thus brought nothing to the dish. The corn, red pepper, green pepper and onion mix that was dolloped in between each crab cake was cold on the plate from the start and tasted exactly like one of those steam bags of vegetables you throw in the microwave but I hope I’m wrong on that.

The Philly cheese steak sandwich had very little cheese, the steak was a bit chewy and the whole thing was under-seasoned, but the fries that came with it were warm and crispy. They had a slightly sweet taste to them that I found odd but good.

The definite highlight of the entire meal was the mini mac, a smaller version of the mac and cheese entree. If you’ve had the mac and cheese at the Blue Moose, this one is very close to that. But the Whitey’s version brings bacon to the gooey goodness. The appetizer portion is surprisingly big. The dish packs a heavy hit of garlic in powder form, I believe. If that’s the case, it would be better if real garlic was used. Using garlic powder, or other dried or powdered spices, is a shortcut but it isn’t a deal breaker. The mac and cheese is definitely something to order again.

Mini Mac

I had high expectations for the new Whitey’s. Unfortunately I found there is still some work to do. I would go back just to explore the menu some more. But some of the charm of the place was lost in the remodel. I miss the dark wood and soft lighting. It seems the new Whitey’s is trying to be something it isn’t.

If prices were to come down, seasoning on the food checked and a few changes made to the interior, Whitey’s could draw diners for years to come. I really hope it does. Having a Whitey’s with a few areas to improve on is much better than having no Whitey’s at all.

Whitey’s Cafe / 121 Demers Avenue, East Grand Forks, MN / (218) 773-1221

Whitey's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Denny’s Looks to be Re-opening in Grand Forks

The vacant Denny’s location at 3770 32nd Ave S. in Grand Forks could soon see new life. According to numerous job postings, the company Classic Restaurants is planning on re-opening the place.

Denny's

The company owns Denny’s locations in Fargo, Bismarck, Minot and Sioux Falls and also the Ground Round in Bismarck, Fargo and Minot. They’re accepting resumes for restaurant managers and a kitchen manager in Grand Forks.

Denny’s closed on January 29 this year. The post about its closing was one of the most-read posts ever and the discussion about the place was huge. The overwhelming majority of people thought the closing was overdue, citing lacking food and service.

No word yet on when the restaurant will re-open.

Eat Here This Easter (Update)

No plans for Easter brunch? Well, here are a few options I’ve found on the Internet. I’m sure there are many more, so please add any you know of in the comments.

Easter brunch is probably my favorite thing about Easter, along with hard-boiled eggs and copious amounts of chocolate and jelly beans. Here are a few brunches I found.

Easter Brunch

The Easter Brunch Buffet at Whitey’s (218.773.1831) in East Grand Forks runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. There’s an assortment of salads like caprese and pasta, roast turkey, honey-glazed ham, mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing, biscuits and gravy, eggs, omelettes made to order, bacon, sausage, American fries and French toast.

All of that sounds pretty pretty good. I couldn’t find a price on their website, though. After reopening under new ownership, Whitey’s has tried for a more up-scale dining experience. They’ve gotten rid of the back bar and changed it to a formal dining room. The prices are pretty stiff on their regular menu, just to warn you, so the brunch buffet may come with a hefty bill.

Or check out the Easter Brunch at the Green Mill on Columbia Road (701-780-9000). The website says they were taking reservations, and seeing as it’s already Easter Eve, they may be full.

The menu includes assorted fresh pastries, muffins, doughnuts and “fresh homemade caramel rolls.” A “pecan Craisen spinach salad,” Caeser salad, “famous spinach dip,” fresh fruit, baked brie, apple-smoked bacon, jumbo sausage links, French toast, eggs Benedict, mashed potatoes, pizza, asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, chicken cordon bleu, bourbon-glazed grilled salmon, garlic shrimp fettuccine, honey-baked ham, prime rib, kid’s menu items and assorted desserts. That’s basically something for everyone. I would go for the prime rib.

Update 6:30 p.m. Saturday

A few of your have been weighing in on other places to enjoy brunch this Easter Sunday. “Chef Alex” says that brunch at Canad Inn is divided between two restaurants: “Aalto’s and L’Bistro are holiday-specific menus that have been tailored to local tastes by our executive chef.”

Alex continues: “The menu is vast and prepared fresh, including a separate dessert buffet.”

Dessert buffet!? Yes!

Also, another person said that there is a brunch buffet at Howard Johnson’s in Grand Forks, too.

Keep the other ideas for a tasty brunch coming!