Greeting Text

Following twenty years of farmer's markets selling locally grown vegetables, native fruits, and local honey Linda created Marianne's Kitchen in Shoreview, MN, an oasis of good food, conversation and laughter in a suburban food desert. Operating from 2011-2017 the cafe offered home made soups, fresh bread baked daily, great sandwiches and treats and a complete line of gluten-free soups, pickled products, jams, jellies, salsas and locally sourced soups, honey and grains.

The Marianne's Kitchen of sharing, conversation, and learning continues with ongoing commentary, food reviews and food finds as we grow, cook and eat our food and sample local restaurants.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Pho 400...absolutely wonderful lunch

Becoming a favorite spot....

We started with strong Vietnamese coffee.  Opt for the version with sweetened condensed milk which provides a rich, smooth flavor.

A pork Banh Mi and an egg roll Bun salad were our menu choices today at Pho 400 in New Brighton.

The Banh Mi sandwich roll, even though it comes from a frozen bag, is one of my favorites.  Chewy, crusty, and with great texture, it's a wonderful match-up for the pork, jalapeno, cukes, pickled carrots and daikon, and fresh cilantro that create the #65 Banh Mi at Pho 400.  Today, it was baked a little longer---giving it a some extra crunch.

The egg rolls on the Bun salad have a great chewiness in the egg roll wrapper and are filled with abundant ingredients...John says BIG EGG ROLLS - 30% BIGGER THAN MOST BUN SALAD EGG ROLLS.   (he shared the 8th piece with me--after he'd eaten the ingredients from that last beautiful piece).  But the wrappers are flavorful in addition to that great chewiness.  John couldn't finish the whole salad....just too big.   But the daikon slaw was crunchy, along with the peanuts, with tasty noodles, just enough sprouts, cilantro and tasty fish sauce, of course.

From our previous visits we will also recommend the pork chop with broken rice.

Our only negative....they need to put the forks in the table racks with the tines comply with MN food code.

Always busy with business people at lunch time, lots of orders of pho coming from the kitchen today.   Last time we were there, the most tidy pho eater I have ever seen was in the next booth.  I don't think he dripped or dropped anything as he consumed his bowl of pho with all the fixings.  Now that is a skill I'd love to acquire : )

4.5 out of 5 stars for our lunch today.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sun Street Breads ... 46th & Nicollet

ohhh, it's such a haul from Shoreview to Sun Street Breads...on the other side of 35W south of downtown the 46th Street exit...sooooo hungry by the time we arrive.

Giving you our take on dining places involves some sacrifice (next time, we'll pack a lunch on the way).

I enjoyed a rye breakfast pastry from Sun Street a few weeks ago, so thought it was worth checking the place out.  The end of a strip mall with really tight parking (the fender bender an hour kind of parking--reminds me of many places in Chicago)...but we lucked out and scored the spot by the front door!

Transforming a strip mall space into a pleasant experience takes some effort---here, the floor is sheets of plywood, with some wood in the ceiling as well to dampen the noise.  A peninsula jutting out into the dining space breaks it into a more 'friendly' dining experience.
Sun Street Breads Marianne's Kitchen

The bakery display is focused---space behind the counter with a limited selection of breads; a glass front one-level display of  a turnover, a chocolate cherry round, a cinnamon creation shaped like a large muffin but in a sophisticated style.  We were too late for whatever had held the other space this morning.

Order at the counter from the menus that hang to your right.  John chose the porketta sandwich with salad with boiled apple dressing.  I asked about veggie-heavy choices, and the biscuit royale was recommended (actually, on later review, there were more veggies on other dishes).  The biscuit royale is a Swiss and mushroom filled crepe, folded and placed open face on a house-make square biscuit and then topped with steamed kale (the menu says mustard greens, but the cashier responsibly said kale was the green today).

A cold brew from Dogwood coffee and a an apple turnover rounded out the meal.

Sun Street Breads Marianne's KitchenThe service was quick and two attractive plates appeared at our table.   Then, the experience went in different directions.  My biscuit royale was attractive and tasty.   The kale was perfectly steamed, and for the most part, the filled crepe was tasty and luxurious.   

Oddly, half way through, we started to get a strong lemon flavor.   We don't know if it was part of the crepe batter...but it was clearly present in only 1/2 of the dish.   The biscuit was light and tender.  Overall, I was pleased with my choice and would recommend it.  Rating:  4 of 5 stars.

Sun Street Breads Marianne's KitchenJohn did not fare as well.    His 'porketta' really had no semblance of the essence of porketta.   Having purchased a lot of porkettas at various meat markets around the state and having created my own porkettas from scratch numerous times, the hallmark of porketta is a flavor explosion of herbs and spices and tender moist pork.   

Sun Street porketta totally missed it here.  Dry, stringy unseasoned flavorless pork does not a porketta make.  Top it with a really unremarkable slaw and you have the makings of a totally forgettable lunch experience.   The boiled apple dressing on the salad was nearly undetectable--and didn't seem to have any reason to be paired with corn and black beans.  Our answer was to figure out that the large pieces of romaine in the salad had some taste of we ate each bite of sandwich with a piece of 'dressed' romaine to get the acid that was so sorely needed in the sandwich.  While the white 'hot dog style' bun was nicely toasted, overall this was a big miss--2 out of 5 stars would be a generous rating.

Finally, having ordered cold brew or cold press coffee everywhere I've been, I believe that Dogwood Coffee is not for me.   I haven't been pleased with a single cold-brewed coffee that started with Dogwood.  I think I'll save my $3-$4 and not order a Dogwood cold brew.  None has been agreeable-tasting.

The turnover had a nice tart apple filling, good pastry layers, and a crispy and sugary exterior.   We'd rate this pastry a 4..and I would give the same rating to the rye pastry I had several weeks ago.

Final verdict:   a little over 3 stars for the overall experience.  The prices were a bit high for what was served, the biscuit royale could have used a garnish or small piece of fruit to offset the cheesiness, and the porketta sandwich should be reworked.  

It's a long drive from here to there.....if you're in the area, stop by and pick up some pastries or a quick lunch.  Don't drive from Shoreview for the experience.

Thai Street Market...Oh Yes!!!

Niw is new at the restaurant biz...and from what we saw today, we hope he stays in the restaurant business for a long, long time!!!
Thai Street Market Marianne's Kitchen

Thai Street Market, owned by Niw and his family (located in the old Princess Garden space) on Rice and Larpenteur opened January 1.   Let's just say...we are happy, happy.

Lucky for us, Niw's deal on an Anoka spot fell through.  At the same time, the Princess Garden space was available and his family took the leap into St. Paul.  Some people told him he was crazy---this neighborhood has had more than its share of issues in recent years (I used to live in the apartment building right behind the mall--I'm familiar).  But the City Council has already arrived on the scene, with their new revitalization plan for the corner.  Mayor Carter has been in for a visit, too.   And Niw, who just finished a mission in Thailand, sees this as his next mission in life...such a great outlook.

Niw's positive vibes clearly reverberate at Thai Street Market.  The menu is focused (not the pages and pages and pages of endless dishes found elsewhere) with an eye toward a selection of dishes that they can proudly serve.  Soothing music creates the backdrop for a wonderful meal.

Thai Street Market Marianne's KitchenOur flavor adventure began with the fresh spring rolls (a surefire cure to the weather outside).  Colorful & beautifully presented, we thoroughly enjoyed the multiple layers of flavor in the peanut sauce.  Excellent.

Decision time.....too many choices - at least 4 that we wanted to try right away.   We decided 2 would do (we really could have had one and been totally satisfied).

Thai Street Market Marianne's KitchenLaab salad had minced chicken, red onion, herbs, ginger, served on lettuce.  We selected 'medium' spicing.  We'd recommend that if you don't like spice, stick with mild.  This has quite a bit of hot pepper with some 'bite' from the fresh ginger, but not over the top.  Zingy, crisp, flavor-filled...this is one of those dishes that makes it hard to stop eating it.  

Thai Street Market Marianne's KitchenIt was a toss-up between the basil stir fry and the massaman curry.   We went for the curry (our server later said that she loves the basil stir fry---something for our next visit)...tofu, attractively 'styled' potato (a very nice detail), tomato, chickpeas, in a tasty curry sauce served with excellent rice.  We went with 'medium' on this, too, but the medium here was quite tame.  Our sincere effort to finish the serving failed, so it's calling us from the refrigerator--along with a new little box of rice that the server provided, and some of the delish laab salad.  It was balanced and well-prepared.

Our annoying sermon on supporting family-owned biz goes for Thai Street spades.   Here's a great family who came to Minnesota (from Florida via Thailand) because they found the people here to really be 'nice'.   They've taken on a mission to improve the neighborhood where they've started their restaurant and they're holding up their end of the bargain by providing great-tasting food, reasonably priced.  Give them your support.

We say:   Eat at Thai Street Market!!!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ze's Diner in Woodbury; Lamb Shank & Meatloaf 2/17/18

Variability in restaurant service and quality isn't really a good thing.   But, as you know, we recommend you try a place twice to see what it's really about.  Such was the case with Ze's Diner in Woodbury.

On a frigid December Sunday morning, we headed out to Ze's using a ridiculously bad GPS location device.   It was like wandering in the desert, only with the defroster and heat running on high in the car, for miles and miles through look alike housing developments on curved suburban streets.  Soon we thought it was about time to put out a flare and wait for a St. Bernard with a flask to show up, drool on us, and give us a strong shot of something to get the blood running in our veins.

Turns out it's not really that hard to find--after all, there are only a couple of main drags in Woodbury, and it sits just south of the intersection of 2 of them.  We threw the GPS device away : )

Our first visit to Ze's was about as good as the drive to get there.  The place was packed and we got the last 2 open seats.  But of course that's bad--the last 2 seats...the last 2 seats to have a server find us, the last 2 seats to get a beverage, the last 2 seats to ever, ever, ever get food.  On that visit, we couldn't figure out which was longer...the circuitous drive or the wait for breakfast.   Still not sure.  

On visit #1, we weren't impressed.   We waited forever and the food was skimpy.  John had falafel....well, he had 2 small falafel that required a search almost as long as the drive to get there.   My salad was...not good.  

But we had a nice chat with the manager who apologized and encouraged us to return.

So, we gave it a shot...after noon on Saturday...a little more time for them to focus rather than feed the clamoring hoards. (It looks like the place where most people order either a giant burger with a mound of fries that no one should every eat, or something egg with a portion of hashbrowns destined to cause a coronary before you leave the parking lot but just after you've exited the front door---that's planning!!)

The experiences were like night and day.

We took the direct route (Valley Creek to Woodbury Drive) and plopped ourselves into a parking spot close to the door.  The place was only about 1/3 full, so were seated immediately, and our friendly server (a great server personality) brought drinks and water.

Having learned a few things over the years about restaurants, we perused the menu differently.   We looked at the items featured by the house...and gave them a shot!

Lamb shank was my choice; John quizzed the server and in his toss-up between pot roast and meatloaf, went with the server's meatloaf suggestion.  We pondered the relatively new 'tender teres major' breakfast, but only knew that the teres muscle in humans connects your scapula with your humerus....but, upon later investigation & reflection, turns out to be a tender steak cut from the shoulder.  This gives us a reason to return and give it a try.  This might have been a case where we should have trusted our great server's first recommendation.

The wait for the food was still annoyingly long, given the scarcity of bodies in the place, but not too annoying long.

The giant bowl with the lamb shank  and giant plate with meatloaf, grilled veggies, mashed potatoes & gravy (potato choice on this entree) appeared, delivered by our perky server.  Very ample portions---you could probably share either one, adding a cup of soup or small salad for a really complete meal (or, there is that dessert thing!).  Both were accompanied by breaksticks that weren't very attractive, but were better than we expected.

My lamb shank was delicious.   My favorite lamb shanks are generally on the buffet at Marina Grill & Deli on University & Lowry (Chef Adel)....always fabulous.   I'll have to say, Ze's gave Adel a run for his money.  This was a large lamb shank served on a bed of mashed potatoes and a nicely herbed gravy full of carrots that hadn't been cooked to mush.  Moist, tender, meaty.   My portion served me, gave John a few good-sized forks-full, leaving us enough for a meal at home later.

John was not quite as enthused about his meatloaf.  He felt it was a bit fatty, with average flavor.  But we both felt that the veggies (which probably started out in a freezer bag) were nicely browned on the grill to give them a little char while leaving them with good improvement over the starting product.  I liked the nice crusty end on one of the pieces of meatloaf (2 nice portions were served), and the gravy was certainly adequate in flavor and quantity (and different from the lamb shank gravy).  Half of that meal traveled home with us as well.

So we'd rate the lamb shank 4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars....clearly the best thing we tried in our 2 visits.  John gave his meatloaf 3 out 5 stars.  The server gets a 4.5 for cheerful, positive interaction, pleasing style, and great smile.  So overall, 3.5 - 4 stars on this visit to Ze's in Woodbury...a big improvement over our previous visit...and without the annoying wandering GPS.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Catfish & More At Gramsky's << We are going back!

Not a catfish fan? ...or don't know if you like catfish?

Trust us...go to Gramsky's and order the catfish, you'll never have to eat catfish elsewhere. This the best ever!! Go there on Taco Tuesday and you'll have to choose between catfish and the giant taco in the house deep-fried shell!

Wow...another and daughter restaurant---we have a certain fondness for that!  Jeannette Nevilles and daughter Kersten (sp?, sorry) run a catering and 'sandwich' place on Edinburgh Drive in Brooklyn Park (north of 694 off easy drive from Shoreview).  If you find Fat Nat's, you're very close---go around the corner of that mall and enter the next mall to the north (between the Asian and Cajun places).

Jeannette started her business at Kindred Kitchen...the incubator for so many budding chefs who bring their goodness to the public.

Now in Brooklyn Park for 2 years, Jeannette and her daughter have some killer menu items.   First, you're greeted with free cookies (they have an in-house baker---do try any cake in the case).   The menu suspended near the register lists croissant sandwich choices, hot grinder (you have to call the day before to get that), burgers, catfish or catfish & wings platter, pork tenderloin, tacos (beef, chicken, or catfish), patty melt and more.

James Norton of the Heavy Table visited & one of his companions said the catfish reminded him of his childhood in Iowa...taking home river catfish  and frying it up that night...he described Jeannette's as "the best catfish he'd had in the last 38 years."  It's really good.

Our serving of catfish was 2 giant portions---more than we could consume.   Served with fries (they're fine--but who needs them when you have catfish) and a shiny crescent roll.  Did I say it's really good?  

John perused the menu over and over trying to decide...and finally settled on the patty melt (within a second he saw the $6.99 burger special & had a moment of Norwegian apoplexy--stick with the patty melt/change to the burger--it almost turned his hair white).   I was hoping he'd opt for the croissant with the house-made basil sauce because I really, really, really wanted to try it.

John thoroughly enjoyed his patty melt...on grilled bread with red onion.  We loved the bread, but the meat was the star.   We rarely eat hamburgers. Feedlot cows just don't cut it.  John was ready to shake down Jeannette  for her meat source because it had that missing ingredient in most hamburgers...flavor.  

This was a lucky day.  Jeannette came over to our table to chat. I asked her about the basil sauce---she disappeared into the kitchen and gave some to John (close fork has a long reach...a little dollop for his patty melt and a big dollop for me : ).

Here's a secret---skip the tartar sauce and buy a side of basil sauce (a mayo based sauce with spices and basil).  Use it sparingly on your catfish---one bite plain, one bite with sauce...just enough to make your meal over-the-top fantastic.

With no room for dessert we grabbed a piece of German chocolate cake to bring home.  Not to be skipped, the moist, rich cake with coconut and pecans was excellent.

Jeannette does a ton of catering.  We're going to create our own event just to order from the catering-only menu---collards with ham hock, sweet potato custard, mac & cheese, baked chicken entree.  This is reason enough for a party.  Mason jar desserts are also on the catering-only menu--otherwise they're available during the summer on the every day menu.

Note:  if you're going to Gramsky's, plan it one day ahead.  Call them and order the hot Italian grinder (James Norton suggests that you show up at the appointed time, and you'll get a perfect, non-soggy hot sandwich) or try one of their special days, like Taco Tuesday.   

A trip to Gramsky's to sample the unique and high-quality, made-from-scratch menu is well worth the effort.  Their hard work and 60+ hour weeks deserve patronage...don't forget the tip jar!!

We'd give 'em 4 out of 5 stars for the quality and flavor of our meal today!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Dubliner for lunch...Close to "We Are Nuts"

When you're at We Are Nuts shopping 'til you drop (well, closed until next Fall), it's only a short drive to the Dubliner Pub & Cafe (the old Bonnie's Cafe) on University Avenue in St. Paul.

We planned to eat at the cafe, but there was a meeting going on, so we sat on the bar side.  

Specials included a burger of the month (BBQ brisket), a wrap of the day (turkey bacon avocado) and a daily soup.    But we chose Shepherd's Pie and an order of the Reuben taytos.   We munched on some complimentary popcorn and ordered two drinks to wash it down.  John opted for a Coke, but there it was on the drink menu...cold brew...Bent Paddle Cold Brew Coffee Ale...from Duluth, on tap.   Had to give it a try!!!

The Cold Brew Ale was fabulous.   Smooth, great coffee flavor, a little sweetness.....a very, very nice ale.   And it's good that we had drinks and popcorn, because the food is made and delivered on a bar schedule...very slowly so that you want to get more drinks.

Taking the opportunity of quite a lull between drinks and food, we perused the walls covered with many JFK pictures and drawings, the bandstand, the prayer candle installation (not a common bar sight) and the other odds and ends of artwork, Irish beer and spirits items and lengthy bar backed by a large display of alcoholic temptations.

We started to think it might not be worth the wait, but turns out the food is pretty darn good.  The Reuben taytos were topped with tasty corn beef, kraut, and cheese on crispy potato chips.   We would have preferred the toppings on fries, but these were certainly good bar-food quality.   We would have liked to have some of the great topping ingredients layered into the chips--the goodies were all on top...leaving a big pile of bare chips at the bottom.   But the top layer was probably enough salt and fat to get us through the day.

A charming crock contained steaming hot Shepherd's Pie, with nicely browned and artfully displayed potatoes sealing the hot filling into a dish that stayed warm through our entire lunch.  Great flavor in the meat filling, plus peas, slightly underdone carrots, and pearl onions.  Except for the slight chewiness of the carrots, it was a well-constructed dish, just lacking a bit of salt in thee potatoes.

Not many lunch customers today.   It probably takes a little too long for folks on their lunch hour to order, get their meal, and actually have time to enjoy it.   Based on the quality, it has the potential to be a great lunch spot--if they could just get the meals out a little more quickly.

The bartender who took our order and handled bar traffic was really friendly with a great personality...great employee!!

So, we say cheers!   Stop by an enjoy a good quality bar meal at the Dubliner (3 stars out of 5...3.5 stars considering it's bar food).

Sunday: A few favorite recipes from Marianne's Kitchen

Sunday seemed like a fun day to make a few of our favorite recipes from Marianne's Kitchen...

During our 'food truck' summer last year (we hope you had some of the fun items we created while pretending to be an indoor food truck), we did oodles of fun pickles and lots of 'street food'.

So today I cranked out one of the pickles that turned out to be a new favorite for me---the garam masala pickle with fenugreek & hot peppers. It is such a good pickle...yum.

Then, some roasted corn street salad sounded good. Did you have some at Marianne's? I NEVER had ANY of it. It took me a couple of batches to figure out that I made enough to fill a large pan on the sandwich station, but there never seemed to be a full pan when Anne put it on the line. After about the third batch, I spied Anne's secret stash in the back refrigerator (& she didn't share, either!!!!).

I was nice today though--I gave Anne 'some' of the batch..... & I saved extra delicious cheese for me.
...& dessert seemed in order. 

John bought a bag of pb candies @ the We Are Nuts closeout & then realized eating handfuls straight from the bag did not count as healthy lunch.
So I made them 'healthier' by tossing some in a batch of granola cookies with French chocolate chunks & loads of butter...yup, healthier 🤣

So it was a short, but tasty trip down memory lane.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Delicata Visit #3 is a HOME RUN!!

Why visit a restaurant multiple times in looking at the quality?   Bad days hit everyone.  Food venues with all bad days fail.  Most adjust, grow and improve.

Delicata Pizza & Gelato  is evolving in the right direction.  Great!

Our first visit there was disappointing.  A small pizza at a pretty big price...enough to serve one person.  

So, we waited.

Visit two--brunch--an interesting variety of choices at reasonable prices.  

Which led us to visit 3 today---an excellent meal.

We shared the 'big mixed salad' was enough for 2 or more (greens, proscuitto, hard cooked egg, gigante beans, sun dried tomatoes, fontina, pickled onions)

...and the roasted Paesono Potatoes--potato, squash, onions, fontina, bacon & topped with an egg.

Both were superior.

The salad contained the most delicious, sweet, sun-dried tomatoes--

John said he would eat a place of just sun-dried tomatoes!  Our server added that they arrive in jars in oil...imported from Italy.   I would drive to Italy for these : )    John had never dined on gigande beans (that he remembers--although I've made several gigande bean dishes over the years).  He loved the texture and creaminess.  Overall, the plate offered variety in each bite---greens with pickled onions, gigande bean with cheese, egg with greens, sun dried tomato---all by itself followed by a big smile!

The roasted Potato Paesono was rich and satisfying.   A little bit of egg with cheese melted into potatoes and squash...each bite warmed you on a cold MN day (okay, average warm MN day that Super Bowl attendees should just be quiet and appreciate😜 )

We are so glad that we've patiently waited as Delicata evolved.   Today's meal would be 5 out of 5 stars.  Tremendous.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Tahini - Close by in New Brighton

We need to find a quick dinner...7 PM ...what's still open?  How far do we have to drive?  What can we agree on?

Time to give Tahini a try.

Located in New Brighton (County Road E and Silver Lake Road) Tahini could be described as the local family-owned version of Naf Naf Grill.  The ubiquitous cones (shawarma, chicken shawarma) are in clear view and you can get a bowl or a wrap with hummus or rice as the base.  There are standard bowls/wraps you can build-your-own version.

It was late.  Rather than holding up the poor staff member while gazing indecisively, we chose the chicken shawarma bowl and the falafel wrap in the standard versions (actually John said "Just pick something.  I don't care.  It's late.").  

After ordering I asked what was most was the chicken shawarma we hit the jackpot!

The bowl contained rice, chicken, touma sauce (a garlic sauce), greens, and tomato.   The wrap contained falafel (made in-house), hummus, Arabian pickles, cucumber, tomato, and olives on a flat bread which was then pressed on the panini press.   The meats are Halal certified and the toppings are gluten free.  The spicing is characterized by things like fenugreek, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, cloves. 

We were quite pleased with both menu items.   John's bowl (actually, served on a plate) was beautiful and bountiful.  He had trouble finishing the whole thing.   My wrap was warm, the bread was excellent and there was an abundance of falafel.   The Arabian pickles had just a little kick which helped balance the flavors.

The experience was friendly and quick...tonight with a quick, cute smile (the employee, not John)!

Tahini is great for quick lunch (11 AM-2 PM) and also open for dinner (4-8 PM).  They take a break during the slow hours of 2-4 PM)

We'd rate our dinner 3 out of 5 stars.  Well worth the short drive to New Brighton.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Maeve's in NE for coffee...

Maeve's Minneapolis Marianne's KitchenTime for coffee....let's head out to Maeve's in Minneapolis.

Whoohoo...a parking place right in front of the door (as long as you get close enough to the curb that you don't step in the 10 inches of water caused by the 40 degree January weather).  No problem.

Oh...dear...well, kinda like going to Starbucks.   All of the tables are full...1 person and their computer taking up all of the tables...some with a drink...some with nothing.   How do coffee shops make a living????

If we squeeze over in the corner there is a small table with one chair.....coming up with another chair shouldn't be much of a struggle.....all the tables have multiple chairs but only 1 person at the table.   Okay, another obstacle overcome.

While I squeezed into the corner, John headed to the counter to grab some coffee and goodies.   A mocha, a cold brew, and a couple of scones.   That's a good starting point.

THEN he finds the menu.  

We had our leisurely cups of coffee, munched on scones, and took in the ambiance.  Very soothing decor; high painted ceiling, fun lamps, and we can't quite see, but maybe a bookshelf or 2 along the wall....maybe there's some good reading material there. 

We perused the menu.  Lots of interesting choices (if we hadn't already been chowing down on scones).  Strata, breakfast sandwiches, tuna melt, caprese sandwich, cubano....and some small plates.  We decided we had room for one small plate to share....roasted veggies.  They were served on a bed of
spinach and contained roasted heirloom potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts...   The server asked if we'd like some hot we went for Cry Baby Craig's (habanero sauce).  It had a great kick and enhanced each bite--when used in the proper proportion (I think John overdid it on his first bite[John:"No. I was just fine."]).  A nice small small plate--large enough for two.

All in all, a pleasant visit.   Our rating is 3 stars out of 5.  Nice environment, good service.   John described his mocha as 'fine'.  My cold brew was more like iced coffee.  The scones were a bit overworked and a tad's sometimes tough to determine when the middle of a scone is of these had some raw dough.   The veggie 'small plate' had good flavor--maybe could have been arranged in a somewhat more interesting was a plate spread with spinach with warm veggies in the middle.  The spinach didn't quite seem to know if it should be there or not.

So if you haven't been there, here's another coffee spot to try.  We'd recommend going at an off hour because there aren't that many tables and there seem to be a high proportion of table sitters.   Certainly worth a visit.

Mendoberri in Mendota Heights

Beautiful sunny day for a drive to Mendota Heights for a relaxed lunch at Mendoberri.

Lovely space...high ceilings, a variety of seating options...large tables, small an L-shaped space with pretty light fixtures, stenciled wall decor and a wine bar.  For a mall setting, it's quite attractive space, although we're not sure if there were supposed to be 2 water features...they were identical, but water in only one.

It's counter 'service' at lunch order at the counter from the menu hanging high on the wall or the specials on a chalkboard easel.

To give us a little view of the regular and special menus, we chose 1 item from each.   The special of the day was a 'wood stone oven' sandwich with chicken, havarti, spinach, peso on cranberry walnut.  From the regular menu we chose a 'grain bowl'--risotto with veggies.  We took our number and were instructed as to where to find silverware and water.  Unfortunately, that was the last words spoken to us by any staff person for the duration of our meal.  

Two things define a good dining experience: 1) the food must be very good, not just some of the meal but all of the components 2) eating that meal must be a personal experience for the customer; the restaurant staff should welcome a customer, interpret their needs and work to meet them, and do their best to ensure that the dining experience meets or exceeds the customer's expectations.  If you don't interact with the customer, there's no way to make any of this happen.

While waiting for lunch, I checked out the rest room.  Weirdly, there are no TP holders....there's a TP roll rack in one stall and none in the other.   So, you have to pick up the roll sitting on the handicap grab bar to use it......eeuuwwwwwww.

Our lunch was delivered relatively quickly...we were the only ones waiting for food...there were about 4 tables of patrons, but they all had their food already and only 1 party came in during the next 30-40 minutes.

The food looked quite appetizing.   The sandwich on cranberry bread was toasted and the ingredients were reasonable in the middle of the sandwich--but nothing reached the edges of the bread.   I'm kind of used
to deli sandwiches where they pile the corned beef in a heap in the middle of the bread
to make it look plentiful, with nothing on the outside 1 inch of the entire perimeter of the sandwich.  But here, it was a reasonable amount in the
middle...nothing on the you didn't even get the 'appearance' of generosity.  The sandwich was served with mixed greens (a little too brown on the tips to be described as 'fresh') with an undetectable vinaigrette.

The largest disappointment was the 'grain

We selected the veggie risotto bowl.  The word veggie should have been in the description somewhere after the word bowl.  There was a bowl of risotto.....and 8 tiny diced pieced of squash, 1 piece of peapod, and 3-4 tiny strands of something green.   I have envisioned a bowl of risotto topped with a generous portion of attractive veggies on top.  Instead, it was a bowl of risotto with
'flecks' of veggies and a quarter of a lemon plunked in the middle (and I know most places never wash the outside of a a lemon plunked in the middle of a bowl of rice is.....gagging???).  I think it was there to fill the space that should have been filled with the attractive veggies I'm still dreaming that I would have eaten.  

John fished through the rissoto to find all the veggies; it appeared to be one heaping tablespoon; lame.
But, on the bright side, I found a use for the lemon.  I squeezed a bit on the risotto...that was a nice 'brightener' for the dish.  But after I tasted (well, after I had a bite of the salad), I squeezed the rest of the lemon juice onto the greens so they would have some kind of flavor (the 2 dried out tomato slices and 1 slice of cucumber tasted like...nothing).

So, food:   the quality of what was there was good...but the sandwich only had ingredients on part of it; the greens were flavorless and not that fresh.  The risotto was fine..but it was just risotto....with nothing else substantial in the bowl.   Since we had no beverages...just self-service water..$29 was too high a price in this value equation.

Now for the biggest disappointment...there were 3 or 4 staff people present.  No one spoke to us.  The cashier took our order and pointed out where the silverware could be found.   That was the TOTAL COMMUNICATION FROM THIS BUSINESS TO THEIR CUSTOMERS.

No one asked how our food was (maybe they don't want to ask...for a reason????), no one spoke to us at all.  The owner was present.  I ran into him in the service corridor as I was heading toward the rest room to check it out.....he didn't acknowledge me or say hi or smile...he quickly just closed a door as he escaped back into the kitchen.

As were were leaving, 3 staff people were leaning on the food prep stations in the kitchen...none of them looked up, none of them obviously thought about interacting with customers.   A bad scene of staff with their elbows on your food prep area...only involved with each other.

Looking at their reviews, it appears that people have noticed a decline in quality and service in the last year or so.  Maybe they used to be a great place......that's not what we experienced.  That's too bad, because the food had potential.....unrealized.

The message is clear---lunch is 'first come, first served...until it's gone', dinner is reservation-based, don't bother us, don't expect us to talk to you.

The food was not memorable, as a  disappointment. The staff chose not to talk, not to ask about our experience or thank us or ask us to come back.  Frankly, despite our standard of visiting ever venue twice, we were provided no reason to return.