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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 11, 2020

First Look - Oliver's in Shoreview

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenFirst look—-Oliver’s in Shoreview

Oliver's Shoreview has opened, so we did our first 'check it out' visit.

Our take:  ....Oliver's is not ready yet.....some kinks to be worked out.

First impression: We found the menu burger and pizza heavy, so we had to lean on the appetizers and sides to try lunch.

What we ordered at Oliver's

I opted for the bourbon glazed squash and the gnocchi. John went for the lettuce wraps...with chicken.

Food Code & Food Preparation

You know I'm nuts about food code right off the bat I was grossed out watching the open kitchen. The guy making the food was wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the hood strings hanging over the food. As he prepared the 3 dishes (the place was pretty empty, so we were the 'meals' being made at the time), I watched him open multiple plastic storage containers and reach in bare-handed (a food code NO NO) and sprinkle toppings on our plates of food. This is usually when I walk out. But they're have to try to give them a chance.
I chatted with one of the managers. I was disappointed that after she came back from the kitchen she told me that the cook claimed to have used tongs. I know we're in the Trump era where we're not supposed to believe the evidence of our own eyes....but come on. I was watching, he wasn't making anyone else's food....he had his bare hands in multiple containers.

To her credit, she went and had a discussion with the kitchen staff and then acknowledged that perhaps he had 'handled' the food. So credit for dealing with the issue! We discussed his drink (which was covered, as code requires) sitting on the counter where you would be sitting to 'enjoy' watching the activities in the open kitchen. We agreed it just looked tacky.

And, interestingly, I didn't mention the sweatshirt...but a few minutes later he was wearing a short sleeved shirt and apron, wearing some gloves. So, they're working the kinks out.....if you go, call them on issues right that over time they can evolve into a place you want to dine often.

Gnocchi at Oliver's in Shoreview

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenThe gnocchi was room temp on the edges and warm in the middle of the plate. The real drawback...there were some charred/burnt pieces in the if one of those attached itself to your gnocchi bite, it was bitter and burnt-tasting. A little more care was needed in prepping this dish. 

Bourbon Glazed Squash at Oliver's in Shoreivew

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenThe bourbon glazed squash was also uneven. There were pieces of diced squash (small), some spaghetti squash, and then very large pieces of parsnip(?) that couldn't be cut...think undercooked from the fat end of the parsnip...necessary to obtain a hacksaw to cut through it. So part overcooked, part very undercooked....and the bourbon glaze seemed to all end up in one spot on the plate....none around the edges...then a jolt of bourbon on the spaghetti squash.

Lettuce Wrap at Oliver's in Shoreview

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenThe lettuce wrap appetizer also was inconsistent. John expected lettuce wraps with pieces of chicken. The plate arrived with a bowl of something that might be described as ground chicken chili with a slightly Asian essence (but not the hoisin noted on the menu). The rice strips seem to be house-made and were light and crispy. There were rings of raw hot pepper, some green onion, and some very salty pickled carrots atop the 'chili'. The accompanying sauce had an unpleasant bitterness, so we didn't apply any to the wraps.

Overall impressions: mixed, on this visit. 
  • Each dish had potential but was unevenly executed. 
  •  From my years serving food to the people of Shoreview and surrounding area, the menu seems too meat-heavy with all the veggie options as sides. 
  • And if a side is $8.99, you probably aren't going to order 2 or 3 of them. Perhaps a veggie sampler side would be a good addition for the many people who are now foregoing big meat dishes.

I am thrilled that there is a breakfast takeout/coffee counter. This is for early breakfast stops...6 to 8 am and then menu breakfast is 8-11 in the restaurant. 

On-site barista and COLD PRESS (close to my house!!!!). 

The breakfast menu is about 8 items..croque madame (?), benedict, chilequiles (but having talked to staff, these are really deconstucted nachos, not either baked or stovetop real chilequiles), a scramble, eggs with meat and hash (no one could tell me yet what Oliver's hash is), etc.

Olivers in Shoreview Mariannes KitchenFinally, take out pastries and little pies. We tried the lemon almond scone (it was a little overworked, so moist but not terrific texture). We still have a blueberry cream cheese pastry...we'll hit that later tonight!

Prices at Oliver's in Shoreview

The take-out breakfast prices, pastry prices, and coffee prices were very reasonable, while we felt the dining-in prices were a tad high (average of $12 - $13 per entree). Adding a lunch menu with a limited selection and slightly lower prices might guarantee some regular lunch business.

Oliver's Featured Item

Finally, we didn't try what appears to be their featured item....pot roast with mashed potatoes and carrots. If it's their signature, we'll have to give it a try on a future visit.

Conclusion: Oliver's in Shoreview isn't quite ready for prime time. 

  • If you go soon, expect a few kinks...these will work themselves out over time. 
  • The staff with whom we spoke had excellent experience from other venues, so will bring that to play as they get in their rhythm as a dining venue. 
  • Looking forward to pastry and cold press in the neighborhood and watching the evolution of this food venue.

Location:            Google Maps

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