Cheap Eats with Date Nights (Twin Cities)

Updated new restaurants added!

To Almeria and Beyond

Do you love food?  Really, really delicious food?  Or do you dread the Sunday night blues?  Need a pick-me-up mid-week?  Then check out these amazing deals around the Twin Cities! The prices you see are per couple unless noted otherwise.

Date nights are not just for couples…think of if more as meals for friends.  Also, many places are willing to entertain a third person for half the price or offer a single-person price!

(*Denotes my personal favorites!)

Wilde Roast Cafe (Sundays through Thursdays, 5:30-close)25% off  two entrées from the pizza/salad Menu, a bottle of wine, and dessert.  Make sure to check out the new sister bar Mattie’s on Main while you’re there!

Broders(Sundays through Thursdays, 8:00-close)$30 Half off a bottle of wine, two pastas, a salad to share, and an olive appetizer

Rinata(Sundays) $20 per person Antipasti, salad, and an entrée from…

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Cheap Eats with Date Nights (Twin Cities)

Do you love food?  Really, really delicious food?  Or do you dread the Sunday night blues?  Need a pick-me-up mid-week?  Then check out these amazing deals around the Twin Cities! The prices you see are per couple unless noted otherwise.

Date nights are not just for couples…think of if more as meals for friends.  Also, many places are willing to entertain a third person for half the price or offer a single-person price!

(*Denotes my personal favorites!)

Wilde Roast Cafe (Sundays through Thursdays, 5:30-close) 25% off  two entrées from the pizza/salad Menu, a bottle of wine, and dessert.  Make sure to check out the new sister bar Mattie’s on Main while you’re there!

Broders(Sundays through Thursdays, 8:00-close) $30 Half off a bottle of wine, two pastas, a salad to share, and an olive appetizer

Rinata (Sundays) $20 per person Antipasti, salad, and an entrée from a featured menu, plus a dessert to share

Meritage (Sundays, 5:00-9:00)  $30 per person Prix fixe, three courses

Bachelor Farmer (Sundays) $29-$34 Set three-course meal

*Masa/Parma/D’Aamico/Cafe and Bar Lurcat (Sundays) $50 Bottle of wine and a three-course dinner

*Birchwood (Sundays) $30 Two burgers and two pints

Bryant Lake Bowl (Mondays, 6:00- midnight) $28 Two entrées, a bottle of wine (or a few beers) and a round of bowling!

Birchwood (Tuesdays) $30 Two pizzas and two glasses of wine

Namaste Cafe (Tuesdays, 6:00-close) $39.50 Two entrées, a bottle of house wine, and dessert

Red Stag (Tuesdays, 5:00-10:00) $32 Two entrées, a bottle of vino, and a dessert.

*The Lowbrow (Tuesdays, 6:00-10:00) $25 Two tap beers/house wines, two burgers/sandwiches/entrées, and a dessert

Le Town Talk (Tuesdays) $45 An app, two entrée , desert, plus a bottle of wine or cider

Grand Cafe (Tuesdays) $50 Tasting menu: three courses and wine 

Kafe 421 (Tuesdays and Sundays after 5:00) $25 Salad, a pasta entrée and one dessert to share

Al Vento (Tuesdays) $20 per person Four-course meal

Travail (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) $90 A ten-course experience!

Le Town Talk  (Wednesdays) $25 per person “Girls’ Night Out” features a salad, entree, desert, and a glass of wine or cocktail

*Chimborazo (Wednesdays) $35 Two daily specials plus a bottle of wine

*Ngon’s (Wednesdays, 5:00-9:00) $35 Two ‘traditionnel’ entrées, a bottle of wine, and a dessert.  Make if “fancy” and order any two entrées, an hors d’oeurve, and a bottle of wine for $15 more

Sawatdee (Wednesdays) $35  Appetizer platter, two entrées, and a bottle of wine

*Pilgrimage Cafe (Thursdays) $30 An appetizer, two entrées, and a dessert to share

*Tracy’s Saloon (Fridays) $37  Pitcher beer/bottle wine, choice of starter salads or soup of the day, two select entrées, and dessert

Gigi’s (Saturdays) $28 Salad, two entrées, dessert and a bottle of wine

Mozza Mia (Every day) $40 Pizza, a bottle of wine and two movie tickets to the Edina Theaters

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Tacos, Ticos y Crocodilos

Here is a brief timeline of our amazing trip to Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

Day 1: After a crazy start to our travels, we arrived in Tamarindo, complete with carsickness, and quickly got settled.  We eat our first of many platanos fritos (comida típica) and enjoy our first beverages on the beach.

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Day 2: Beach, our first encounter with pipas (definitely NOT the same thing as pipas in Spain!), a scuba lesson in the smallest pool of life, and then a delicious dinner at The Dragonfly.  Best tuna steak of my life, maybe the best dish of the trip!

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Day 3: Scuba time!  We saw white tip sharks, eels, a turtle, and many schools of fish during our two dives.  Our favorite activity of the trip…exhilarating!  We finished the day with glorious sushi at Bamboo Sushi Club and drinks at the Wild Panda.

Day 4: Chilled.  Braved some olas locas on boogie boards and played in the pool.

Day 5: Surf’s up!  Way harder than it looks…

Day 6: Aventura Navidad.  We rambled over to the next beach, Playa Grande.  To get there, we had to cross an estuary that we later found out is riddled with crocodilos gigantes.  (There was not a single sign to warn us of this.)

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JUST KIDDING.  It was more like this…

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Once we made it across, we rambled along, unearthing sea creatures and taking photos.  We found that the truth really is out there (in the form of sand dollars) and that sand crabs don’t like to be bothered.  Once there, we stopped at the tasty Taco Star stand, refueled, and continued on with our search for the black sand of Playa Carbon, but abandoned that plan once the sun started to set (5:30!).  We stopped to enjoy the view, and caught a glimpse of some humpback whales!  As we set back, we learned two important lessons.  1) No one is allowed on the beach after dark as it is a protected nesting area for leatherback turtles and 2) There are no boats to take you back across the estuary 😦  Thank god for cabs!

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Day 7: An all-day excursion that featured white water tubing, zip lining, rock wall climbing/repelling, horseback riding, and hot springs at Volcán Rincon Vieja.  Could have done without the horseback riding…especially since our guide dropped us at the wrong tubing location and we had to wait over an hour and a half and then crashed someone else’s tour!  The tubing was pretty intense.  It had two major drops that required a careful setup of multiple Ticos to grab our hands before and after as well as corral us off to the side in case we fell off (which Charlie and I both did).  ¡Que día agotado!  On the drive back, we were lucky enough to see a group of howler monkeys feasting in a tree 🙂

You know I had to have pizza at least once…: The best was by far La Pachanga, which was just excellent Italian food in general.  It reminded me of restaurants I ate at in both Rome and Spain. La Esquina comes in second based solely off of a late night sample.  La Baula is supposedly the best around, but I beg to differ.

Restaurants to skipChun’sWok N RollSeasons by Shlomy, and Gallo Fino.  Chun’s is straight up horrible and we heard from the locals that the owners like to get drunk and fist fight each other in the street.  Wok N Roll came highly recommended to us, but we found even the Korean food (one of the owners is Korean) to be bland. Seasons was just horribly over-rated and priced, which was surprising based on reviews we read.  We should have known not to go Gallo Fino once we realized it was owned by Hotel Tamarindo Diria, but oh well.  Not bad food, but not great either.

¡Salud!

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Faux Phở

I spent the weekend fighting off sickness, and I thought, what better way to prepare for combat than with an herby Vietnamese soup?  It’s chicken noodle soup on steroids!  True phở takes hours of simmering plus chicken parts and bone that I don’t have and don’t know if I want to work with, so I researched some shortcuts and came up with the following recipe 🙂

To begin with, I broiled and charred a halved onion and a thumb-sized piece of ginger root.  While I waited for those to cool, I added 62 ounces of no-sodium chicken salt, a few tablespoons of fish oil, coriander, cilantro, a few peppercorns, and chicken breast to my slow cooker.  After I removed the char from the onion and ginger, I added the large pieces to the soup.  And then I let it cook.  And cook some more.  The longer, the better!

Towards the end, I added additional herbs and salt to taste and shredded the chicken.  In the last few minutes, I prepared the rice noodles and removed the pieces of onion and ginger.  Then add your favorite garnishes!  I used basil leaves, cilantro, mint, hot chilis, sriracha and lime.  If I had found bean sprouts at the store, I would have thrown them in as well.

*Keep garnished and noodles separate until you are going to eat them.  Do NOT just throw them into the crock pot.

**I think next time I will use bone-in chicken.

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Tidbits for the Frugal Foodie and the Slapdash Spender

First, for my penny-pinching pals, some happy hours and other cheap treats!

Saffron (Downtown Minneapolis) Happy hour runs Monday to Friday from 4:00-6:00.  Cool vibe and the Lamb Bacon ‘BLT’ is house-made and delightful.  Perhaps this spot is worth a full-blown dinner experience 🙂

Nami (Downtown Minneapolis) Affordable eats 4:30-6:00 weekdays or grab an early bite between 9:30 and 11:30 on Saturdays.  Their sushi is nothing special, but they do have a large variety of rolls on the HH menu.  Their sake mussels were tasty, but I don’t see them on their current menu 😦

Origami (Northloop Minneapolis) I’ll say it again: BEST sushi in the Twin Cities.  Happy hour is EVERY DAY from 5:00-6:30.  Chef’s choice!

Tangiers  (Northloop Minneapolis) Stop in Monday or Wednesday-Friday from 4:00-7:00, but make sure you are dressed to the nines.  We were told the pork tacos were delicious and they were, but the same server informed me “We have Pinot Grigio…both red and white.”

E Noodle Cafe (St. Paul/Roseville) Pass.

Sandcastle (Lake Nokomis Minneapolis) Although the season is over, it’s nice to have another alternative to Sea Salt.  The food is fresh and yummy and the atmosphere on a Friday night has an air of romance.

And for your once-a-month dates…

Vincent A Restaurant (Downtown Minneapolis) We went here for restaurant week.  While it didn’t necessarily remind me of any restaurants I’ve been to in Paris or Nice, both our steelhead and short ribs were the quality I would expect them to be.  One and done.

Sapor (Northloop Minneapolis) Best parts?  The mashed potato taquitos (loved the textures) and the beer-cheese gravy and chorizo fries (incredibly addicting!).

Tum Rup Thai (Uptown Minneapolis) I can’t remember anything about the meal.  What does that tell you?

The Green Room (Stillwater) The best Stillwater has to offer 🙂  The mussels were scrumptious and bountiful, the ‘small’ portion of my pasta lasted three meals and got better every time I ate it.  Next time I’ll order from their ‘From the East’ section.

India Palace (Roseville) Even though we couldn’t hear a word our server said and the service was terrible, the food (from the naan to the samosa to our main courses) was good.  There may be better Indian out there…

Ward 6 (East St. Paul) Yes, I’ve raved about it before.  But it is SO amazing!  The fall menu features a duck gnocchi that caused me to make inappropriate noises with every bite.  I have never had gnocchi that was so light (an oxymoron, no?).  And might I venture to say that their fish and chips are BETTER than Anchor‘s?  I need to try their brunch!!!

Up next…Up north, ya!

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MN State Fair 2013

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It has been 48 years since my grandparents first moved into their house on the fairgrounds, 11 years since my grandpa retired and they moved off the grounds, 10 years since my grandma’s been gone, and 2 years without my grandpa. And now I can add their house to my list.

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The fair is much more than food and people watching to me and my family. We grew up exploring and playing on the grounds year-round. Looking for agates was a particular favorite because after our hunt was complete, my grandpa would take us to his office and polish them for us. We had access to buildings like The Colossuem when they were deserted and eerie. Perks during the fair were immeasurable: Private python viewings, unlimited giant slide tickets, and front-row fireworks seats were the norm for 22 years of my life.  And perhaps the best part: stopping back at the house for an air-conditioned, clean bathroom break and visit with my grandma 🙂

But that not really why I wanted to write today.  As I know the fair better than the back of my hand (ask anyone who has ever gone with me), I wanted to offer some advice to maximize your fair experience.

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1) Free water: The Culligan station is located just a block inside the front gate on Dan Patch Ave.  Kare 11 is also helping fair-goers stay hydrated across from the go carts and river raft ride.

2) A scenic view: The Sky Glider.  Take a walk to the north end, check out the logging competition along the way (surprisingly entertaining), pet some cute pups in the Pet Center, partake in some some group karaoke at the Giant Sing Along, indulge in red velvet funnel cake (YUM), and then hop on the Sky Glider for a cheap, cooling ride and a sweet view of the grounds.  MUCH better than the Sky Ride (the enclosed one) or Space Needle.

3) The Giant Slide. Fun for ALL ages and the walk to the top is a great way to burn off one or two cheese curds.  Just be careful what comes out of your mouth…the bumps are miked. Oh, and make sure to go on it before ingesting too much goodness…you wouldn’t want to follow in Fergie’s footsteps!

4) New this year and worth it: Axel’s (west of the Space Needle) cocoa-dusted cheese is..wait for it…BETTER than regular cheese curds! They are far less greasy and offer a way more complex flavor. The Ball Park cafe’s Day Tripper battered onion rings pair perfectly with their large selection of microbrews  (and I don’t even like onion rings!).

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5) Cool shopping: The Bazaar (located on the south end) and Heritage Square (west of the Gran Stand). There is always good music and food at both locations as well. Feeling adventurous?  Try Holy Land’s lamb “fries” (code for testicles) or a candied bacon stuffed cannoli.

6) Ice cream: Although sweet-corn-, mini-donut-batter-crunch, and mango-flavored are all tempting, the best is still hands down in the Dairy Building.  Just watch our for the hours so as not to be let down like we were 😦

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Tejas, langosta, y R&G

I don’t know if it’s a good idea to blog about food after an ambrosial meal (likened to grocery shopping while hungry) at Roma (consisting of truffle and wild mushroom sacchetti and limoncello desert), but I’m going to forge ahead regardless. What better do I have to do on a Friday night anyway, right?

We have been trolling the Twin Cities as well as had a quick weekend in Dallas recently, so I’ll cover both. And might I just add, thank the social media gods for helping me keep track of where I’ve been!

Let me just go in order of worthiness (that way, like a newspaper story, you get all you need in the first few lines…but don’t forget to skip to the end for a closing treat!).

Tei-An (Dallas) The seaweed salad was everything the reviews promised it would be, and the soba was #phenomenal–if you build  your own noodle dish DO NOT go without the fried tofu and poached egg!

Meddlesome Moth (Dallas) Half of our meal was great, the other, lacking. Must-have: duck wings (better than chicken wings). While you’re there: mothballs and some mussels.

Element (Northeast Minneapolis) It’s good, but give me Black Sheep any day!

Sparks (Bryn Mawr, Minneapolis) Had an interesting pizza…truffles with a fried egg in the middle.  Could have done without the egg, but the truffles were delectable 🙂

Indian Creek (St. Croix Falls, WI) Fresh rainbow trout and catfish were palate-pleasing.  Local wines left much to be desired.

Nick & Sam’s Grill (Dallas) Super cool ambiance (loved the open garage layout) dece brunch.  Enjoyed our giant carafe of mimosas 🙂 Just make sure you’re stylin!

Smack Shack (Minneapolis) We went here for restaurant week. Again, super cool layout (we sat up in the loft). Obviously the lobster roll was good, but that’s about it. Oyster app was rubbery and overly breaded, fried green tomatoes almost made me dismiss them entirely from my diet, and desert was not even one-bite-worthy. Maybe they should stick to food trucks…

BTW, why were we in Dallas? To see Rodrigo y Gabriela (I want to be Gabriela in my next life)! Another note-worthy mention in the area is the  Times Ten Cellars…great wine tasting!

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