Category: alchohol (page 1 of 2)

Walking Around & Eating/Drinking Stuff In Downtown Minneapolis

Even though we’ve lived in the Twin Cities most of our lives, there are many classic and much talked-about restaurants we haven’t visited.

The North Loop area in downtown Minneapolis has boomed since our first move to Fargo and we haven’t spent much time there. In fact, we rarely go to downtown Minneapolis on weekends. I love working there, but am eager to catch the early bus after work to beat the traffic and crowds.

It’s possible to find parking downtown, but you will have to navigate around all of the construction, meters, and pay lots/ramps, all typical downtown stuff. If you can take a bus, the light rail, or Lyft, it’s a breeze. And, you don’t have to worry about enjoying some drinks.

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When In CA Wine Country: Buena Vista Winery Barrel Tour & Tasting

I don’t know a lot about wine, but I sure like to try it.

When I first began culinary school, I enrolled in the Wine Certification. I found our first textbook reading overwhelming. It delved deeply into clippings and grapes and soils and weather. I quickly decided that a career as sommelier was not for me, but loved becoming more literate about wine terminology and having a clearer idea about what wines I like. I also developed some mad wine-swirling skills which make me look like I know what I’m doing. It was also really fun to take home a couple bottles of chardonnay that we made in class, even if they needed time to mature.

“Can you recommend a Sonoma winery?” I asked our Airbnb hostess.

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The Every Bar In Mason City Quest: Mulligan’s

This past weekend, we visited Mulligan’s Bar & Grill on our third stop along our Every Bar In Mason City Quest.

Every Bar in Mason City Graphic

Mulligan’s is a bar & restaurant located on the edge of town near the bowling alley Mystic Lanes. We had spent the day running errands and worked up an appetite by dinner, so we chose a bar we knew offered a full menu. We made ourselves comfortable on stools perched along the shiny wooden bar. Jake ordered his typical tap IPA while I asked the bartender, “What cocktail do you recommend? What’s popular?” At the last bar we visited, I learned that asking a bartender for the establishment’s “quintessential drink” is totally weird, so I hoped this was a better way of phrasing the question.

She described a toasted marshmallow liquor and recommended adding it root beer or ginger ale. I replied that I was game and chose ginger ale.

butterbeer watermarked

This is not a cocktail I’d typically order, but the rule of the quest is bartender’s choice, whether it’s a sweet mashup or bitey shot. Fortunately, I found that the cocktail tasted delightfully like butterscotch. Jake is a man who prefers his bitter IPAs and even he enjoyed this drink.

I awkwardly tried to make conversation by comparing it to Harry Potter Butter Beer and was met with bewilderment. Jake gently reminded me that I am now two for two on initiating awkward conversations with bartenders as we start this quest. He feels more comfortable gracefully blending into his surroundings and I make this impossible by asking for “quintessential drinks” and talking about Butter Beer.

Life lesson: It’s not necessarily normal to weave Harry Potter lore into every day conversation; i.e. I am not normal.

Speaking of normal, ranch dressing is completely normal in North Iowa and you’ll find it served with most fried appetizers. Jake tolerates ranch, but I like it so much, I won’t publicly admit to how many foods I eat it with. “We have the best ranch,” our bartender earnestly stated. Between my salad and our jalapeno poppers appetizer, I had lots of opportunities to try it for myself.

I divide ranch dressing into two categories: Good ranch & bad ranch. Good ranch is homemade, meaning anything ranging from completely homemade to mixed from a Ranch packet, while bad ranch is that sour, pre-bottled, shelf-stable stuff. Mulligans serves good ranch.

Jalapeno wm

Between the two of us, Jake made the best entrée choice. The ground beef in his patty melt was moist and had a freshly pattied texture & our dinner salads were crisp. We have to confess that while we ate our meals, we experienced entrée envy each time a server passed by with someone else’s very delicious looking steak. Our friends later confirmed that Mulligan’s is one of their favorite places to order steak.

The dinner menu is concise and lists specials for each day. On this particular evening, we passed on the Saturday specials of prime rib and crab legs, but would return to try them on another occasion. Other daily specials that caught my eye included broasted chicken and fried fish.

In conclusion, we found a warm atmosphere, friendly bartenders, a new favorite cocktail, and good ranch at Mulligan’s. Plus, lots of TV’s to watch sporting events, which Jake appreciated.

In other exciting news, Webster City heard about how Franklin County hosted the North Iowa Bloggers for a Harvest Blogger Tour weekend this fall and invited us to join them for a day of eating, shopping & touring soon. We’re also visiting West Fork Wharf in Sheffield, another reader suggestion.

The Every Bar In Mason City Quest
Burke’s Bar & Grill
Candy Bar Nite Club
Homer’s Sports Bar & Grill
Kozy Korner
Mason City Brewing
Mulligan’s Bar & Grill (11/24/2014)
Patrick’s Bar
Ransom’s
Sidewinder Bar
Spike’s Tap & Grill
Sportsmans Lounge
VFW Post 733
Willow Run Lounge (11/01/2014)
Wise Guys Sports Pub (11/08/2014)

Restaurant/Hotel Bars
1910 Lounge
Chop Eleven
LD’s Filling Station
Loredo’s
Papa’s
Pastime Gardens
The Quarry Tapas Bar
Rib Crib
River City Bar & Grille at the Clarion Inn
Whiskey Creek
Wok ‘n Roll

Reader Suggested Bars Throughout North Iowa
Bernie’s Bar, Forest City
Elly’s Lakefront Tap, Clear Lake
Lake Time Brewery, Clear Lake
Signatures Sports Bar & Grill, Northwood
Tanks Bar & Grill, Rudd
West Fork Wharf, Sheffield

The Every Bar In Mason City (And Slightly Beyond This Time) Quest: Rookie’s & WiseGuys

Winter is coming. Winter is here.

The first snow fall has hit North Iowa and we’re two bars into our Every Bar In Mason City Quest. That’s right. Every bar in Mason City. We’re new[ish] to the community and thought this quest would be an interesting way to explore our new city of residence.

Every Bar in Mason City Graphic

Now that I’m thirty, I’m too old and grumpy to fight over free seafood on the crowded rooftop at Stella’s or vie for a bartender’s attention at a fancy place where people are dressed to the nine’s. I want the Cheers experience. Not that I want to visit a bar frequently enough for everyone to know my name, but I seek places with less frills and and stronger drinks. Bars where people don’t put on airs and make friendly banter with strangers. I want to figure out what puts the cheer into a Cheers bar and so I’m embarking on this quest.

Last weekend we proceeded by visiting one of our favorite places, Rookie’s, before heading to WiseGuys Sports Pub.

Rookie’s is located in Clear Lake, but it’s a place we keep returning to so I’ll take this moment to tell you why. First, we like how it feels to sit around the long horseshoe bar. I’ve heard Rookie’s can become wilder on weekend evenings since it’s a popular destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties, but when we’ve visited for dinner, we’ve found an easy-going atmosphere and friendly company. Once, a very drunk and very friendly man who looked like Mark Zuckerberg made our date night more interesting when he insisted on buying us fireball shots.

Whether it’s summer or off-season, we always get a neighborhood vibe that fosters regulars and friendly banter with whoever’s sitting closest. The bartenders make sure everyone’s well taken care of and we can bet our drinks will be cheap and poured strong.

IMG_3321Rookie’s is connected to the restaurant Sevens making it possible for customers to order more than the typical bar food. One of my “Do they care?” litmus tests for any restaurant is the quality of their side salad. The first time we visited, we were delighted to find crisp salads and house-made lemon vinaigrette. We order them each visit.

We also order their flat, crinkle-cut sweet potato fries sprinkled with an addicting seasoning salt and served with a creamy dip that tastes of bacon. Are these a frozen product? Are they homemade? All I know is that they arrive hot and crispy from the fryer without dripping with grease. As I’ve stated before, a good fry job covers a multitude of sins.

When we don’t feel like eating burgers or fried food, we order the seared lemon pepper cod. Any food’s bar food if it’s enjoyed at the bar, right?

Plus, there’s a self-serve popcorn machine.

Popcorn Machine Watermarked

After dinner, we headed to WiseGuys Sports Pub to toast happy birthday to a friend. This is where things got interesting. 

WiseGuys is a small bar located next to Pete’s Kitchen. The bar itself only sells bags of salty snacks but customers can order food from next door. From the bartenders to the other patrons, we found the vibe welcoming.

Jake ordered his favorite beer while I asked the bartender if he could recommend the quintessential WiseGuys drink. He looked at me quizzically. I rephrased and asked for their signature cocktail or most frequently ordered beverage. This is what he poured me after checking that I actually wanted a whiskey neat.

Whiskey watermarked

The gentleman next to us overheard our conversation and laughed, mentioning he was afraid I’d end up with a whiskey neat. It only cost $4 and I wasn’t so sure it was a sipping whiskey, but I tried to anyway.

“What if you end up with a lot of whiskey neats?” asked Jake.

I shrugged and replied that I’d have to order them. After all, bartender’s choice is one of the rules of the quest.

We watched people play darts and cheered on my friend as he kicked-off the evening’s karaoke festivities before heading home. We called it an early night since I had to work early the next morning. Our visit to WiseGuys was brief, but I’m sure we’ll be back. It’s probably our closest neighborhood bar and several of our friends recommended Pete’s Kitchen for gyros and submarine sandwiches. God knows, we’re suckers for a good gyro.

The quest will continue at Sidewinder or the Clarion’s River City Bar & Grill because readers informed us they close on December 1st. Am I missing your favorite bar? We always appreciate recommendations for food and libations in Mason City and throughout greater North Iowa. Leave a comment below or send me an email.

The Every Bar In Mason City Quest
Burke’s Bar & Grill
Candy Bar Nite Club
Homer’s Sports Bar & Grill
Kozy Korner
Mason City Brewing
Mulligan’s Bar & Grill
Patrick’s Bar
Ransom’s
Sidewinder Bar
Spike’s Tap & Grill
Sportsmans Lounge
Willow Run Lounge (11/01/2014)
Wise Guys Sports Pub (11/08/2014)

Restaurant/Hotel Bars
Chop Eleven
LD’s Filling Station
Loredo’s
Papa’s
Pastime Gardens
The Quarry Tapas Bar
Rib Crib
River City Bar & Grille at the Clarion Inn
Whiskey Creek
Wok ‘n Roll

Reader Suggested Bars Throughout North Iowa
Elly’s Lakefront Tap, Clear Lake
Lake Time Brewery, Clear Lake
Signatures Sports Bar & Grill, Northwood
Tanks Bar & Grill, Rudd

Culinary School Update: Winemaking, Bubbly, & The Strong Stuff

Join me at Simple, Good & Tasty for my latest culinary school update about the last half of wine class.

I share our experience making wine and some of the most interesting things I learned about sparkling and fortified wines.

I’ll meet you there
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