Category: Bar food (Page 2 of 3)

A Little Post About Taste Bar

This is a tiny post about a tiny bar where the classic cocktails are listed chronologically. My friend @ArsonistKitten told me so, but I found the idea so fantastical that I almost didn’t believe her.

They are. From the Mint Julep c. 1790 to the Cosmopolitan c. 1985. After going through a stretch where I felt jaded by expensive, unbalanced signature cocktails, I typically stick to Manhattans or whiskey. They never let me down.

I asked the bartender if he could recommend a drink based upon my affinity for Manhattans. He suggested the de la Louisiane made with bourbon, Benedictine, punt e mas, Peychaud’s bitters & absinthe. It was perfect and he was right.

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Don’t Smoke Weed On The Patio: Tropical Liqueurs

The warm welcome we received at Tropical Liqueurs curiously morphed into explicit instructions not to smoke weed on the patio. Then, with a wave of his hand, the gentleman sent us inside with a cheerful, “Have fun!”

We giggled as we heard him repeat this same greeting to everyone behind us. An establishment that has to work this rule into their greeting must have had quite the problem with people smoking weed on the patio.

Ever since I heard that Tropical Liqueurs opened a store in St. Louis’ Soulard neighborhood this past August, I wanted to go. Call it curiosity, or something. An entire bar whose offerings are composed of swirling slurpee machines filled with a rainbow of house-made alcoholic concoctions; what wasn’t there to be curious about?

Most know what raspberry lemonade and a Long Island Iced Tea taste like, but the names Tiger Paw, Silver Bullet and Voodoo Brew leave one with little clues.

The hilarious and sad thing about our first Tropical Liqueurs experience was ordering our Voodoo Brew while Hootie & The Blowfish’s “Hold My Hand” blasted over the sound system and finding ourselves the oldest folks hanging out on the patio.

Getting old is weird.

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Voodoo Brew tastes like banana and bubblegum. We sipped and shivered outside in the cold until we could take it no more.

Tropical Liqueurs’ motto is, “Where it’s always 85 degrees and sunny” which seems to be the law of the land here. There’s really not much room to chill inside by the bar (no pun intended), so you probably need to take your drink and go. *Addition: There’s plenty of seating upstairs. Thanks @nancerdancer

The evening dipped into the 40’s, but this didn’t stop anyone from hanging out on the patio and balcony living like it was 85 degrees and sunny. Also, we couldn’t leave the patio. Not with our drink, anyway. The employee sitting at the back exit conveniently reminded people who forgot.

The next time we visit Tropical Liqueurs, we’re going to remember we can mix different flavors. A handy chart on the wall by the bar lists prices and each size’s approximate strength. For example small ($4) has 2-3 shots. We split a medium.

Just as you’re never too old for pita pizzas, Hootie, or french toast sticks, you’re also never too old to get a kick out of neon slushies.

With a little love, and some tenderness
We’ll walk upon the water
We’ll rise above this mess

Webster City, Iowa: Grid Iron Grill & La Perla Jarocha

Disclaimer: On 12.13.14 Deb Brown, Executive Director of the Webster City Area Chamber of Commerce invited me to spend the day in Webster City as part of the “Seven Bloggers on a Saturday” tour. Grid Iron Grill provided lunch. All opinions are my 100% my own

It’s bittersweet to write about Webster City again.

Last December, I spent the day touring the city with seven North Iowa bloggers. One of them was Amy Hild who recently died in a car crash late February. Thinking about the Webster City tour makes me feel sad because we miss our friend, but it also makes me happy because the day holds more warm memories than any other day I’ve lived in Iowa.

Beth and I actually returned to Webster City in January to explore at a more leisurely pace. Our bloggers tour had moved at a rapid pace in order to fit in as many businesses and attractions as possible. Between both of our visits, we enjoyed meals at a few restaurants. Here are highlights from our meals at Grid Iron Grill and La Perla Jarocha.

Grid Iron Grill & Sports Lounge
This sports bar served as our big lunch stop on our original Webster City tour. Owner Burk Risetter greeted our table and surprised us by treating us to our meals. Before he opened his own restaurant, Risetter worked in the food service industry. He spoke of taking pride in the fact that his kitchen hand breads most of their appetizers such as their onion rings and fried pickles and cuts their own steaks and salmon fillets.

appetizer Collage

We split several appetizers and most everyone ordered a different entrée. My favorite appetizer was the fried pickle chips.

Fried Pickles WM

I didn’t mind that the chips were softer because I liked their light coating. Of course, they were served with ranch in true Iowan fried appetizer style. I found these pickle chips addicting and kept returning for more during the entire meal. Grid Iron’s ranch passed my ranch test, meaning it did not taste like a pre-made product.

For my entrée, I ordered six wings with bourbon sauce and a side salad.

Wings wm

Chicken wings are one of my top three favorite foods. My parents rarely served meat on the bone and so wings were a treat I’d order wings at restaurants every chance I got. Grid Iron’s wings were larger and plumper than what you’ll find at chains like Buffalo Wild Wings. The cook fried them so that the skin was crispy and the meat was tender. Typically I prefer spicy wing sauce, but chose something milder since I was on a bloggers tour. I’m not sure if the world is ready to see me devour hot wings yet.

This sauce was a little sweet for me, but ideal for those who like honey BBQ. Donna ordered a burger glazed with this same bourbon sauce and raved about it. Her meal also came with crispy sweet potato fries served with an unusual marshmallow sauce. I would certainly order Grid Iron’s wings again with a spicy sauce. In terms of size and cooking technique, these are the best wings I can remember eating for a long time.

La Perla Jarocha
We noticed two specialty food markets along Webster City’s main street. On our second visit, Beth & I popped into a small Asian market that carried mostly South East Asian pantry items and La Perla Jarocha, one of Webster City’s two Mexican grocery stores. Chamber Director Brown mentioned that Webster City is home to a sizable Laotian community and that a Laotian family is in process of opening a egg roll and bubble tea shop soon.

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It’s hard to believe, but even though Mason City and Clear Lake are the biggest communities in North Iowa, we have no multicultural grocery stores. I’d love for someone to prove me wrong, but the closest Asian grocery store appears to be Yaw Asian Grocery Store located 40-minutes away in Albert Lea, MN.

At La Perla Jarocha’s grocery store, I noticed a hot food warmer on the front counter containing what looked like pork carnitas meat and found foil-wrapped tamales in the cooler. The owner shared that her mother prepares them with freshly made masa dough. She gently reminded me to remove the banana leaf before eating, which made me giggle as I thought of people trying to eat the tough leaves.

I brought two tamales home. The masa dough was light and fluffy and the chicken filling tasted delightfully spicy. I’m always thrilled when food makes me sweat.

Tamale

Spicy chicken tamale from La Perla Jarocha

The tamales from La Perla Jarocha reminded of eating my first banana leaf-wrapped tamale in Cholula, Mexico. Our friend Mario biked to his favorite tamale vendor early one the morning so he could share them with us at breakfast. We unwrapped them on a beautiful sidewalk cafe and enjoyed them with espresso and traditional pastries before climbing Mexican’s largest pyramid, The Great Pyramid of Cholula.

Until this moment, I thought I didn’t like tamales because the only ones I had tried were dry and heavy. Now that I know how delicate and spicy they can taste, I try them every chance I get.

IMG_2553

Mario unwraps a tamale in Cholula, Mexico

I later followed up with the owner of La Perla Jarocha who said they recently opened a restaurant across the street where they serve these tamales and more of their family recipes.

Soon after our last trip to Webster City, a Des Moines Register reporter contacted me (along with two other Iowan food bloggers) for an interview . Understandably, Torpy’s word count was limited and she couldn’t fit all of our replies into her feature, but her final question was my favorite to answer. I wrote my reply as I enjoyed one of these tamales: “What do you hope people will take away after reading your blog?”

I hope my readers will feel inspired to try a new food or wander into a new market. I also hope they’ll feel inspired to explore their own backyard and never stop searching for their new favorite dive bar or small town café. My favorite bloggers make me feel something. They make me laugh and cry, awaken wanderlust, or become curious about something new. I hope I do the same for my readers.

Be curious. Wander into new stores and don’t be afraid to ask the owners questions. Celebrate chicken wings with crispy skin and don’t be the fool that passes on someone else’s mother’s homemade tamales.

Thanks again to Grid Iron Grill for treating us to lunch during the December 2015 Webster City Bloggers Tour.

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

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