Dining Out

28th August
written by Arthur

Sometimes a meal fails, but the experience is still worth the price of admission. A recent Living Social deal offered a brunch boat tour for $40.  I was lucky to make the trip with Nick and Becca, not only for their fine company, but because Nick drove us in Becca’s car to the dock down in the Southern tip of Brooklyn.  The final couple of miles took us along a bay–the smell of the sea filling the car. Worried that the boat might leave without us, we arrived with time to survey the water from the dock.  Swans and a variety of seagulls (I learned there is more than one kind) meandered above and on the water until it was time to board. As we sat at a table with a panoramic view of the shore the crew began to pass out mimosas.  Horribly sweet mimosas. Possibly made with Sunny-D rather than real OJ.  But respectably strong.  They tasted great with the view, the sun, and fresh air.

The “brunch” buffet turned out to be be much more lunch than brunch with wrap sandwiches and various salads.   The wraps were more or less edible, with the exception of the eggplant, which was as dry as sandpaper.  But the Cesar pasta salad was satisfying and lunch was lifted by two of the best words in the English language: “open bar.”  We sipped mixed drinks from the bar and refills on mimosas as we floated on the water.

On returning to land, Nick was in the mood for some digital violence in form of Big Buck.  I’m never one turn down a game of buck.  Various bar closures and fails at internet searching lead us to trek north to Cherry Tree.  I had seen this bar on a couple late night cab rides and had been meaning to check it out.

On arrival, after a long walk, we learned the Sunday special: a pizza pie from the attached South Brooklyn Pizza shop and two pitchers of PBR for $20!  PBR isn’t my favorite beer, but I’m easily lured by the siren song of a bargain.

Before the arrival of the pizza, we sipped beer and explored the Cherry Tree.  The bar is a large space with a generous with a junk filled and closed patio space.  However, fresh air and sun could be found near a large open window on the second floor. Renovations appear underway to portions of the interior.  Seemingly haphazard planning (odd spaces, protrusions, unlit nooks and crannies) and the halted construction left me feeling like I had dropped into an M. C. Escher drawing or H.H. Holmes’ hotel.  But the beer was cheap, the patrons pleasant, animated animals to be shot were of plenty, and the pizza good.

The pizza encompassed the best the New York style, with a thin crisp crust.  A higher end version of the New York pizza to be sure, but fantastic.  With football season quickly approaching, it may be a while before I’m able to make a Sunday return, though I look forward to it.

23rd July
written by Arthur

After dinner at Punch with my Madre, we headed over the St. Paul institution that is the Grand Ole Creamery.  An ice cream shop that draws Twin Cities denizens to escape the heat of the summer.

As its name suggests, the Grand Ole Creamery serves up the heavy creamy stuff in a seemingly endless list of flavors in waffle cones made on site.  I’ve enjoyed countless summer ice cream cones at this establishment.  It was great to finally return after more than four years.

This place is a treat, even in those dark Minnesota winter days.

11th July
written by Arthur

The night before I grabbed my last MN burger lunch with my dad at the Bulldog, I grabbed my last MN dinner with my madre at one of our favorite spots.

Punch Pizza takes the Neapolitan pizza seriously.  Punch is among the few U.S. restaurants to be certified by Vera Pizza Neapolitana (V.P.N), the Naples organization that oversees that quality of those wishing to take the V.P.N title.  Aside from the three letters, the title means that Punch makes some of the best Neapolitan pizza you can find outside of Naples.  Better than some I’ve had in Naples.  Really freaking good pizza!

The certification means an eagle’s eye attention to ingredients and process.  The pizza is cooked at 800 degrees in a bell shaped wood fired oven.  The high heat creates a crispy crust with a doughy layer under the toppings.  The uninitiated might think the crust is burned.  It’s not.  That crisp, with the occasional blackened spot, is exactly how it should be.  It’s a unique style of pizza perfectly designed to celebrate quality ingredients.

My mother had the margherita.  As always, it encapsulated the prefect simplicity of basil, mozzarella, and crushed tomatoes.  I  opted for the vesuvio (spiced salami, saracene olive, cracked red pepper, piparras pepper, and basil).  The vesuvio was good, but in my selection my mind was too much on one of my favorite Brooklyn haunts, Toby’s.  There was just to much going on.  I should have kept things simple and ordered the margherita extra, a prefect combination basil, mozzarella di bufala and crushed San Marzano tomatoes.   Similar to the regular margherita, but made with absolutely the best ingredients to be found.

Eating at Punch took me back to innumerable dinners with friends and family over amazing pies and back to Naples.  If you live in the Twin Cities and haven’t made your way to Punch yet, now is the time!


10th July
written by Arthur

My posting has been sparse lately, in part due to an 11 day trip back to Minnesota.  A trip that has left me backlogged with food I want to write about.  Tragically, the timing and heat of the trip limited the amount of actual cooking I got in.  Though, I did get in a couple good grills with the boys.

I’m starting off with one of my favorite Minnesota spots that I’ve so far neglected to mention here:  The Bulldog.  This fine establishment can be found on Lyndale in Uptown Minneapolis–which, despite its name and for reasons I’ve never been able to figure out, is located south of Downtown Minneapolis.

Back when I used to live in Minneapolis, I think it was safe to call me a regular.  I can’t count the number of burgers and beers I’ve taken down with friends at this spot.  So, after working through some of my Twin Cities must eats, this spot was an easy choice for a last lunch with my father.

The menu boasts a creative burger menu that is only matched by the Bulldog’s impressive beer list.  The burger list includes such amazing creations as the Stilton burger and the Hawaiian.  All the burger come with fries and everyone is under $10!  (The hot dog menu isn’t shabby either and is worth of an occasional departure from the burgers.)  The beer options are heavy on the Belgians but include great bottles from stellar U.S. brewers.

On this trip, I set my sights on the Humpty Dumpty (a fried egg, melted cheddar cheese, red onion, shredded lettuce, tomato and mayo).  This hangover cure used to come with a slice of ham.  And, as crazy as it sounds, I think the burger is better off without it. The egg is a great addition, but the ham just got in the way of the burger.

After eating, my dad and I turned to a few games of darts while we worked our way through a bit more of the beer list.

Great burgers, beer, and darts with the old man: a near perfect way to wind-down my last days in my home State.

The Bulldog
2549 Lyndale Ave S.
Minneapolis, MN 55405

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27th May
written by Arthur

Even here on the East Coast, I’ve heard rumors of the wonders of In and Out Burger.  Some have dared to say it rivals Shake Shack, a New York burger institution which I’ve enjoyed but never drank the kool aid for.  So I knew that I would have to get in at least one good eat at this famous chain.

The menu on the wall is bare bones basic, burgers, cheese burgers, fries, etc.  But the standard menu is augmented by the not so secret menu (available at the company’s website).  The options expand from there with additional secret menus to be discovered.

There are many others who have explored and written far more on In and Out Burger and its secrets than I intend, the options are seemingly endless.  This is my hit and run experience.

I actually managed to do my heart right and hit this place twice on the trip. The first go with Matt was an impulsive stop on the way to take down a full deep dish pizza.  I wanted to keep things simple, so I just got a cheeseburger animal style (lettuce, tomato, a mustard cooked beef patty, pickle, and thousand island spread with grilled onions), fries, and a soda.  It was good, but the burger seemed to get lost in all those toppings.  So when Nick, Becca, and I stopped at the In and Out at the airport on our way out of town I got a 2×2 (two patties and two cheeses) animal style but with no lettuce.  With the double meat, foregoing the lettuce seemed unnecessary as the right-sized beef could hold up to the layers of extras.

In all, this place is awesome.  Despite the rumors of a planned New York opening, I just don’t know if this place could survive in this city.  It wasn’t just a tasty burgers, the place is unbelievably clean and the folks working there didn’t seem crushed by life and working a job they hate.  They smiled.  They actually gave shit!  Things that would break the laws of fast food physics in New York.  Though if its arrival does materialize, my waistline and cholesterol levels are in danger. Tasty, tasty danger.

26th May
written by Arthur

Not long ago, I was lamenting the absences of deep dish pizza in New York.  Well, take note New York, Los Angeles came through and delivered the king of pizzas.

Matt (NYC based friend and LA hotel co-habitant) and I stumbled on this pizza by complete accident.  After the wind down of  Saturday’s events, Matt and I retired to our hotel room and flipped through channels.  In between infomercials and even less watchable late night television, we stumbled on a food show that happened to be talking about deep dish pizza at Masa of Echo Park.  The next morning, a little Google map research revealed that Masa was just off our route to Beverly Hills.

We sat at the bar and ordered an onion and sweet sausage pizza.  During our 40 minute wait for the pizza (deep dish takes its time) we sampled a house IPA. When the pizza arrived, I knew we had found the real thing:

  • 2 inch thick crust, check;
  • diced tomatoes for sauce, check;
  • cheese under the sauce, check; and
  • a corn meal crust, check.

Matt and I were a little full because we had taken down an In and Out burger “snack” about an hour before arrival, yet we still managed to take down the whole delicious pie.

So simple, but so good.  I can only guess that its ignorance or fear of a 40 minute cook time or a perverse sense of pride that keeps deep dish off the streets of New York.


Masa of Echo Park


1800 West Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 989-1558

6th May
written by Arthur

The only thing better than the proverbial free lunch is a free dinner.  When a co-worker selected the Grand Central Oyster Bar for a dinner on a vendor’s dime (Lexis Nexus, here is the plug for Counsel Link) I was thrilled.  Eluded to in Mad Men (and actually directly referenced in tonight’s episode), the name conjured up images of gibson fueled decadence.

The first hint of trouble was on the bodies of our fellow dinners at tables near by.  Tennis shoes here, a hoodie clad bunch there, I think I may have even seen a fanny pack.   I just don’t understand the drive to fly to New York dressed ready to crawl into a warm blanketed couch for a post-break-up How I Met Your Mother marathon.  I mean I get comfort, but if you’re going out for what should be a nice meal, at least swing by the hotel for a quick change.  [Tourist rant over.]

The menu looked great.  The oysters were great.  But as our entrees reached the table, my heart sank at the sight of the sorry looking steamed veggies lining the sides of our plates.  The fish was lack luster.  Generally flavorless.  Possibly defrosted.  Not worth the price. Instead of Mad Men dreams I found a tourist trap.

The Bar sprawls under Grand Central.   On a trip to the restroom, I wandered through the dining room, past rows of counters, and found myself in a section called the Saloon.  This was more what I had in mind: New Yorkers grabbing after work drinks over oysters and small tempting looking plates.  The Saloon might be worth a return trip.


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29th April
written by Arthur

If you asked to describe a quintessential dinner date ambiance, I might well lead you to Giuseppina in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  Dark wood, exposed brick, and aesthetically placed wine bottles are perfectly basked in candle light and the fire from the pizza oven.  The tables are large and uncharacteristically well spaced for New York.   With attentive, but unobtrusive, servers its easy to slip into your own world.  Though if you, or your date, aren’t in the mood for pizza or calzones you’d better steer clear, as that’s the extent of the menu–no antipasti, no salad, no desert.

In  an effort to branch out from our usual Park Slope haunts, Iggy and I swung into Giuseppina’s almost at random.  While waiting briefly for a table, we learned from the articles posted near the door, that Giuseppina’s is sister restaurant to Lucali (a restaurant in Carroll Gardens of similar design and occasionally frequented by Jay Z).

While the menu choices may be spartan, the prices are not.  Pizzas and calzones start at $22 each.  Regular toppings are $3 and, on my trip, special grilled artichokes were available for $8 and a hot and sweet sausage  for $6.  Iggy and I opted for a pizza with shallots and the special sausage, also electing for the free garlic and basil additions.  The pizza, with a thin crust and an unsweetened sauce, was good, but not great.  Anything special about the $6 sausage, aside from the price, was lost on me.

A glass of wine, a beer, and a two topping pizza set us back $50, pre-tip.  The pizza was solid, but  given the extremely limited menu I expected more.  The cost-value equation just falls flat.

However, its not just Jay Z who appreciates this uniquely New York style of pizza.  Through our dinner, there was a constant wait for new seats and more than a couple takeout pizzas left the restaurant.  People seem to love Giuseppina’s for more than just the atmosphere.  Given Giuseppina’s proximity to Toby’s (who manages to present a full menu and provide more flavorful pizzas at a lower cost), I am happy in my belief that  everyone is entitled to their own incorrect opinion.   I’m happy for the denizens of Giuseppina’s to leave the amazing pizza and table space at Toby’s for me and my friends.

691 6th Ave
(between 21st St & 20th St)
Brooklyn, NY 11215

(718) 499-5052


23rd April
written by Arthur

Last year, I discovered the wonder that is the Wafels & Dinges food truck.  Since my first visit, I’ve made several returns and sampled a range sweet delights.  However, I always kept my eye on the BBQ pork waffle.  Until last Friday, my timing never seemed to able to match-up with lunch.

With a pile of pork and a pile coleslaw sitting on the waffle, the move to a savory treat looked great.  But the flavor and texture fell short.  As I ate, I realized there was an underlying candy sugariness.  The sweetness emanated not just from the waffle but from the Kool aid pickles and the sauce on the pork.   The pork itself was lackluster and fairly flavorless.  My usually iron clad stomach was actually unsettled by the end of it all.

Though I may mark Wafels & Dinges’s attempt at savory down in the L column, I have no doubt I will be headed back again, and often, to try their amazing sweet offerings of wafels, dinges, and ice cream.



17th April
written by Arthur

“You cannot buy Japanese Kobe beef in this country. Not in stores, not by mail, and certainly not in restaurants. No matter how much you have spent, how fancy a steakhouse you went to, or which of the many celebrity chefs who regularly feature ‘Kobe beef’ on their menus you believed, you were duped…  It is now illegal to import (or even hand carry for personal consumption) any Japanese beef. “

Read the full article on The Great Kobe Beef Lie from Forbes magazine.  And don’t think that American stuff is the same.

After reading the above, my conclusion is that you can get still get some amazing beef here in the States; but, the Kobe name is not a guarantee of quality.

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