Thursday, May 26, 2005


Tonight I'm going out with my very dear, darling best friend for our somewhat weekly Slursday celebration; a tradtion dating back to our college days. Or, well, hers really, but that's another story. Usually, this involves rum & coke; vodka & cranberry and a dingy cheap bar. But we're getting on in years and cutting back. Actually, that's probably a big, fat boozey lie. We're trying to tart it up and just go to dinner. She's meeting me in Uptown and I was trying to come up with someplace to go within walking distance of my apartment.
My first thought was Figlio's. It's not that it's a fabulous restaurant. It's not particularly cheap or hip(take down the pink neon already!) It's just consistently consistent. Even the time I had the waiter who had apparently just done an 8 ball before he made it to our table, things were as to be expected. He was very informative, too. Lots and lots of information and staring at my cigarettes.
A couple of weeks ago I was out to happy hour with a couple of my coworkers and we decided to go to Tryg's. I didn't have a good feeling when I noticed the handle on the door was covered in some kind of weird, unraveling rafia and the place is only a few months old. We sat in the cold bar. My friend noticed the alikeness of all the ladies at the tables around us. Some kind of singular corporate desperation hung over the two tables flanking the bar. And did I mention we were sitting there? Yup, nearly empty bar, sitting. Waiting. Finally, we got a surly waitress, two vodka martinis that weren't what we ordered, the nastiest calamari (that haunted us the day after) and some kind of bizarre trio of cold goat cheese swathed in dry spices. I cannot even begin to imagine what that was supposed to be, because no food loving chef would ever accost a cheese like that. It's just wrong. Anyway, by the time our third friend joined us I was paying the bill. Despite the fact that we didn't eat anything or even get to the halfway point of the vodkas, the waitress didn't seem to think the fact that I was gagging, twiching and nervously glancing over my shoulder at the door was out of the ordinary. Maybe she knows the 8 ball guy.
Well, after that wretched experience, I was really far too sober to let my happy hour go. Oh, no. We needed drinks, we needed food and we needed the comfort of knowing that it would NOT suck. And you know where we went? You're goddamn right. We went to Figlio. It was static, it was warm and it was just fine thank you very much.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Fabulous Fern's

Something about the name of this place will always conjure up a vision of a giant drag queen. I don't know. The "Fern" pictured in the entryway is hardly what I would call fabulous. Eddie Izzard is fabulous. Elton John nostrils stuff with coke: super fabulous with sparkles. Fern? Dumpy old broad. But then you loose all that aliteration.
Regardless of the name, I found myself pulled up to an outdoor table at the establishment last night. I'd left my beloved Mpls for the other side of the river, and although part of me felt like I was betraying my town, the desire to sit outside and not freeze my tits off was stronger. It was what seemed like the first sunny day in eons and I wanted to curl up in a little corner of sunlight and absorb every bit of warmth I could. My cats always make this look so easy. I found that most outdoor patios are either completely shaded or have only a smidgen of sun that will fade as the hours pass. Fern's patio is just a stretch of concrete under an awning next to the parking lot. What most people would refer to as a "sidewalk," but when it comes to sitting outside on one of our dozen warm Minnesotan days, we as a people are not too picky.
It took roughly half an hour to get noticed or a menu, and there was no mention of any happy hour specials. So, I don't know if they exist. But after my vodka lemonade arrived I didn't care. I mean, really what is time? Nice breeze, warm sun... All I needed was a rocking chair and someone to refer to as Colonel. I ordered some variety of chicken wing that was not Buffalo or BBQ. They were glazed with hoison sauce and garlic and delicious. They only served the little drummies, which always makes me ponder where the other half of the wing goes to. I followed that up with a turkey burger. For a certain time the turkey burger seemed to be a real up and comer on hoity toity-wanna be menus around town. But they didn't really catch on. I think Fern's version would be one of the reasons for that. It tasted more like ground chicken than turkey. Don't ask me to clarify that distinction, they just did.

Monday, May 23, 2005


This is my current favorite happy hour. Not only is the food amazing, but I've created a rumor that seems to have run rampant through the restaurant. I completely made up where I'd heard about their happy hour while talking to a waitress on one visit and now I've had servers saying to me, yes, we've gotten much more busy since people heard about this new website. It's a self fufilling prophecy in the most egotistical manner. We've come full circle.
As some of you know, Auriga is a chef owned restaurant that is really producing some of the most artistic food in this town. Unfortunately, for me, I don't own any of those houses 'round Lake of the Isles. I inhabit a considerably smaller 1 bedroom apartment near Lake of the Isles that I'm pretty sure will be torn down for condos any day now.
If you get yourself into Auriga between 5pm (their website says they don't open until 5:30, but seriously, I go in there around five all the time) and 7pm, you get $3 glasses of wine and these gorgeous little cracker crust pizzas for half price. Meaning you can basically have dinner, one is plenty for one person, for about $6.50 plus tax and tip. My favorite is roasted garlic with Italian smoked mozzarella, rosemary leaves and capers pizza, but their menu changes often, who knows how long that will be there? It can be a little greasy. But, just because you're in a fancy pants restaurant don't forget: it's pizza. 'Course it's greasy. And did I mention the wine? It only $3! You have that in your couch cushions! AND IT'S GOOD! There's no Corbet Canyon here, my friends. Real wine for people who know how to turn a corckscrew. Not to mention the excellent service. Occassionally, I will get a little intimitated about who I can order my next drink from. On one visit my friend and I easily had four different servers, but only one that took orders. But they are so nice. I've had bar tabs that run smaller than their cheapest entree and still I'm treated so well; I can't believe it. So, why go to that downtown bar with the snooty bartender that really can't be bothered to get you another glass of $13 mediocre wine (rhymes with likes, ahem) when you've got this little gem just outside the city?

My Favorite Rant

If there is one thing that I cannot abide, it is the half assed. I would rather have an experience so horrendously awful that it can at least be recycled into a decent cocktail party punch line. In no other way do I believe in this ideal as feverently as I do when I go out. Is there anything worse than finsihing a meal and thinking, Well, there's an hour and 30 bucks I'm never going to see again? Besides, this is the Midwest. We're ingrained with the belief this this is our hard earned money. Gawd forbid we waste it. At least with some excellent service, a perfectly prepared steak, or a top shelf 2 for 1, there's the possibily of rationalization and if you're lucky, a good buzz.
In my search of the Great Going Out Experience, I've had a lot of good, bad and terrifically half assed expereiences. This is just my little way of sharing my far from humble opinions. Please post your feedback... Well, as long as you put some fire into it.