Monday, August 11, 2008

Q&A with the Me at the Minneapple

CindyMN commented on my last post:

Hey there!!We are heading down to the big TC's this next wk. Would you mind giving me some restaurant recommendations? I would love to hear what you think. We'd like to try something different then the normal red lobster or olive garden. something FUN. We have 2 teen daughters. So something not too spendy, but fun in the bloomington/south metro area.I would love to hear your thoughts!!THANKS

First - thank you for even asking. That's so cool. I've had a few people ask me about where to eat when in the Bloomington area and I always struggle because I don't go out there often anymore.

When I very first moved down here, after fleeing my picturesque hometown because they just don't get me and no one here will ever understand my pain I landed in Bloomington. Actually, to be honest, first I landed in Richfield in what used to be the Tressman Music dirt parking lot in a 70's era RV with a broken sewage system and two buddies, Jerome (who wished that James Hetfield was his long lost father) and Guido (not his given name, but better than.) Anyhoo, after tiring of the acrid smell and bathing in the Super America sink we decided to get an apartment and found one nearby in a complex that housed mostly immigrants who worked at the Mall of America. Eventually, I, too would become employed there.

Those were some weird times. I have so many stories that I could get in to, but will save you the gory details other than that I thoroughly apologize to my parents for what I put them through.

Anyway, that's not what you asked. There are actually a couple of good spots that have stood the test of time in the Mall of America. I know, shock, right? Me, enjoying big mall dining? But it's not the chain spots that eventually die. And it is most certainly not the Rainforest themed restaurant where I was once fortunate enough to dine in the path of some stampeding elephants.

One of my favorite suburban restaurants is the Twin Cities Grill on the first floor, North side of the MOA. The food is Minnesota focused and varied enough to please all palates. They have great burgers with delicious malt vinegar soaked fries, dusted with a little season salt. My jaw muscles twinge at the thought. The perfect salty, sour food combination. The fish is also incredible, the walleye does not disappoint. They are a little bit more expensive than Ruby Tuesday, but not that much and the welcome reprieve the restaurant offers can't be beat. You and your girls can get some serious shopping in and then step inside this coolly lit room and the din of the mall just melts away.

The service is polished, too. I've never been treated rudely and the food has never been anything but delicious. Last time I was in the mall, I lasted longer than my usual 20 minutes before I start regressing and yelling at rude customers to back up OFF the cash register and get in LINE you will get checked out AS SOON as it is humanly possible YOU CREDIT CARD WAVING PARASITES! (You can see why I eventually transitioned out of the customer service industry.)

Other restaurants in the Great Mall that come to mind are yummy burgers and shakes and Johnny Rockets. No matter how many times I've eaten there, when the guy draws a little ketchup smiley face to go with my plate of fries, I'm utterly charmed.

Tucchi Bennuch are owned by the same group that owns the Grill, Lettuce Entertain You. They know what they're doing. The pasta dishes are not far from what you'd find at the Olive Garden, but way better. Man, the last time I ate there was right before I saw Eric Clapton play at the newly christened Xcel Center - what a wonderful night that was. He played Sunshine of Your Love just for me, I know it.

If you'd rather not hit the behemoth mall, then my recommendations get a little sketchier. Because of the bizarre nature of most of my memories of this time of my life, I don't head back there too often. (Or... exactly remember every thing.. precisely.)

One more place that should not be missed is if you can get in to the West Side of St. Paul for breakfast is Mickey's Diner. The original dining car is just about impossible to get in to, but most people don't know that there is another Mickey's on West 7th (take 494 E, follow 5, which turns into West 7th, watch for it on your right, about 2 miles in, just before a Famous Dave's. It's a really quick trip from Bloomington) They serve the same out of this world malts and the hashbrowns... Oh, the hashbrows. They're made every day, on site and fried in lard. They are the holy grail of hasbrowns. You never have to worry if they will be soggy on one side, or slightly cold in the center. These little tender beauties fry up crisp and brown with just a thin layer of tender, homey taters. And unlike the surly/kitchy attitude the original Mickey's promises, these ladies are loving and quick to warm up your cup of coffee. Watch for the Gov. When he's not out campaigning, I've caught him in there a few times, hair still spiked from sleep and sweet looking kids by his side.

I hope I'm at least a little helpful. And, if your girls grow up and one maybe doesn't want to live in a dorm right away? I'd really stick to your guns on that one. No young lady should be rooming with a guy named Guido.

Mom - I'm sorry! I love you! You were right! You were always right! But then you knew that, didn't you? Thanks for letting me figure it out on my own.

And now, as penance, I give you a picture of 19 year old Joy dancing at her friend's wedding in an ill-fitting, handmade, blue, satin, with gauze overlay bridesmaid dress. Looks like two pigs fighting over a blanket.


At 1:56 PM , Anonymous Bill Roehl said...

My site has a plethora of South Metro eating options outside of the Mall of America as I generally specialize in talking the most about that area.

I have a couple of suggestions for eating South of the River but it really depends on what you're looking for so some more details would be helpful to narrow it down some.

here are some of my favorites and you can see all of our dining experiences (good and bad, and out of the South Metro) here.

If I had to tell you one place to go in the South Metro for some great food and friendly service (although recently slow due to the uptick in business), I would have to say Ronin Sushi Cafe in Lakeville.

Feel free to contact me at or post a comment on my site, I'm more than happy to help give you a better idea of where to eat in the South Metro :)

At 6:44 PM , Blogger cindyMN said...

WOW!! JOY!! thanks!!I'm honored you picked my question for you Q&A, and then some other guy comes on too!! That's sooo cool!!
Thank you for the suggestions. I had no idea that some of those resturants were even IN the MOA! LOL. I had heard of Calif grill (I think it is), and of course Rainforest.YICK. That we used to take my girls to just for the atmosphere. HA!! But I'd like them to experience much more. I feel sort of a kindred soul with you. I live up in here in podunk northern MN. Not very far from your hometown by the way. I went to college in the cities, and got to experience all sorts of food then, but now I live in the wasteland of resturants.
I'm off to check out bill's suggestions. Can't do sushi Bill. THAT would be pushing these northern redneck swede girls a bit TOO much. LOLPIMP!!
OH..great pic by the way!!

At 8:59 PM , Anonymous Bill Roehl said...

Well, if you are loking for easy food check out Junior's Grill in Eagan, Panino Brothers or Rascal's Apple Valley Bar and Grill in Apple Valley.

Those might do you a lot better :)

Good luck and let us know where you ended up!

At 6:24 AM , Blogger Joy Estelle said...

That is possibly the least attractive picture of me of that era ; ) What is with that hair? I think I was channeling Crystal Gayle. Thanks Cindy! I hope you guys have a great trip down!

At 8:02 AM , Anonymous Peggy said...

What sensible shoes you were wearing!

At 8:35 AM , Blogger andy said...

The opposite of sushi is easy? Huh. Cindy, you're already heading out of your Easy Zone by not only heading down to The Cities with two teen girls, but also asking suggestions for something "different" and "fun." Kudos to you for planning to mix it up a bit! (I think some of the word choices in a couple comments got my hackles up on your behalf.)

I'm not a food blogger or diverting any traffic toward a site of mine, but an idea for a dining experience as you travel from north to south is The Chatterbox Pub. Personally, I think they use too much rosemary in their focaccia (which is used quite often in their meals), but they've got a huge menu, very reasonable prices, and a game room (board games, Pac Man, etc.) in a separate area than the bar proper that could be fun and different for the adults and girls, alike. It's just off of Hiawatha/55 between 394 and 62. See link:

It's not quite Bloomington or the South Metro, but it's quite close. As a person who lived much of her life in the country, anything within 25 minutes is "close" to me, though.

Have fun!

At 3:30 PM , Blogger cindyMN said...

Here I would have thought "sushi" was easy.(no cooking) LOL. Thanks Andy for getting your hackles up for me. Seriously, if I took my girls to a sushi place, they would try to put a hook on it. LOL.
Ok ok..we arn't THAT redneck!!
Now..I'm not TOTALLY redneck. Remember I did go to the big TC for college. My hubby is going to be with us also..and we do get down to the city fairly often. My brother lives in New Prague. Big bank VP. So I'm really looking for something south metro. We'll hit up the MOA and then head down to New Prague from there.
Any other suggestions?! and thanks also Bill!!

At 9:26 AM , Blogger andy said...


I'm no sushi fan, believe me. Having nothing to do with city/country or redneck/non-redneck, I don't do fish at all...though I certainly like throwing a line in if there are fish-eaters around me. So, I'd probably be hanging out with your daughters with a lure in hand if sushi were the plan. :)

Now that you mention New Prague, all I can do is think of Schumacher's...and that's hardly a productive distraction when thinking of possible food destinations for you. The last I'd heard was that a woman from Golden Valley bought it last year and was going to sink some money into you know if it's up and running?

Good luck with your trip!


At 3:05 PM , Blogger cindyMN said...

Schuamakers is just sooo SAD!! I wish he hadn't closed it down. John is actually a 2nd couison of mine.
The last I heard they were going to chop up the motel and make it in to condo's. But the last time we were there, it was sadly empty, and no work had gone on there at all.
Anyone eaten anywhere ins Brainerd? We are staying there one night at a waterpark down there. I hear alot of the places down there are spendy for the resort goers.

At 3:09 PM , Blogger cindyMN said...

Ok..too funny. Had to add this. Tonight on WCCO Jason Derushda is doing a "good question" on sushi!!
Does he read your blog??? LOL

At 10:04 AM , Blogger andy said...


He DOES read Joy's blog! I've seen him comment! That's funny.

My family has a cabin in Merrifield, just 11 miles out of Brainerd. For restaurants, we tend not to go to Brainerd, per se, as the scenery isn't the best. Instead, we flock toward places with lakefront views...but you tend to need to travel a bit for them. We've taken all ages (from my 2-year old niece to my 87-year old grandmother) to The Wharf in Cross Lake and have chosen to sit out on the decks to watch the boats go by ( Through the years, we've done high-brow from Madden's, The Quarterdeck, Four Seasons/Charlie's, Norway down-home at The Northwoods Inn, Chap's, Old Mill, and (for giggles) Zorbaz. We keep going back to The Wharf for setting, food, price, and passive entertainment, though.

While we were there over the Fourth of July, we tried a new one (for us) on Gull Lake, Ernie's: It was fight-for inside seats versus limited-menu outside tables. We chose the immediately available outdoor seating, but only had about 1/4 of the usual menu from which to choose...which was disappointing. But, on the bright side, their onion rings, cheeseburger, fish, and chips were not disappointing whatsoever.

Have fun!


At 4:41 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another good Bloomington option is the Split Rock Grill at the Radisson (494 east of Portland, I think). Great steaks served with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.

At 5:26 PM , Blogger cindyMN said...

I'm back!! We had a great time in the TC's. We stayed in Brainerd one night and a friend of mine had suggested several resturants. I didn't see Andy's post before we left, and small world, we ate at Ernie's. It was very crowded, and very VERY loud. It was the complete opposite. There was a waiting list for seating on the deck. We ate inside. We all had burgers and they were good. Big, hearty, well done.
Then it was on to the TC's. We ate at Tucci in the MOA friday night. We had made reservations. We had a fairly good meal. I had the seafood fettucini which was very good. My hubby had the special, the seafood risotta. Which was basically what I had, but rice. The sauces are all pretty much interchangable. My one daughter had the old world lasagna, and it looked like it had been cut, then heated. So the edges were dry and a dark color. VS fresh cut. Other daughter had spahetti, which she liked, but thought was spicy. Drinks were very good and fresh.
Thanks for the recommandation. It was definetly something new and different.
On another note I asked my brother about Schuamakers, and the sale to the lady fell thru. It went back to him, and he was looking at financing to open a small time bistro/deli in the building. Which would go over very well we think. He was looking at financing though. Thru the grapevine..Our families are related, and from the same hometown..his mother is selling their wonder if he will get some of that money? I wonder why he would have have a problem getting financing though?!
Thanks everyone!!! for all the recommandations!!

At 1:55 PM , Blogger cindyMN said...'s another good guestion for you foodies. Since not much has gone on since my last post.
Next mo. I'll be in Shoreview for a wksp. What good places are there in that area????


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