Reviews written by brad*bradley

Registered on Mar 24 03

Cafe Brenda in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Nov 19 03

rating star

ahh, the ancient riddle, which has tormented humanity's wise sages through the centuries.. are turkeys vegetables? judging by the offerings here, they qualify. these people would get along well with my relatives.. (yeah, it's thanksgiving time again.. time for the annual game of 20 vegetarian questions at the dinner table!)

when i went to Cafe Brenda i had some sort of middle eastern sampler thing, which was about as run-of-the-mill as the prices were run-up-the-bill. the food and the presentation exhibited a sort of half-hearted creativity -- rather like the mediocre service, which was neither rude nor particularly pleasant.

whenever Cafe Brenda comes to mind (which isn't very often), the response in kind is usually: why?

Chipotle in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Mar 30 04

rating star

i don't think i've ever heard anyone mention how great chipotle is without commenting about the quantity of food you get -- like, "the burritos are as big as your head!". i think even some of chipotle's earlier ads touted this as a main selling point. but the funny thing is, the issue of whether or not an item of food is as big as my head is very rarely a factor in my decision about where to eat.. focusing on the food itself, i can't say i've ever found it to be that bad, really. the ingredients seem fresh enough, and of a decent quality.. but there is still an inescapable mass-produced dullness to it all -- in addition to the assembly line construction of the burrito, everything inside seems bland.. call it filler food.

so, taking additionally into account the usual long lines, i almost never end up eating there. the fact that mcdonald's corporation has a large stake in chipotle, and that they multiply starbucks-style across the urban landscape, certainly doesn't earn it any extra smiley face stickers, either. chipotle restaurants just sort of take up space that could otherwise be filled with something much more interesting -- you know, sort of like one of their burritos in your stomach..

Cub Foods in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Jun 20 04

rating star

it had been a long while since i'd been inside one of these kinds of stores, so when i entered the store i thought i had just walked into the Disneyland Grocery Store for Giants or something. the sheer magnitude and excess of the place was absolutely astounding.. i know they must get lots of customers and all, but is it really essential to show off at least 200,000 apples in the display bin at one time? i do have to say the food all looked quite impressive -- albeit in the sort of way that makes you wonder what sort of 'help' it gets to look that good.

but hey, i admit it.. i ended up buying a few items anyway. oh well. still, overall, the new Cub Foods Experience was in my mind much more like going on a bizarre field trip than going grocery shopping.. (but i'm sure i'll be kicking myself for saying that, next time i need to make, say, 60 acres of apple crisp in a hurry)

Dulono's Pizza in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Apr 19 03

rating star

their vegetarian pizza -- tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, fresh garlic -- is one of the best anywhere in the metro area. in general, Dulono's serves some of the finest thin crust pizza around. for those of us who have an occasional weakness for fried appetizers, the breaded cauliflower is great, as are the breaded mushrooms -- both priced at $2.81 for a basket, at this writing. i haven't had the pasta or sandwiches, so i don't know if they're good or not. but it's worth a trip at least once, to see some local bluegrass music and enjoy a decent pizza or some cheap, tasty appetizers.

Emily's Lebanese Deli in Twin Cities, Minnesota
May 9 03

rating star

yep, the tabouli here is delicious -- my favorite in town. the spinach pie is not too bad, either. but yes, beyond that, the very few vegetarian options remaining are utterly bland and uninspired. the hummus is some of the worst i've ever had in a middle eastern restaurant. so, go there if you're in the mood for a splendid light lunch of tabouli, lebanese bread, and maybe a spinach pie.

Falafel King in Twin Cities, Minnesota
May 9 03

rating star

junk. the only reason anyone should eat here is if there are no better options, and it is convenient at the time.

i've never had falafel at Falafel King that was actually fresh and crispy, and not soggy and 're-warmed'. i mean, if Falafel is part of the very name of your restaurant, don't you think you should make an effort do at least that well? everything at this now "mini-chain" restaurant is sub-par.

if you like poor-quality food that's been sitting around in a vat for several hours, this place is for you! on the bright side, i guess it's always a nice fallback at those summer street festivals.

if at all possible, go to holy land deli or jerusalem's, not this place.

Holy Land Deli in Twin Cities, Minnesota
May 9 03

rating star

this is how i'd rate the various middle eastern places i've been to around here. by all indications, the holy land emerges as the overall winner.

- best falafel sandwich: holy land

- best hummus: holy land, jerusalem's

- best tabouli: emily's lebanese deli

- best pita bread: holy land

- best spinach pie: sindbad's, emily's

- best grocery/deli: holy land

for starters, i'd recommend the delicious 'falafel combination' sandwich, and/or some hummus and tabouli. i didn't care for the stuffed grape leaves, which were of the more mushy variety. the olives and feta from the deli are first rate, and the rest of the newly expanded grocery is exhaustive and full of incredible variety. on any typical day, there are people shouting across the store to each other in Arabic, and all sorts of colors and smells and sounds drifting through, which adds to the delightful bazaar atmosphere of the place. it's no wonder that virtually every co-op in the twin cities carries the Holy Land's hummus, baba ghanouj, tabouli, breads, etc -- it's simply that good.

India House in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Jun 21 03

rating star

i live on the very same block where this restaurant is located, so i've eaten there at least 10 times since it opened about a year ago. sure, it's not the best indian in the world (or even in this city), but i do think it's pretty good. in fact, i'd place it at #2 for indian food here, behind Udupi -- although admittedly i haven't sampled all the indian places in the twin cities, by any means.

i would first and foremost recommend the 'delhi naan', which is naan bread with mint leaves and minced onion inside it, stone-baked to perfection -- absolutely delicious!! i love all of the palak/saag dishes (i.e., spinach-based), and the navratan dhansak is also very good, with pleasing coconuty nuances. the rice seems to be above average here, too (just watch out for the whole spices -- don't bite into a cardamom pod!).

unfortunately, this place -- like almost all indian restaurants -- uses yogurt and/or ghee in a lot of dishes, so i'm not sure how much food is available that is strictly vegan. however, New Delhi is worth a visit occasionally, and the bar is decent, too, with an area with some couches and lounge chairs.

Jasmine Deli in Twin Cities, Minnesota
May 16 04

rating star

with vietnamese cuisine, you often get an assortment of garnishes, sprinkles, sauces and kickers with the meal, which appeals to those of us who enjoy choose-your-own-adventure types of dishes. i think of it as being allowed to participate with the chef in the food preparation, by adorning it and tweaking it with final touches until it is truly and personally complete. you usually get things like bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapenos, peanuts, shredded lettuce, etc.. which all are good, but really don't vary too much between restaurants (i.e., how do you screw up -- or distinguish -- sprouts or sliced jalapenos?). not to mention all the rice noodles everywhere, which are also hard to get wrong..

so it is the house sauces, the marinades, the breads, the broths, the mock ducks that seem to me to be the key to what makes a good vietnamese restaurant. and in that area, jasmine deli is fantastic! the banh mi sandwiches are so good that before i was half done with trying my first one, i was scheming for an excuse to go back very soon and have another one. the mock duck is very tender, and scantily dressed in a delicately sweet, seductive marinade. the bread itself is delicious, too, with a good chewy/crusty balance. i have yet to try the noodle soup, but i did have the rice noodle salad, which was also very good. the spring rolls were the only thing i found to lack distinction (although they are still tasty).

so really, who cares, i could eat sprouts and noodles all day long, anyway -- standard or not.. so when places like jasmine deli step up and deliver beyond that, it's a bonus treat. oh yeah, and this place is insanely cheap, too (especially the sandwiches).. sprinkle me up!

Jerusalem's in Twin Cities, Minnesota
May 9 03

rating star

you sort of have to know what to get here, as some dishes are quite dull, whereas others are fantastic. i found the spinach pie -- the phyllo pastry kind, not the pita bread kind -- to be excessively heavy and lacking any real distinction. the curry types of dishes also tend to be this way. however, the falafel, tabouli, and hummus are always fresh and tasty. if you live or work in the area, the lunch specials are great, such as: half a falafel sandwich and a cup of spinach lentil soup (which is delicious).

Jewel of India in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Sep 18 05

rating star

although the location is convenient when you're in the U of MN area, every time i've been here the food has been dull and the service terrible. you might want to sneak in a bottle of water in your purse/backpack, because the chances of you getting your glass refilled are about the same as the likelihood that Oprah Winfrey and the Ayatollah Khamenei are having lunch together at the table next to you. moreover, the service is not only slow, but crusty, as well -- "service with a scowl" being the apparent motto.

i haven't been there in a while (see above), but in my mind Jewel of India is one of those places that gets positive reviews simply because it is the only restaurant of its kind in the area, not because it is actually good.

Little Tijuana in Twin Cities, Minnesota
May 9 03

rating star

i don't envision a time when i would ever find myself back at this place. i've been there a few times, and each time the experience has been lackluster.

the vegetables in the enchiladas, for example, clearly originated from a bag of frozen chopped vegetables. this is not unlike many so-called authentic mexican restaurants (e.g, Chiapas, Taco Morelos, El Mexicano) that take the "green giant frozen vegetable medley" approach to vegan/vegetarian food. a noteworthy exception is Viva Mexico in northeast, whose vegetarian burrito, for example, is stuffed with fresh-grilled zucchini, peppers, onions and spinach.

true, little t's has character, as well as crayons. i really want to like them, but i can't. if they want to cultivate their main strengths, they should just stick with the coloring business.

Pizza Luce in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Apr 19 03

rating star

what can you really say when it's pizza luce? not only do they make the best pizza anywhere in the twin cities -- it's not even close -- pretty much everything else they make, from hoagies to pasta to salads to desserts, just excels. they do pay close attention to the vegan diet, and come up with some delicious and creative results -- the spicy mock sausage hoagie, for example. just a few of the many, many vegetarian items i'd recommend are: garlic mashed potato pizza; chickless dijon hoagie; focaccia katerina; spinach salad; carrot cake. or, create your own pizza from the selection of 52 toppings. my current favorite is broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, fire roasted corn, and smoked gouda cheese. on top of all this, it's a fun place to go and hang out downtown, before or after a show, or simply for its own sake. viva luce!

Rainbow Chinese Restaurant & Bar in Twin Cities, Minnesota
May 9 03

rating star

for some reason, this restaurant consistently receives high accolades in the word-of-mouth arena, and sometimes in the press. when i went -- admittedly, only once -- the food (all three dishes that were ordered) was excessively salty. some of it was pretty good, but not most.

Sawatdee Bar & Cafe in Twin Cities, Minnesota
May 18 03

rating star

it's easy to dismiss our one ubiquitous "chain" Thai restaurant as mediocre and americanized (both often true), but at the same time they can turn out some pretty decent food on a good day.

however, definitely be sure to find out if a dish is vegan/vegetarian, or can be made that way. in addition to the usual Thai culprits of fish sauce, shrimp paste and oyster sauce, i was informed once by a server that the innocent-sounding 'country vegetable curry' is in fact made with chicken broth. where on earth they got the loony idea that a Thai green curry should be made with chicken broth is beyond me. it's a good thing i hadn't ordered that dish that day, or else i may have melted into a sorry puddle of contamination like the wicked witch of the west.

a lot of the variation in food quality from visit to visit just seems to depend on who's in the kitchen that day. this also applies to their spicyness level of 1-5: on any given day, a 2 could be more what you'd consider a 4, or vice versa. the sole regulator of heat seems to be how much crushed red chili pepper the cook decides to throw in the dish. so if you are sensitive to spicy food, you might want to aim low, just to be safe.

Seward Cafe in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Aug 23 03

rating star

i wonder how many people use their real name at this place.. be an interesting study. the food is pretty good, although it can vary a lot according to who's in the kitchen. they seem to be fond of a food naming convention that involves one or more superlative adjectives, a color, and the word 'earth'. my favorite dish is the Super-Duper-Fantastic Cornflower Blue.. Earth. or something like that. they also have self-service water (and coffee refills), which is always nice for today's modern, empowered diner.

be prepared to do a little balancing act along with your meal, as i don't think i've sat in one chair (even booth!) that was not a teeter-tottery contraption of missing feet and uneven legs. however, if you're lucky enough to get a table with a napkin dispenser that isn't empty, there's always hope for a little shim action to bring some stability back into your life.

Sindbad's Cafe and Market in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Apr 19 03

rating star

they have my favorite spinach pies in town, whose filling is an addicting blend of spinach, onion, sumac, and olive oil (and probably others). the french feta cheese is a perfect complement to the spinach pie, if you are so inclined. the tabouli and grape leaves are of varying, average quality, depending on how recently they appear to have been prepared. the grocery section is nothing special, but handy to have there if you live in the area. it's also nice to support what is clearly a family-run operation.

ThanhDo in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Mar 30 04

rating star

i went to Thanh Do for the first time the other day, and ordered the pad thai (which i consider a sort of benchmark dish) with tofu. the pad thai was pretty good, but completely lacking in any tangy zest or zing. i think if it had come with maybe 3 lime wedges instead of 1, that could have rescued it.. but as it was, it tasted entirely sweet, umami and salty -- no discernable sour component to balance it out.

a friend ordered a green curry noodle dish that was quite good, although there was this odd greenish coating on the noodles that looked like it was caused by some sort of algae.. but it tasted good. also, the hot and sour soup that came before the meal was very tasty.

in general, it seems like Thanh Do serves very good food. the lunch specials were reasonably priced, too. i look forward to visiting again, and either ordering something other than pad thai, or requesting extra lime wedges with it!

Triple Rock Social Club in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Aug 3 03

rating star

until a visit here a few weeks ago, i don't recall ever in my life wondering over lunch whether some person might at any time come flying through the air and land in the middle of our table with a crash. on that special summer afternoon, a friend and i had stopped for a late lunch at the triple rock, and got a little more entertainment than we had expected. i mean, this group was rowdy even by triple rock standards. at 2:00 in the afternoon, they were all leaping on one another's backs, straddling the pool table, wrestling on the floor, and every now and then the lot of them would scurry out the front door (drinks in hand, of course) and do/say something outside to passing cars (?), concluding the ritual by scrambling back inside, cackling excitedly about whatever they had just accomplished (i wasn't sure i even wanted to know). but don't get me wrong: we're not talking mean rowdy, just rowdy rowdy. i have no doubt that had someone been launched across our table, it would have been in the friendliest manner possible.

i love the triple rock!

as for the food, they really specialize in vegetarian 'comfort food' sorts of dishes, although they do have a few more exotic items as well. the vegetarian po' boy is delicious, although it is so big and filling that i usually order it without the bun. i had the vegetarian sub the other day, and it is absolutely fantastic. the breakfasts are pretty decent, but i haven't found them to be their strongest point; they seem to vary in quality, and are less creative than some of the other items.

the triple rock is a great place to go for decent vegetarian/vegan food and is also a fun hangout at night. and don't let the little anecdote keep you from trying it out; the vast majority of the time it is fairly tranquil and uneventful inside. well, considering.

Udupi Cafe in Twin Cities, Minnesota
May 9 03

rating star

Udupi is my favorite indian restaurant in the twin cities, and i think a lot of people consider it the best in the area. although the lunch buffet is good too, i'd recommend ordering off the menu, as your food will then enjoy a much more careful artistic attention, which is where indian food can really shine. and here it does indeed shine, down to the tamarind and mint sauces on the table -- even the simple condiments stand out as superior, and are delightfully varied. the servers do get a bit overzealous in wanting to order 'extras' like breads, pachadi, etc, for you. the restaurant overall may deserve an 8 or 9, but i am giving it a 10 because it is so distinctly eminent over the other boring indian places in the twin cities, and also because it is entirely vegetarian.

United Noodles in Twin Cities, Minnesota
Sep 18 05

rating star

United Noodles is definitely one of the best Asian groceries in the Twin Cities. however, even though it is fairly large, they still seem to abide by the unwritten law governing Asian groceries (and co-ops, for that matter), which states that there is always at least one of your favorite items that they don't have, and that at least one other Asian grocery does have. for example, Shuang Hur on Nicollet has some fake meats that United Noodles doesn't carry. and vice versa. so if you enjoy and have time for an afternoon of leapfrogging around to 3 different places, this isn't really a big deal; but at times it'd be nice to have a complete, one-stop shop.

one of the things i especially like about United Noodles is that their selection of dishes and bowls is unique, elegant, cute, and seems to be of a higher quality than other stores. and, of course, like everything else, the dishes are very inexpensive.

another nice touch is that they provide green tea to drink as you shop! it's probably best to peruse those ceramic dishes before you get all caffeinated, though.

Ratings Without Reviews