Archive for the ‘Reviews’

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen: Burnsville, MN

On Monday night we hit up Food Court Wars winner, Pimento Kitchen in Burnsville Center Mall for dinner. Based on user reviews from the various rating sites as well as the restaurant’s own website and its beautiful food photos, this looked like a perfect place to hit up for some fresh and bright food, turning the typical food court style entree on its head.

We arrived at around 6 PM, premier dinner time and looked over the Chipotle-style menu board. With limited options, Pimento has a real opportunity to concentrate on their Jamaican dishes and put out stellar meals which stand out against the usual fare presented in food courts and mall restaurants in general. All of their entrees are $8 or less and they offer sides of Coconut Rice and Beans ($3) as well as Sweet Fried Plantains ($3). We chose their non-vegetarian options of Boneless Chicken Bowl ($7), Slow-roasted Pork Wrap ($8) and their One Love (Chicken and Chopped Pork) for $8. We attempted to order a side of Coconut Rice and Beans as well as their Sweet Fried Plantains but they pushed back saying they were running low on both and that they would include them with our food instead.

Please compare the picture of the One Love wrap above to this picture on their website of the same item. Note what we were served did not actually contain any pork (a possible oversight to be sure), the vegetables/peppers, herbs, or really anything we would have come to expect based on previous reviews or what their website suggests as what you should receive. Now, to be fair, their menu doesn’t claim to include any of these things, however, one would expect more from a sandwich than simply beans, rice, and meat unless of course they were dealing with the quickly defunct Pita Plus Grill previously located on MN-13.

The food itself was fine but certainly with a lot of room to grow. The chicken and pork were tender, the jerk spicy and flavorful, and the provided sauces named “Minnesota Nice” (mild) and “Kingston Kick” (hot) followed the same trend although the difference in heat between the two sauces was negligible at best. For $26 I would have expected a little more, especially considering their likeness in design, menu, price, and serving style (warming trays, rather than freshly made) to Chipotle.

While the lack of vegetables surprised me, I was mostly shocked by the lack of sides available as well as the fact that they were using boring mass-produced tortillas for their wraps. There were 10 to 15 plantains, almost black, sitting on the counter towards the back of the restaurant in clear view of patrons, yet we were told they didn’t have enough for service. We were provided a total of 8 *SLICES* of Sweet Fried Plantain mixed in with our entrees. Yes you read that right; they gave us eight tiny slices of fried plantain pulled from a warming tray that had maybe 35 slices total right at the height of dinner service and they didn’t seem interested at all in preparing anymore than that. Their website shows some wraps done with tortillas and some done with flatbread and filled with avocado and sitting next to some mango slices. While I am no dummy and don’t expect picture-perfect prepared foods to match their PR photos in style, I do expect at least the ingredients to be available. I’m not even going to get into great detail on the small paper boat of rice/beans, chicken, and dry slaw which was presented as their ‘bowl’ and how it compared to what I would have expected that to be based on the website’s photo because, well, that would be beating a black plantain.

We purchased the episode on Amazon and watched it Monday night after our dinner. I was surprised that none of the individuals on the show, who purportedly live in Minnesota, were on-site on Monday evening. While the individuals working the counter looked the part and spoke with Jamaican accents and urged us to visit their nation for vacation, something I admitted I was unwilling to do as caravans outside of resorts are usually protected under armed guard, I would think that their brand is at least partially tied to the show and those individuals should be on hand to sell their wares.

The most striking point from the show that sticks out in my mind is that they ran out of plantains during the middle of their final challenge and one of the owners said that, if they won, they would never run out again in the future. Well, they definitely know how to keep the plantains from running out by only doling (no pun intended) out a handful of slices at a time.

There is a lot of potential here with Food Court Wars winner Pimento Kitchen; however, if they continue to push out high quality meats and sub-mediocre everything else, their year of free rent is not going to get them very far especially if Sbarro continues to have a longer line during Burnsville Center’s 20 patron ‘dinner rush’.

Have you eaten at Pimento Kitchen at Burnsville Center Mall? If so what did you think? Do you expect food shown on a restaurant’s website to at least somewhat match what you get on your plate when you order? Would you pay $8 for meat, tortilla, and rice/beans only? Have you watched Food Court Wars on the Food Network? If so what do you think about it? Whatever you have to say, go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen
1178 Burnsville Center Food Ct
Burnsville, MN 55306

(952) 435-5552

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Captain Jack’s: Prior Lake, MN

Yesterday we had to head over to Prior Lake to run an errand for a friend. Being that we were already in the area we decided to hit up Captain Jack’s in order to enjoy some dinner outside and right on the lake.

Captain Jack’s has some prime waterfront real estate on Prior Lake. While it’s a bit difficult to find, requiring visitors to navigate a twisty, turvy route through neighborhoods, once you arrive you’re welcomed with a VERY LARGE outdoor seating setup including a sandy area and fire pit with colorful chairs to wait for a seat, a bar lined with rope swing seating, and many tables both above and around the bar which offer stellar views of the lake.

Captain Jack’s menu is your typical bar/restaurant menu and includes a variety of burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, and appetizers. The Wife ordered their Captain Chicken (chicken tenders, provolone and cheddar cheeses, bacon and ranch dressing on sourdough for $9.99. I ordered their South of the Border Burger (bacon, pico de gallo, avocado, jalapeno, and pepper jack cheese) for $10.99. The prices are a little bit high but based on our experience and what we saw delivered to other tables, in addition to the great lakeshore location, the portions are large enough to justify the cost.

Eventually our food arrived and we dug in. The Wife’s Captain Chicken sandwich looked good; it was something like a grilled cheese with chicken and bacon. While I didn’t try any of it, engrossed as I was in my own monstrous burger, she said it was good.

They note their burgers are made with a 1/2lb of the best ground beef available, are served on a toasted bakery bun, and served with fabulous fries. Well, while the burger was huge and the bun was decent, the fries were the typical fresh from the freezer, McDonald’s style variety. While I won’t complain about them, I’m not going to let Captain Jack’s get away with calling them ‘fabulous’.

However, who cares about fries when you have a half-pound burger stacked high with pico de gallo, avocado, jalapenos, cheese and bacon sitting in front of you? I ordered this beast medium-rare and while it didn’t look very pink after I cut it in half, it had the mouth-feel of medium rare and, as you can see, the avocado, pico de gallo, etc were all there in great quantities making this one beautiful looking burger.

Maybe it was the 85 degree weather, waves lapping at the shore, or the beer that I was downing in the gorgeous sunshine but after the first bite of the South of the Border burger, I had to admit that Captain Jack’s ranks up there with some of the best South of the River burgers. It was big, juicy, and carried a ton of meat flavor even with all of the toppings. While the bacon could have been done a little more (I am totally ok with it being a little on the floppy side; most people are not, however), I couldn’t mind much to say other than I am looking forward to another night overlooking the lake with a burger and a beer. Perfect.

Overall The Wife and I really liked our time at Captain Jack’s and we’re planning on heading back again this summer (hopefully sans kids!) for an evening of sitting on the deck, enjoying some food and drinks, and maybe taking a swinging seat at the bar. We certainly recommend you try it too.

Have you ever been to Captain Jack’s in Prior Lake? If so what did you order and what did you think? What are your favorite burger joins South of the River? What lakefront places do you like best for a night out to eat? What other places in Prior Lake have you tried and enjoyed? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Captain Jack’s
3950 Green Heights Trl SW
Prior Lake, MN 55372


Captain Jack's on Urbanspoon

Downtown Diner: Alexandria, MN

On Father’s Day we headed into Alexandria, MN for breakfast at our favorite little spot, Downtown Diner. A no frills operation which is generally packed with people, this diner sports a full menu, a single cook, and a single waitress who remembers exactly what you ordered last time even if it was your first time.

While The Wife has ordered several different menu items, I have always stuck with the Hungry Man which includes a mind boggling two eggs, two bacon slices, a sausage patty, two sausage links, a piece of ham steak, and toast for just over $7. After our first visit we realized we didn’t need to order the kids two meals because their pancake breakfast, which takes up 3/4 of a dinner plate, feeds them both just fine (we’re told the adult sized pancakes take up the entire plate, plus some, and are more than one).

The food is simple but well done. The Wife loves that they make really thick bacon and I love that their sausage links are almost the size of brats. The fact that they remember your order after your first visit and never let your coffee drop below 2″ from the top are just some of the reasons I love the place. However, there is one item which we have seen on each visit but didn’t try until yesterday–their caramel rolls.

Bob’s Caramel Rolls (listed as ‘carmel rolls’ on the whiteboard) are $2.29 each and tower over the small plate on which they are presented. They come out warm and glistening with a thick coating of smooth and sweet caramel and, as if the caramel wasn’t enough, they come with a side of warm butter to add on if you so choose. Now, as many of you know, I am not into desserts or pastries all that much. In fact, I generally avoid them at all costs and let The Wife do the reviews of that side, however, I was so very glad I gave these a try.

The roll was more than enough for two of us but in the future I’m keeping one all to myself as it was that good. Nothing like the dense and dry caramel rolls which usually grace diners, this one was light, fluffy, and sweet. Cutting off pieces with a fork, I was shoveling them into my mouth as fast as I could to try and steal just one more piece before The Wife could take another from me. Coupled with the coffee, this was something which I mentioned on Twitter was well worth the $45 in gas it would take to get there.

I love Downtown Diner in Alexandria for so many reasons and highly recommend it if you happen to be driving through the area or, as I mentioned on Twitter, if you are in the mood for a nice drive and a great reward at the end.

Have you eaten at Downtown Diner in Alexandria? If so what did you have and what did you think? Where else can you find delectable caramel rolls? Where is your favorite diner anywhere? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Downtown Diner
411 1/2 Broadway St
Alexandria, MN 56308

(320) 763-1703

Downtown Diner on Urbanspoon

Aida: Richfield, MN

Yesterday I had to drive a coworker to St. Louis Park for a business lunch. On the way back I contacted the venerable (or is it venereal) MSPD to see if he wanted to meet up for lunch. After giving me a load of grief for the short notice and admission that he had already eaten at McDonald’s for lunch, he suggested I try Aida in Richfield, a place he said which a lot of people love. Being less than two miles away at that point, I exited the highway and made my way through some tree-lined Richfield streets to the restaurant and walked in the door.

Being that it was right around noon, I was surprised to find the place nearly empty. Aside from the three people working in the open kitchen, there was a single diner outside on their patio and me. I found this a little odd considering MSPD’s claims of others thinking it was great. I walked up to the counter and picked up a menu from the wall even though they had a series of TVs hanging even higher that displayed their menu (can we do away with this please? I really don’t like feeling like I’m ordering at a fast food restaurant. Does anyone else share my hatred of the next strain from this setup?)

Aida’s menu has three parts where you select from each depending on what you’re looking for (salad, sandwich, plate). I went with a plate which came with basmati rice or fries, a choice of meat or veggie, sides (3), and sauces. After not giving it all that much thought I got the lamb kabob (an additional $1.99) with a warning that it would take about 12 minutes more to grill it fresh; olives, peppers, and hummus for sides; and their habanero sauce (not listed on their online menu but definitely there on their in-store version). Total bill with drink, $14.40. Not exactly cheap for lunch but based on what I had ordered, a ton of food.

When the plate arrived I was surprised not only at the amount of food but the visual quality of it. While I hadn’t planned on reviewing it based on a single lunch item, it looked so good I took a pic and dug in. The lamb kabobs were perfectly grilled. A lovely light char on the ample veggies and the juicy and tender meat coupled with the great lamb flavor made these simply delightful. The sides (hummus, olives, and sliced red peppers) not only brought some real color to the dish, but added excellent flavor too.

Now, this is all before I added the second best part of this meal–the habanero sauce. Bright red, fresh, and smelling beautiful, I poured the sauce on some of the rice and mixed it with the meat and grilled veggies. I have eaten a metric ton of hot sauces in my day, in restaurants and bottles from all over the country and world and while I have my favorites, few (if any) have ever come to the quality and flavor of Aida’s habanero sauce that I had yesterday. After the burn subsided nearly an hour later, I called it “stellar”. If you’re into heat with flavor, check this one out, BIG thumbs up here.

Later on, while describing my experience at Aida, I used words like ‘excellent’, ‘stunning’, ‘stellar’ and noted it gave me the chills just thinking about it. Rarely am I so excited about a place that I’m raving up and down about it to everyone I know telling them to run there. Well, I’m doing that here today. GET TO AIDA NOW. Oh, and if you’re one of those astroturfing fools supporting the empty parking lot at Byblos Lebanese Grill in Burnsville, give up your attempts and head on over to Aida for the way you should be serving Mediterranean food; they’re doing it right and could give you a lesson or two on how to make food not only edible but really and incredibly tasty too.

Have you tried Aida in Richfield? If so what did you order and what did you think? What are your favorite Mediterranean restaurants in the area? Are you going to brave the habanero sauce? Whatever you have to say about this one go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Aida Mediterranean Cuisine
2208 West 66th St
Richfield, MN 55423


Aida on Urbanspoon