As promised Kim, Aaron and I headed over to Panino Brothers in Apple Valley located right next to my absolute favorite landmark, the dreaded roundabout at 153rd and Gallivant Pl, and under the relatively new GrandStay Hotel.
All three of us visited Panino Brothers on their opening night, Friday March 21st, and enjoyed the atmosphere so much that we decided that we had to return just to check out their famed “panino” sandwiches which is their signature menu item. Knowing that Panino Brothers offers a lunch special, every single day, from 11 AM – 2 PM, we figured that we could get more bang for our buck if we ordered their Panino Ino sandwiches at a reduced rate ($5.50 for the sandwich, drink, chips or fries, and a pickle instead of the usual range of $7.95 to $9.25).
The restaurant wasn’t terribly busy, being Sunday at noon on one of the first nice spring days of the year, so we walked the length of the restaurant and chose to sit in a very sunny corner that overlooked the traffic circle of death and offered a terrific back-warming experience. Immediately our server,
Kristen Kristin (I was corrected on 4/11 by Kristin; I’m owned!), came over and took our drink orders. I took a quick look over at their large selection of 30 beers on tap, I chose the Schell’s Dark and Aaron took one of the same. Kim was looking forward to ordering a Sprecher Root Beer and that’s exactly what she did. In short order our drinks were back on the table and I commented to Kim that at least she appeared to be drinking beer for once ;-)
I asked Kristen what she recommended as far as the paninos go and after admitting that she had only tried about 6 of the 20 different paninos her favorite, so far, was the Caesar Cardini (chicken, swiss, parmesan, and mozzarella with romaine lettuce, tomato and Caesar dressing). After some hemming and hawing, I ordered a “Buffalo Chicken” (chicken, swiss, mozzarella, PB Buffalo sauce, celery and bleu cheese) which is listed in the menu as a PB favorite and one that our server had recommended and then I also chose “The Von Braun” (sliced bratwurst, sauerkraut, swiss and mozzarella with spicy mustard). Kim chose to go with a “Steak & Cheese” (marinated steak strips, swiss, mozzarella, and cheddar with lettuce served with a side of steak sauce) but went sans steak sauce. Aaron didn’t see anything that caught his fancy on the panino list and chose their $7.95 garlic cheese bread appetizer with a side of marinara.
While our paninos were being prepped, we chatted at length with our server about the restaurant, the fucking roundabout and all the cars that travel the wrong direction down the one-way street (we saw two failed attempts at head-on collisions today during the hour we were inside) and various other crap like us being camera toting geeks (not her words heh).
Now for the most anticipated information ever to grace my website…the paninos! According to their menu a panino is literally translated as “a little bread” but another possible translation defines a panino as an Italian word meaning both roll and stuffed bread. They say, “put simply, it is Italian for sandwich”. To me, it looked like a fat tortilla or pita shell rolled and stuffed full of meat and cheese. Something like a cheese and meat stuffed breadstick that had been torn open — well sorta. They were warm and soft and heavy as can be. I was surprised by the weight as I picked up The Von Braun.
Being curious, I unrolled The Von Braun panino half-way and peered inside. Nothing out of the ordinary in there, lots of meat, sauerkraut and mustard. I took a bite and found the spicy mustard to not be spicy enough for my tastes (to be honest, I’m a picky bastard when it comes to mustard and I’m partial to horseradish mustard so it just tasted like any old mustard to me so YMMV) but the sandwich was quite nice. I wouldn’t order that particular one again but, to be fair, it wasn’t listed as a PB favorite and one of the reasons I specifically chose it. Later, Josh — the owner, came out and mentioned that it is on the menu to cater to those that might be really into their brats (Wisconsinites staying at the GrandStay perhaps?!). My choice not to eat it again wasn’t for any other reason than I have so many other options to choose from and the fact that the Buffalo Chicken panino was just about the tastiest buffalo chicken sandwich I’ve ever fucking had.
Now, for me to claim something is the “tastiest sandwich I’ve ever fucking had,” has got to stand for something. I have eaten buffalo chicken sandwiches of all shapes, sizes and types at local places, chains, made them myself and never had something quite like this panino before. As I said above, the bread is soft and warm and is filled with cheese, meat, bleu cheese and celery. Josh mentioned that all of their sauces are homemade including the buffalo sauce and the bleu cheese which is Josh’s own recipe. To me, the buffalo sauce was a little muted but my taste buds are fried from all the hot shit I’m happy to burn them with (think blow-torch hot) so I am not the best judge there but the bleu cheese sauce was fuckin’ killer. I’m a big bleu cheese fan and this was quite a bit better than anything I’ve had before. The PB favorite Buffalo Chicken panino comes with the Bill Roehl stamp of approval; take that with how many ever grains of salt you choose :)
I took a couple of bites of Kim’s Steak & Cheese panino and found it to be even heavier than mine were. The steak was tender and the overall sandwich was great. Looking back, I would have liked to have tried the steak sauce now knowing that it would have been made by the brothers themselves… I didn’t eat enough of it to recommend it but I’m sure Kim will chime in later with her experience.
Aaron mentioned that his garlic cheese bread was good but when I asked if he thought it was worth the $7.95 sticker price he just shook his head. It had a couple of pieces and a nice sized cup of marinara and while I didn’t try it, I must admit it at least looked pretty ;) I would honestly suggest you skip all of the appetizers and instead stick to the paninos but if you insist, at least you know the garlic cheese is pretty good :)
Josh mentioned that this summer they will have a fenced patio where they will be offering food outside. I hadn’t noticed the concrete slab out there because of all the lingering snow, but today the snow was gone and the thought of a patio was definitely nice. It will be an awesome spot for Kim and I to take a walk to, have a snack and a beer and enjoy the first neighborhood bar in all of Apple Valley. Finally, someone who fucking gets it! Unfortunately it took a restaurant owner who was previously located way outside the metro to bring a non-chain that could really be successful to Apple Valley.
As we left the restaurant, Kim was whining that she was full. As soon as I got into the car I started complaining too. Man, those paninos are filling and tasty. This might seriously ruin my diet ;-) This is fair warning, if you’re looking to eat light or are on a diet, I do not suggest ordering a full panino — the panino inos will be more than enough for you.
I must admit that we were offered a handful of poker chips which can be redeemed for free Panino Brothers’ menu items as part of our visit and while they weren’t left on the table, I want to be clear that Kim was the one who took them and not me. I don’t want anyone to think that I can be bribed into giving a review of any kind except by giving me great food the first time out.
I really think that Panino Brothers not only gets it but is one of the top locally owned restaurants in Apple Valley and they have only been open for a little over a week. This family owned business is only going to get better IMHO. Their staff is friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and great. I must admit that I’m nearly in love with the entire idea. If you’re looking for a good beer selection, pretty decent food and a nice place to hang out this is for you. Just remember, this is mostly a bar and if you’re not into that type of establishment, it might not be your thing. While there is definitely room for improvement as there always is, Panino Brothers comes highly recommended by me and I definitely give them two thumbs up. We both feel that Panino Brothers is well on its way to becoming one of our top restaurants but it will take just a few more beers to make certain ;-)
See all the pictures from today on Flickr here (camera).