World’s Best Donuts – Grand Marais

edited shop

A little background

Started in 1969 by Merieta Altrichter, World’s Best Donuts has become a repeat stop for travelers with a hunger for fresh, warm donuts.  When Merieta began the donut business, she would make the donuts by hand every morning.  In addition to making her donuts, she had a day job in a department store.  In 1975, she was able to quit her minimum wage job and work full time in her donut shop.

Skip ahead to the present day, and four generations of her family later, the donut shop is still there.  Located in Grand Marais, MN, World’s Best Donuts is open during the summer from May to September.  They serve a variety of donuts, both cake and raised, and much more.  All donuts are made fresh daily.  They also offer coffee, a perfect pairing to a warm donut.  Be sure to try their signature Skizzle.

To see the donuts being made and meet the family that make it happen, check out their video.

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 My thoughts

Both my fiance and I can agree that World’s Best Donuts really does have the “world’s best donuts.”  We enjoy section backpacking along the Superior Hiking Trail and we make a point to stop here for breakfast every time we cross through Grand Marais.  The bakers at World’s Best Donuts continue to deliver awesome donuts every time.  We’ve never gotten a cold or hard donut.  Warm, soft, and incredibly delicious, it’s a guilty pleasure that I can’t stop bragging about.  If possible, we even bring some home for our buddies in the Twin Cities.

My fiance ordered a skizzle the last time we were there.  Again, I had to sneak a piece of this one.  One skizzle alone can easily satisfy a donut craving for two people.

skizzle

Yep, that sugar-coated saucer is a skizzle.  I urge you, try it!  Below you’ll find the rest of our spread that day (no we did not eat all of them at once).  We were able to save them for our hike for the weekend.  We ordered two of their chocolate-covered knots, a standard glazed cake donut, a chocolate-covered cake donut and coffee to top it off.  Can you tell we both like chocolate … a lot!

spread

Being in this donut shop alone is an experience.  Once you take your seat in the back room, you’ll notice open shelving along the walls with coffee cups in them.  Take a closer look and you’ll see that they are the cups of visitors that frequent World’s Best Donuts.  The table tops offer up their own stories.  Underneath the glass, you’ll find images and brief stories of World’s Best Donuts traveling coffee cup.  It’s a goal of the staff to collect pictures that include their branded coffee cup.  What better way to do this than asking fans to send in pictures from around the world.

tables

Overall, we highly recommend World’s Best Donuts to anyone willing to take the trek up to Grand Marais, which you should visit because the scenery all the way up is gorgeous.  The bakers are always friendly and ready to serve you a piece of their family’s 4-generation history.

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Sea Change Restaurant and Bar – Guthrie Theatre

A little background

SeaChange logoThe Sea Change is definitely a place to celebrate a special occasion.  From its stunning and dramatic interior design to the friendly staff, this is a great place if you want excellence in seafood.  Sea Change is a sustainable seafood restaurant and raw bar with their menu developed by 2009 James Beard Award-winning chef, Tim McKee.  Sourcing their products from fisheries that use environmentally friendly methods or gathering and farming seafood, you can rest assured that you are receiving a quality meal.  Additionally, they offer plenty of non-fish entrees so everyone is welcome.

You’ll be entertained in any place that you are seated.  From their large windows that allow you to view the Mississippi to their open kitchen, there’s plenty to look at if the conversation turns slow.  Let’s hope you have plenty to talk about, may I suggest the cuisine, but if you don’t, comment on the architecture.

Sea Change has had coverage from the New York Times highlighting Chef McKee, the atmosphere and, of course, their entrees!  To find more attention they’ve received from the media, please return to their website.

Social Media
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 My thoughts

seachange wallMy fiance hit the nail on the head with this one.  He took me here for a surprise Valentines Day date (yes, I know it took me until May to write about it).  I would advise taking your date here and then check out one of the many Guthrie performances.  Really, this is a wonderful date.  Now, I really do apologize or the lack of pictures for this post.  I didn’t feel it was appropriate to snap a picture with my iPhone.  I would feel slightly…okay, a lot less classy if I did that in this place.  For pictures, please check out their Facebook page in the link above.

Now, on to what this post is really about…the dinner!  We went all out on this one.  We went for dinner and decided to order cocktails, an appetizer, entree, and finish with a dessert.  The cocktails of choice were “The Sun Also Rises” (this was totally mine) and “Aurora Borealis”.  Creative names for the perfectly mixed drink.  Our appetizers were soon to follow.  We ordered the grilled octopus completed with salsa verde, spanish peppers, and pimenton.  With that smoky flavor so characteristic of grilling, this was a hit for me.  With the sauces, it was just what we needed to get our appetites going!

The Entres

Tony decided to go with the grilled ribeye.  I swear, this place makes art with they way they present their plates.  His entree was arranged in small stacks that formed a circle around the outer rim of the plate and the middle contained the sauces.  He had no complaints.  Stating that “it’s so tender” and that “I wish I had more” pretty much summed up this dish.  What a happy man.

I went with a seafood option.  Mine was the Brandade.  The Brandade included ravioli pillows stuffed with freshwater fish.  The ravioli was topped with a sunny-side up egg yolk, bagna cauda, and tomato.  To this day, I will still remember it as one of my top seafood dishes I’ve ever had.  I absolutely loved the addition of the egg yolk in this.  It worked in combination with the bagna cauda as a dipping sauce for the ravioli.  The ravioli itself was prepared beautifully too.  There’s nothing worse than over/undercooked pasta, but Sea Change wouldn’t ever let that happen.  My fiance even loved this one and he’s not that much of a seafood kind of guy.

Dessert

We both decided to go with the Lime Pudding Cake.  Trust me on this one, save the room in your stomachs because this is well worth it. Life everything else they serve, the presentation was almost too good to eat.  I didn’t want to ruin it!  This would dessert reminded me of key lime pie.  It was presented with three circular, sweet sponge cakes topped with a dollop of lime sauce and pistachio financier (google it).  Coconut cream was also drizzled over the serving plate.  To me, this dish alone brought the feeling of summer to my cold, bitter winter.  Again, we spent a great deal of time enjoying this one.  It’s become a favorite of ours whenever we pay a visit.

Overall, I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone in the Twin Cities Metro area.  You can see the level of detail in everything they serve.  The presentation and cleanliness is always apparent.  I would like to note, their amazing wait staff.  They are very friendly and are focused on providing you with an amazing experience.  Plus, they have an extensive knowledge of their menu and offer excellent suggestions for those of us who are unfamiliar with items on their menu.

For a full view of their menus, check out the links below:
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu
Raw Bar Menu
Patio and Grill Menu
Wine List
Dessert Menu
Happy Hour Menu
Specialty Cocktails

Whew, talk about a wide range of deliciousness!

Bull Run Coffee

A little background

Bull Run Coffee is a family owned, single-cup specialty coffee roaster in the Lyndale neighborhood, close to Lake Harriet.  What makes this coffee house so special is their devotion to creating an exceptional cup of coffee.  To get the best flavor, they source Arabica beans from around the world and they prepare all their orders, “single-cup” style.

“Single-cup coffee” means that every latte, cappuccino, or gooey macchiato is made to order and not a single minute before.  They even grind the beans to each guest’s order.  This is no average “cup of Joe”; this is something to be appreciated.

Each barista is trained in coffee, espresso, milk preparation, and four different roasting techniques: siphoning, French press, manual brew bar, and the Clover, which involves weighing and grinding beans to craft a brew to perfection.

Baristas were also the first in Minneapolis to use the Synesso Hydra, which allows them to manually adjust the pressure levels, brew temperature, and moisture concentration to give guests a truly unique experience that will satisfy their taste buds.

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 My thoughts

bull run coffee co.
Boone’s Beard Coffee Creation

Remember when I raved about the coffee indulgences at Yum!?  I still love their coffee and will probably go there for a treat, but if you haven’t experienced the craftsmanship of Bull Run Coffee, I urge, drop what you’re doing and book it to 3346 Lyndale Ave. S.| Minneapolis, MN.  They know how to make one excellent cup of coffee.  Reminding me of the cappuccinos and lattes from Poland, I’ve since become a repeat customer.

Not only is it fun watching them prepare your brew, you get to admire their coffee art after you take a seat.  I feel so bad ruining it every time I take a sip! 🙂

As previously mentioned, the flavor is amazing.  I could really taste the warm, roasted flavors of the coffee.  There’s almost a nuttiness to the coffee that made my taste buds sing.  This is one cup that I certainly did not chug down.  I made it last a good long time before that precious last drop was gone.

If you aren’t a huge fan of a strong coffee flavor, this is okay!  They have many other options available to try.  I had an iced coffee the other day (it was finally warm here in Minneapolis) and they made it good and sweet.  Again, a special drink like this could not be downed in a hurry.

I encourage anyone looking for some of the best handcrafted coffee in the Twin Cities Metro to check it out!  Even if you are not a big coffee drinker, I still encourage you to take your friends and grab a cup.  The staff is very friendly and offer wonderful suggestions for anyone new to their shop.  A cool mix of people hang out here and it’s always fun to start a conversation.  You will not be disappointed.

Chino Latino

A little background

If you and your crew can’t decide between south of the border fare or Asian cuisine, Chino Latino has got you covered.  Offering a wide range of options from both cuisine styles, you can mix and match your entres.  The cornerstone of what makes Chino Latino so great is their emphasis on using the freshest ingredients and combining them to create something unique.

Here’s one suggestion, ALWAYS go with a group of six or more unless you are going for their happy hour (more on that in a moment).

I advise a larger group because the restaurant serves everything family style and in large portions.  Plus, the options are a little expensive (around $12-18 for an app and 24+ for a larger plate) so the more people you bring, the more you can get and the cheaper it will be.  Knowing this was the case, I took a large group with me to celebrate my friend Sarah’s birthday.

 My thoughts

To begin, we started with appetizers.  Chino Latino serves you as the food is prepared, meaning not all of your selections will arrive at the same time.  We started with their Popocatepe.  What is this??? Well, it’s french fries, loaded with black beans, queso fresco, guacamole, sour cream, chile de arbol, and pico de gallo.  Honestly, I order this every time I go back there so I’m a little biased.

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The second appetizer that arrived was the Queso Fundido with Chorizo.  All I can say is that it is the mother of all cheesy dips.  It arrived with warm tortilla chips to boot.  This was a popular one at our table.

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Sarah and her boyfriend wanted to try something a little different and ordered the Yoshi Smokin’ Hot Rock for themselves.  This literally comes out with a hot Japanese river rock and a couple pieces of beef to cook yourself.  It was fun watching them do this because we haven’t ever seen this before.  You’ll get a piece of fat that you smear over the rock to prevent the meat from sticking.  Then cook away!  Be extra careful and use the fat generously.  The stone is very hot and your meat will stick.

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The Entres

The Chinatown Lo Mein Noodles was the first to arrive.  This is your basic lo mein wok tossed with onions, carrot, bell peppers, and straw mushrooms.  We added chicken to ours.  There was plenty to go around for our group of nine.

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Next was the Cuban Pork Crisis.  On top of the brilliant presentation of this dish, my favorite part was the four warm and gooey plantains that come with it.  Here’s what you get: citrus marinated pork slow roasted and placed on top of a bed of jasmine rice and black beans.  It’s served with cabbage slaw, queso fresco, and banana chips.

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Yes, we ordered a third entree.  It was our first time there and we absolutely had to try as much as we could!  I insisted we get the Pinoy Paella.  In all its amazing glory, I was the happiest girl on the planet.  This dish comes with jumbo shrimp, abodo chicken, mussels, chorizo sausage, calamari and saffron-annatto rice.  The flavor of the Pinoy Paella was out of this world.  Best part of all was the portions.  Not only did everyone at the table get some, but we were able to take a lot of it home as well!

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Overall, this is one of my favorite spots to take a crowd.  You’ll love what Chino Latino has to offer and won’t leave on an empty stomach.  Plus, if you are looking to wow your guests, the interior is well done and is sure to impress.

To see more of their menu, check out the following links:

Dinner Menu
Happy Hour
Drinks
Desserts
Street and Sushi

Whispering Oaks Winery

Now this is a personal favorite of mine.  I’m a sucker for locally grown and produced products from Minnesota.  While there are many wineries in Minnesota, this one has my heart…mainly because this one is super small and close to where I grew up.  I was surprised when I went home and my parents took me here.  The owners started Whispering Oaks Winery a few years ago (at that time I was away at college).  They grow all their own grapes and invite family and friends over to press the grapes.

About the wine pictured:

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This is the La Crescent wine.  I’m not a red wine kind of girl, but the whites are definitely a favorite.  This wine in particular had great flavor.  On top of a crisp aroma and taste were notes of citrus.  Not too sweet, this wine would pair well with summer-inspired dishes.  (Think something light like a summer salad with chicken or fish.)

On top of this wine, they have 7 other wines both red and white that would delight a variety of guests.  The best part about visiting Whispering Oaks Winery is that you are able to sample 3 wines for free.  Cheese and other pairings are available for a small fee, but it’s well worth it.  On top of great wines, the owners are friendly and are always willing to share stories about their winery.

To see more information on their wines, please click here.

Dancing Ganesha – Minneapolis

A little background

Dancing Ganesha is located near the downtown of Minneapolis, close to St. Thomas.  It’s an eclectic restaurant that serves up authentic Indian cuisine.  The atmosphere is contemporary with modern music and lighting.   On top of a great atmosphere  – and beautiful pieces of art throughout the restaurant –  the exotic smells of their menu immediately grab your attention.  Want to sit outside?  The Dancing Ganesha has a wonderful patio for days when it’s a shame to be indoors.  They offer a lunch buffet that includes vegetarian and meat entres, happy hours (or as they would like to call them “Karma” hours), and a great place to take that special person for dinner.  Lastly, this is an excellent choice for lunch with a large group of your friends.  Not only are the prices reasonable, but you get a great selection of entres and the booths are big enough to accommodate six adults comfortably.

Sample plate of Dancing Genesha's lunch buffet 

My thoughts

I’ll offer a little more background information on my fiance and me.  We both are adventurous in our search for great restaurants.  We’ll try anything at least once.  Because we’re so adventurous, it would make sense that we like some pretty ethnic dishes; ergo, Tony was lucky when his coworkers took him here to lunch one day.  We both adore Indian cuisine.  It could be the curry, interesting ingredients, or simply the heat of the dishes that keeps us coming back for more!  I will admit, I’m a little biased when it comes to writing about Indian food, but no matter, I’ll still give a fair review.

This dish includes: (beginning with the bread and going clockwise)

  1. Naan Bread – Some of the most amazing bread you will ever try.  Soft, fluffy, and warm goodness when bitten into.
  2. Vegetable Biriyani – Basmati rice, aromatic spices, herbs & garden fresh vegetables
  3. Saag Paneer – Indian Farmers cheese, spinach, creamy sauce reduction
  4. Tandoori Chicken – Tender chicken, yogurt & spices, tandoor baked
  5. Chicken Tikka Masala – Tandoori chicken marinated, spices, tomatoes, creamy sauce

Okay, here it goes.  BEST INDIAN FOOD EVER!!!

Alright.  I know many of you are probably thinking,” how do you know which Indian food is the best?”  I’d have to agree with you.  I don’ t know which is the best because I’ve never been to India, but honestly, this has become our favorite place to grab amazing Indian food in Minneapolis.  Why?  The service is great.  The atmosphere was welcoming.  You’re given large plates so you can take as much as you want and still come back for seconds.  The food was always warm and, honestly, tasted great.  All of the vegetarian options were hardy, rich, and filling.  As for the meat dishes, the chicken was so tender and, thankfully, was not dried out!  I was impressed by the quality of the entres they served for lunch.  It looked like they made jumbo batches of their dinner plates.  I would say all of the dishes were pretty savory and I would compare it to the comfort food Americans seek only in an Indian version.  It felt like this was something my parents would make, had I been born in India.  The dishes weren’t too spicy either.

For those of you who are willing to give Indian food a try, I would definitely recommend Dancing Ganesha.  Go for lunch and you can sample a variety of dishes and determine if this style is right for you.  Lastly, feel free to get comfortable.  The staff do not want their visitors to feel rushed.  Enjoy!

Burger Jones – Uptown

A little background

Burger Jones is a classic, but trendy burger joint located close to Lake Calhoun in Uptown.  They specialize in creating a unique menu of Angus beef burgers finished with a unique blend of toppings.  For those who are not big fans of meat (myself included) they can whip up a mean veggie burger as well.  Along with amazing burgers, Burger Jones has killer waffle fries that are a must.  To wash it all down, order up a drink.  They have everything from a wide selection of craft beers to specialty cocktails.

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 My thoughts

My fiance is a meat kind of guy so he instantly loved it.  His burger of choice was the “White Trash”.  Yep, that’s the actual name and you’ll have a chuckle when you see the names of other burgers.  The “White Trash” was just about one of the most artery-clogging, heart-attack-waiting-to-happen burgers that I have ever seen…I had to have a bite!  (see image below)  Not only were the cheese curds, literally, prepared to perfection in all their cheesy goodness, but the chicken-fried bacon just made the burger.  It was that good and after talking with a college friend of mine, who also happens to live around Lake Calhoun, she agreed that the “White Trash” is what you must order on your first trip to Burger Jones.  Got a real appetite?  It comes in a double wide size.

The White Trash Burger via Burger Jones.

Now for those of your who would rather not eat meat or if you just want to be adventurous, let’s get to the veggie burger (seen below).  Personally, there’s nothing better than a good veggie burger.  They have so much flavor due to the ingredients used to make them and they can be paired with nearly any topping.  The Southwest Salsa veggie burger was topped with, wait for it, chunky garden salsa, pepperjack cheese, avocado mayo, and fresh alfalfa sprouts.  Could it get any better?  Not only did they have all of my favorite toppings, but they put it on a veggie burger!  I just about died and it tastes as good as it sounds.

Southwest Salsa Veggie Burger via Burger Jones.

For a full view of their menu, check out the link below:
online menu

Yum! Kitchen and Bakery – St. Louis Park

A little background

Yum! Kitchen and Bakery is a bustling upscale casual cafe located in St. Louis Park, close to Lake Calhoun.  In keeping to their tradition of fresh and exciting options, the menu changes twice a month and offers ingredients that are seasonal.  Along with a full menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Yum! has an incredible bakery that compliments their specialty coffee drinks.  This is one gem you do not want to pass up.  Thanks to the folks at LoriFinkProductions, you can watch their video that will show you a little bit more about Yum!’s owner and see many of their delightful dishes.

YouTube: Click here to watch it now!

My thoughts

When my fiance and I were looking for apartments in the twin cities metro area, I couldn’t help loving the idea of living close to this cafe!  Yum! has quickly become one of my favorite places.  It’s my go-to for a well-crafted coffee to start my morning…or any other time of the day.  Also, given to ever changing menu, it keeps me coming back for more!

On top of the menu, their service is top-notch as well.  They are always friendly and offer great suggestions for when you cannot decide what to order.  Plus, the wait for your order isn’t long.  Now, enough gushing about how much I love this place, lets get to the main dish!

Caramel mocha latte with a rhubarb upside down cake

For starters, I had to try their specialty coffee.  Above is a caramel mocha latte brewed to perfection.  While it was too sweet for my taste (I always like my coffee a little more on the bitter side), I was still in caramel mocha heaven.  I recommended it  to one of my best friends living in the area as well, and she absolutely adored it — she prefers her coffee on the sweeter side.  If you’re like me however and prefer something a little bitter, talk to the baristas.  They recommended that I try a simple caramel latte.  That did the trick!  I’ve been hooked ever since.

As for the rhubarb upside down cake, it was a pastry dream.  Super moist and not incredibly sweet.  The white fluff on top is a generous serving of whipped cream that complements the tart of the rhubarb wonderfully.

Sausage Burrito – slow scambled eggs, yum! sausage, pepperjack cheese,
potatoes, peppers & onions served w/ pico de gallo
& totilla chips

On another endeaver to Yum! for breakfast, I skipped the pastries and coffee this time and went for the sausage burrito shown above.  The portions where more than enough and it was a perfect ratio of potatoes to sausage.  All I can say is that it was one of the best breakfast burritos I’ve ever had.  If you are in the mood for great breakfast options (most of them involving eggs) check out Yum! Kitchen and Bakery.

More images and reviews from Yum! to come.

For a full view of their menu, check out the links below:
Online menu

Victor’s 1959 Cafe – South Minneapolis Neighborhood

A little background

Located in the south Minneapolis neighborhood, Victor’s 1959 Cafe opened in April of 1999 bringing their neighbors a whole lot of Cuban flavor.  Back then, they started as a breakfast and lunch only kind of place.  Now, after the reconstruction of their kitchen, they are able to serve their customers a dinner menu in addition to breakfast and lunch.  Victor’s 1959 Cafe was visited by the Food Network not once, but twice and was featured on their popular show Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives.

YouTube: Click here to watch it now!

What we thought

Before my fiancé and I moved to the cities, we took a weekend trip to the Twin Cities metro area and, like all vacationers; we wanted to find unique places to grab a bite…or two.  That’s when we stumbled on Victor’s 1959 Cafe.  Seeing that both of us adore ethnic cuisine, we were sold on trying a Cuban breakfast.

Walking up to Victor’s we were a little surprised to see how compact the restaurant was.  Despite its small size, the staff can comfortably fit a sizable crowd.

Since there were only two of us, we were seated immediately.  For a larger crowd, I would suggest getting there early because Victor’s tends to get a little busy once 10 am rolls around.  The staff was great and upbeat!  Now, on to the breakfasts we had!

My fiancé had a sweet tooth that morning and decided to with the mango waffles.  Wanting to try as many things as I could, he was more than willing to let me have a bite of his waffles.  Was I ever blown away.  The waffles were cooked to perfection, not too crunchy and not soggy either.  Surprisingly, the mangoes and the waffles went together well and topped with whipped cream made them delightful!  Both of us would highly recommend this to anyone dining for breakfast.

Now when I go for breakfast, nothing can satisfy my appetite better than a plate of something with eggs.  I decided to have the Cuban Sampler, which included eggs with creole sauce, black beans and sweet plantains.  All I can say is that this was exactly what I was looking for in a breakfast.  Plenty of food with a whole lotta flavor!  The dish was served with two corn tortillas, which came in handy for making my own mini breakfast burritos.  My meal was filling, but I managed to save room for the plantains.  They were a sweet ending to a wonderful morning starter.

I encourage anyone looking for a unique experience to check out Victor’s 1959 Cafe.  Its friendly atmosphere, great staff and incredible dishes makes this a must stop in Minneapolis.

P.S. Bring along some sharpies.  The owners actually encourage customers to draw on the walls and leave their mark!

For a full view of their menu, check out the links below:
Breakfast and Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu
Desserts