Posts Tagged ‘Dive Night’

Most of us have heard of Paul Bunyan and his buddy Babe, the big blue ox.  Paul is a giant lumberjack, fictional of course, and he’s often accompanied by Babe the ox, also fictional, also a giant, and blue.  Both legends are alive and well in the Midwest United States.  This summer I was very excited to be able to have a hearty lumberjack lunch at Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty in Minocqua, Wisconsin.

Minocqua (better known as Minocqua-town per my Grandpa Joey) isn’t too far away from the family cottage, and Paenney requested a birthday meal at The Shanty.  Who could resist?  The touristy attraction is not only fun to visit, but the food is really good.

A bunch of us were at the cottage that weekend.  We piled into two cars and made our way to Minocqua-town.  The weather was perfect and it was a wonderful day for a drive through the Wisconsin countryside to the Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, which was everything I thought it would be, and more.

Kitschy and touristy – everything a resort town in Wisconsin requires.  Lots of people who come here are from Milwaukee and Chicago, so the lumberjack theme makes them think they’re really out in the boondocks.

Log cabin decor, vintage accessories, lantern lighting, and red and white checkered tablecloths really get an appetite up.  Anyone who enters will most likely have the appetite of the giant lumberjack for whom the shanty is named.

I love the little raccoon in the rafters.

One of the fun things about this place is that they offer food family-style.  Don’t know what that means?  Well, it’s just like the name suggests.  Food is delivered to the table and everyone serves him/herself as if sitting at the family dinner table.  When ordering in this fashion the restaurant offered hearty, thickly-sliced bread, barbecued ribs, fried chicken, pork chops, mashed potatoes and gravy, and corn-on-the-cob.  Mind you, this is ALL YOU CAN EAT.  Also included in the meal is soup or salad of your choice, as much as you want.  Of course you can order individual meals, like a cheeseburger or chicken nuggets, but why?  Even if you have kids at the table, do you offer them something different from what you’re eating yourself?  No!  Family style.  That’s the way a logging camp shanty should be.

Here’s the wily group I came with. We’re all waiting for the food to fill the table.

The food was delicious, our service was wonderful, and pretending to be in a logging shanty was a lot of fun.  Licking fingers isn’t frowned upon and asking for more and more food isn’t judged.  But we can’t forget, we visited the shanty for Paenney’s birthday.  His 24th birthday.  I can’t believe he’s a grown-ass man, mostly because he keeps his child-like enthusiasm.  That’s something I really admire in a person.

Because it was his birthday he was presented with a lovely, paper ox-horn headpiece and a special birthday button the size of which is fit for a giant like Paul Bunyan.

The little fella is twenty-four years old! I’m such a proud auntie.

If you’re ever in the neighborhood of Minocqua(town) or Wisconsin Dells, be sure to check out Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty.  You’ll leave satiated with good grub.  Really good grub.  And by grub I mean food.  Please don’t mistake the word grub for icky food.

*Here’s a little aside:  The shanty we visited also had a huge gift shop attached to it which was filled with fun, rustic, lumberjack stuff, and stuff that’s relevant to woodsy living.  I purchased something for Husby and myself that might or might not be featured on another blog post.  I’ll just say this…we named him Barney.*

Read Full Post »

Dive Night is a once monthly adventure undertaken by me and Husby, along with our friends Ruthie and Ray. Each couple alternates choosing a restaurant, one which must come under the category of “dive.” Our definition of dive: a neighborhood gathering spot with a laid-back atmosphere and good food. We’ll find the interesting hang-outs in the Minneapolis/St Paul area.  Casual attire required. A sip of beer or wine doesn’t hurt either.

After skipping last month’s Dive Night outing due to pressing and exhausting personal matters Husby and I once again met up with Ruthie and Ray for an evening of culinary and atmospheric experimentation.  Tin Cup’s is the place, and if any of you are familiar with St. Paul, MN, it is located in St. Paul’s Rockin’ East Side.  *gulp*

We weren’t even sure if Tin Cup’s was still in business, so Husby called to confirm.  Not only are they open (and under new ownership) the woman on the phone called him Sweetie when telling him about the Friday Night Fish Fry.  Sweetie.  You know a place has got to be good when the staff refers to patrons as Sweetie.

This is Michelle. She served us in a most friendly and efficient manner. I don’t think she called anyone Sweetie, but there might have been a Darlin’ or a Hon.

The place was decked out for Easter, which was kind of a contradiction to the overall environment, at least in my opinion.  The chair covers were definitely surreal.  But who am I to criticize anyone expressing a festive holiday mood?

I really liked the lights hanging above each of the booths though.

Tres Cool!

There were three TVs playing: one was showing The Big Bang Theory, the second was showing Wheel of Fortune, and the third was showing a golf game.  If it were football season would they all be showing football?  Hard to know, but when we were there the variety of viewing pleasure was ample.

We weren’t there to watch TV though.  As usual we started out with a drink.  We’re not too creative when it comes to cocktails.  Ruthie and I usually get a glass of wine and the guys usually get a beer.  (Special note to Charlotte: they have Guinness!)

And what’s a bar on the East Side without pull tabs?  Tin Cup’s has ’em.  We saved our money for the food.

Paper Crack

Time for the appetizers. We went cheesy, with a cheese quesadilla and cheese curds. The quesadilla was complete with lettuce and tomatoes, sour cream and salsa. Curds came with a yummy ranch dip.

On to the entrees.  Husby, Ruthie, and Ray all ordered the fish fry.  They ordered the three-piece dinner, but for two dollars more you can get all-you-can-eat.  Now that we’re older we can’t really eat much more than three pieces, so it was great plenty.  The fish came with french fries and coleslaw.

Ruthie described the fish as hot, flaky, and plump. Ray and Husby agreed ~ all three were very happy with their meals.

For the sake of testing out the menu a little, and because I never have been one to do what everyone else does, I ordered the Minnesota Wrap.  Our server Michelle said it’s really good and really big.  I’m all for that.  What’s a Minnesota Wrap?  Walleye fingers, lettuce, tomato and sauce all rolled up in a tortilla.  I don’t do tomatoes so I asked Michelle to keep those out of my wrap.  She was right, it was pretty big.  Unfortunately there was way too much lettuce and not enough walleye.  Oh, it was good, but I guess I never realized how tiny the fingers of a walleye really are.

The Minnesota Wrap. I got a dumb picture of this as you can’t even see the inside of the wrap. There was lots of lettuce and some very tiny fish fingers inside.

My wrap also came with french fries and coleslaw.  I really liked the slaw, creamy and sweet.  The fries were good and hot.  My favorite part of getting french fries with fish is I get to dip the fries in tartar sauce.  Delish!

Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

I’d definitely go back to Tin Cup’s and try some burgers and all the other things they have to offer.  I’m pretty sure I’d see many of the same people at the bar too.  Seems to be a place of regulars.  I especially liked the curly-headed lady.  Hair was dyed jet black with a poodle-style perm.  She had to have been pushing eighty years old and most likely has been sitting at a bar her entire life.  She has a hump on her back to prove it.  Party on!

She’s a wild thing.

All in all I liked Tin Cup’s.  The service was great, the food was tasty, plentiful and hot and served in a timely manner.  The clientelle ranges from people like Poodle Lady (pictured above) to families with small children.  One drawback we encountered was the windshield washer guy outside the restaurant when we left.  You know, those guys who squeegee your windshield and then want money for it even though you didn’t want your windshield washed in the first place?  Totally obnoxious, but I suppose the guy’s got to earn a living somehow.  We managed to avert his unwelcome wash water by taking a different exit out of the parking lot.

Check out Tin Cup’s if you haven’t already.  It’s located on the corner of Rice Street and Maryland Avenue in St. Paul’s Rockin’ East Side.  Chances are pretty good someone will call you Sweetie.

Read Full Post »

Once a fairly popular dining destination is now a little joint in a strip mall.  The Venetian Inn may have downsized to Little Venetian, but the food is still to die for.

This establishment has been serving the Twin Cities since the 1920s by a single family, the Vitales.  Family pictures are proudly displayed in the restaurant.

The restaurant looks like a fast food place when you walk up to the counter to place your order.

Yes, you place an order with the cashier and the food is delivered to your table when it is ready.  Why bother with menus when you can just post the menu on the wall like McDonald’s does?

They have a small salad bar which is kind of cramped and hard to wrangle, but the salad was good, and I was especially impressed with the homemade french dressing.  It was chunky!  And delicious, I might add.

A bad photo, but you get the idea of the chunky french dressing

There is little better than authentic Italian food.  Mama Vitale was also famous for her frozen entrees back in the day.  Do you remember the jingle?  “Let Mama Vitale come into your kitchen, she does the cooking, you get the praise…”  Mama isn’t doing the cooking at the restaurant anymore, but her kids have kept the tradition of mouth-watering cuisine in the downsized version of their parents’ restaurant, no doubt using the same recipes as Mama did.
Our little group had lasagna, ravioli with red sauce and a giant side of sausage, chicken parmesan, and mushroom-stuffed ravioli.  All were tremendously scrumptious.
Personally I favor Italian food with a white sauce, which usually contains wine and garlic and butter.  Everyone had a marvelous time eating.  Conversation was kept to a minimum so we could savor it all.
I’m going to remember Little Venetian for catering and take-out too.  Everything on their menu is available for take-out and the entire time we were there people were lining up, ordering delicious food to go.
I think I speak for the entire group when I say Little Venetian is big on authentic Italian food.  So very, very good.  They also serve beer and wine.
As a little treat we went to another local dive for dessert ~ White Bear Lake’s Cup And Cone.  It’s been around forever and it’s simply the place to see and be seen.  Okay, it’s not really as uppity as all that, but truthfully, everyone in the area of White Bear Lake goes to Cup And Cone at least once during the summer.
One word of advice: when they say large, they mean large and don’t predict the size of an ice cream cone on the size of the cone itself.  See for yourself.  Ruthie and Ray got a small- and medium-sized cones.  They’re gargantuan!  (The cones, not Ruthie and Ray.)
I, unfortunately, got a large cone and felt downright piggish walking around with this mountain of ice cream in my hand.  It was a pretty warm day too, so I had to eat it really fast.  Delicious as it was, my eyes were much bigger than my stomach, especially after just having a rich Italian meal.  The large size is for fanatics, that’s for sure!
It was a really nice evening filled with delicious food; Little Venetian and Cup And Cone are a perfect pair.

Read Full Post »

A long time ago I went to a little bar with my motorcycle -driving boyfriend.  We were young and foolish and very brave.  This little bar had a reputation of serving the toughest bikers in the area, but like I said, we were young, foolish and very brave.  We had a drink and left the bar unscathed.  I never returned…until now.

The bar has probably changed hands since I visited over two decades ago, but it’s still known to cater to the biker types.  I’m not so young and foolish any more, but I can still be pretty brave.  We entered Macaluso’s Roadhouse like we owned the place.

The first thing we noticed after we seated ourselves at a booth was this…

Happy hour from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.  You gotta love a place like that.  Interestingly, when Ruthie asked our waitress what kind of wine they had she left and returned with a list.  A very generic list.  The waitress’s “cheat sheet” to be precise.  Pinot Grigio was actually a choice, so Ruthie and I had one.  The guys both had a beer.  True to a dive they also offered free popcorn, serve yourself of course.

It wasn’t very good popcorn, but I didn’t expect too much.  I also ate plenty.  I think I was hungry.  There was also a nice meat raffle girl walking around selling numbers.  I asked what kind of meat we would win and she hesitated.  I asked “animal meat?”  She concurred with a relieved smile.

The view from where I was sitting was less than optimal.  Basically I was facing Ruthie and Ray, who were sitting in front of a wall.  Seems that happened last time we went out too.  I’m going to have to make sure that doesn’t happen next time.  I did turn around at one point to get a photo of the place.  The disco ball was particularly endearing.

I was kind of amazed at the variety of food Macaluso’s offered ~ everything from pasta to burgers.  We began with appetizers, as usual.  These included chicken nuggets with BBQ and ranch dipping sauces (we requested two and weren’t charged extra) and fried ravioli served with marinara dipping sauce.


The ravioli was especially good, I thought.  The appetizer plates were styrofoam.

Entrees came with either chips or baked french fries.  Our waitress failed to ask us what we wanted so we got chips.  When we said we wanted the french fries the cook said it would be another twenty-five minutes as they’re baked, not fried.  I would have liked to try those, but was too hungry to wait another half hour.  The chips were fine with my meal.

My Italian Hoagie
Husby’s Taco Basket


Ruthie’s Meaball Sub


Ray’s Hot Dago

All of us enjoyed our meals immensely.  Really, I really wasn’t expecting food that good.  Just goes to show you, can’t judge cuisine by its clientelle.  Hot and delicious, really flavorful.  Apparently their pizza is also very good, and I’m pretty sure Husby and I will try it sometime.  They have take-out and delivery on their pizza.

There was one other thing I really loved about Macaluso’s was the t-shirts worn by the waitresses.  Check it out…

Sounds like something I’d say.

If you’re feeling brave you should really try Macaluso’s Roadhouse.  Dress down.  Wear leather if you’ve got it.  You won’t regret your visit.  And really?  Those bikers are actually very nice people.  Don’t let them scare you.  However, you should know we arrived for our dining adventure around 5:45.  I can’t vouch for the atmosphere after 7:00.  If you’re feeling really brave, check it out and let me know how it goes.

Read Full Post »

It’s cold and snowy here in Minnesota, but that doesn’t stop the Dive Night crew from braving the weather and checking out another year of dives.  Unfortunately what became a tradition was not the best choice of places to kick off the 2011 dive adventure.  Meister’s, which was really good in Stillwater and pretty good in Scandia turned out to be kind of mundane in Shoreview.  Of course that’s just my opinion.

The decor is frighteningly ordinary, except for the occasional dancer you might find in the hallway outside the restaurant.  You see, Meister’s in Shoreview is contained in a strip mall and shares a hallway with a dance studio.  We got to see a spinny guy in a matador costume when we were there.  But other than that the place is pretty ho-hum.

These little cut-outs of German people (we called them Heidi and Hans) were taped to a mirrored wall on one side of the dining room.  The room itself was pretty well lit and except for Heidi and Hans was pretty devoid of any character.

There was also a very large party of people in the dining room, and they took up the whole length of the room.  They were all really old, and one guy had exactly one tooth.  I think it was Grandma’s birthday, because the lady at the head of the table looked to be about 127 years old.  I thought it was sad that Meister’s was the place her family chose to celebrate what could be her last birthday, but who am I to judge?  Anyway, the four of us were seated in the back corner booth, which was fine.

First we ordered our drinks.  Ray and Husby got a big old pint of beer and Ruthie and I ordered a glass of white zinfandel.  Our wine choices were generic.  I don’t know why I think I can get a good glass of wine in a dive, but I’m always a little disappointed when I can’t.  I should probably start drinking hard liquor if I want to get a good drink in a dive.  Our wine came in little splits and tasted like the kind you would get out of a box with a spigot.

No matter, we’re there for the food, not the libations.  First of all I will give Meister’s kudos on the temperature of their food.  Everything was hot.  Like, really hot where you’d have to let it sit for a while before biting into it.  That’s good.  The choice of appetizers was limited and pretty ordinary.  We ended up getting onion rings and mushrooms.  The mushrooms came with a little ranch dipping sauce.

Ray couldn’t resist getting a cup of the sausage tortilinni soup, which he said was tasty.  It came with three packets of crackers.  Very generous indeed!

As for the entrees, we each had something different.  I had the philly sandwich (sans green peppers *burp*) with au jus, Ruthie had taco salad, which was huge, Husby had a buffalo chicken wrap sandwich, and Ray had a rueben.  As I mentioned, everything came to us really hot and tasted fine, but in my opinion the menu in general and my dinner lacked any kind of originality or pizazz.  The rest of the gang might have different opinions.




And what kind of dive would Meister’s be if it didn’t have a Friday Night Meat Raffle?  Of course we had to buy a couple of chances because who doesn’t want to go home with a hunk of raw meat after an evening out?

Unfortunately none of our numbers were winners.

Long and short?  We kicked off the third year of Dive Nights with a tradition, but the least favorite of the three Meister’s.  Nothing about it was outstanding, but nothing was icky either.  It was just…zzzzzz.

One thing I must mention is the service.  That was pretty decent.  Our waitress was very attentive and did a good job of keeping up with us and the large party of old people.  Nice and friendly, but not too friendly to get in your way.  I like wait staff like that.  Our waitress was excellent.

So that wraps it up.  I feel a little guilty not being more positive.  I will say if you’re going to go to an average place to eat you should be accompanied by superior company, like Husby and I are every time we’re out with Ruthie and Ray.  Thanks, guys!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: