Saturday, August 26, 2006

Not the End of the World

Hot Plate
5204 Bloomington Avenue South

I've slain a lot of mice this week, against my will, I might add, but it seems to be some sort of calling - of course, maybe that was just Fern calling to let me know that there was a mouse in her apartment, but I'm taking it as a sign. Into every generation, a slayer is born, and so, this week's review is brought to you by ... Lexi the Vermin Slayer.

The Scooby gang gathered this week at Hot Plate. More accurately, we gathered outside of Hot Plate, waiting for it to open. Damn those posted business hours that keep us from enjoying our breakfast any old time we please. They finally invited us in at 8:00, but we chose to avoid the lure of the televisions inside and sit outside to enjoy the sunshine. Unfortunately "Enjoying the sunshine" looked a lot like "squinting into the blinding glare of daylight", especially as the sun reached perfect eye-blinding height. Judy suggested correcting the problem by standing as she ate, but laziness and comfort won out over pretecting her eyesight.

The food at Hot Plate is blindingly average. The potatoes are exactly the same ones served at Beau's regular breakfast joint in Nashville. They are called "roasted" on the menu (which Beau claims can be an indication of some big bad going on at a restaurant), but they showed up dyed orange with unknown "spices", and with a slight crust surrounding their freezer-burned insides. Beau and I ordered breakfast burritos, which didn't come with potatoes, but did come smothered in "spicy chipotle sauce" (which was about as spicy as your average main dish at a church potluck). The burrito was as big as your head, but not nearly so interesting.

Jimmy bravely ordered eggs benedict, and even seemed happy with his meal. Nobody got the Eric Estrada of the day, which is some sort of layerey-eggy thing with about a million things crammed inside. It's an age-old problem. If you add more ingedients, you're bound to come up with a sure-fire winner (for me, it's goat cheese), but you might also hit upon a deal-breaker (i.e. Candian bacon).

Rachael ordered the pancakes after determining their thickness from the server. Only thin pancakes will do for Rachael, perhaps because she doesn't really like pancakes and thick ones taste too pancakey. So, why, you ask, did she order pancakes in the first place? Well, she's the magic eight ball of breakfast ordering. From the outside, her logic looks a lot like a decahedron floating in mysterious inky fluid. Still, don't we all secretly think the magic eight ball's answers really come from a higher place? And didn't Rachael's pancakes arrive just to her liking and satisfy her? I'm just saying, this is more than I can say for my perfectly logical burrito.

Wasps joined us for the end of the meal, which added degrees of difficulty to clearing the table for our phobic waitress. I did not slay them, as I reserve my powers for the scurrying vermin of my closets. The crew gave the place higher grades than I expected. The average was a B-. Still, I believe there was some sort of grade inflation going on, and I wouldn't expect us to dine again at Hot Plate any more than I'd expect to see Jimmy filling a paper plate with jello salad at a church potluck.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hair of the Dog

Blarney Pub and Grill
412 14th Ave. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414

One look at the Blarney Pub and Grill's website would tell you that this place was not suited for the TCBC. They specialize in Irish Car Bombs and things like "Whiskey Dick Wednesdays" (which I find strangely intriguing), not crispy hash browns and skim milk lattes. This should give you an indication of the level of desperation that had befallen breakfast club on Saturday. We made the mistake of trying to decide on a place as we were driving around aimlessly. After an hour of driving and at least five failures, we were in Dinkytown, hungry, and more then a little cranky. We saw the Blarney Pub and Grill and it passed the two remaining hurdles we had, it was open and had immediate seating. While the eating experience was essentially wretched, I am giving the Blarney a passing grade. Under the right scenario, the Blarney Pub and Grill isn't too bad. Let me explain.

Do you remember college? Do you remember waking up on a Saturday or Sunday morning/afternoon after an especially raucous night? As soon as you open your eyes, you notice a number of things, 1) your mouth tastes like the inside of an empty beer can that also has been used as an ashtray, 2) the sun is especially bright, 3) there appears to be a noise rock band practicing inside you head. As you stagger out of bed, half awake and probably still half drunk, you know there is only one cure for your state and that is a large helping of grease in the form of eggs, hash browns, bacon, and toast. These are your only requirements. None of the food needs to be particularly good, in fact, it is better if the food isn't good because you won't appreciate it anyway. The food just needs to be greasy and quick. All that fat and grease somehow soak up all of the evil toxins that you ingested the previous night and make you feel halfway normal again. It's the ultimate hangover cure (sometime the strong-willed couple this breakfast with a stiff bloody mary, hangover be gone!).

Greasy and Quick. The Blarney Pub and Grill fits this description perfectly. If you expect anything more you will be disappointed. The options are limited, although they do have a bowl of lucky charms for those that are particularly queasy; the potatoes were especially freezer burny; and the best part of the meal was the toast. As a quality eating establishment, the Blarney Pub and Grill is a complete failure. As a hangover cure for a college student, the Blarney Pub and Grill is not too bad.

TCBC Grade=F
Drunken College Student Grade=B
Overall Grade=C-/D+

Mmmm...Open-Faced Club Sand Wedge

Acadia Cafe
1931 Nicollet Ave. S.
329 Cedar Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Sometimes, due to unforeseen circumstances, breakfast club is delayed and becomes lunch club. While this could never become the norm (when some members get up at 4:30 in the morning, waiting until NINE to eat is an eternity), it often allows the group to sample establishments that otherwise would be overlooked. Recently breakfast club was delayed due to the good doctor's call schedule and her addiction to gazing at her new grandson. It was a very hungry group of four (Rachael in Honduras, Alex in Canada, and Perley off doing Perley things) that walked into the Acadia Cafe at eleven in the morning. While the Acadia did list some breakfast options, it was clear that they specialized in the two meals not called breakfast. Rather then tempt fate, we all ordered from the lunch menu. This was a splendid development as it allowed me to consume the best club sandwich of my life, which is no small feat.

When I go out to lunch, there is a 75% chance that I will order a club sandwich. I've sampled club sandwiches across the nation, at large chain restaurants, at tiny diners, and all places in between. My history with this piece of Americana is extensive. It all goes back to when I was a surly teenager at a restaurant with my family. I looked at the menu and declared that the club sandwich looked good. One member of my family (who shall never be named) told me in no uncertain terms that I would NOT like the club sandwich because it had too much bread. As a surly teenager with two copies of the stubborn gene (thanks mom and dad), this information ensured that not only would I order the club sandwich, but I would also declare its magnificence to all the world regardless of my real onion. Luckily, I was not forced to lie to my own family, because that sandwich was terrific. From then on, the club sandwich has been my default order when given the option.

Given this long past, you may be surprised to know (or not) that I have very strict requirements regarding what makes a good club sandwich. A true and good club sandwich contains seven things, no more, no less.
  1. Three slices of lightly toasted bread-Emphasis on the lightly toasted, often places go overboard and toast the hell out of the bread. By the time you are done with your last quarter, the roof of your mouth has been shredded by hard slivers of toast. Not good times. Bread type is negotiable, but given a choice, it's wheat every time.
  2. Turkey-Preferably thinly sliced deli turkey and not that dry real turkey stuff that comes apart and crumbles everywhere, especially when you pick up one of your sandwich quarters, a properly made club sandwich does not require reassembly.
  3. Bacon-Which must be crispy and more than two slices.
  4. Lettuce-Iceberg to be exact, but romaine is also acceptable.
  5. Tomato-As long as it is a good tomato, out-of-season mealy tomatoes should never go on a sandwich under any circumstances.
  6. Mayo-And only mayo, I find that the addition of mustard changes the entire complexion of the sandwich and not for the better.
  7. Cheese-Almost any cheese will do as long as it isn't too powerful.
Most places make one or two critical mistakes when making a club sandwich. Some places add ham to the equation. While I appreciate the addition of another pork product it IS a tad excessive. Other places try and spice up the club sandwich by adding nontraditional condiments, like honey mustard or specialty mayonnaise. Many places deem the third slice of bread to be superfluous and eliminate it. This is the most heinous act because it does not allow them to cut the sandwich into quarters and display those wonderful pieces of joy on the plate with the requisite mountain of chips or freedom fries. It's those neatly displayed sandwich quarters that really set the club sandwich apart from the other, more pedestrian sandwiches.

The Acadia Cafe does none of those things and just provides you with those seven essential ingredients, lovingly assembled into the perfect sandwich. They also have a healthy halo type multi-grain bread that is very pleasing. Everyone in the group loved their meals and praised the Acadia Cafe unreservedly. If their club sandwich is any indication of the quality of the rest of their food, multiple return trips will have to be scheduled.