Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hello Corporate!

Greetings! I hope this entry finds all who read it are well. It has become apparent to me that my last entry has been far far too long ago. Almost a year to be more specific! Yikes. Well here I am with a new take on the traditional entries. This is a copy of a letter I sent to corporate. I would appreciate any feedback about this experience but most importantly, enjoy!

As a visitor in town for business, tonight I choose the familiar Old Chicago. In my hometown we love OC where we dine about 6 times a month. Therefore, I had walked in with high expectations but was disheartened when I left.

I was not greeted at the front door by the welcome staff but nevertheless helped myself to the bar area. My appetizer was timely and tasted fresh and delicious. However, when I ordered my entree for carryout I was let down. I had a craving for the steak and mushroom sandwhich which is not longer carried. My bartender did go check though to see if it was possible it could be made with was a gesture I appreciated. Instead I chose the shrimp. I asked for veggies. I had assumed it would be the steamed veggies like in the picture but when I arrived home I discovered raw veggies. I believe the bartender should have asked and clarified with me before hand. I did not know a side of raw veggies existed. I also did not receive the tartar sauce I specifically asked for. Finally, I was automatically given and charged for the full portion without my knowledge until I was back in my hotel room overlooking my receipt. As I walked out, the same two welcome hosts as when I arrived were involved in their conversation with eachother and I was left without a single "goodbye," "thank you," or any acknowledgment whatsoever. I can see how it would be difficult to say goodbye to every single person but I was looking for a stitch of reassurement that I had still made a good decision choosing the Old Chicago of Eden Prairie.

The presentation of my carryout food was excellent. The shrimp were attractive, piping hot and scrispy even at my hotel and the veggies were sorted and laid with care.

Perhaps my requests were accidentally lost in translation. Perhaps the bartender is new. Perhaps I expected too much. Perhaps I am too quick of a judge.

I will be returning shortly to my hometown where I will appreciate the Sioux Falls, SD store even more! They are an excellent team and take care of their guests in an extraordinary way!

I will continue to dine at Old Chicago's even though I found only rust inside the alluring luster of the Eden Prairie OC.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hide & Seek

Things you will usually (if not always) find in a restaurant:

1) Drama
2) A drunk guest
3) A drunk employee
4) Lists that never get done
5) Empty boxes (if you're moving, have your friend save them for you!)
6) Someone who speaks very little (if none at all) English
7) Lovers
8) Plenty of sharp knives. So be nice to the kitchen and waitstaff.
9) Little children screaming at their parents
10) An explosion of crumbs and ground in noodles into the floor once the screaming children and stressed-out parents have left
11) Servers left phone numbers instead of a tip (oh the stories)
12) Enough cigarettes in the coat room to feed your addiction for half a year
13) Haters (see # 7)
14) A shortage of salt and pepper shakers/grinders (because guests have and more often than not act upon the urge to take them as "souvenirs")
15) Guests who think their server will not realize these salts and peppers are missing after they have left

And the list goes on and on...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Camille's Sidewalk Cafe Review

Once upon a time two girls walked into a sidewalk cafe on a quiet snowy Monday.

Hold on! A sidewalk the snow??

When Christine and I walked into Camille's Sidewalk Cafe, the atmosphere was cozy and filled with Christmas music. Camille's definitely brings in the lunch break crowd, and the business was in full swing. Specializing in wraps, paninis, and sandwiches, Camille's mainly draws in females of all ages. So all you single guys, this is a chance to keep your eyes open for a quick conversation and hopefully make a big impact on a pretty gal.

Although we both have been to Camille's before, we took a moment and squinted at the printed menu behind the counter before placing our orders. I settled on the Napa Chicken Panini ($6.95) and added a cup of Gouda and Red Pepper Soup ($2.75). Christine attempted to order the Chicken California Wrap ($5.95) and a Jingle Java Latte ($3.50), a festive holiday feature.

We slid our coats and bags into a booth and went back up toward the front to wait for our numbers to be called.

When we sat down with our baskets the first thing Christine commented on was the functional presentation. It was a classic setup with a printed logo tissue sheet, the sandwich, tri-colored chips accompanied with a togo side of salsa, and the mini bowl of soup on my entree.

Our first bites were nothing more than ordinary. However, Christine's wrap was extra ordinary only because it was not the one she ordered. The California Wrap is a blend of romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, black olives, carrots, provolone, and honey-mustard dressing. What she got was the Chicken Caesar Wrap. Even though she verified her number at the counter and asked which plate was hers, her order was wrong. Being the easy-going and ceaser-loving type, she was happy with it.

My panini was much more bland than expected but was tolerable. The herb fococcia bread was crispy on the outside and the provolone was melted on the inside over grilled chicken, sundried tomato pesto paste, mushrooms, and a balsamic glaze. The original setup also calls for raw onions but I passed. Onions are bad enough when diced for cooking purposes and I certainly did not want them lingering on my tastebuds. The diced chicken was flavorless and prepared without any seasonings of any kind. The mushrooms had the texture of the type you buy in a tin can when you're too lazy to prep fresh ones, and the balsamic glaze was too sweet and soaked into the fresh bread like hot tar on a paved road.

Maybe my Aunt Lynda isn't as crazy as I once thought for carrying hot sauce in her purse.

The Gouda Red Pepper Soup was hearty and rich. Thankfully, I enjoy tomato soup, which served as the base, because the description didn't refer to any tomatoes whatsoever. Nevertheless, it made a good dip for my bread and tortilla chips. Even though the soup had a very misleading name, I still found it to be very "good-a."

In the future I will be returning to Camille's. Not because of the food, but because they offer a laid back and casual atmosphere that I find inviting and warm.

Camille's Sidewalk Cafe
1216 West 41st Street
Sioux Falls, SD 57105
(605) 333.9727


Happy (belated) December!

Hard to believe that Christmas is only weeks away.
And the snow is here!
Okay. It does suck to drive in, especially when the view from your front windshield looks like this, but I like the snow. That is, in moderate and windless conditions.

Plus the weather is something we can all complain about and find common ground. Think about it. It definitely helps break up the awkward silence at the extended-family holiday get togethers.
Try it. I guarantee it.

Happy belated December to all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Minerva's Restaurant Review

The downtown area of Sioux Falls seems to have it all: diners, specialty stores, apartments, bars, and Falls Park. Nestled in the heart of it all is Minerva's Restaurant. So I invited two friends, Ryan and Christine, out for dinner. After living in Sioux Falls for over three years and hearing great stories about it, I went to try it for myself. After all, they say seeing is believing.

The first thing you encounter in any establishment, whether you acknowledge it or not is the atmosphere. It was dark, alluring, but also inviting. After our brisk walk in the 40 degree weather, I was relieved to step inside somewhere more comforting. Minerva's has a rustic feel to it that has aged with time and experience since its establishment in 1977.

Reservations are recommended, but because we chose a Tuesday evening, we were able to walk in and be seated immediately. Right away we were greeted with waters and had a few moments to settle in and become acquainted with drink and food menus. When we were ready, Christine and I ordered a bottle of Smoking Loon Pinot Noir ($24) to share and Ryan ordered a classic Crown Royal and Coke ($5.50).

Our server, Katie, had formal skills that could impress even the rudest guest. Not only did she do a great job of presenting and pouring the wine, but overall she is a well-rounded server. She was able to describe, in full detail, the Seafood Mac & Cheese and Crab and Potato Crusted Salmon. She also recommended her favorite of the two and was neither pushy nor impatient.

After much debate, I settled on the Seafood Mac & Cheese along with the salad bar ($19.95). Shortly after we placed our order, our server brought out a mix of white and wheat sliced baguettes accompanied with chilled butter.

The salad bar was fresh and offered a variety of salad toppings, cheeses, and soups. One downside was the limited choice of greens. The iceberg mix sufficed but I was, however, glad to see a salad bar attendant behind me keeping the lettuce bright and stocked. The salad bar, even a meal by itself ($10.95), offered items such as pickled herring, potato and Waldorf salads, and two varieties of soups. An item that makes this Sioux Falls salad bar unique was the fresh cheese blocks accompanied with your choice of crackers or mini bagels. These cheeses paired with the rich aroma of our Pinot Noir had me craving more as we chatted and drank together.

Unlike a typical casual dining restaurant, we were able to enjoy our time and conversation together over drinks and a light salad before our main entrees arrived. In a jeans and tshirt establishment (Applebees, Chili's, TGIFridays, etc.) the atmosphere is rushed and according to the clock, convenient. There, the goal is to pull in and push out as many people as possible in a limited amount of time. At Minerva's, from the time we ordered to the time we got our food was approximately a half hour. At any casual dining restaurant the food would more than likely be free if the ticket time ran that long. But in fine dining, time is set aside when good company, service, and drinks come together. The pace of our evening was outstanding and seamless.

When our entrees arrived, the plating was tidy and everything came out looking delicious. Ryan and Christine's steaks were done just as they had asked and liked. My mac & cheese kept its heat until the last bite. The cavatappi noodles were thoroughly cooked without sticking together and were tossed in a white Tillamook cream sauce. The hearty shrimp, salmon, and diced scallops reminded me of digging for treasure. Not that the pieces of seafood were scarce, because there was plenty, but because each piece of fish I found delighted me. The dish was neither too salty nor had the overbearing distinction of shellfish.

Dessert was a delightfully large portion (enough for all three of us to share) of Tiramisu ($5.50). The sweet chocolate was just the right touch to battle the strong Kahlua coffee base. Both sauces were layered beautifully over the soaked sponge cake creating a sweet ending to a great night.

Overall, Minerva's is an excellent place to treat yourself to a relaxed friendly environment. Well, that is if you can get there. Parking is limited on Phillips Avenue. However, the chase to downtown and trolling for a space is worth it. As an added bonus, you'll get to enjoy all the other businesses on the way: art galleries, bookstores, and clothing stores. Also, because Minerva's is a fine dining restaurant, children will most likely be left at home or with a sitter. In the restaurant I worked in, screaming children, high chairs, and an explosion of food was the norm. But at Minerva's, all that was heard was the soft jazz music and the mumble and laughter of other guests.

Minerva's Restaurant is a great establishment that can accommodate parties as large at 60 in their private room downstairs or as small as two people. They not only met my expectations but also surpassed them. My first experience left me feeling not only satisfyingly full, but also eager for a return visit. Turns out all the gossip was right because I am now a believer.

Minerva's Restaurant
301 S Phillips Ave.
Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57104
(605) 334.0386

Serving in the Dining Room
Lunch 11:00 - 2:30
Dinner M-F 5:00 - 10:00
Sat 5:00 - 11:00

Limited menu available at the bar
from 2:30 pm until 5:00 pm

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Pre-Minervas Blog

For all of you non-Sioux Falls savy readers out there, Minervas is THE prime fine dining restaurant in the city. Or so I've heard.

I have yet to experience the thrilling food that will (hopefully) tantalize my tastebuds and leave me hungry (but not litterally) for more.

I decided to poke around on their website for some standard run-of-the-mill info. I ran into professional photos, hours, dinner and lunch menus, and a full wine list. The wine list especially perked my interest with many familiar as well as unfamiliar names. I am anticipating the formal wine service with high expectations.

A whole wine bottle for little me? (I am after all, 5'0 and weight a smidge over 100 lbs). No no. My guests for the evening are two good friends, Christine and Ryan. Christine shares a love for wine with me as well as a background in restaurant experience as well. And Ryan well, Ryan loves food. Neither have been to Minervas and it will be a new and exciting experience for all!

Watch for the review that should be posted no later than this Friday!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Hi how are......'WATER!'"

The opportunity of being a server can be very rewarding. On a daily basis you have the chance to meet great people and hear amazing stories. Unfortunately, servers also put up with a lot of rude and intrusive guests.

And there's always a few in the bunch; the guests that everyone on the waitstaff wants to kill.

More specifically, these are the people that think they should have it all: the perfect waiter, the cut of steak from a heifer that shits diamonds, and of course, a price they see fitting to pay when the show is over and done.

Here are a few helpful hints from an experienced server:

1) Your server cannot read minds. Ask nicely and you shall receive.
2) If you only order water, be happy with the damn water. It's not a complicated beverage. Don't tack on modifiers like no ice, little ice, extra lemons, etc.
3) The staff is, essentially, there to make you happy. But don't abuse this privilege. Be respectful and courteous while treating yourself to an enjoyable evening.

So the next time you're out, keep it simple and keep it easy. Everyone should have to wait tables for one week before they die. And if this task was even remotely possible, the restaurant business would be a whole different game.