Tag Archives: Minnesota

Toby Keith’s I <3 This Bar and Grill: America. FUTK yeah.

18 Aug

Continuing with our “Nachos From Exotic Locales To Make Up For Rarely Posting” series, we bring you Toby Keith’s I ❤ This Bar & Grill in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. Using live music, hearty portion-sizes, and mason jars, I ❤ This Bar & Grill is doing to country what the Hard Rock Cafe did to rock: increasing the guitar size by 1000% and turning music into a tourist trap. That the developers at the West End thought the new retail park needed a country music bar probably hints at Minnesota’s right-wing swing, but if country music means more nachos for us, then we’re willing to indulge Toby Keith for at least one meal.

  • Appearance: (8) Unlike most people at I ❤ This Bar & Grill, these nachos look good in both dim and direct light. Red, white, and blue chips, green guac, orange cheese-like sauce (see Distribution), parsley confetti. Yep, it has all those things. We’re taking off three points for a messy plate.
  • Distribution: (6) We still don’t know whether the orange stuff was queso dip or melted cheese, but in any case, what they were doing didn’t work. If it was shredded cheese, they did a terrific job melting the top layer, but not so great a job melting the rest. If it’s queso dip, they should have used more to help coat the naked chips on the bottom of the pile. There also wasn’t enough meat, and the so-called black beans touted by the menu were M.I.A.
  • Quality: (6) Despite the distribution problems, the mix of queso dip and shredded cheese gave us an extra kick of melty-goodness. We also enjoyed the smoky, peppery flavors in the salsa. Our primarily complaint is with the pulled pork, which was too sweet, and would have been much better off sans-sauce.
  • Price: (8) All-American nachos, All-American portion size, All-American prices. That used to mean super cheap, but now that means $9 for a small order. Too much for two people, probably too small for a group. In case you’re feeling extra hungry, they have something called “That Damn Nacho,” which includes all the toppings from a small order, plus three kinds of meat–chicken, BBQ beef, and pulled beef–for $20.
  • Overall: 28/40. We feel a little guilty supporting the Toby Keith Industrial Complex, but despite our qualms,  I ❤ This Bar & Grill serves good food in a lively environment. If we knew anything about country music, we’d insert some sort of relevant lyric, but since we stick primarily to 90’s tunes, we’ll close by saying: America! Fuck yeah!
PS. if you don’t get the title of this post, click here.
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Target Field (Minneapolis, Minnesota): Nachos Grande blogos grandes

15 Apr

To say the least, Nacho Patrol has been hesitant about reviewing pro sports related nacho plates. Exorbitant pricing (which, one must remember, must be added on top of the cost of a ticket to the event), gooey, bag-born cheese, and lackluster showmanship usually situate these feeble attempts at snackery in our “no thanks” column. But the opportunity to be among the first people ever to try a nacho plate at a new venue, let alone to be the first to review it, well that was just too much to pass up.

And to be honest, we’re sort of glad, because the Nachos Grande at opening day of the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field were, well, sorta good.

Maybe it was the smell of the fresh cut grass wafting into the stands that gave this salty, yellowish pleasure-pile that little something extra. Perhaps it was the sound of Jason Kubel’s bat as it gave a layed-up fastball the bitchslap of a lifetime that made the crunch of each Old Dutch chip just that much more satisfying. In my heart, I’d like to believe that at the very moment we dug into our first bite, Joe Mauer, hesitating for just a moment between pitch calls (as if sensing what was about to happen), looked across that field of dreams and misspent tax-payer dollars, and whispered softly—secretly—into the gentle spring breeze, “Enjoy.” But whatever it was, the fact remains: these were the best nachos we’ve ever eaten at a pro sports event. That’s not saying much (see the now infamous Fenway Incident), but it’s a pretty good start.

  • Appearance: (6) When we were first handed the Nachos Grande, we would have surely given the plate an 8 for appearance. The shear amount of toppings alone was enough to make us want to tear the thing apart on the spot, but the color and textures of the ingredients made it so beautiful that we stayed our hands for closer inspection (and so that we could go buy beer). While the pile was impressive, it was tough to see the chips through all the toppings, and the plastic bowl didn’t help either. The great color and great texture won the plate decent marks despite its aesthetic shortcomings.
  • Quality: (7) The food czars of Target Field have seen fit to go further than their Fenway counterparts in nearly every way. The cheese is freshly heated to a liquid state, then ladled, not poured from a bag, onto the layered chips. Atop the cheese is sprinkled spiced ground beef, which both soaks up the cheese and adds texture. And the salsa? Well, let’s just say that there ain’t no Pace Picante up in hur; this is pico-freaking-de gallo, onions and cilantro and all (though the cilantro was a bit chincy). The use of Old Dutch tortilla chips was also much-appreciated for their local character, their satisfying crunch, and their ability to withstand heavy loads of toppings. The high quality of toppings also ensured that each bite retains the same flavor profile, with each ingredient somehow finding its way into almost every bite.
  • Distribution: (7) The Old Dutch chip, a Midwest favorite, is top of the line in the nacho world’s Sporting category: it’s yellow color adds points for Presentation; it’s round shape makes it ideal for both dipping and gripping; it’s curve, much deeper than it’s bleached-out brethrens’, allows for greater cheese flow, boosting the dish’s Distribution score and reducing the number of “crumblies” at the bottom. In addition, because the cheese isn’t simply dumped on the chips from a single, straight down angle, the cheese is able to find its way to every layer. Though the meat, sour cream, salsa and jalapeños are all piled at the tippy top of the heap, its’ easy enough for them to find their way down as you grab for chips from the middle and bottom. Oh, and the sages behind Target Field’s Nachos Grande also saw fit to bestow upon us a tool of indelible nacholy power: the fork. The geniuses over at Fenway still haven’t figured this one out. Trying to eat nachos at a baseball game without a fork is like Nick Punto trying to hit a home run—which is to say, it’s nearly impossible.
  • Price: (4) The only universe in which $8.50 ballpark nachos could ever be considered a “good deal” would have to be one in which a) aforementioned ballpark was brand new and state of the art, b) had just opened, c) thus, freeing the would-be world class baseball team that played there from an inflatable, canvas-covered asylum, and d) where said nachos were enriched by their mere proximity to Joe Mauer and TC the bear. I think you know where I’m going with this.
  • Overall: 24/40

In the end, the stars aligned for Target Field’s Nachos Grande, boosting the plate’s score well above the usual pro sports fair and solidifying it’s place on the stadium concourse of our hearts–a concourse which is shared by porkchops on a stick, honest-to-God pine trees, and Summit beer.

***

Note: This review was written by Trevor M., Twins fan and Boston transplant. Though he doesn’t often slip on his reviewing shoes, he is the sole reason Nacho Patrol exists today. We consider him the Godfather. He knows a cool trick whereby a person can drink a bottle of wine in under a minute. He’s also a keen raver, though he’ll deny it and say he was just drunk. He is also a fellow Minnesotan, which makes him a far superior breed of human being.

2009 Nacho Round-up

10 Jan

Well folks, it’s been quite a year, especially in the world of nachos.  After 12 months, 62 reviews, and approximately 7,428,391 calories, we’re reflecting on our year, and this is what we have found:

Fenway News: After a year and half of dedicated reviewing, we can safely say that there simply aren’t good nachos in the Fenway area. Trust us, we have done the leg work. After our disastrous 2008 review at Beer Works (23), we didn’t have much luck at Lower Depths (27), Cask & Flagon (28), or at Fenway (18) itself. The closest we came was Uno’s (30), and since it’s a chain, we tend to not count it as an independent “Fenway area” bar. In short, stick to hot wings, Bud Light, and street vendors. It’s what Fenway does best.

Boylston News: Avid readers will know that we’ve tackled many of the most famous restaurants on Boylston Street in something we’ve called the five-part Official Boylston Epic. This doesn’t include anything in on Newbury or the surrounding area…not that there’s much going on to mention. To be honest, everything is overshadowed by Pour House (number 1 with 36!), but if we had to recommend others, we’d probably have to go with Whiskey’s (29) and their extra spicy chili and Cactus Club’s (29) super cheesy nachos.

Best “Foreign”: Over the year, our crack team of Foreign Correspondents has circled the globe in hope of finding good nachos. So far…well, take a look for yourself. Apparently, the farther you get from Mexico, the worse they get. The two bright spots have to be Jordan’s (31) Irish Specialty Nachos just outside of Denver University and the Big Four Nachos at Bryant Lake Bowl (30) in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Best Specialty: sometimes, getting away from the typical bar nacho can be an enlightening experience, and after all the great specialty nachos we’ve had this year, we feel practically blissful!

  1. Big City Mediterranean Nachos (34): pita chips covered with spinach and artichoke dip, jack and feta cheese, chopped balsamic tomatoes, kalamata olives, roasted peppers, and hummus on the side. Greek and unique!
  2. Christopher’s Yuppie Nachos (31): sour cream, guacamole, jack and cheddar cheeses, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes. It makes our mouths water just thinking about it!
  3. Jordan’s Irish Nachos (32): kettle-fried potato chips topped with corned beef, swiss cheese, horseradish dijon, tomatoes and scallions. If your nachos aren’t fattening enough, get them with potato chips.

Best bar nachos: Let’s start off first with a definition–bar nachos are any plate with tortilla chips, cheddar cheese (or equivalent), chili or chicken (or similar protein), salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Maybe some jalapenos and black olives for good measure. That said, we can say unequivocally that Sunset Cantina and Sunset Grill & Tap (35) have the best, most reliably good bar nachos around. With a variety of interesting proteins and an eye for brilliant distribution, we have never been disappointed with Sunset nachos. Our only complaint is the shredded lettuce on top. However, the keenest readers among you will notice that we’ve given Harry’s Bar and Grill (35.5) a higher total score. All we can say is that this score is up for reevaluation after a particularly unpleasant nacho experience we had at the aforementioned bar…Nonetheless, we will leave it up for the time being.

Excellence in Mexicana: no, nachos aren’t Mexican. We’ll admit it…begrudgingly. Nonetheless, 2009 saw some great nachos at Boston’s “Mexican” restaurants. Cantina La Mexicana (32) in Union Square and Cafe Sol Azteca (32) on the edge of Boston University campus may have had tied scores, but we’ve got to give Cantina the number one spot simply for their amazing waitstaff. Still, both restaurants had great foods, great drinks, and a great atmosphere. Viva Mexico!

Best Nachos on a Mediocre Internet Date: Cambridge Common (31). Self explanatory.

Best Nachos with Cheese Sauce: Nachopatrol is divided on the issue of cheese sauce.  Some like it, some hate it, but all came together to hail the Rattlesnake Bar & Grill (28) for their legitimately cheesy, obviously homemade sauce.  Although their sauce tasted from a can, the friendliness and persistence in following our blog that the fine people of JJ Foley’s (also 28) have demonstrated gives them an honorable mention.

Biggest Disappointments/Hall of Shame: Coolidge Corner Clubhouse (21).  After bragging about their nachos, and hearing about them from many others, we were disgusted to find a towering inferno of burned, greasy chips and lackluster toppings. Sometimes we can be accused to bias, but in the case of the CCC, the coffin has been shut, nailed closed, burned, and the ashes buried under six feet of earth. We will never return.

Nacho Patrol of the Year: Every now and then we get on our knees and thank the stars that Border Cafe (32) in Harvard Square exists, so maybe it’s not surprising that most fun we’ve ever had while Nacho Patrolling was at this upbeat, friendly, and always-packed Tex-Mex restaurant. And that’s not just the margs talking! After order $15 worth of dips and sides, we created our own nacho plate, and even got a manager to discuss with us why a Tex-Mex joint doesn’t have nachos. As she explained it, Border only deals in “original” Tex-Mex. We’re still not sure what that means–it must be ego that allows them to call enchiladas and fajitas original. But whatever. It was worth the doubting looks. Bring back Cholula and we’ll be there every day.

Review of the Year: It goes without saying that our favorite review had to be of Nachopalooza ’09. What will become a yearly tradition (and by yearly, we mean weekly), Nachopalooza allowed us to express our nacho love with our 20 closest friends, while drinking jello shots (SPRING BREAK) and taking pictures with our homemade Carson Daly. So, if you’re thinking of hosting your own very classy, very tasty nacho party, read our syllabus.

2009’s Most Controversial Nacho: The review hasn’t been posted yet, but trust us. It will get violent.

Best Comment: This year’s comment award was a tie between Mama S, who hated our blog so much it made her puke and the good people of J.J. Foley’s, who gave us hope that perhaps our reviews will one day change the world of nachos. Unfortunately, Andi was the tie-breaker, and because of a possible conflict of interest (Mama S=her mom), she had to bow out of the race.

Worst: That’s right, these are our worst nachos of the year. Avoid like SARS (or maybe Swine Flu)…

  1. Other Side (17): Technically, The Other Side had a higher score than El Paso and Casa Bonita, but we hate it so much that we gave it the honorable position of #1 Worst Nacho Anywhere in the World. Congrats, you over-rated piece of shit, hipster hell hole.
  2. Casa Bonita (10): The lowest nacho score to date, but no one was expecting much.
  3. El Paso (15): Only slightly better than a poke in the eye.
  4. White Horse (21):  We’re ashamed to admit we even considered this American-cheese monstrosity.
  5. Coolidge Corner Clubhouse (21): A low-down, dirty punch to the aorta.

Top Ten Nachos of 2009:

  1. Harry’s
  2. Sunset
  3. Big City Mediterranean Nachos
  4. Fajita’s and ‘Ritas
  5. Cantina La Mexicana
  6. Sol Azteca
  7. Crossroads
  8. Cambridge Common
  9. Christopher’s Yuppie Nachos
  10. Bryant Lake Bowl