Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Shuang Cheng

Shuang Cheng Restaurant
1320 4th St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 378-0208

I've heard some claim that Shuang Cheng has some of the best Chinese food in the Twin Cities. I would rate it highly, with the comments that it has strength's and weaknesses. One of their strengths is their fried rice. If you are a fried rice fan, you will not be disappointed. After the first bite, you will think about the taste in your mouth and remember it as an old friend who comforts a weary heart.

Some foods really are comfort foods, aren't they? I used to feel that way about the oyster wings at Lee Anne Chin. If I ever felt down, an order of oyster wings could take me to a happy place indeed.

The prices at Shuang Cheng are average for local Chinese restaurants. The menu has a lot of variety. I had the Moo Shu Pork.

The atmosphere is a no frills environment. If you go there, you're either going for the food or for its proximity to something else. It's not romantic, and you'll notice the conversation of your table neighbors.

Go early if you can. Sometimes a line forms and people wait for seating. The only place for them to wait is right in the customer area where you're eating; so, if you have an outside table, someone may be peering over your shoulder waiting to take your table.

Like I said- Pluses and minuses. Over all, the great food at an average price will win you over. For parking, you might get lucky and get to park on the street. Otherwise, I recommend the lot right around the corner that charges like $2 for the evening. Below is where I parked my Sebring.

Spill the Wine

Spill the Wine
1101 Washington Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55415
(612) 339-3388

Last night was a blast. Becky and I had dinner at a restaurant near the Guthrie Theater and then met some friends to see the theater production A Mid Summer Night's Dream.

It was cold and gray and the rain drizzled, but we soldiered on- determined to have a good time anyway.

The restaurant where we wanted to dine was booked, so we decided to try Spill the Wine, an attractive-sounding restaurant just down the street from the Guthrie. I look like a doorman for some bad reality show.

I was disappointed with the atmosphere. It reminded me of a deli with candles on the tables and Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling. Maybe the food will be better?

The menu didn't have much variety, and the prices were higher than Babalu's we visited near by a couple of weeks ago. The night we visited Spill the Wine, the average plate was about $30.00.

I ordered the Salmon, which came with new potatoes. I asked if they would double the vegetables instead of giving me potatoes. So, my Salmon was ordered with cooked spinach and a side of broccolini. I wasn't sure what broccolini was. It looks like baby broccoli, but it's a hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan (chinese broccoli).

The Salmon arrived wrapped in bacon, which turned out to be the best part of it. I enjoyed my meal okay, but it wasn't outstanding like we had at Babalu's the other night. In fact, it wasn't even as good as the Firecracker Tilapia I had last week at Chili's.

Becky had the beef tenderloin with new potatoes and broccolini. She was even more disappointed with her meal. The new potatoes were under cooked. She thought the broccolini tasted like a rubber tire smells, and the center of her tenderloin was a little too rare. On the other hand, she loved the bread. Both of us loved the coffee.

We left a little disappointed with Spill the Wine. The atmosphere was lacking, the prices were high and the food was mediocre. However, the service was good, and our waitress took our photo.

Fuddruckers in Southdale area

3801 Minnesota Dr
Bloomington, MN 55435
(952) 835-3833

Friday night, Becky and I went to the Fuddruckers on France near 494. It always amazes me how they can use inventory for decoration and crowd management. When you enter, you wonder through a maze of beer crates.

Our daughter, Jenny, came with us. Normally, I try to avoid bringing the kids on Friday. It' s supposed to be our date night. However, Jenn just returned from a trip to Cancun, and we hadn't seen her much and wanted to visit.

We went to Fudruckers because of a fund raiser happening at the school where Becky works. By presenting a coupon, a portion of the meal proceeds went to the school.

I had a salad with chicken strips on top and spicy ranch dressing. I really wanted a hamburger, but I'm trying to drop a few pounds. Becky did have a hamburger. Jenn had cheese covered fries and a strawberry shake.

We ran into some of Becky's co-workers. I know one of the, Tim, pictured below. Like Becky, he also teaches 3rd grade. They both teach in Spanish half of the day and English the second half. Tim's a fun person. We went to his Halloween party last year, and he was dressed as a bride with high-heel shoes. I don't know how he wore those.

We were invited to sit with some of Becky's co-workers, but we didn't because we wanted to visit with Jenn.

Babalu's in Minneapolis

Last Friday, I took my wife to one of our favorite Minneapolis restaurants, Babalu's. It's a date destination. The atmosphere is romantic and fairly quiet (at least in the early evening). The cuisine is described as Latin-Caribbean. I've never been there later than 7:00 pm. I hear the live jazz is outstanding later in the evening. The bar and restaurant areas are separated by a dividing wall. The bar lighting is low and lit with creative colors that set the mood. One wall is dominated by an artistic light display that is very inviting.

The food is some of the best you can get. The Babalu chefs always add something to the plate that is unexpected but never unpleasant. I had the seared tuna with giant asparagus. The asparagus arched over the tuna like those enormous swords over Baghdad. Under the tuna and asparagus was a two-color sauce (yellow and red) that was lightly sweetened. There was also avocado and cilantro bedded beneath. The meal was completely satisfying.

We asked our waiter about his accent, and he said "guess". My wife grew up in Spain, so she's pretty good at detecting various Latin accents. He was really surprised when she correctly guessed Puerto Rico on the first try. Apparently, most people say Cuba. The service was what you would expect- outstanding.

The average entrée price is about $25. My wife had a mojito drink. I had a diet coke. She said the mixed drink was really well made.

If you're looking for a special occasion restaurant or a great date destination, I highly recommend Babalu's.

800 Washington Ave N.
Suite 102
Downtown Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN, 55401