Sunday, February 5, 2012

Five Guys (Oakdale)

Five Guys is a burger chain, and a fairly popular one.  There are six in the greater Twin Cities area (more than I knew about!) but the one in Oakdale is the newest.  It's popular enough that getting a seat on the weekend is tough.

We lucked out this Sunday, though, probably because it was the big game weekend.  We didn't have long to wait, and Five Guys lets you have free peanuts to munch on while you wait, in case you were absolutely starving.

They have two kinds of burgers - regular and little.  The regular is a double, the little is a single.  Each comes in one of four options - burger, cheeseburger, bacon burger, and bacon cheeseburger.  They also do hot dogs, a few vegetarian options and fries.  Fries come in two sizes - regular and large.  "Regular" in this case feeds 2 to 3 people.  Large...4 to 5 people.  Unless you're a family, or you really love their fries, get the regular.

The fries also come with 'overflow' - not sure if that's what they call it, but when you get your order, they throw in a scoop or two more, just for good measure.  I am not a fan of the fries.  They were undersalted, somewhat soggy, and generally unappealling to me.  I am an advocate of the twice-cooked fry, and that is not something they do at Five Guys.  Also, I do feel that making the orders so large just leads to waste, especially when the fries get cold and stale faster than you can eat them, and nobody really likes cold, stale fries.

They have a pretty decently sized list of free toppings for your burgers.  The toppings I chose for my bacon cheeseburger were pretty straightforward: grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, and A1 Steak sauce.  The wife had a cheeseburger with tomato, pickle and mayo.  Too plain for my taste :)  The onions were not completely grilled to translucency, leaving them a bit crunchy.  The mushrooms were done well, however.  The amount of sauce they put on the burger was also disappointing - you could tell there was sauce on the burger, but the flavor profile was lost, and that's hard to do with A1.  The bun was a standard sesame seed bun, but soft, so the burger as a whole was squishy.  The bacon was cooked fairly well, although not as crispy as I would have liked.  I like bacon to snap when I have it on my burger, and I dislike it immensely when I take a bit, and a whole strip of bacon comes out of the burger because it was too chewy.  The burger, like all their burgers, was cooked well-done, but not hockey-buck well done, at least.

Parking at the Oakdale location is terrible.  It shares a lot with Red Lobster, Buffalo Wild Wings, Baja Sol, and several retail stores.  Seating was also uncomfortable, at least for me, as the chairs sat pretty low to the ground.  They did have some barstool type seats up against the window, which might have been a better option.  This is not a reading restaurant.  The burgers require two hands, and the design of the place causes the too-loud music to reverb, making it difficult to concentrate.  This is more of a 'get it, eat it, and get out' kind of place, rather than a neighborhood hangout, which I guess works for them - it moves product!

I will probably return.  I'd like to try the cajun fries, which have got to have more flavor than the regular fries, and I'm thinking I might try a littler burger next time, with maybe some less messy toppings (such as maybe relish and tomato).  If we go back, I'll be sure to post the followup!

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Kramarczuk's is a Polish/Ukranian deli with a cafeteria style restaurant attached.  However, cafeteria style restaurant does NOT mean cafeteria style food.

It took a little bit to find the place.  It's on Hennepin, but you have to do a little creative navigating to get back to Hennepin if you're coming down Hennepin from Saint Paul. Confused?  We were, too.  Very little free parking for the place itself, but there's a ramp right behind it that was empty on Saturday.

We'd been wanting to visit here since we saw it featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network.  We were not disappointed.

We both went for the combo platter - a cabbage roll, 3 varenyky's, choice of sausage, and a heaping mound of sauerkraut.  And a dill pickle on the side.  The combo plate is really only for those who can eat a lot, are going to share, or are going to take some home. :)

One thing I found kind of odd - the food is displayed cafeteria style, so you could see and get what you want, and the servers fill your plate with what you want, but after filling your plate, then they throw it in the microwave.  The micro doesn't seem to affect the composition of the food when you get it, so I'm not sure why they do that.  Maybe the food on the line is only par-cooked?

The varenyky's, a kind of potsticker/dumpling kind of thing, normally come in 4 varieties, but they were out of the cheese, so we each got a meat, cheese & potato, and a sauerkraut version.  They come with a horseradish sour cream dipping sauce.  All were cooked through, not doughy, and the potato/cheese one, with the sour cream was the overall favorite.  I could probably eat a plateful of just those (and you can buy them that way as well)!  Each was distinctive, with enough filling to impart some flavor, as opposed to all tasing the same.

The cabbage roll was probably the best I've ever had - a beef, pork, and rice filling, covered with a tomato cream sauce.  The cabbage was firm, not soggy, but fork-tender, and easy to cut through to get to the center.  There was still flavor in it (cabbage is recognizable in that regard, and when overcooked it tastes like..nothing).  The stuffing was well seasoned, not overly so, and the sauce added a bit of creamy-tangy-ness that worked well to offset the cabbage itself.

We went different directions with the meat.  The wife went for the traditional polish, and I went for the Hungarian.  We each tried a bit of the other's, and I have to say the Hungarian was the better of the two.  More flavorful, more spices.  The Polish sausage was traditional, and was good, but the Hungarian was more - exciting, I guess would be the word.  Maybe not the proper word, but it definitely woke up the taste buds!

The sauerkraut was tasty, and didn't have the caraway that a lot of places add (which in my opinion takes away from the sauerkraut flavor).  A bit much though, helping-wise, considering everything else that was on the plate.  (Side note - combining cabbage and kraut in the same meal may lead to an argument with your stomach.  I'm just saying)

I also had a cup of the leek and potato soup, which was one of the soups of the day.  Lots of potatoes, not a lot of leeks.  The potatoes were firm, not mushy, the soup was seasoned well, not too much salt or pepper, but the leeks were noticably missing, which was sad for me, because I like a good leek and potato soup - have ever since my dad introduced me to it all those years ago.

The restaurant itself was not too crowded when we first came in (about 2 or so), but filled up quickly about an hour later.  I noticed there were several college-age kids there, and it appeared to be pretty laid-back atmosphere, where you could bring a book and nosh quietly, or bring a group of friends, share a plate of Varenyky and chat as long as you want.  It was interesting to watch the bussing of the tables as well.  The majority of customers bussed their own, although there were folks that came through and cleaned up as well.  A true neighborhood place!