Kale G: Hail, Citizen!
Sock Puppet Phil B: Hail!
KG: This week, our meanderings brought us here, to The Citizen Café, the Café for the People. It says so right on the banner.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect – honestly, we came here on the strength of the banner alone.
SPPB: And boy are my arms tired!
KG: No, that joke doesn’t work here… it… ugh, anyways, moving on. We got seated at Citizen just before a storm cut in, and were given the choice of inside or outside. The rain turned out not to be too bad, and they had a huge awning over their outside patrons to keep them dry, but Phil and I opted to stay indoors. It wasn’t long before we were given some cuts of bread along with fresh butter and a house-made chickpea spread, not unlike hummus.
SPPB: The hummus smelled like old feet!
KG: No, you smell like old feet. Try to keep up. The hummus/chickpea stuff was actually pretty great, and smelled not at all like smelly feet. It was a good spread that made the good bread all the tastier. The butter was nice as well, but for me a good hummus is always fantastic, and this did not disappoint. The follow-on was a plate of their pate, to be shared between us.
To be fair, as Phil pointed out, this is less a pate as we tend to think of them and more of a terrine, a forcemeat. Which is just a fun work to say – forcemeat.
SPPB: I bet you want to force your…
KG: Whoa! Family show here, SPPB. Anyways, while not spreadable like what we usually consider pate, this concoction was a good chunk of liver and butter, with some capers and a nice homemade dijon mustard on the side. It went really well with the bread, although I’m loathe to use the bread for anything other than the hummus, which really was my favorite of the pre-entrée foods.
When it came to entrees, Phil and I took a few minutes and then decided to go with the most interesting looking of the sandwiches – I went with the Sirloin Burger, which came with a spicy bacon marmalade, and Phil opted for the Citizen Joe – Meat and Spices wrapped in dough.
SPPB: Whoever heard of bacon marmalade?
KG: Not us that’s for sure. And thanks for not making another lame…
SPPB: I mean I always wanna bacon her…
KG: No. Just, no. I don’t even know where you’re going with this, but no. This isn’t working out. The door is over there.
KG: Just go. Security will see you out...
Sorry about that folks, but I guess that’s what we get for hiring scabs. Phil, you’re just going to have to do your own writing from here on out.
Real Phil B: Okay, okay! I’ll start writing again! Jeez, all I did wuz take a short vacation from DWPF, and what does my esteemed colleague do? He shows his loyalty by replacing me with a dirty little sock…(ahem). Oh well, let’s get back to business. After all, it’s about the food, not us.
KG: First up, the Citizen Joe.
Holy crap, we did not know what to expect, but we weren’t expecting this! The crust is soft, flaky and tender, delicious enough on its own, but the filling! It reminded me a little of some Afghani spiced meats I’ve had, and was simply succulent.
RPB: There were only three ingredients that I recognized in the sandwich: (1) ground meat, (2) sweet red pepper, and (3) the crust. Sounds simple (and I’m sure there were more ingredients), but the flavors had a delicious complexity that defied description. There was nary a crumb left when I finished.
KG: But wait – there’s more.
So, I figured out what bacon marmalade is… Delicious! A little sweet, mostly spicy and savory, with chunks of bacon slopped into the mix, this one’s for the books. On top of a fantastic ground sirloin patty, it’s the perfect way to make one of the best burgers in the Twin Cities. Add in a slightly too-sweet house-made ketchup, which is just fine mixed with the marmalade, and it’s simply amazing. The branding on their sandwiches is also a nice touch – just a neat trick on top of some fantastic sandwiches.
RPB: Folks, I can’t say enough good things about this place! This is one of the few times I had to restrain myself from going back into the kitchen to shake the chef’s hand. The meal delighted the senses; it was truly fit for a king. But in true egalitarian fashion, this place welcomes one and all: The People.
Here’s the bottom line: You really, really owe it to yourself to give the Citizen Café a try – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all. The quality of the food is phenomenal, and the modest prices would fit any proletarian’s budget. Four tines way up.
KG: So in the end, The Citizen Café really is a café for the people, and we absolutely will be back for another go ‘round. The breakfasts and dinners look as good if not better than the lunch! Four tines and highly recommended.
Kale G: So, it's been a while, and I think I can safely blame Phil. Granted, he's been snowed under with work, but still. Blaming Phil in the first post in a while feels only right and natural. Since Phil has been unable to find time to write, I guess that leaves it up to me - while Phil and I will still go to all these places and take all these pretty pictures, we'll need someone to fill in for the second voice on the blog. What we need... is a sock puppet.
Sock-Puppet Phil B: Hola!
KG: So, until such time as he can find time, or until have a sock puppet speak for him shames him into writing, myself and Sock-Puppet Phil B will be taking over the writing duties on the blog here. Also, I'll be blocking anonymous comments, as we seems to be getting more bots commenting than real people.
SP PB: Es una problema.
SP PB: Que?
KG: SP stands for "Sock-Puppet", not "Spanish" you dolt!
SP PB: Oooh.
KG: Well, this idea is off to a rocky start. But in the meantime, today we head to eat at a place for you, the people. Monday, review! See everyone on Monday!
SP PB: Do I get food?
Kale G: Yes, yes, it's been quite some time since our last post, and I think Phil and I can both agree that it is work's fault. Bad work!
We're trying to get back in the groove here, working on three different reviews and a special piece which should be up shortly. That said, we'll be adding something new to our old posts as well.
We're linking our reviews to Urbanspoon (you remember them, they had the neat iPhone app that they advertised the hell out of for a while there...). So soon you'll be seeing little UrbanSpoon icons at the bottom of our posts, and so if you don't believe us, you can check them out and see if others agree.
Talk to everyone soon!
Kale G: So, we were at a loss. We hadn’t planned where to go, or even what cuisine we desired, and it was just about time to head out. Scratching our heads, Phil and I pondered our predicament. Fortunately, our former boss Jason decided he could help, and reminded us that not far from our first review sits Wally’s.
Phil B: Jason definitely gets ‘marked up’ for telling us about Wally’s – any place with a motto like “Oh By Golly, Gotta Have a Wally” so totally embodies the spirit of DWPF. Exciting stuff.
KG: It’s kind of cool that there at the intersection of our first review is a second restaurant of suitable DWPF quality. Especially since the intersection only seems to have two restaurants.
PB : Well, there is that Burger King there…
KG: Like I said, two restaurants.
PB: Hmm, will have to concede on that point. Calling BK a ‘restaurant’ is a bit of a stretch …
KG: Wally’s Roast Beef Sandwiches, established in 1969, is a veritable slice of Americana, served on a bun and topped with gravy. They even have a Blue Plate Special! And it comes on a Blue Plate!
PB: We noticed that they have a Red Plate and a Green Plate Special on the menu as well. Didn’t look to see if they had red and green plates for these items, but I’m guessing that they do.
The décor is totally retro, complete with linoleum floors, oilcloth-covered tables, a jukebox, and gas station signs. It’s like stepping into a time warp back to the ‘60’s.
KG: We surveyed the room for religious icons, and while we didn’t find any per se, we did find something like a religious icon:
PB: I beg to differ … that much-ballyhooed symbol is the object of more worship and fanatical devotion from its followers than most things you’ll find on the planet. If that isn’t a religious icon, nothing is.
KG: We meandered over to the counter, and Phil was unable to resist the lure of blue plastic, so his choice was done. I have always had something of a fondness for the French Dip sandwich, so quickly my course was set too.
PB: Hey, this was an exciting moment in my life. The Blue Plate Special is firmly seated in the lore of Americana -- along with roadside diners, Route 66, the ’56 Ford pickup, Airstream trailers, and waitresses that call you ‘Hon’. And here was an opportunity to try it, on a genuine blue plate.
KG: Now, they have other things on the menu: meatloaf, turkey, BBQ pork, even hamburgers. But any place that proudly proclaims one meat above all other on their board better be able to back it up, and here’s the good news: Wally’s can.
Their roast beef is made fresh and cut on site with a deli slicer, and it is delicious. Medium rare, a nice thickness to the cut, and perfect tenderness all combine into one of the best roast beef sandwiches a consumer could ask for. Add gravy or au jus, and then we’re really talking.
PB: Yep, the Blue Plate Special is a hot roast beef sandwich, served the way God intended it: Smothered in brown gravy, with homemade mashed potatoes and some corn on the side. Perfectly seasoned with a little salt and pepper. For this reviewer, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The French Dip sandwich is also very good, if you are looking for slightly lighter fare. But this time the heart attack on a blue plate really did it for me.
KG: The sandwiches are cheap, filling, delicious and quick. They’re not earth-shattering or anything like that, but it’s solid food solidly made. I was a little disappointed that the French Dip didn’t have Swiss cheese or onions, but the bread used soaks up the au jus very nicely, and on Phil’s it supported the gravy ably.
The mashed potatoes are also quite good, if a little lumpy, which was nice. The corn that came on the Blue Plate was also good, if a bit plain. But like I said, this isn’t haute cuisine.
It’s just straight up Dining With Plastic Forks. Four tines.
PB: Four tines from me, too. When are we going back?
Kale G: In an effort to expand our cultural milieu, we here at DWPF decided it was time to broaden the reach of our palates, and spear something new on the ends of our fancy forks. Often we have sampled the fares of the United States, Mexico, and Asia, while one of the greatest continents for the cultural smorgasbord of culinary prowess has remained largely untouched. It seemed to us that we had done this landmass a great disservice, only turning in a paltry two reviews that would touch that venerable estate. That’s right, with the diversity and gastronomical possibilities beckoning, we decided it’s time to set our taste buds to ‘European’. Specifically, German.
As my wife once said, “Ah, German. The only language in which ‘Have a nice day’ sounds like ‘Let’s invade Poland’.”
Phil B: [laughing] Nope, not too soon -- I almost choked on my food when you said that. Too funny!
KG: Good German fare is hearty, rich, and probably very, very bad for you. Full of meat, meat, and possibly more meat, the Germans like their plates heaped with herbivores, and vegetarians need not apply. A land of warm beer and fast cars, Germany is teeming with unusual and unique dishes, most of which are in the form of sausage.
In short: a carnivore’s delight.
PB: I suppose I could adjust to their lifestyle. Beer. Bratwurst. BMWs. What’s there not to like?
KG: Facist regimes?
PB: Well, there is that...
KG: Off we went again to Eat Street, to the Black Forest Inn.
We arrived to a mostly empty lunchroom and were quickly seated. We searched about us for this week’s religious icon, but the best we could was this guy:
Okay, so he’s no deity, but he’s at least a religious man, or a cut-out thereof, so we’re going to go to the ump and say he’s good, if just this side of the foul line. I’m not quite sure why there’s a cardboard cut-out of a monk in the room, but ours is not to question why, ours is just to eat!
PB: Dunno, I thought the monk was a pretty weak entry in DWPF’s Best Deity contest. Maybe we should suggest that they install something with a little more street cred, i.e. a burning bush or perhaps a pillar of fire.
KG: The waitress took our orders; I got the pork shank, and Phil got the sauerbraten. A bit of German for you here: sauerbraten means, “Let’s invade Poland”.
No, wait, it means ‘Sour Beef’. Damn, my wife’s right – all German does sound the same. Sauerbraten is beef that’s been marinated in vinegar and seasonings, cooked kind of like a pot roast. I’m a huge fan of sauerbraten – I love sour foods, and this is one of the best. It’s tender, and tingles as it rolls across the tongue, filling your mouth and sinuses with a vinegary tang. It’s usually served with spaetzel, which is a particular delight all its own. Spaetzel are egg noodles (really more of a mini-dumpling) that soak up whatever flavor you soak them in (default: butter). The gravy that comes on sauerbraten in particular is a perfect combo for these little treats, and well recommended.
PB: This was my first time trying sauerbraten and spaetzel. Mmmm, dies ist eine gute! Laßt uns invade Polen!
KG: Wait... what... nah...
The pork shank’s pretty good too. It’s served drowned in gravy, and is a pretty tasty treat. On the menu it comes with mashed potatoes, but I asked for spaetzel instead, but due to a little mix-up I got mashed potatoes and spaetzel! Who wants a starchy treat, huh? I do! I do! The mashed potatoes are good, for restaurant mashed potatoes. I’ve never really found a place that makes mashed potatoes anywhere near as good as the stuff we get when we make ‘em at home, so the fact that these are decent isn’t bad at all. Still, I only picked at the potatoes while I downed the spaetzel double-time. What can I say? I know what I like. The pork’s good and tender, full of moist and juicy goodness, and the gravy is hearty, but the shank kind of succumbs to an American issue with gravy, and I’m not sure if it’s a German problem too. When we add gravy to a dish we seem to think the flavor of the dish should be ‘gravy’, rather than the gravy being an accent to the meat. I’ve done it when cooking too, so I’m as guilty as anyone, but I still think they could have eased off a little and been fine.
PB: Yep, this was one of the rare times that I preferred what I ordered over Kale’s choice. I liked the pork shank well enough, but it seemed kinda bland compared with the savory, vinegary goodness of the sauerbraten. And the spaetzel, well, let’s just say that it’s a perfect companion for the sauerbraten. Next time I’m gonna order the same thing and wash it all down with a few mugs of Paulaner Oktoberfest-Märzen. That would definitely qualify as four-tine dining.
KG: At the end of the day, I’m torn on the Black Forest Inn. I love spaetzel, and I think they have the best in the Twin Cities. Their sauerbraten is likewise top of class, but the pork shank’s a little weak for my tastes – don’t get me wrong, it’s good, but I like my pork a little less drowned – unless we’re talking barbecue. So here’s how I’m calling it: sauerbraten and spaetzel, four tines. Pork shank, two and a half. We’ll look for an average and call the whole mess at three and a quarter (I think that’s our first quarter tine rating… frankly, I’m looking forward to the first sixteenth-tiner…). Black Forest Inn is a good and hearty meal, and if you go for dinner you occasionally get lucky and can hear the big German parties singing drinking songs. Recommended.