Friday, June 24, 2011

The Road Warrior

Happy late Father's Day to everyone.  I couldn't get a chance to wish everyone one while I was on the road.  For work, I was driving from my home to Minnesota, in what could be given as the most boring drive ever, or maybe second most boring drive ever.  So, out of STL you have industrial and farmland.  In Iowa you have farmland and a city now and then.  In Minnesota, you have farmland and cities now and then.  No large standing monuments, no Colossus of Rhodes, no Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  Just road; which made the drive that much harder to stay awake and fully aware.

What helped on the drive out was a perfectly placed Monster Kaos energy drink.  The extra caffeine was a great jump start to the day and helped me stay awake for the long drive, which started at 8am.  My wife had also bought these energy snacks of which I ate half of them on the way there.  Those protein bars claim to give you energy, but you are getting little carbs and almost no sugar.  There was no where exciting to stop on the way there.  There is no House of Savoy or Todd English restaurant in the small town of Rudd with like 150 people, so you make do, at the golden arches.

We were staying in some suites, right across the street from the Mall of America, which is a great place for shoppers and kids alike.  Let me give you an idea of what it is like:  For those in the STL area, imagine having one mall in the center of the city, like where Crestwood Mall used to be.  Then make a large 4 story tall mall, with a large open atrium.  The atrium, housed a Nickelodeon theme park.
You are seeing it correctly as there is a winding roller-coaster and other rides and stores.  The area inside is open and there are four large posts which had a/c pushing our to cool the area.  So, imagine the best kid-friendly rides at 6 Flags and put them in a shaded and air conditioned area.  Here you are.  Now, the rest of the mall, had four floors and each floor was 1/4th of a mile long.  It was shaped like a square with a large department store at each corner and just about every single Mid West store available inside, some more than others.  (I think I saw an American Eagle store on every floor at least one time, sometimes two).
But, overall, the best part was the kid's area in the atrium.
Besides the very large mall, we only ate at a few other spots.  For instance, in the mall was a restaurant called the Bubba Gump shrimp company, which was modeled after all the shrimp recipes and ideas from the Forest Gump movie.  I ordered the BBQ pork sandwiches which were small buns with pulled BBQ pork and grilled onions on them.  It was really quite delicious.  My wife's family ordered a helping of the garlic shrimp, which was so salty that they had to have it returned to the kitchen.  If you go there, avoid the garlic shrimp, they likely use garlic salt and not just garlic.  My overall experience there was a 4 out of 5, everything was good.

We also ate at a location in the city called Fogo De Chao, which is a churrascaria.  There are some of these type of restaurant in the STL area but for those who don't know, here is the idea.  The Gauchos, or South American cowboys, these were in Brazil, would take their meats and skewer them on long sticks or long knives and swords, to cook them over the fire.  In this type of restaurant, men dressed as Gouchos, walk around with different kinds of meat, on a sword.  What you get, is a large amount of meats, some like steak, others like lamb, all perfectly cooked and brought to your plate.  The food was great and everything was great as well so a good 4 out of 5 from me as well.

What does make for an interesting try is Tiger Sushi.
There are two locations in the Minneapolis area.  There is one that is part of its own, under a series of apartments, I think.  The other is on the second floor of the Mall of America.  It was tough as this one, was rated with an average of 2 stars out of 5.  The one in the mall had an average of 5 stars.  We thought that there couldn't be that much difference and we tried this one, on its own.  We were wrong.

There were 6 of us, 4 adults and 2 kids, and we were told that there wasn't any seating available by both of the hostesses, even though the sushi bar was empty, in front of us.  We asked if we could sit at the bar, which means the kids get a show and we get food quick.  Within a few minutes, we ordered drinks for the kids when the waitress abruptly left and went to another table to take their order.  A few minutes later, she came back and asked for the rest of the order.  Another 3 of us gave her their orders, for drinks, and when I was about to order a beer, she left again.  Again, taking orders at a large table.  She came back finally with the lemonades for the kids and then asked me what I wanted.  She then disappeared again.  After a long wait, we discovered why this location had a 1 star: for service.  Apparently, after we called over the hostess and asked some questions, this one waitress was watching the entire restaurant.  I thought about it for a bit: there were two girls seating and watching the phones, two more girls wondering the room, not doing a thing, another girl who was cleaning tables and this one girl who was taking orders.  So, why couldn't the other two girls who were not doing anything take orders?  I dunno.  What about having a small restaurant and having 2 girls watch one phone?  I dunno.  

My advice is not go to that location.  Go to the second floor of the Mall of America and eat Tiger Sushi there.  The food was good and everyone was happy.

One last note on Tiger Sushi: Like this restaurant, The Drunken Fish in STL keeps winning awards as best in STL for sushi.  There is one consistent problem with The Drunken Fish: warm foods.  Sushi is made from fish and seafood, kept cold, not on ice, not frozen, but cold, like the sea.  It is supposed to be made fresh and served fresh and cool.  At The Drunken Fish, the last time my wife and I went, the sushi and sashimi took so long to get to us, that it was warm.  Raw fish should not be served warm, ever.  That is a ripe place for bacteria and other nasties to live and they regularly serve this.  At the Tiger Sushi location with the one server working, if she put in an order and didn't pick it up yet, it would have been waiting on her.  We saw whole orders finished by the Sushi Chefs and waiting on the counter, going warm.  Imagine getting sick from warmed sushi or something worse with this waitress.

The savior of the drive, as I mentioned earlier was a bar:
It was a peanut butter, banana and chocolate protein bar and it tasted awesome.  We bought them at Target and I give them a 4 out of 5.

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