Tag Archives: beer

Buffalo Boring Wings

[Ed. note: Throwback to a year ago this month, when we took our famous Casual Encounter Roadtrip to Milwaukee!]

Buffalo Wild Wings is about wings (duh). But we learned during this particular encounter that specialization doesn’t necessarily bring excellence (in your FACE, Adam Smith). BWW shouts its mediocrity from the rooftops. Well, maybe not “shouts.” More like, “mumbles it whenever it decides to makes its appearance on the rooftops, because you haven’t seen it in a while and would like it to bring you your check as long as it’s coming by.”

Food: BWW is primarily known as a wing place, but there were ample other non-wing-related options for our dining enjoyment. But always chicken, everything chicken.

Jenna says: Things started promising – a flatbread appetizer that did the trick – but it was all downhill from there. I’m not a Big Wings Guy so I went with the chicken tacos. The tacos tasted like a bad Taco Bell experience. Most Taco Bell visits I have are actually quite enjoyable, but every so often I’ll have a south of the Border experience that causes me to question everything in life (I’m looking at you, Taco Bell in Anoka). [Ed. note: Don’t drag Anoka into this, Jenna. It’s been through enough.] I did sample the wings, but I don’t consider myself wing-savvy enough to rate them. 

Tacos. As unremarkable in flavor as they are in appearance.

John says: Buffalo Wild Wings is known for…wings! We went on a Wednesday and come to find out that it’s BOGO on boneless wings. I hit that up hard, bought 12 and received 12 free. I went with 4 different sauces: Parmesan garlic, mild, Caribbean Jerk, and Chipotle dry rub (also my nickname in college). Cool. Also, I ordered a flatbread appetizer thing for the table. It was fine.

Pile o’ boneless wings

Rachel says: I went in with every intention of forcing myself to get the grilled version of the buffalo chicken sandwich, but I didn’t specify that when I ordered, so I got fried. Self-sabotage at its most delicious. Even with that, the sandwich was disappointing. It was merely topped with buffalo sauce, not coated in it. C’mon guys, I know you have the coating technology back there. The flatbread app was good. I stole one of Aaron’s boneless wings and it was fine. 

Fried instead of grilled. “Oops”

Aaron says: The appetizer was good. And made even better by the fact that John paid for it.

Food rating:

Beverages:

Jenna says: Beer. Fine. I’m over ordering anything other than beer at a Casual Encounter, unless it’s a well made margarita [Ed. note: That’s probably wise.].

John says: I got there before everyone. Just early enough to catch happy hour. Yay me!! I had a beer. It was mediocre.

Rachel says: I think I got water? Even that was unmemorable.

Aaron says: I got a Coors Light. It was nice and watery.

Beverages rating:

Service: As we’ve proven time and again, the Casual Dining experience is made or broke by the service. We’ve had some truly stellar service during our journey… but this was not it. You’d think that those jersey uniforms would indicate a little more hustle, but you’d be wrong.

Jenna says: Sam was not great, not great at all. Rarely checked on us, no clever banter, and he definitely DID NOT share intimate details about his dating life. The restaurant was not super busy, and yet it took them hours to clear off the tables around us. Just gross.

John says: Phew, not good. I think our server was named Sam. He was about the blandest server we’ve had since we started this endeavor. He wasn’t bad, just boring.

Rachel says: I learned something new about myself at BWW. I learned that I have a limit to how many dirty dishes I can tolerate on our table at any given time. Not to mention that the waxed paper that lines everything gives height where other restaurants’ dirty dishes only have depth. It was like I was in an interactive sculpture full of dirty serving vessels. Our server was boring and slow. As a cap to the night, he also got my to-go order wrong.

Aaron says: Started off strong, but went downhill. He brought our waters two at a time, like a rank amateur. 

Service rating:

Ambience: BWW is a sports bar and boy howdy do they want you to know that every second that you’re there. The staff wear specialty jerseys in an unflattering gold color, perhaps in a bid to stay neutral in a world full of team rivalries. There are also TVs crammed onto every conceivable square inch of the walls so you could sports-watch to your heart’s content. It’s like Hooters but with fewer boobs.

Jenna says: BWW out sports bar-ed Hooters, which I didn’t know was possible. 40+ TVs, jersey clad servers, dudes hanging with other dudes eating wings.

John says: There weren’t enough TVs playing sporting events. JK there were like 5938 of them. It’s honestly hard to talk to people because of all the distractions. It wasn’t even sports I cared about. I am pretty sure they had ESPN 8, [Ed. note: The Ocho] showing dodgeball. But I might be wrong.

Aaron, seen here with just a tiny fraction of the TVs available.

Rachel says: The sports-themed atmosphere was what I expected. I can usually ignore TVs at restaurants pretty well because I don’t care about sportsballs. It was tough here, though. There was probably some kind of memorabilia on the walls, but I can’t remember for sure. Any sort of ambience was overshadowed by the aforementioned landscape of uncleared tables. 

Aaron says: I learned from Jenna that there were 40+ TVs present. Some of those TVs were playing hockey, so I was all about it.

Ambience rating:

Casualosity: It seems we’ve stumbled upon a new scientific theory: The more a restaurant appeals to dudes, the higher the casualosity. BWW practically sprays testosterone into the HVAC system, so the casualosity was hard to beat.

Jenna says: Again, dudes hanging with dudes eating wings.

John says: It was pretty damn casual. It was casual enough for a baby to join us or whatever.

Rachel says: I felt comfortable having my baby in there, that’s for sure. 

Aaron says: Flip flops in full effect! The clientele was wearing  a mix of business casual and sweatpants. Pretty casual, kind of confusing.

Casualosity rating:

Dessert: Our choices were limited, and mostly deep fried. We stuck to our guns and ordered the deep-fried cheesecake bites. We weren’t expecting much, and we got it.

Jenna says: TERRIBLE. Deep fried cheesecake bites that tasted like cough syrup. A real disgrace to the art of making cheesecake.

John says: This was the absolute low point. The closest thing they had to cheesecake were these fried cheesecake bites. There were 8 of them for like 5 bucks. Nope. Unhappy, BWW.

Rachel says: I was willing to give the deep fried cheesecake balls a chance. I was thinking it would be kind of a State Fair thing. Turns out, warm cheesecake is weird.

Aaron says: [Ed. note: Aaron inexplicably gave no comments about the dessert, yet rated it a 4. Phone it in, much?]

John thinks these cheesecake bites are #1…at sucking.

Dessert rating:

Favorite part:

Jenna says: Nothing was stolen from my car, unlike at Red Lobster! And Sadie graced us with her charming personality and witty one liners!

John says: Honestly…nothing. Absolutely nothing stood out. Every other casual dining establishment we’ve been to had some memorable, be it bad or good. There was nothing cool.

Rachel says: My adorable baby. Like John said, nothing really stood out.

Aaron says: That flatbread app.

Least favorite part:

Jenna says: The food, by far. I expected it to be better because I remember having positive experiences years ago at the Fargo location. But then I remembered that we used to just play trivia and order soda at the BWW in Fargo, so maybe the food has always sucked.

John says: The cheesecake bites. DUMB!

Rachel says: I was so disappointed by the food. It’s hard to make fried chicken unremarkable, but they did it. Also, the hellscape of uncleared tables.

Aaron says: Service was slower than slow.

Overall rating: 

Next up: We class up the joint with a trip to the original list’s #1 pick, Benihana!

Dining Well in the Surrounding Community

Our March Casual Encounter was at the most stereotypical of casual dining establishments, Applebee’s. If Olive Garden is the sanitized version of Italian food, Applebee’s is the sanitized version of already-sanitized food. Despite their recent to commitment to sophisiticaed tastes (like “wood-fired grill” menu items), Applebee’s is still the most convenient shorthand for the restaurant we, as overly-self-aware hipsters, love to disdain. Though the restaurant cracks the top 10 on our list (#10, to be precise), we were prepared for disappointment. And we were not disappointed in…being disappointed. We were disappointed, is what we’re saying.

[Ed. note: Jenna and Sarah dined with us as well, but they couldn’t be bothered to send in their comments or ratings in a timely fashion. They are henceforth considered “on notice” though no real consequences exist.]

Food: 

The hot deal at hand was the 2 for $20 promotion, where you choose an appetizer and two entrees off of a limited menu for, you guessed it, $20. Many of us had the brilliant, if less-than-classy, idea of ordering that promotion with the intention of eating one entree at the restaurant and bringing the other home for a future meal. [In fact, Olive Garden does something similar to this on occasion but calls a spade a spade, explicitly saying that one entree is for now and one is for later. Another in the Win column for OG.] Others of us ordered a la carte, like regular people. All of us experience similar levels of mediocrity.

John says: 3/5 of the table went for the 2 for $20 meal. That’s just prudent planning. I ordered a caprese burger with fries as well as the three cheese chicken cavatappi. I ate the burger as my dinner. IT WAS TERRIBLE. It came absolutely loaded with onions which  was disgusting. The cavatappi the next day was really good. 

John, right before the burger in front of him brought untold disappointment

Aaron says: Several of us thought that it was a good idea to get the 2-for-$20 deal.  It turned out to be a GREAT idea.  Except that the food was pretty sh***y.  For the appetizer, I got the boneless wings.  They were pretty good, but I have to think they are not that hard to f*** up, so I’m not going to give them too much credit on that one.  I got the rib tips for my dine-in option.  They were bad.  Real bad.  I couldn’t tell if they were super charred or just mostly bones.  For my second entrée, I got chicken tenders, figuring that they’d be good to reheat for lunch the next day.  I toasted them up in my little toaster oven and they were great.

Rachel says: As per usual, I married value with flavor and got the 2 for $20 special, just like John and Aaron. I went with the hard-to-mess-up chicken fingers for my dine-in entree, and the Fiesta Lime Chicken for my to-go entree. My chicken fingers were very tasty, and the fries weren’t bad either. I do think they skimped on portion sizes, even though the menu specifically states that the promo comes with “full-sized entree.” I didn’t get to try the Fiesta Chicken because my husband was hungry later that night and I offered it to him, because I love him/I’m a sucker. Anyway, he said it was good.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Food rating:

Beverages:

John says: I tried to order a hurricane. Apparently I request extremely difficult drinks because their bartender couldn’t make it. [Ed. note: Bartenders know that Google exists, right?] It was the Sevyron situation at Ruby Tuesday all over again. I amended and got a boring ol whiskey ginger after that.

Aaron says: Limited selection of tap beers.  Mostly national big brands.  But, beer is beer?

Rachel says: They have Pepsi products, so I stuck with water. The water tasted a little funny, maybe Roseville’s water treatment plant is a little more lax or something. I did think it was BS that John’s ginger ale refills weren’t free.

Beverages rating:

Service: 

This casual encounter brought us a level of service more in line with general expectations surrounding casual dining. Our server was polite and somewhat attentive, but dead behind the eyes. Either the Roseville Applebee’s was her first career stop, or her last…

John says: I am struggling to remember our server’s name which should say something. She didn’t do a good job of checking in often enough. Also, she recommended the Caprese burger which is a major flaw. I miss Earth.

Aaron: Our service was a little lackluster.  The server seemed to avoid us for long periods.  On the plus side, they did keep our to-go orders in back for us until we were ready to leave.

Rachel says: Sophia was very nice, but bland; there wasn’t much going on behind her eyes. My guess is she was tired, or an android. She also had perfectly smooth skin, which puts one in the “android” column as well. In any case,  she was patient with us during our 2 for $20 ordering frenzy, was pretty on the ball about refills and checking in, and ran our checks herself instead of making us do it on the Ziosk knockoff that was at our table.

Service rating:

Ambiance:

Four words: Stuff on the walls.

John says: Again, Applebee’s is known for stuff on their walls and they didn’t disappoint. The most prominent things were the various high schools nearby and all the accolades they’ve won. Congrats Timmy! You won your JV baseball game, let’s go to Applebee’s to celebrate. Terrible parenting.

Rachel says: It was oddly dark where we were sitting. It kind of felt like I was reading the menu by candlelight. The “stuff-on-the-walls” aesthetic had a Minnesota bent to it (e.g. a photo of the State Fair Grandstand) which was a nice, if basic, touch. Our table had 6 seats, but felt pretty squished. There were plenty of TVs so Aaron could watch hockey players beat the crap out of each other.

Ambiance rating: cheesecakes

Casulosity:

Despite their pathetic attempt at being more gourmet (see: Wood-fired grill explanation above), Applebee’s remains staunchly casual.

John says: We were seated in the bar area which is not ideal for me. Also, the table was entirely too cramped for 5 people. The stuff on the Rosedale Applebee’s walls was as great as ever.

Aaron says: Still being early in the spring, I opted not to wear my velvet flip flops.  I did however wear my crocs

Rachel says: Quite casual. Aaron wore Crocs instead of velvet flip flops, so our methodology is skewed this time, but I’d argue that Crocs are even more casual than VFFs.

Casulosity rating: cheesecakes

Dessert:

Our group had to call an audible and order something else when we learned that no cheesecake (in regular or shooter form) was available. We went with that age-old axiom: When in doubt, order something with “molten” in the title.

John says: No cheesecake available. I was already so full from my shitty burger that I barely wanted to have dessert anyway. But I (we) soldiered on. We ordered the Triple Chocolate Meltdown which is engorged with sugar. And it was great.

Aaron says: Truly saving the best for last. Not only did the triple chocolate cake not have cinnamon, but it was also delicious.

Rachel says: The highlight of the meal. We shared the molten chocolate cake, and it was fantastic. Molten-y, chocolatey perfection. I wish we’d ordered two (maybe that was the pregnancy talking, but probably not).

  Dessert – before
Dessert – after

Dessert rating:

Favorite part:

John says: Celebrating Rachel’s last casual dining encounter before the baby is born.

Aaron says: Being savvy diners and getting the 2-for-$20 for ourselves.

Rachel says: That dessert, and feeling like I made out better than my dining companions by sticking to the basics. 

Least favorite part:

John says: Onions.

Aaron says: Generally not good food.

Rachel says: The disappointment of everyone else at their entrees. I could feel their pain.

Overall rating:

Next up: Red Lobster!