Tag Archives: bloomington

Arrivederci Roma’s

This casual encounter was a landmark for us, because it meant the very last time we’d have to go to the Mall of America during this adventure. Our long national nightmare was finally over!

It’s also notable because nary a week had passed since this Encounter when this Tony Roma’s location announced its closing. We got in just under the wire to experience its true mediocrity. Looking back during our review process, were the signs of its imminent demise there? It’s hard to say. But they weren’t not there. If that makes any sense.

You’ll see some of this hindsight in our commentary, though we probably would have said equally disparaging things even if this place were to stay open until the End Times.

Food:

Tony Roma’s is known for ribs and other grilled meats. On the menu we found plenty of standard fare (including a chicken sandwich for Aaron, hallelujah). Their signature appetizer is something called an onion loaf, which is like a Bloomin’ Onion but with a f***ing terrible name.

2 sides? I’ll have the rice and the gravy, please.

Rachel says: Tony Roma’s has the distinction of being the first place where I ever ate ribs. A big moment for a Jew from a kosher home. It was only fitting that I have ribs again, although I tried to cut costs by sharing a combo platter with Jenna. The ribs were good. Not saucy enough. The steak was pretty good. One of them was cooked medium rare, the other was medium well. I’m mystified as to how that happened, since I bet they were cooked right next to each other. Anyways. My side salad was extremely subpar; not even a cherry tomato to justify the 5ish bucks I spent on it.

Not pictured: Value. What a goddamn travesty.

Jenna says: I rarely order ribs out, but I figured if they were “legendary”, I should probably give them a try.  Rachel and I split the filet/ribs combo. If I were to rate solely on the ribs, I’d say 4 cheesecakes. Pretty solid, could have ate more. However the filet was super mediocre and the sides were a snooze fest.

Aaron says: Chicken sandwich, obviously (Chicken Caprese Panini to be exact). Although their panini press was broken, they still made it presentable on the griddle. Good flavor with chicken that wasn’t too dried out and fresh-ish basil/pesto/mozzarella. Best casual chicken sandwich I’ve had at one of these deals.

Behold, a decent (albeit un-pressed) chicken sandwich.

John says: After much consternation and Aaron swiping my idea of ordering the chicken caprese panini, I went with the vegetable linguine. It was good! Perfect amount of vegetables to coincide with the pasta.

John’s pasta is at least one thumb up.

Food rating: 

Beverages:

Apparently their signature drink is a Romarita. Just think: This was one place where it would have been actually appropriate for Jenna to get a margarita, and she didn’t. AND NOW THAT OPPORTUNITY IS GONE FOREVER.

Rachel says: I had a Diet Coke. At least I think I did.

Aaron says: My first water seemed to be tainted with Jenna germs, but then I realized it was Jenna’s water.  Didn’t seem to catch anything from her, whew! [Ed. note: Watch out for that incubation period, dude.]

Jenna says: Pretty standard fare.

John says: I ordered my usual whiskey ginger ale. It was perfectly fine. The water tasted like motor oil though. [Ed. note: At least it didn’t taste like Jenna germs.]

Beverages rating:   

Ambiance:

This place gave off the vibe that it used to be a “nice” restaurant, and it relied on peoples’ memory of that rather than actually trying to keep up with that charade. There was some fake greenery, some fake leather booths, along with fake leather menus. Was there crap on the walls? Not nearly enough.

Rachel says: I’m sure everyone who walks in, even people who’ve never been there before, says “Hm, I thought this place used to be fancier.” The brick walls were made out of plastic and there was fake greenery as the only pop of color. To top it off, there was no smell of ribs cooking, even though the place is known for ribs. That was kind of weird. I like to dine with all five senses.

Jenna says: Yeesh. Like faux brick with weird plants. No updates, no remodeling done in probably 20 years. WEAK! Plus it’s the MOA. Or maybe they just didn’t give a sh*! about appearance because they were a week away from closing. (Although bonus 0.5 points for convenient parking at the damn MOA!)

John says: Perfectly bland. Nothing memorable at all. We learned that the brick on the pillar was plastic. And we were at the Mall of America. Again. Sigh.

Aaron: I like to see more junk stuck to the walls (here we come Cracker Barrel!).  Tired carpet, wood paneling on the walls, sort of quaint street light lamps.

Ambience rating:  

Service:

Again, with a “nicer” restaurant, we were expecting some above-average service. No such luck. What was most impressive about our server is that no one seems to truly remember him. Maybe this guy knew what was about to befall his employer and decided to be as average as possible.

Aaron says: The server was attentive, but didn’t seem to care much about anything, or that he just wanted to get out of there.  No complaints on the service.  On the way out the door, they were already closing the gate across the entrance, and the two people that were standing at the gate seemed to be bothered that we’d have the audacity to try to leave the restaurant. [Ed. note: Maybe they were hoping you’d stay and spend enough money to save the restaurant.]

Rachel says: Our server was nice and adequately attentive. I don’t remember much about him except for that he had some tattoos.

Jenna says: Apparently the service was not that memorable, because I can’t recall the dude’s name!

John says: We had a male server. I don’t remember his name. He was attentive but no overly so. All I could think about is that the best server ever, Earth, was probably working at the Rainforest Cafe at the same time. She was great. [Ed. Note: Apples and oranges, John. Apples and oranges.]

Service rating  

Casualosity:

Despite being a place that at some point was fancy, this ranked pretty high in casualosity for our group. It seemed like a higher-priced Applebee’s but with fewer TVs. Being at the mall? Casual. High prices? Not casual. Steak and ribs? Not casual. Aaron’s flip flops? Very casual. Contradictions on all sides.

Aaron: I have a feeling that since it was as the MOA, pretty much anything goes, including velvet flip flops and inappropriate t-shirts….[Ed. Note: Yeah, eating at a mall is like eating at an airport, no one’s going to look twice at your sloppiness.]

John says: Casual AF. I felt like it was a robe-wearing place.

Rachel says: On the surface it looked pretty low on the casualosity scale. The menus were even that fake dark leather, for god’s sake. But it quickly became apparent that things were pretty darn casual. Aaron felt comfortable wearing his velvet flip flops, and I felt comfortable being seen with him in those flip flops. Not to mention the fact that our server had lots of tattoos. More tattoos=less casual. Also, I’m 90 years old according to that last comment.

Jenna says: Super casual. I’m pretty sure everyone was wearing velour flip flops and inappropriate t-shirts like Aaron Smith.

Casualosity rating   

Dessert:

At first it looked like our cheesecake dreams were dashed because the menu only listed a handful of desserts, none of which fit the bill and all of which contained cinnamon (sorry Aaron). But then God shined down on us in the form of a table tent advertising their special dessert, a chocolate and caramel cheesecakes with chunks of ganache both in and on it. And it was pretty good too! Hallelujah!

Rachel says: I had high hopes for this one, mostly because it featured the word “ganache.” I love me some ganache. This one fell a bit short for me, though. I thought there could have been better distribution of the chocolate chunks throughout the slice. But it was still good.

Pictured: Textural delights

Jenna says: Unexpectedly bold and texturally delightful! Wasn’t that someone’s nickname in college??

Aaron says: Looked super tasty! It had “Luscious Layers” and “Textural Delights” (which was one of John’s many nicknames in college).

John says: Cheesecake with chocolate bits in it It was a pleasant surprise. The little sign on the table that advertised it said it was full of textural delights. Textural Delights (believe it or not) was my nickname in college.

Dessert rating  

Let’s all raise a toast to the Mall of America. Home of some of the highs (Rainforest Cafe service) and lows (Hard Rock Cafe everything) of this adventure.

Overall rating  

Next up: Cracker Barrel!

It Was the Breast of Times

Ed. note: More than one person threatened to leave the group if the post did not have this exact title. 

Often in our noble pursuit of casual dining excellence, we are called upon to visit an establishment that is, in principle, distasteful and unfortunate (see: Old Country Buffet). But almost as often, we are pleasantly surprised by said establishment in one way or another. You know what they say about assumptions, and ours were proven right and also wrong when we visited that most notorious casual (b)re(a)staurant, Hooters.

Like a few others on our list, the last remaining MN location of this chain is at the Mall of America. We wouldn’t say that it’s getting less annoying to go to the MOA for these types of visits, but the griping by our group has gotten considerably quieter. Duty calls.

Food:

Hooters’s brand is divided cleanly between two key identifiers: Boobies and chicken wings. We’ll get to the first one later. The second one showed up early and often on the menu in various forms. (Come to think of it, the first one also showed up early and often…)

John says: The loaded tots were fine. My bone(r)less wings were excellent, spicy but flavorful.

Sarah says: The Lotsa Totes were perfectly fried – crispy on the outside, nice consistency on the inside. Just the right amount of toppings. my Chicken strips were a little bland and dry [Ed. note: She ordered the sauce on the side, so take her opinion with a grain of chicken] but the buffalo and ranch sauces were good.

Lotsa Tots(a)s.

Jenna says: The evening began with a Lots-A-Tots appetizer. Warm, bacon-topped, crispy, creamy. These tots were REAL good. I went into this Casual Encounter with the lowest of expectations, like on par with OCB, and with this appetizer we were off to a delicious start! I ordered a chicken taco salad, and it was….fine. And that’s okay! Because tots.

Rachel says: I, too, was pleasantly surprised by the freshness and deliciousness of the food. Things came out quickly, but not suspiciously quickly. I had the fried chicken tacos for my entree, which were exactly what you’d expect and there’s nothing wrong with that. They were good! The chicken was somehow missing the coating of buffalo sauce I’d ordered. I didn’t feel like sending it back, so I availed myself of both Sarah’s side-sauce and the bottle of hot sauce on the table, and it worked out. Their fries are unseasoned curly fries, which rank as a Top 5 fry form (say that five times fast) for yours truly.

Hooters tacos. Not pictured, or served: Wing sauce.

Food rating:

Beverages:

No suggested pairings a la Red Robin, but a decent selection, as well as Coke products.

John says: I got the “Pink Passion.” It was sufficiently flavorless but full of booze. Everybody wins!

Sarah says: Coors Light on special – just what I want at an establishment such as this. Super casual!

Jenna says: My Summit was ICE cold.

Beverages rating:

Service:

If there’s one thing people know about Hooters, it’s the servers. Our table had a lively discussion about hiring practices (legality, etc) as well as uniform requirements (e.g. servers are required to wear pantyhose no matter what), when we weren’t making purposeful eye contact with our server Naomi. She’s a human being who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, folks. Eyes up here.

John says: Naomi was attentive and nice. Didn’t check in often enough, though. Mild disappointment.

Sarah says: Naomi was friendly and was very accommodating when I asked for two dipping sauces. Her recommendations for dessert were clutch.

Jenna says: Naomi was super casual. Like sit-down-at-the-table-while-she-took-our-orders casual. And also one of the friendlier servers we’ve had. Gave a nice intro, and was quick to make recommendations on the menu. 

Rachel says: Naomi was very friendly and helpful with our ordering, especially when it came to dessert. It’s a tricky thing to be as woke as we are when visiting a restaurant known for scantily clad servers, but we navigated the “where do we look?” admirably. 

Service rating:

Ambiance:

This Hooters was nestled in a recently renovated part of the MOA, so everything seemed shiny and new. The setting is a typical sports bar, jazzed up with lots of orange and sometimes camouflage(?) accents.

John says: So many TVs with sports! For it being th eMOA, it was surprisingly quiet. 

Sarah says: I kind of like the TVs here. None of them had the sound on and they’re just enough to keep your attention without being distracting. #thatssohooters

Jenna says: Very dude heavy clientele means posters of Hooters girls on the walls. And SO many TVs. The TVs sucked me in man, I couldn’t stop watching. I don’t even know what was on, probably SPORTS. 

Rachel says: Even as a non-sports person, I appreciated the placement and abundance of TVs. I thought to myself that my husband might enjoy watching basketball games here, before I realized that proposing a date night at a Hooters might not be advisable. [Ed. note: Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.]

Ambiance rating:

Aaron surveys our bounty, mouth full of wonder and also food.

Casualosity:

John says: Most casual restaurant we’ve been to yet. And it wasn’t because of the lax clothing policy.

Sarah says: I wore my “nice” sweatpants and Naomi complimented me on them!

Jenna: A revelation was made at Hooters by the Casual Encounters team: This might be the most casual experience thus far. You might be thinking, wait, isn’t Old Country Buffet peak causualosity? I mean, I could have easily got away with not paying at OCB, that’s pretty causal. But at OCB I saw people wearing nice church clothes. Naomi literally commented on how awesome Sarah’s sweat pants were. Sweat pants. At dinner. Also they used carts to clear plates, c’monnnnn. 

Casualosity rating:

Dessert:

Our dessert course was Naomi’s time to shine. First, she told us that there were mini “shooters” to be had. Then, she steered us towards the good ones and away from the bad ones (for the most part). The desserts themselves had their ups and downs. We got three kinds of shooters: Chocolate mousse, strawberry cheesecake, and cinnamon apple (sorry Aaron).

John says: We ordered several dessert shooters, which sounds so sexy, but it wasn’t. The chocolate mousse was really good! I went home happy. 

Sarah says: OMG the chocolate shooter was my favorite dessert we’ve had so far! Apple was the worst.

Her enthusiasm is genuine.

Jenna says: Chocolate mousse shooters???? YES YES YES. The cheesecake shooters, not so much. The berries tasted like cough syrup.

Rachel says: My god do I love some mini desserts, but these were tragically hit-or-miss for me. The cinnamon apple one was literally Mott’s applesauce layered with graham cracker crumbs. The cheesecake and its accompanying strawberry sauce clearly came from a can. Edible, but generic to the point of insulting. The chocolate mousse one was good, but I moved too slowly on ordering and only got to try someone else’s instead of having one all to myself. Big mistake, according to the rest of the table. 

Dessert rating:

Favorite part:

John says: The server complimenting Sarah’s sweatpants.

Sarah says: Naomi’s dessert recommendation!

Jenna says: Having a very lovely Thursday evening at Hooters in the MOA, of all places! Also discovering the “right” kind of casual. 

Rachel says: The surprise of the evening’s overall pleasantness. I was truly dreading this encounter, but my expectations were flipped upside down by the food and service.

Least favorite part:

John says: Being in the MOA.

Sarah says: John Ward trying ot waste my flava when I got excited about something. Not cool, John. 

Jenna says: The water in the bathroom was scaldingly hot. Rachel will probably say I was just too lazy to turn on the cold water. Whatevs.

Rachel says: The desserts, or maybe just my choice of desserts. Also, learning that a close friend of mine doesn’t understand how mixing cold water with hot water makes the water less hot. 

Overall rating: 

Next up: Olive Garden!

Fuddruckers: A Warm Texture in Your Mouth

Our September casual encounter was to Fuddruckers, that staple of every road trip you took when you were a kid and your parents wanted to try a little harder than McDonald’s for dinner.

This encounter welcomed a special guest, John’s brother-in-law, Dustin. He is older and more successful than anyone in our group, so it was an honor to have him slum it with us.

Food:

Fuddruckers hangs its hat on burgers. You can order a pre-ordained combination of toppings, or you can bring a plain burger over to a toppings bar and then pile high with whatever nonsense you decide is right for you. We’re sure this leads to kids on those aforementioned road trips slathering their burgers in an irresponsible amount of ketchup and pickles. These kids then cry when their burger slops all over the place, and their parents regret ever giving them that much freedom with wet substances. Fuddruckers: Where We Learn That Actions Have Consequences.

Along with the regular toppings, there was the much-touted “Fudds cheese sauce,” kind of like a paler version of the stuff that comes with stadium nachos. Our special guest Dustin said there wasn’t much in the way of flavor, but he did enjoy the “warm texture in your mouth.” Don’t we all, Dustin, don’t we all.

Jenna says: Burger was better than Culvers, but still a good distance from Blue Door. ALSO I prefer my buns a bit more toasted, if you know what I mean…[Ed. note: No, we don’t. Please elaborate.]

Aaron says: Burger tasted pretty good, but was way too greasy from the mushrooms and fried onions.  Wedge potato fries were decent.

Rachel says: I spotted the manager’s special, which was a burger, fries, and a beverage for a very reasonable price. They even offered to upgrade my beverage to a shake, what a treat. I appreciated that the menu featured nods to other tastes, like chicken sandwiches and salads. Not that I would ever come here to get those. My burger was cooked fine, on a bun that was fine. I don’t really like seasoned fries, so I only ate a few of those. (Fortuitous, since that left more room for my shake. ) The burger toppings bar featured surprisingly fresh veggies; I’d expected them to be limp and sad since it was later in the evening.

So fresh and so clean, clean.
So fresh and so clean, clean.
John, mid-pico-application
John, mid-pico-application

John says: Perfect portion size with the manager’s special. However, they didn’t ask how I wanted my burger cooked. Toppings were excellent.

John's phone added a soft, porny filter to his burger. Nice money shot.
John’s phone added a soft, porny filter to his burger. Nice money shot.

Food rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake-half

Beverages:

Once again, we find ourselves in the presence of a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. Glorious. However, there was a distinct lack of any slushee machine, which is odd considering how much this place is geared towards kids. Our group also bemoaned this lack since Fuddruckers (somewhat inexplicably) has a full bar, and this would have been a prime setting for a booze slushee. Milkshakes were available in a variety of flavors, but did not bring any boys to the yard beyond those in our original party. Perhaps it was because it was a school night.

Jenna says: Surly Furious on tap, works for me.

Aaron says: I snagged a “tall” beer for around $5.  Pretty good value.

Rachel says: My chocolate milkshake was fine. The first sip had a weird aftertaste, but like so many beverages (alcoholic, mostly), if you keep drinking it, it goes away.  My shake was an upgrade to my manager’s special combo, which made for good value. It was a large, too, so I got the can with the extra shake in it, perfect for sharing.

John says: My peanut butter shake was mighty delicious. Lots of chunks at the bottom which was a nice surprise.

Beverages rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake

Ambiance:

Fuddruckers seemed to be going for some kind of old-timey car service station vibe, but stopped short of the finish line [Ed. note: Get it? Finish line? Because, cars? Nevermind.]

Jenna says: The bathrooms, ugh. Just ugh. Doesn’t matter how interesting the decor is, if the bathrooms are dirty, you’re dead to me.

Aaron says: Nothing noteworthy.  Minus points because I like random crap hanging on the walls.  Bonus point for arcade.

John says: It was fine. Nothing special, nothing weird. The mini-arcade was a nice touch.

Rachel says: The restaurant was spacious. Like, really spacious. Couple that with high ceilings, and I came away with the sense that we had eaten in the dining area of a raceway-themed Costco. Like John said, though, nothing too weird. They must have cleaned the bathrooms between when Jenna visited and when I visited, because I thought they were fine.

Ambiance rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake-half

Service:

This was a situation where you order at the counter, and then they give you a buzzer that activates when your food is ready. Sometimes. Sometimes they also bring it out to you, depending on what you ordered. From what we could surmise, if you were building your own burger with the toppings bar, your ass had to get up and get the burger. If you were a fancy aristocrat who ordered a burger with special toppings, they brought it out to your table. A metaphor for the wealth gap? Maybe. Or maybe not.

Jenna says: It took me 10 minutes to order a beer at the bar. And I was the only one in line. You don’t make a teacher wait for her beer on the fifth day of school. I would have given service a 1, however the gentleman who cleared our table was oh-so-polite.

Aaron says: A few burgers took longer than others to get prepared. I  went to the bar to get a beer, but the bartender was also the dessert counter cashier, so she was running back and forth between the two stations.  Ended up having to wait for a bit before she could serve me.

John says: Drives me crazy when they don’t ask how I want my meat cooked. I like my meat wet and raw. [Ed. note: We see what you’re trying to do, and we’re going to ignore it.]

Rachel says: Bonus points for telling me I could upgrade my soda to a shake for a minimal cost. The person clearing the tables was very polite. The girl (she was a girl, not a woman) who served me my “dessert” seemed flustered since she didn’t have a cash register near her and had to run back and forth, but she did put on rubber gloves to serve up the brownie I’d ordered. Safety first.

Service rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake-half

Casualosity:

It doesn’t get more casual than a place that allows you to pretend you’re a line cook for a little bit at the toppings bar, and then sends you to the mini-arcade at the back of the restaurant.

Jenna says: Fuddruckers was my birthday spot in Fargo for several years as a kid [Ed. note: Probably because it was next to the quaint and questionably-affiliated putt-putt course Fuddputter’s. True fact.]. Any restaurant that hosts birthday parties for 7 year olds has to be pretty, pretty casual. Not as causal as OCB, which is the gold standard (at least until we get hit by a car/go to Golden Corral, my stomach is already hating me for that one).

Aaron says: No problem wearing my velvet flip flops and my t-shirt that says “Coroner: I’m here for your body”….check!

John says: They may as well have put a sign that said Casual Central above the Fuddruckers sign.

Rachel says: You can tell a lot about Casualosity by what kind of napkin situation a place had. Fuddruckers has paper towel rolls on stands. Nuff said.

Casualosity rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake-half

Dessert:

Dessert, if you could call it that, was a very big step down from the rest of the meal. The section of the restaurant called the “Bakery” was rows of grocery-store-caliber cookies and a row of brownies (for which you could see the industrial mix in boxes behind the counter). Most of us relied on our shakes as our dessert, which was an excellent choice.

Jenna says: Sampled Rachel’s chocolate shake, it was delicious. But Cub foods makes better brownies. 

Aaron says: I got a chocolate malt to go.  it was as expected and tasty.  

John says: Counting my shake as a dessert. Extremely tasty. It wasn’t as good as the OCB cheesecake but good nonetheless.

Rachel says: I was the one foolish enough to actually get something from the bakery, a brownie. It’s not even like “it was from a box so it tasted bad.” My go-to brownies are from a box. They’re delicious. This tasted like it came from a box, then was left out for a three-day weekend, and then frosted in a harebrained attempt to add moisture/hide taste. It didn’t work. But everyone is counting their shakes as desserts, so I’ll factor that into my rating. 

Dessert rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake-half

Favorite part:

John says: A new special guest joining us.

Jenna says: Pickles.

Aaron says: Lots of condiments and junk to put on your burgers. 

Rachel says: Knowing that John kept accidentally writing “Fuddf***ers” when composing his review.

Least favorite part: 

John says: No pie options for dessert.

Aaron says: The super greasy onions that came on my burger. 

Jenna says: I have two. 1) I missed how they used to announce your name over the loud speaker when your burger was ready. We could of had a lot of fun with that…. AND B) A dude used a pokemon pickup line at me at the bar. At Fuddruckers. In Bloomington. I might as well just get 9 cats and call it a day. [Ed. note: Might as well.]

Rachel says: That brownie. It was a prison brownie. 

Overall Fuddruckers rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake-half

 

Next up: We’re donning our pieces of flair and hitting up TGI Friday’s!

Chevy’s, With a Hard “Ch”

We all forgot to ask if it’s pronounced Shevy’s or Tchevy’s.

Our latest adventure was at Chevy’s Fresh Mex (#19 on our list), yet another chain that only has one remaining outpost in Minnesota. The downtown Minneapolis Chevy’s tried to keep the fiesta going but closed years ago and is still sitting empty, an ode to Minneapolis’ fickle downtown dining scene. Anyway. The crew entered with someone low expectations for the food, but high expectations for the evening since we would be joined by none other than Rachel’s mom, Helen. Make no mistake, Helen can hang with a casual encounter.

Food:

At first glance, the menu seemed to be a run-of-the-mill Tex Mex restaurant. All subsequent glances confirmed that first impression.

Jenna says: The trip started strong with a super delicious salsa experience. Very smokey with the perfect amount of heat. Unfortunately the chips and salsa were the peak – my chicken enchiladas were “meh”, definitely not worthy of a trip to Bloomington. That being said, the house made masa garnish was delicious. 

John says: I was very excited to go to Chevy’s. I’ve had good experiences and good food there before. Our server, Desirae, complimented me both on my beverage (peach margarita on the rocks) and meal (steak ‘dilla) choices. Unfortunately, the next morning I didn’t feel well and had to spend a good amount of time on the toilet [Ed. note: Ew.]. The food tasted good but the pain the next day severely downgraded it. 

sitting on toilet 2
Artist’s rendering

Aaron says: My fajitas came to the table sizzling hot.  Even after the server, and Helen, said that the pan was hot, I had to test it anyway.  Yes, it was hot.  I think they were light on the number of tortillas, but there were some extras from the others at the table so it worked out.  They were also tasty as a snack a few hours later.  

Rachel says: Fajitas at a place like this are one of my favorite things, because then I don’t have to do the insane amount of mental gymnastics required for me to get all the stuff I want on one plate. Seriously, the amount of time I spent staring at the menu figuring out a way to get rice AND beans AND not pay a $2 upcharge for sour cream (seriously??) would try anyone’s patience. The fajitas were a little more expensive (probably to swallow that sour cream margin), but my mom was paying, so #yolo. I also had my leftovers for lunch the next day, with no abnormal digestion issues. And let it be know that Helen LOVED the fajita presentation.

20160714_202220
Helen says “ole!”

Overall food rating  (note our new and improved cheesecake icons!):

Before John’s unhappy toilet fest  fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake-half

After John’s unhappy toilet fest fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake

Service:

Like many of our Casual Encounter servers, Desirae was exceptional. She had a great sense of humor, complimented our menu choices, was Sally-On-the-Ball with refills of both chips and beverages, and even saved one in our party from esophageal catastrophe.

John says: Desirae was personable, attentive, and friendly. Can’t say enough good things. Plus, she complimented me a lot while ignoring the others. There’s nothing I like more than being the center of attention. 

Aaron says: Ample chips and salsa. Good recommendations. 

Jenna says: While Desire didn’t reach the level of Earth from the Rainforest Cafe, she was VERY good! More importantly, she saved my life. After a horrific glass breaking incident that occurred near the bar [Ed. note: None of us actually saw said incident, so we can neither confirm nor deny if it was indeed “horrific”], she made sure that my drink was remade so that it was glass free. Seriously, I might not be here typing if it were not for her. So I take it back, sorry Earth, Desire is to me as David Hasselhoff is to every girl on a beach in the mid-90s LA: a dreamy lifesaver. 

Rachel says: I appreciated Desirae’s positive attitude and her safety precautions. It’s not her fault Aaron touched the hot fajita plate. 

Overall service rating:  fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake

Ambience:

Chevy’s boasts a typical Mexican chain restaurant color palette (warm, reddish tones) and junk on the walls, but was refreshingly devoid of most of the stereotypical decorations i.e. serapes and sombreros. It definitely had more of a fishing village vibe than a cantina one.

John says: There was a boat/camper hung from the ceiling. That was pretty cool. Otherwise, fairly blah. 

Aaron says: The main thing that stuck out to me was the camper hanging from the ceiling right behind our table. Lots of other random Tex-Mex junk hanging on the walls.

Jenna says: Very laid back beachy vibe with a boat (or pop up camper if you ask Rachel) hanging from the ceiling. I love boats, so this totally worked for me. 

Rachel says: I want to thank everyone for continuing to make fun of me for thinking,  until about a month ago, that pop-up campers were actually pontoon boats (they’re both square-ish!!! I don’t have a lake home! Cut me a break!). So now, every time we see a boat, they point out the “pop-up camper” to me. Great friends. Other than that, I got an amazing Chi-Chi’s vibe from this place. If there is one dead restaurant I wish I could revive, it would totally be Chi-Chi’s. So that made me happy. 

Overall ambiance ratingfresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake-half

Casualosity:

Aaron says: No one kicked me out for wearing my velvet flip flops.  

Jenna says: Had it not been for the rainy, cool day, I feel like it would have been totally acceptable for Aaron Smith to have been wearing swim trunks with his velvet flip flops.

John says: Very casual. I appreciated that they made their chips in house, for us to see! 

Overall casualosity rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake

Dessert/cheesecake:

They might as well set fire to any dessert menu at a Tex-Mex chain, because there basically is one dessert and one dessert only: Fried ice cream. But, since one person in our group is hilariously allergic to cinnamon (and we never let him forget it) we had to branch out. All desserts were served in confusingly, unnecessarily large vessels. It was like eating ice cream out of a flower vase [Ed. note: Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it].

Aaron: I was real excited for fried ice cream, but considering it was cinnamon ice cream fried with a cinnamon battered shell served on top of cinnamon crisps, I abstained.  [Ed. note: That is literally all fried ice cream at every restaurant. Not sure what weirdo place you went to that didn’t have cinnamon on its fried ice cream.]

Aaron's Blizzard that he bought because wittle baybay is allergic to cinnamon.
Aaron’s cinnamon-free Blizzard that he bought on the way home. Womp womp.

John says: This also may have contributed to a bad bathroom morning the next day. I shared fried ice cream with others. It was tasty but way too big. 

Jenna says: Just cinnamon. So much cinnamon. On everything.

Rachel says: My dessert was some kind of fried dough thing with dipping sauces. It was served in a goblet shaped like a champagne flute on steroids. It’s hard to mess up fried dough, but they managed to do it. The fried bits were all very dry, and the dipping sauces should have been served warm. 

Overall dessert rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake

Beverages:

Your typical Tex Mex offerings.

John says: My peach margarita was delicious. 

Aaron says: Non-cinnamon margarita [Ed. note: Duh], decent, but a little spendy, especially for the fancier ones. 

Jenna says: DELICIOUS MARAGRITAS. And I’m a tough critic. I paid extra for the “top shelf marg” and there was an excellent ratio of booze to lime, with no sugary mix. Also, John Ward was super happy with the fruity drink he ordered, which was definitely the most Sex in the City-worthy cocktail on the menu. All we needed was a penis straw and we could have relived his epic bachelorette party! Wooooo girls! 

Overall beverages rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake

Favorite part:

Jenna says: Our Special Guest – Fargo’s own Helen Levitt! And let’s be honest, that margarita.

Aaron says: Helen “something funny” Levitt. I couldn’t think of any nickname in time. 

John says: Being joined by another special guest! Rachel’s mom Helen joined in the fun. She even thought our poop jokes were funny. Big win. 

Rachel says: Having my mom there to witness and partake in the glory of the Casual Encounters team. She’s a great lady, folks. I also enjoyed the smug feeling of not getting sick after eating there, in contrast with John. 

Least favorite part: 

John: The pit in my stomach the next morning. 

Jenna: The prices DID NOT reflect the laid back, casual beach vibe. I feel like the prices were on par with Barrio, and no matter how many of those delicious margs I have, Chevy’s will never be Barrio.

Overall Chevy’s rating: fresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecakefresh-strawberry-cheesecake-half

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Our next outing: It’s a Tex-Mex Twofer! We’re headed to Chili’s in Roseville for our next outing.