Twin Cities Restaurant Review – Enjoy Restaurant in Apple Valley, MN

On Saturday, June 13, A friend and myself at a restaurant called Enjoy. I admit I am a city person so I probably would have never gone to this restaurant myself, but my friend insisted on driving somewhere and she had one of those 2 for 1 entertainment coupons. The biggest selling point was the happy hour on tap beers for $2.00. So who was I to argue with not having to drive, being able to save some money, and getting cheap on tap beer? Plus it had been awhile since I had caught up with my friend. So the situation was pretty hard to argue with.

Location:Enjoy is located in Apple Valley, one of the southern suburbs in the twin cities metro. It is off of Cedar Avenue, but if I was driving there I would have had to google maps it to figure out how to get there. I am sure it is convenient for those who live in Apple Valley and south metro.

Pre-Restaurant Experience: We weren’t actually planning on going to Enjoy to start out with. I can’t remember the name of the other place, but when my friend called to see how busy the first place was, the person who answered the phone did not sound too happy to take a reservation. So a few minutes later, my friend decided to cancel our reservation and call Enjoy. Enjoy gladly took our reservation and indicated they weren’t overly crowded for a Saturday night. Restaurant managers and staff – let this be a lesson that when you answer the phone be sure to act pleasant as it could affect your potential customer’s perception of the restaurant even before they step foot in the door.

In Restaurant Experience: My friend and I arrived while happy hour was still going on. This was definitely a major plus in my book. The restaurant does have an outdoor patio which there were some people eating at. Since it was getting, we decided to eat at the bar area where there was plenty of room. If you look on Enjoy’s website, the bar area is the only area that is not pictured, but it is nice and relaxing and fits the whole casual dining atmosphere.

We were promptly seated and I immediately began flipping through the selection of on-tap beers which included Fat Tire, Guinness, and Harp. Originally, I was going to order a fat tire on tap, but I changed my mind at the last minute and went with a black and tan. This was definitely a wiser move because it let me re-discover black and tans!

After a round of drinks and thumbing through Enjoy’s menu, we were ready to order. I ordered a 10oz. Prime Rib (queen prime rib) which came with 2 sides and my friend ordered a chicken dish. Our friend was delivered fairly quickly. One thing I do want to comment on is the number choices you have to pick from for sides. There are 11 sides including baked potatoes, grilled asparagus, sauteed mushrooms, steamed green beans, creamy hash browns, sweet potato fries, garlic mashed potatoes, macaroni & cheese, steamed broccoli, whipped sweet potatoes, and creamed spinach. This is certainly enough to satisfy anyone’s desire to eat healthy or a little unhealthy. I went with the mac and cheese and the steamed green beans. I certainly did not regret these choices either.

Even though I ordered the smaller prime rib, I found it to be very filling. In fact, I could not finish it all. This was partially due to the fact the sides I choose were decent portions and the beers I drank while waiting also filled me up. I enjoyed eating the prime rib and found it made no problems in the way it was prepared. By the time we were done eating our meals, we were extremely full and did not have any room for desert.

Paying the bill: Between my friend and I our bill was about $40 with tip. This included 2 entrees and 3 beers. Definitely not bad for a casual dining place in the suburbs of the twin cities. Also having the 2 for 1 coupon helped. Our dinner would have been less without the drinks but it is hard to pass up $2.00 on tap beer.

Verdict: While I can not say that I will be a regular at Enjoy dining, I had a really positive experience. Everything from the cheap beer, food, and service were good. Understanding that there are many restaurants in the twin cities metro, Enjoy would be one to consider if you lived in the south metro and especially if you have an entertainment coupon. If I lived in the area and had out of town guests and needed a high quality, “safe” restaurant pick, Enjoy would be a good bet to go with.

Note: I apologize for the lack of photos. I did not have my regular camera on me and my iPhone does not do very well in low light situations. I will try to take photos of the food I order at various restaurants on a more regular basis.

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View from the bike – some trail users lack a general awareness of their environment

I decided that I had to sound off on what I have determined to be people’s lack of awareness on the bike paths and trails in Minneapolis. I was hoping it would not come to this and I realize most people are not like what I will end up describing, but this is both concerning and frustrating especially as an individual who is aware of others that share our fine trails together. With this post, I call on all trail users to be more aware…

Ever since I have started riding a bike in late April, I have noticed an alarming trend – one where people are not aware of their surroundings and others around them. At first, I thought this awareness factor would get better as the weather warmed up. I thought maybe it was something with the weather. Finally though, especially on my last two bike rides, I have come to the conclusion that there is a certain subset of individuals that are not paying attention to anything but themselves when they are walking around the lake or on the bike paths. Let me discuss a few examples.

The I can’t read the signs bike rider… There are a number of signs painted on the trail that indicates the trail is one way in certain spots. Yet, I have seen more people in my last two rides blatantly riding the wrong way on the trail. To those folks, I say wake up! If I am speeding down the trail going the right way and trying to pass another biker on their left and someone is riding the wrong way, if we collide, one of us (probably me) is going to be injured. I would prefer to avoid this.

The next type of persons are the groups of riders/roller bladers who take both sides of the path… I realize everyone likes biking with their friends around the lake. I’m all for that. What I’d like those people who ride/roller blade very very slowly to understand is that people want to get through. When I yell, “On your left!”, it is because I want to get through. Another thing, when I yell “On your left!”, it is not a great idea to stop in the middle of the trail while riders are trying to pass you. If you’re going to stop, pull off the trail and let people use the trail. Be proactive…try to sense when a person is approaching you and proactively move to the right.

The final type and probably most concerning are those people who don’t look when they cross a trail…” I realize many of the people in this category are young kids which is why when I approach an aware with a lot of young kids I slow way down. On my ride on Friday around Lake Nokomis, I was near the main beach where there were a lot of kids crossing the bike trail. I was going real slow because the kids were not paying attention. I would get their attention and they would divert their path around my bike. I can understand kids not having the foresight to look for a biker when they are crossing the path, but how about adults. On this same ride, I ran into 2-3 adults trying to cross the path not realizing they were about to get run over by me. This is the part that intrigues me.

I realize as a biker that I need to be as aware as possible because I don’t want to injure myself. What would help is if fellow trail users would be equally aware meaning don’t stop in the middle of the path, stay on the right if you’re biking or rollerblading slowly, and look before you cross. If trail users are more aware of their environment, they can remain safe and injury free. So far I have been lucky and had no biking related accidents, I would like for this to continue.

Feel free to sound off in the comments if you have noticed additional things about trail users not being aware of their surroundings or have suggestions on how to remedy this problem.

Completing my 4th Half Marathon – Lessons Learned – Part 2

In my previous post and the title of this article, I have indicated that this is my 4th half marathon that I have completed. I have been running since 2005 and completed half marathons in Phoenix, New York City, and San Francisco. I have also run shorter races in Chicago and Maui, Hawaii. Finally, I completed my first full marathon last summer in San Diego. As you can see I have done a fair amount of races in the 4 short years I have been running. In this time, I have learned how to train for certain distances. While I do not claim to be an expert, this post is to point out things that I learned while preparing for the half marathon route of the Minneapolis Marathon.

I originally signed up to do the Minneapolis Marathon because I had planned on running Grandma’s marathon this summer. Due to a health issue and losing my motivation for training in the winter time, I have decided to for go doing the marathon in June. I have never dropped out of a race that I have started and I would rather not start a race if I am not fully prepared to finish it. Running a marathon is no joke and puts serious strain on the body, I would rather not take a chance and will skip the race.

Even though I had known since the beginning of May that I was not running the full marathon, I decided I could still do this half marathon event plus with it being the inaugural event I thought it would be cool to participate. For those that are interested, my time was 2 hours 4 minutes and 7 seconds.This is certainly not the best time I have run the half in, but it was not my worst time either. Part of the reason for my time was due to how I approached training for the last 3-4 weeks before race day.

During the beginning of May and when I decided for sure that I wouldn’t run the marathon, I purchased a trek 7.5 fx bike. I have wrote many times about how much I enjoy the bike. After I had my 7.5fx, I spent more time bike riding than running. My knees and legs enjoyed biking because there was less pounding and stress. What happened was bike riding had replaced running as my primary means of fitness. I still didn’t want to give up on the half marathon so I did do a couple of 3-4 mile runs to remind my body of what it was like to run. During the last week before race day, I wanted to get at least 1 5-mile run in. The maximum distance I ran was 3 miles during the last week of training. Now if I had been training correctly the whole time, this would be appropriate to only run 3 miles during the week. Unfortunately, the last time I had run any sort of distance (a 12.5 mile run) was 6-7 weeks prior. Looking back on the final 4 weeks of training and how I ran the race, I think I learned a couple of important lessons…

I relied on my previous experience…I will admit here, I was pretty nervous on race day – more so than usual. I hadn’t prepared for this race in the same way that I prepared for prior ones. I knew that I would have to keep my pace a little slower than normal for the first 5-6 miles. I would have to avoid the tendency to start out with a faster pace because I would need that energy to get me through the race. I also knew that there would be an adrenaline factor like there is with every race. The body is amazing in the way…it provides you with that extra amount of energy to get you through to the finish.

Biking probably helped me get ready for this event…I realize that doing training runs is still the best way to get ready for this event. I also realize that if I had not stayed active in those 4 weeks before the race, my time would have suffered even more or worse I would have not been confident in my ability to finish the race. During those 4 weeks, I biked distances of 20-30 miles on average. I also did one long ride of 75 miles. To give you an idea of how interested I am with biking…after the marathon was over on Sunday (May 31), I went for a 26 mile bike ride. When I learned about the Minneapolis Duathlon event in August, I was going to immediately interested. Unfortunately, I am going to be out of town on the day of the event.

While going through the race and doing the bike ride in the afternoon, I proved to myself that I am pretty fit even if I didn’t train 100% the right way for this event. I am probably going to focus on biking most of the rest of the summer, but I am not ruling out doing a duathlon or two at some point in the future. I also do want to complete at least one more half marathon in less than 1 hour and 55 minutes. The next half marathon will have to wait because I refuse to spend my summer training for an event.

Completing my 4th Half Marathon – Reviewing The Minneapolis Marathon (Half Marathon Route) – Part 1

Minneapolis Marathon Race Shirt
Minneapolis Marathon Race Shirt

Note…
This is part 1 of 2 of a post discussing the half marathon router of the Minneapolis marathon. The second part will cover the lessons I learned after completing the race. Overall, I am glad I ran in this first annual race. I can see that this race is going to be very successful in the future.
End Note…

Yesterday morning (May 31st), I completed my 4th half marathon running in the first annual Minneapolis marathon. I want to say that the race organizers, Team Ortho did an excellent job of putting the race together, promoting it, and making it a success. Overall there were about 5,000 runners in total (3,500 in the half, 1,500 in the full). I overheard many people saying this race will only get bigger. I tend to agree. The race has a couple factors going for it and it will no doubt continue to steal runners from races such as Grandma’s marathon. Now let me talk about the race itself…

Running Conditions…
The running conditions for this race were excellent with the weather being in the 60s to start out and getting to the 70s by the end of the race. The wind was very calm with a slight breeze. It was very windy the day before the race and I was a bit concerned that the wind would be factor in affecting the run. Thankfully, there was a very calm wind to make the run more enjoyable!

Course
This race started in downtown Minneapolis near The Depot, ran by the Gutherie, and worked towards the Mississippi river. The majority of the race from mile 5 to the finish was spent running along the river. For the half marathon, there was a turn around between mile 9 and 10 which meant running back towards the finish line. The course contained a lot of up and down hills from mile 7-13. This is a part of town I had not previously visited during 4.5 years of living in the twin cities. While I enjoyed running by the river, the up and down nature of the hills was killer on my body. I have run a half marathon in San Francisco and run in general in hilly cities like Seattle. I would say the hills from mile 7-13 were worse than what I experienced in San Francisco. It is partially my fault for not reviewing or driving the course before hand, I guess I like surprises when it comes to running.

Cool things the race organizers did…
I was extremely happy with the goodies that race participants received. Besides getting the standard finisher’s medal, the race let you keep the race chip and finisher’s of the half marathon received a technical running shirt (pictured at the beginning of the post). I read in the registration materials and on the race website that finishers of the full marathon were to receive a jacket. I am glad to see the race organizers at least providing something that runners can use in their training for other events. I’ve done other races where finishers received a t-shirt. While a t-shirt is great to wear and I wear my San Diego marathon t-shirt all the time, I can’t wear it when I am training for other events. A big two thumbs up to the organizers for these things, I hope in future years, the included race items are similar to this year. Here is a picture of the race trinkets I received…

Back of the race shirt
Back of the race shirt
Race medal, race chip, and my bib #
Race medal, race chip, and my bib #

Things that need improvement
As with any race, there is some room for improvement. I can think of two things that could be improved namely – replace the sports drink and have a gel station for one part of the half marathon. The sports drink during the race was called Hammer Heed. Maybe because it was not cold or maybe I am just too picky, but this stuff tasted nasty! I kept drinking at least one cup through the aid stations because I wanted to get the calories from the drink. I like gatorade, powerade, and accelerade the best when it comes to sports drinks during a run

My other suggestion for improvement – having gel on the route for the half marathon – I know this sounds like a nit-pick as well. Many serious runners with more knowledge and experience than me would probably argue and state if you’re only running a half that this is not necessary, but I’ve also been in race where there was energy gel provided at mile 10 during a half marathon. I suppose this all comes down to dollars and sponsorship.

Verdict
For this being the first time of having a marathon race in Minneapolis during the month of May, Team Ortho, did a fantastic job! They deserve serious props and kudos for planning and putting on this event. Also, a huge thumbs up for the race shirt, chip, and medal! While I found the up and down nature of the hills challenging and more difficult than what I experienced in San Francisco, I enjoyed the course running along the river. I would encourage Team Ortho to look at changing the course for next year as there are many interesting parts of Minneapolis (hey maybe running through Block E or different part of downtown would be cool). I can definitely see this race being a success in future years to come!

If you ran the race, please feel free to leave a comment discussing your thoughts. I’d love to hear what you thought about this race.

Please check out Part 2 where I discuss my lessons learned from training for this race.

Twins Baseball Game: Saying Goodbye to the Metrodome

Saying Goodbye to the Metrodome
Saying Goodbye to the Metrodome

I attend 1 to 3 baseball games every season. Maybe it’s because I always say if the twins go to round 2 of the playoffs or make the world series…(hmm that hasn’t happened recently) or maybe it’s the overpriced beer (now that’s a legitimate reason for not attending many games). The games that I do attend I usually end up people watching to see what other crazies are at the stadium. So when a few friends from Iowa called me up at the last minute and said they had tickets to the Twins / Red Sox game, I was excited to get my first and maybe only twins baseball game in for this year. Additionally, it is the last season of the metrodome so I thought it’d be a great opportunity to snap some photos as well.

We arrived at the stadium about 20 minutes before the game started. What I didn’t remember was that it was Hormel “dollar dog” night and that getting to our seats might be a pain. If I had remembered this small detail, I would have walked outside the stadium to the gates nearest our seats, instead we walked in Gate H and slowly moved towards our seats along the first base line. Fighting through the people waiting in line for the dollar dogs took almost 15 minutes. Now judging from these lines, someone might have thought…”Wow the ball park is full tonite!”…However, once I got to my seat, I began to snap a few photos and observed the many empty seats.

This to me indicates either the horrible inefficiency of the stadium concession stands or poor stadium design in moving large numbers of people. Go and ahead and see below for yourself the large number of seats that are unoccupied…

View of the Stadium from the first base side
View of the Stadium from the first base side

Besides watching the game and getting photos of some of the more well known players like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, David Ortiz, and Jason Vartiek, I started looking around the stadium and noticed the signs like the “Count down to outdoor baseball” or “Count down to real grass stains”…I’ve included a few of those sign photos in the post. I thought they were interesting and gave the fans something to look forward and things to think about when the new outdoor ball park is opened next year!

The number of home games left this season
The number of home games left this season
A reference to fact there's no retractable roof at the new stadium...April and September/October baseball could get mightly cold!
A reference to fact there's no retractable roof at the new stadium...April and September/October baseball could get mightly cold!
More of the countdown signs
More of the countdown signs

Seeing these signs had me thinking. First, they did decrease the countdown number from 53 to 52 somewhere in the 6th or 7th inning. I actually wanted to get a picture of the sign changing and somehow missed the number decreasing. Second, I can’t believe they had already played 28 home games. The baseball season is long, but it seems to be going by quickly.

The next sign of “Countdown to CH-CH-CH-CHHHHH” had me thinking….”Which idiot vetoed the retractable roof?!?!” Apparently the retractable roof would have added a couple of hundred million dollars to the cost of the new stadium and the reliability of retractable roofs are suspect. To those people, I say it should have been added. After living in Minnesota for the past 4.5 years, I know for a fact it doesn’t start warming up until at least the first week in May. The question that remains to be answered is “Will Minnesotans go to the ballpark in the cold weather?”. My guess is that if its playoff baseball (think October), the stadium will be packed and of course this coming April it will be packed because people want to see the new park, but what about in future April months after the park is opened? I guess it will depend on how good the team is perceived to be.

The next countdown signs are for grass stains, starry nights, and skyline sunsets. Its hard to believe that they played baseball on astro turf for so long. There have reports that playing on the astro turf is harder on players’ bodies. Plus really, it isn’t a baseball game without the potential to get the uniform dirty. The starry nights and skyline sunsets…this is talking about the location of the new stadium in downtown Minneapolis. I think this will be great to see and experience once the weather is warm during the summer months of baseball. I think people will appreciate this because they’ve had nothing to see other than the ceiling of the Metrodome since the twins have been playing baseball.

While I was taking in the signs around the stadium, I was also observing the people seated around me. I was surprised at the amount of red sox fans at the game. It was funny though, the people to my immediate right were die hard twins fans and I could tell based on how they were “cheering” against the red sox. Then there were the people seated in front of me. They seemed like they didn’t even want to be at the game. I guess if you don’t want to be there, why are you showing up? People like that confuse me.

In the end, the twins won 4-2. I got to watch a few well known players hit and play baseball and experience a game in the last season of the Metrodome. The Metrodome doesn’t have quite the history that was associated with old Yankees stadium (which I attended a game there last year), but it is still nice to say that I saw a game in the last season of indoor baseball. I am looking forward to trying out the new stadium and seeing how outdoor baseball works in the state of Minnesota. You can follow the progress of the new stadium and find out more information here.

Restaurant Review – Ike’s in downtown Minneapolis

On Wednesday evening, I met up with some friends who were coming from out of town to see the Twins / Red Sox game. One of my friends really likes burgers. Originally, we weren’t going to attend the game and I was going to take my friends to Town Talk for their burgers and fries. At the last minute, we decided to go to the game which altered my plans for Town Talk…instead we went to Ike’s as it is relatively close to the stadium. When I worked in downtown Minneapolis, I would go to Ike’s for lunch. I had not tried Ike’s during dinner, but since we needed something close, I thought Ike’s would be a good choice plus I like the shakes there!

Location: Ike’s is located in downtown Minneapolis at 50 South 6th street. It is only one block from the Nicollet Mall Light Rail station…a big win in my opinion especially when we purchased these 4 hour light rail passes.

Pre-Restaurant Experience: The combined factors of not eaten at Ike’s during dinner, previous experience during the lunch hour rush, and it being a game night, I decided it would be best to call the restaurant to gauge how busy it would be around 5:30PM. I didn’t really think they would take reservations (because they don’t for lunch), but to my surprise they take dinner reservations! I made mine for 5:30PM. I drove over to my friend’s hotel and we caught the light rail at the Mall of America. The only problem was that we were going to be arriving at the restaurant about 20 minutes later than my reservation…(oops!).

In Restaurant Experience, Arriving: We arrived at Ike’s about 20 minutes later than my 5:30PM reservation. The restaurant was fairly busy in the bar area and in their tables and booths. I thought for sure they would have canceled my reservation and opened my table up, but sure enough we were seated right away! I certainly appreciate a restaurant that keeps reservations even when the patron is late to arrive.

In Restaurant Experience, Ordering: As I said earlier, we arrived at the restaurant about 20 minutes later than I expected. The game was starting at 7:10PM. This left us very little time to actually eat and somewhat enjoy our meal. I made it clear to our server that we were in a hurry to make the Twins game. Our server was understanding and efficient and immediately offered for us to order drinks. Because I had been to Ike’s before, I immediately recommended one of their shakes to my friends. We ordered two shakes for our table. As we were waiting for the shakes to come to the table, I made a few recommendations namely the Ike’s burger. When the server returned with our shakes we were ready to order. One of the nice things that the server did was because my friends were splitting a shake (the shakes are enormous and my friends are married), the server split the shake equally into two glasses. This is a nice touch and paying attention to the little details. The server took our table’s order – 1 Ike’s burger, 1 – Turkey burger (my order), and 1 – small appetizer .

Our order:

Ike's Burger
Ike's Burger
My meal - Turkey burger with mashed potatoes and cranberries
My meal - Turkey burger with mashed potatoes and cranberries

Our order came relatively quickly, although it felt like a long time probably because we were in a hurry. In fact, I was in such a hurry to order, that I didn’t realize the turkey burger did not come with cheese! So I was quite surprised when it came out to me with no cheese. I inquired with the server and asked if they could throw cheese on it. This was not a problem and 30 seconds later I had a turkey burger with cheese!

I admit the only reasons I ordered the turkey burger were:
1. I was not in the mood for beef and
2. I wanted the mashed potatoes.

The turkey burger was good. I won’t say it is the best turkey burger in the city, but Ike’s didn’t burn it or over cook it. The mashed potatoes were also very good. They definitely didn’t taste like instant ones that you find at other places and even had potatoes peelings mixed in the gravy. I also appreciate the fact that Ike’s gives you a generous portion of whatever side you order with your main meal.

My friend who is picky about his hamburgers seemed to like his burger. I heard no negative comments from him on it. If he didn’t like it, he would have let me know for sure.

Because we were in hurry, we asked for the bill as the main meal came out. Our server had no problems ringing it up right away and letting me pay for the meal. In total for 2 shakes, 2 burgers, and 1 appetizer, it was about $50.00. Not bad for a quick dinner downtime. When the server returned with the bill, she bought these out with it:

Ike's Cookies
Ike's Cookies

This is probably my favorite part of the Ike’s experience is the after meal cookies. Most of the time, you are so full from the shakes and burgers that you don’t have room to order from their dessert menu, but you always have room for a small chocolate chip cookie! As always, the cookies hit the spot, even if I was in a hurry and had to enjoy it on the way back to the baseball stadium.

Verdict: I had been to Ike’s for lunch and enjoyed it each time I was there. This was my first experience with dinner at Ike’s and I was not disappointed. Our server was fast, efficient, flexible, and worked within our table’s schedule. The food was good and nothing negative happened that would impact customer experience. I have no problems recommending Ike’s for lunch or dinner if I were near the restaurant. (Note: There is an Ike’s at the MSP airport which is also very good) I noticed Ike’s serves brunch and would be interested in trying them out for brunch in the near future.

Biking in Des Moines, Iowa and Minneapolis,MN over Memorial Day

Biking in Des Moines

I have a goal of biking 1200-1500 miles this summer. Over the long holiday weekend, I was able to add 50 more miles to my total.

Biking in Des Moines

Although I knew I would be busy being in a friend’s wedding in Iowa, I decided to pack the 7.5fx with me to do some biking. I managed to ride about 30 miles while attending all the wedding activities. My main route took me from the west side of Urbandale to just past Gray’s Lake. I was able to see the baseball stadium and state capitol building before I decided I should turn around.

View of Downtown Des Moines
View of Downtown Des Moines
Downtown Des Moines - Baseball Stadium and Capitol Building
Downtown Des Moines - Baseball Stadium and Capitol Building

Biking in Minneapolis

I returned to Minneapolis on Sunday and took things easy Sunday night. On Monday, I ran 3 miles and went for a bike ride. For the route, I decided to ride around Lake Harriet, Calhoun, Isles, and Nokomis. In all it was about 22 miles. I was able to get some good views of downtown and enjoyed doing some plane spotting by Nokomis.

View of Downtown Minneapolis
View of Downtown Minneapolis
Plane spotting by Lake Nokomis
Plane spotting by Lake Nokomis
Plane getting ready to land seen from Lake Nokomis
Plane getting ready to land seen from Lake Nokomis