Downtowner Woodfire Grill

After having our taxes done this year, we settled into a local St. Paul, Minnesota restaurant called the Downtowner Woodfire Grill.

Downtowner Woodfire Grill
Downtowner Woodfire Grill

Upon entering, we were seated almost immediately by a hostess who would become our waitress. She was very efficient at her job and served us our drinks/water immediately and then took our orders.

The restaurant has a quiet ambiance and I especially liked the fire that they had going. It made it seem relaxing to me — almost like I was at home.

Our food came quickly and looked quite scrumptious until I took my knife and cut into the sirloin steak that I had ordered. Unfortunately, as seems to happen more often than not, it was not well done as I had ordered. So, the steak went back and they returned it in a timely manner.

It’s always uncomfortable for me when this happens as I sit there and eat what’s left on my plate — in this case, it was garlic mashed potatoes and veggies. The feeling is one of incompleteness which I guess shouldn’t be an odd feeling since my meal is incomplete. (Is there a philosophical sentence in there?)

Anyway … everything tasted pretty good. My husband had Pork with Basmati Rice and Vegetables …

Pork with Basmati Rice
Pork with Basmati Rice

My son had the Tenderloin Filet with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes and Vegetables …

Tenderloin Filet with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Tenderloin Filet with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

I’m not a big fan of horseradish and had never heard of it being added to mashed potatoes, have you?

I had the Sirloin Steak with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Vegetables …

Sirloin Steak with Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Sirloin Steak with Garlic Mashed Potatoes

The steak does look a little overdone on the outside, doesn’t it? It actually tasted a little charred but good.

We would definitely eat here again if we’re in the area. It is a little pricey though — the Tenderloin Filet was $29.95.

The mashed potatoes were a treat for us because we’re not eating potatoes on our paleo diet — unless it’s sweet potato or yams.

They sure tasted good!


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The Moderno Churrascaria Restaurant

The Moderno Churrascaria Restaurant, which is a specialty restaurant on the Norwegian Star cruise ship, was a pleasant surprise from the usual cruise ship food. Both the service and the food were great!

Although reservations are recommended, we didn’t find they were really needed. The cost per person was $20 which I thought was very reasonable considering all the food you have the option of eating, the quality of the food and the service provided.

Salad Buffet
Salad from the buffet

The meal starts with a trip to the large beautiful salad buffet which includes deli meat and soup.  Once you finish the salad, the waiter brings small containers of rice, fried sweet plantains (my absolute favorite), garlic mashed potatoes and black beans.

Fried Sweet Plantain
Fried Sweet Plantain

There are “cards on the table that you turn over to let the servers know when you are ready to start your main courses. Red means stop (don’t bring any more food) and green means bring it on! You can pass on any food that you do not want to eat.

The servers, called gauchos, are quite prompt in bringing the selections of food to your table which include lamb chops, filet mignon, beef, chicken, chorizo, etc.  They will cut as much or as little as you want to eat. Most of the meat arrives on a long metal skewer.

Moderno Churrascaria
Moderno Churrascaria

And, of course, I had to have my lamb …


They also brought pineapple on a skewer which was very tender.

Pineapple on a skewer
Pineapple on a skewer

For dessert there were three options: Coconut Flan, Mango Rice Pudding and Papaya Cream.  I had the Mango Rice Pudding which was okay but not great. When I tasted my husband’s Coconut Flan, I wished I had ordered it instead as it was very light and tasteful. I could have changed my dessert but decided to keep what I had.

Coconut Flan
Coconut Flan
Mango Rice Pudding
Papaya Cream

For me, this was the highlight of the food on the Norwegian cruise ship called the Star. Very good food and excellent service. The best part of this experience was being able to select which foods you wanted to eat and eating at a pace that was just right.

Other posts related to this ship as linked below.

Preparing for A Winter Vacation

The Norwegian Star – The Ship

Gulf of Mexico – Sunsets

The Norwegian Star – Cabin Steward

The Norwegian Star – Food

The Norwegian Star – Excursion to Costa Maya, Mexico 

The Norwegian Star – Trip to Belize City, Belize

The Norwegian Star – Trip to Cozumel, Mexico

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Aristo’s Greek & Mediterranean Restaurant

My husband and I have passed the Aristo’s restaurant quite a few times but figured it was not “authentic” Greek food so we always kept driving by. But, I was in the mood for Greek food one day and decided to look at the menu online (which looks scrumptious) so off we headed to dinner.

Aristo’s Greek & Mediterranean Restaurant

The lighting inside was dim (romantic?) as the host led us to our table. I’m not positive but I believe the staff is from Greece. Service was fantastic here as they took our orders immediately and made sure that things went smoothly — from appetizer to soup to dinner. Both our waiter and another gentleman (perhaps the owner?) checked with us to make sure there was no lapse in service.

We ordered an appetizer called Saganaki which is a lightly battered Kasseri cheese (my favorite cheese! if you haven’t tried it you should) flamed table side with rum and lemon juice. I was expecting a little piece of cheese but I was wrong as we received quite a large portion.


Then we had a wonderful green lentil soup which tasted better than the one I make at home (and I make a pretty good one).

Green Lentil Soup

And there was still dinner to be had. I had the Gyro Plate which is similar to a gyro sandwich except you don’t have the bread (although they gave you bread on the side). The onions were sweet tasting and everything was cooked to perfection.

Gyro Plate

My husband had the New York Steak which he downed quickly, meaning it’s good!

The restaurant has quite a few vegetarian options also.

My brain said “Have the baklava” but my stomach told me “You’re full.” I decided to listen to my stomach today. Kudos for me!

What a great place to go to for authentic Greek food. Check out their website below. It’s not the best looking website but it does its job.

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Joseph’s Family Restaurant

Driving along Minnesota 36 toward Stillwater, we usually pass a restaurant called Joseph’s Family Restaurant.  This last time, we decided to stop and eat there. The inside reminds me of an old-fashioned diner and has both booths and tables.

Joseph’s Family Restaurant

We were seated right away in a booth next to a window.  Brrr … a little cold in that spot but I was bundled up nicely so we didn’t request to move.

The waitress came over right away. She was friendly and answered all of our questions. I decided I wanted to have breakfast and most breakfast menu items are available for dinner.  I was not disappointed with the “Skillet” that I ordered. It’s basically over-easy eggs over hashbrowns covered with hollandaise sauce and whatever other filling you want to add. In my case, I just wanted cheese — plain and simple. You could choose toast or pancakes on the side.

The Skillet

It was good! But can you really mess up an egg dish? I certainly hope not!

My husband decided to be more bold and had the pork ribs. I was told that they were good but there was not much meat on them bones.

Pork Ribs

Overall, Joseph’s is a good place to go eat. Most of the reviews I’ve read for it give them a 3 or 4. I’d probably be at a 3.5.

Another Minnesota restaurant that we’ve tried and many more to go.

Joseph’s Family Restaurant
14608 60th St N
Stillwater, MN 55082
(651) 439-3336

 (Note: Pictures aren’t that great as I used my phone and the lighting was a little dim.)




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Greco’s on the St. Croix

My husband surprised me recently and took me for a country drive to St. Croix, Wisconsin for dinner at Grecco’s on the St. Croix.

Grecco’s on the St. Croix, WI

This is a small restaurant with many workers who want to make sure you are happy with the food and provide good service. When we arrived it was nearing sunset so we weren’t able to see the view from the deck that they have in the back.

The waiter we had was very good — not too much or too little attention.

We started with salads — mine was the field greens that had blackberries in it. Have you ever had a salad with blackberries? This was a first for me. It didn’t taste bad — just different.

Field Greens with Blackberries

My husband had the Penne Chicken which tasted fine (even if the picture is blurry).

Penne Chicken

My meal — the New York Strip — they had problems with. I don’t have steak very often but when I do, I order it “well done with no pink showing.” I then expect the chef to check to make sure no “pink” is showing. That was not the case here. They brought me my plate with the steak and vegetables and I did what I always do — I cut down the middle of the steak to make sure it was well done.

My husband was watching me and knew that this steak had to go back. I hadn’t noticed that a waitress was also watching and came over right away to see how things were. When she found out the steak was not well done she whisked it away leaving me with the vegetables to eat.

I was actually glad that she left me the vegetables as I don’t like to sit there waiting to eat while my husband eats alone.

After awhile my steak was returned to me. Was it still pink? A little at the ends but I let it go. I hadn’t planned to stay the evening.

Since this was a special celebratory occasion for us (we had bought a new car) we decided to try the cheesecake for dessert. It was not what I expected.


The cheesecake (as you can see) has a very very thick crust that was chewy. Most cheesecakes I’ve had taste smooth going down but not this one. Oh well.

I find that in small town restaurants that try to be “different” they sometimes go a little overboard in making things too different.

Articles posted on the bulletin board stated that the chef had studied at the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Minneapolis.

I’m not sure if we’ll return JUST to go to this restaurant. Looking at the reviews online the restaurant has had problems with both the food and the staff. And, the website that the restaurant used to have no longer exists. I wonder why they would take it down?

The area is certainly very pretty though.



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The Zen Box

While friends from Seattle were visiting, we drove past a restaurant called The Zen Box. The food was really delicious and I would love to get the chicken kara-age recipe that I had.

We arrived around lunch time and were seated shortly after we walked in the door. There weren’t too many people seated. The waitress arrived quickly with water for everyone at the table. Looking around, no one (except my friends) appeared to be Japanese. I asked our blonde hair blue eyed waitress if she was Japanese to “break the ice.” Her answer was no. Later on I asked additional questions and found out that the restaurant owner is Japanese but other than that only one cook is Japanese.

The inside of the restaurant is decorated Japanese-style with lanterns and Japanese labeled beer.

The food was delicious! My Japanese friends found plenty of vegetarian options and I found a wonderful chicken entree.

I had the curry with chicken kara-age. I really need to learn how to make this chicken.

Chicken Kara-Age

I can’t remember what the dish below is called. It has brown rice, edamame, salad and  tofu. The presentation was great!

I have to assume (from the empty plates) that everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals.

This is definitely a place I want to return to.

(Note: The Zen Box is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Click here to go to their website.)

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Hunan Palace Chinese Restaurant

My husband recently found a site,, where you can print coupons for quite a bit off at restaurants. With coupon in hand, we set out to find an Italian restaurant by the name of Pino’s. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed on the day we went.

So, we decided to walk over to the Hunan Palace Chinese Restaurant (which was in the same strip mall) that the sign said had a dinner buffet. It had just opened for dinner and we were seated right away when we entered.  But there was no food in the buffet trays. Odd, huh?

We were offered drinks and then we waited. About 15 minutes later the “cook” brought trays of food out. Everyone in the restaurant waited to be told it was okay to head over to the buffet line but no one directed us. Finally a couple behind us got up, took plates and started the process.

It was a little strange — almost as if the waiter didn’t know what to do or perhaps we were the ones who should have known.

The food was piping hot and taste-wise it was average Chinese food. My husband told me that I have been spoiled by living in Seattle for so long as the food there is so diverse and delicious. In Minnesota, we haven’t found too many outstanding restaurants yet. They’re mainly “okay.”

I didn’t take any pictures of the food as the lighting wasn’t that great.

However, on my way to pay the cashier for the meal, I noticed this statue on the counter.


I asked the cashier why there were pennies under the statue and he told me that it was for good luck. Hmmm … must be similar to when people throw pennies into a fountain for luck.

The buddha didn’t give me much luck though (although I didn’t leave any coins) as I walked out without my credit card and had to go back to retrieve it.

Oh well …

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The Agave Kitchen

It’s been awhile since we returned to the Agave Kitchen in Hudson, Wisconsin although I’m not sure why. Their food is delicious and we always leave feeling quite satisfied with the portion sizes, the service and the quality of the food.

This time we tried two new entrees — chicken tenders with french fries and barbecue chicken with vegetables. Pretty good!

Chicken Tenders with French Fries
Barbecue Chicken

Unfortunately, when I searched Google to read the reviews on the Agave Kitchen, it did not have good reviews. One of the problems appears to be the wait time when the restaurant is busy. Since we usually go in the evenings, we have never had the problem of having to wait nor of our food getting to us cold.

I was not able to find their website either as it appears to be redirected elsewhere — not sure what’s going on with that.

It’s always “buyer beware.”  Too bad the restaurant can’t seem to be more consistent with everyone.


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Doolittle’s Woodfire Grill

On a recent trip to Fargo my husband and I stopped at a little town called Alexandria to look for a place to have dinner. We tried to sidestep the fast food chains and came across a “new” restaurant called Doolittle’s Woodfire Grill.

Doolittle’s Woodfire Grill, Alexandria, MN

The restaurant was busy but had ample seating around 6 p.m. when we arrived. We were seated immediately and our waitperson came quickly. Looking around, my husband noticed that the surroundings looked like an Applebee’s and I agreed. The inside has had an upgrade though and looks like an upscale sports bar.

For dinner, my husband had the Chicken Rice Soup with the Chicken Sandwich for his entree. The Chicken Rice Soup was okay — similar to ones I’ve tasted at other restaurants. But the Chicken Sandwich — wow! The chicken was so tender. I’m accustomed to eating dry chicken as most restaurants don’t seem to know how long to cook it. Very good!

Chicken Rice Soup
Chicken Sandwich

I originally was going to have a salad but didn’t want to worry about portion sizes and whether they could put the sauce on the side (I find that restaurants tend to add too much vinaigrette on their salads) so I opted for the Mediterranean Flatbread.

Mediterranean Flatbread

It looked good but was a tad too crispy (and I like crispy). So — it was okay.

Service here was really good and the environment was what one would expect at a sports bar that has TV’s (which this one does) – a tad noisy. Overall though, it’s a good place to eat.



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Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant

It sure seems like I’ve had a lot of food blogs lately and between trying new recipes and new restaurants I believe I’m getting a handle on “food.”

Our son found Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant while we were in St. Paul for an appointment. It’s in a strip mall and I almost missed seeing it.

Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant

The restaurant was not crowded when we arrived but there were a few patrons there. We were greeted right away by the waitress and both the service and food were good. We’ll definitely have to visit this restaurant again.

I was only going to order one taco but they are small so I ordered three and was not disappointed as they were quite tasty.


My husband and son enjoyed their meals also.

Enchilada Verdes
Bistec Encebollado (Steak)

Definitely not disappointed that we found this restaurant.

Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant is located at 360 W. Bernard St, West St. Paul, Minnesota.


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