04.15.2018
Hop Along
Bark Your Head Off

I wish this rocked more.

05.09.2015
Hop Along
Painted Shut

First Sleater-Kinney, then Screaming Females, and now Hop Along; if I was an editor for Rolling Stone who was creatively depressed and hated his life (as opposed to, well...), I would write a cover story declaring 2015 the Year Of Girlz Who Rawk! I don't know if the cover shot would be particularly sexy, but the lede would remain the same. The best straight-up guitar rock albums coming out this year are all coming from female-fronted groups. Hop Along's Painted Shut is the strangest of the three. From what I gather, the lead singer started out doing Joanna Newsom-y girly freak folk, with the weird voice warbles and all, until she started this new group with her brother, combining her hugely powerful pipes with some laser-focused, hard hitting 90's-influenced mathy indie rock. So in its heaviest moments, you do get a bit of a Sleater-Kinney vibe, albeit with some gravelly vocals that could tear flesh. But then you get some mellower acoustic moments, where her art-school-girl warble comes out, and you're glad she decided kick some ass instead. Then you get some moments stuck in between, where it's like Joanna Newsom fronting Shudder To Think, and you're pretty sure you've never heard anything like it before, as familiar as it might seem. (Okay, it's not as amazing as "Joanna Newsom fronting Shudder to Think" might seem. But it's damn good.) There's also two–two!–songs about watiresses. So maybe don't worry too much about the lyrics.

04.15.2018 - by Steve
Sidewalk KitchenU of M
Roast duck, bbq pork, ma-po

The (#problematic?) theory of Asian restaurants is that the more Asian people you see eating in one, the better the food probably is. Far be it from me to argue with science, but I will say this: Sidewalk Kitchen (why not Sidewok Kitchen??? Missed opportunity), located in that one corner of Stadium Village that's always had 2 or 3 random Chinese places that seem to cater to a large percentage of actual Chinese people, was full of Chinese students the night we went. It was a real 'sore thumb' situation for the two of us at table five. The menu seemed promising, although I worry a bit when a restaurant boats so many Szechuan and Hunan and Korean options. The food was just okay. There was some confusion about my order initially; I ordered the rice plate with duck and pork, and the waiter claimed that the kitchen said they couldn't serve that item, but then after some discussion with a manager and someone else in the kitchen, they decided they could, and when the plate came out, the pork was cold. Like, cold, not even room temperature. And crazy boney. As was the duck, although at least that was hot. Meanwhile, the ma-po (Szechuan dish with tofu and ground pork) had a very particular sadness to it, more of a watery orange color than the expected deep red, and full of freezer-aisle diced carrot cubes and peas. It tasted weird. It was all weird. The whole thing was weird. I still have hope for this place, because most of the stuff that everyone else in the restaurant was eating looked better than ours, so I think maybe we just got the wrong things. Maybe next time. Well, nah, maybe not.

04.15.2018 - by Steve
Spoon and StableDowntown Minneaoplis
Duck breast laab

My previous trip to the hottest newest bestest restaurant in the North Loop, Spoon and Stable, happened a year and a half ago on my birthday, when I sat by myself at the bar and ate as much food as I could afford. I went in skeptical but left impressed. But I went no further than 10 feet from the front door to the bar. This time was entirely different; a Sunday morning brunch with some out of town visitors, I saw that the restaurant is a good bit smaller than I first thought it was, and actually has some lovely natural light from the ceiling, and all in all isn't quite as annoying as I might have thought it was. I mean, it's still all white-tile-and-natural-wood-edison-bulb-in-industrial-lighting, leather-apron'd-barkeeps and denim-uniformed-server Pinterest-chic, but it's not that bad. What was bad, regretfully, was my food. The brunch menu was fairly diverse as these things go, and I ordered a duck breast laab salad with crispy wild rice and a duck egg. It just didn't work. The duck was tough, the wild rice was soft, and the whole thing was way, way too salty. Whatever flavors were in there were just overwhelmed by soy sauce or fish sauce or whatever they had in there. Meanwhile, nothing else I tasted between everyone else at my table was much better. And to be honest I don't really remember what those dishes were. The only great takeaway from the entire meal was the small plate of hash browns that they brought the table (every brunch spot should do this!), which were satisfyingly crispy, and were infused with a sort of garlicky oniony oil. They were great. Everything else was a big bummer. So while I still think I stand by Spoon and Stable based on my great birthday dinner, I'll go ahead and recommend you skip brunch.