02.24.2018
Ought
Room Inside The World

Ought has never fully won me over on a single album. I'm fully in love with 3-4 of their songs, but a lot of their other ones are just a little too Wire/Fall/post-punky for my baby ears. But when they're on, they're on. Italicized. This new one, then, is a bit surprising; it doesn't have that 1 killer single, but at the same time, the whole record comes together better for me than their others. Mostly that's because they've clearly shifted their sound into a more "melodic" direction. Scare quotes mandatory, since their singer has a, um, unique (italicized) way of delivering words into a microphone. Speaking of unique vocalizing, do you like Future Islands?

02.24.2018
Andy Shauf
The Party

Here's one I seriously missed from 2016. In fact I think most people missed it. Most people except for Cornelius and Jeff Tweedy, both of which are on record in interviews mentioning Andy Shauf as one of their favorite new artists. And if Jeff Tweedy and Cornelius recommend somebody, I am absolutely on board, and it took me less than 30 seconds of listening to one track on this album to be totally sold. This is some Jim O'Rourke-level guitar pop arrangement, with melodies that are immediately impactful (and winding and dreamy and all those other good words), sung by a guy who almost sounds like the singer from Clinic. Just weird enough. And I guess this record is a concept album about a party. Anyway, had I known about this in 2016, it certainly would've made my Best Of The Year list. Maybe not #1, but damn high anyway.

02.24.2018
Rhye
Blood

I'm a little bummed that this new Rhye album isn't better than it is.

02.24.2018
Jeff Rosenstock
POST

This dude Jeff Rosenstock is a famous and respected figurehead of the 21st century punk-ska scene. I'll pause until you stop laughing. Anyway he's actually a legit good dude, and writes songs that far exceed what you'd expect from such a dude; his solo stuff, like this new POST record is really more power pop than pop punk. But it's a little of that, too. Anyway, POST is really frikkin good, and he yells "FUCK NO!" in one song and it gives me shivers, man.

Oh, and a couple songs sound like Aqueduct, which is weird.

01.16.2018
Steve's Favorite Music of 2017
A List

1. Girlpool - Powerplant
2. Cornelius - Mellow Waves
3. Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau - Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau
4. Ryan Adams - Prisoner
5. One And Future Band - Once and Future Band
6. Sampha - Process
7. Mastodon - Cold Dark Place EP
8. Kendrick Lamar - Damn
9. Mount Eerie - A Crow Looked At Me
10. Father John Misty - Pure Comedy

10.31.2017
Bell Witch
Mirror Reaper

Slow.

10.17.2017
St. Vincent
Masseduction

I had prepared myself to spew my righteous rockist anger at this, St. Vincent's ironic-but-not-ironic-but-maybe-ironic pop cash grab. Produced by that guy who produces everything. Beats by cool beatmakers. A self consciously sexy and colorful marketing push. Pre-release singles that were about Weezer-level dumb things like Los Angeles phonies and, like, pills. Holy shit was I going to tear this album a new one. Or maybe I'd say "Um actually it's a work of genius!". One of those two.

But really, all I have to say is that it's just good. That's it. It's really not much different stylistically than her last album and a half. The pop thing isn't really a thing, and there's just as much guitar wizardry as I'd hope. But still, "Pills"? Really?

10.17.2017
Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile
Lotta Sea Lice

I'm really, really hoping to be wrong about this, and I very well might be, but I think this Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile duet album is a bummer. Why is it a bummer? I don't know. I like both of them (although I like Courtney a whole lot more), and I generally like the idea of what they're doing. But it just doesn't work. Their voices don't sound good together, their songwriting styles don't mesh, it just feels wrong. But I dunno. Hopefully I can delete this post a month from now and write about how much of a dummy I was for writing those last 6 sentences.

10.17.2017
Robert Plant
Carry Fire

I know better than to underestimate any Robert Plant solo album, even now in 2017. Somehow he's retained a Dylan-like baseline of "at least listenable" for everything he records, even now into his 70s, and his record with Alison Krauss earlier in the decade is somehow a transcendent modern classic, despite its kinda-dull-NPRness. So yeah, I'm not surprised that Carry Fire is good. But I am startled by how good it is.

10.17.2017
Kamasi Washington
Harmony Of Difference

"Truth" might be the most beautiful thing Kamasi Washington has recorded. Which is a very high bar.

09.28.2017
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Luciferian Towers

The first two tracks here are a little bit boring, but the last two really scratch that Godspeed itch.

09.28.2017
Ted Leo
The Hanged Man

So here's this new Ted Leo album, which is pretty exciting, since he's Ted Leo. And even more exciting than usual, because of his recent forays into a gentler, more melodic side of his music with Aimee Mann. Word also got around that he recorded it all himself, in his new home studio, and it was shaping up to be a sort of personal symphony-to-god type record; keyboards and horn sections and choirs and the whole bit. Sounds great. Except for that it doesn't sound great. In the literal auditory sense. It's cool that he put together a home studio and recorded this thing, but just sounds rough. Like a demo for a much better later recording. The drums are dull and soft, the bass is fat and flat, the guitar is okay, but doesn't have nearly the razor edge that his old recordings often had. It's a bummer, because some of the songs are pretty good, but they just fall flat. It's not even a 'recorded so poorly that it becomes even better' lo-fi kind of situation. Real weird album. I'll keep listening to it though. It feels like a grower.

09.19.2017
Kendrick Lamar
Damn

I was wrong about Damn. I heard the singles and wrote it off. "It sounds like he's given up and reaching for radio hits," I grumbled. "It doesn't hold a candle to has last two unimpeachable classics" I groused. "It's everything wrong with the current state of popular music," I whinged. Oh but then I listened to the damn thing. I already said I was wrong, what more do you want from me?


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09.19.2017
Milo
Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!

I miss early millennium indie rap. I didn't even like most of it at the time. But compared to the autotuned trap garbage getting thrown around all day every day in 2017, hearing a guy from Maine rap about poetry over electric pianos and jazz samples and breakbeats goes down real smooth. Don't know if I'll ever listen to this album in 2018, but I like having it around for now.

09.11.2017
Iron and Wine
Beast Epic

It seems most of the world has moved on from Iron and Wine after his last couple jazz-inflected Astral Weeks-lite experiments, which I actually liked, but I get it. Everybody is wearing black silk onesies and playing MIDI keyboards and appearing on Beyonce albums now. It makes sense that nobody has much room in their hearts for the beardy sad guy with a guitar. But Sam Beam doesn't care. He's not trying his hand at synthpop or Mumford arena folk. Hell no. In fact he's gone back to his original band and studio and recorded an OG-AF Iron and Wine album. And it's so nice.

09.11.2017
The Cure
Disintegration

I've long held a controversial opinion that Wild Mood Swings is the best Cure album. Look. It's not a hill I'm willing to die on. But I will say that "Plainsong" is untouchable.

08.08.2017
Mary Halvorson Octet
Away With You

I'd heard of Mary Halvorson before in recent years, but I mostly randomly happened upon this new Away With You album. It's a fascinating listen. Halvorson is a jazz/improvisational guitarist, and the octet is made up mostly of what you'd imagine a traditional jazz octet to contain. But the music feels like something truly its own. It's jazz in that it contains improvisation, is mostly instrumental, and moves itself along themes and modal movements, but save for its occasional forays into noisey free-jazz nonsense, the goup plays more like an experimental post-rock band attempting to translate marches and waltzes through the freewheeling horns of a New Orleans parade band. Except I just read that sentence and it's not like that at all. I don't even know. The high points on here are near miraculous; everything comes together behind some beautiful descending chord progression and weirdo guitar melody, and it feels completely fresh and new. And fun! But then all too often, the tracks fall apart into noodly free-jazz bullshit and aimless drum solos. It's not going to find a place in my life the way that more melodically-composed recent albums by Mammal Hands or Courageous Endeavors, but still, this is something worth hearing, refreshingly outside any sort of modern jazz orthodoxy.

01.16.2018 - by Steve
Steve's Favorite Food of 2017South Minneapolis
A List

1. Gino’s - Broccolini
2. Young Joni - Parisian pizza
3. Homemade sarmale rolls
4. Xi’an Famous Foods - Hand pulled noodles
5. Swedish meatballs - Homemade
6. Pearl’s - Jerk chicken bake
7. Ghorka Palace - Lamb Newari choyla
8. Pequod’s - Deep dish pizza
9. Milkjam - Black chocolate ice cream
10. Uncle Franky’s - Coney dog
11. Homemade cast iron steak and butter
12. Jersey Mike’s* - Italian sandwich
13. Stray Dog - Bacon caramel roll

* Yes, Jersey Mike’s. Look, it’s a dumb chain. But I had it for the first time this year and I think it’s super legit and is far and away the best sub sandwich chain around. My first sandwich there was a minor revelation to mean I will vouch for it all day long on this dumb blog.

12.15.2016 - by Steve
Steve's Favorite Food of 2016South Minneapolis
A List

Just for clarification, I base the items on this list more by 'meal' than by 'establishment,' and more on 'pure satisfaction' rather than 'quality.' Like, if I had a really great and satisfying piece of chicken at Popeye's, I'm going to go ahead and throw that on here, even if it's junk. So the items here and their placement have more to do with how much I simply enjoyed one meal at one place than what I think of the place in general, or if I think one might be technically better than the other. Like, obviously Revival is of higher quality than L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, but whatever. On with the show!

1. Juniper (Boise, ID)- Maple bacon sweet roll, mole huevos rancheros
2. Hi Lo Diner - Chicken wings and pancakes
3. Spoon & Stable - Grilled venison
4. TIE - L&L Hawiian Barbecue (Honolulu, HI) - Plate lunch
4. TIE - Cafe 100 (Hilo, HI) - Moco Loco
5. Revival - Roasted pork
6. French Hen Cafe - Banh mi benedict
7. World Street Kitchen - Beef shawarma tacos
8. Lu’s - Pork banh mi
9. Koja Kitchen (Berkeley, CA) - Korean short rib bowl
10. El Farolito (San Francisco, CA) - Al pastor burrito
11. Bibuta - Sushi burrito
12. Surly Brewing Co. - Cornbread
13. Red Stag - Limousine burger

07.05.2016 - by Steve
Hi Lo DinerSouth Minneapolis
Reuben, pie

Okay, Hi Lo fully won me over. It didn't take much, I was impressed on my very first trip. But I've been back there 3 times now, and I'm continually impressed. All the worries I had about it being this or that (or the other) are basically moot. Like, yeah, it's a little on the yup side, but not by much, but none of that matters, because all the food I've had has been fantastic. This time it was the reuben. It's not a 100% traditional one—it's served on some sort of toasted roll rather than rye bread, and the sauce in which it's downright slathered has a bit more bite than your standard Russian dressing—but it is profoundly satisfying. And then they toss in the classic crinkle-cut diner fries, which unlike a crinkle-cut standard bearer like Cecil's, have a rich golden brown fry to them, something we've grown used to on hand-cut pub fries, but is really a rarity on crinkle cuts. It's great! And then we get to the pie. You guys. They've done it.

06.08.2016 - by Steve
A Baker's WifeSouth Minneapolis
Chocolate donut

Baker's Wife started using darker chocolate on their donuts! Today is the first day of the rest of your life.


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05.27.2016 - by Steve
RevivalSouth Minneapolis
Roasted pork, fried chicken, fixins

Here's a funny thing: Revival actually lives up to the hype! Wow! Hey! But. Except for the chicken, which is very good, but not so much better than your average mom n pop fried chicken that it's worth the two hour waits and parade of Minnesota Monthly superlatives. But but. Everything else, from the mac'n'cheese to the rice and beans to the cheesy grits and collared greens (holy shit that rhymes!), and the bread & butter pickles and the barbecue sauces, and especially the roast pork, is perfection. Top to bottom. Just absolutely delicious. I'll (of course) argue that a place serving this food shouldn't be as fancy (read: exclusive) of a sit-down place as it is—it should really be a counter-service 'meat and three'—but I don't care enough to belabor that argument, and I'm an idiot anyway. All that matters is the food is awesome and now that it's been open for a year maybe you can actually get a table and try it soon.

05.16.2016 - by Steve
Terzo Porchetteria South Minneapolis
Porchetta

I feel like Terzo's Porchettaria is flying under the radar, as much as a place can fly under the radar in this town these days. Deal is: You know Broder's Pasta Bar, and you probably know Broder's Cucina across the street. Well down the block is Terzo, a newer, smaller, lower profile cafe from the Broder family. I'm sure it's good. But more importantly, on the side of Terzo, by the patio, is a small window and a pig-shaped sign announcing the Porchettaria, where during the day you can get take-out porchetta sandwiches that have been a staple on Terzo's bar menu since day one. This is a wonderful thing. This town needs more of it.

05.03.2016 - by Steve
Hi Lo DinerSouth Minneapolis
Hot beef commercial

I was very skeptical of this Hi Lo Diner. Restaurant investors buy up an old timey historic diner car in Pennsylvania, move it to East Lake Street, create a menu of "American diner food with a modern twist", charge $20 for a lamb patty melt and $25 for lobster scrambled eggs and $18 for local honey walnut waffles, and people will go crazy for it and you'll never actually get a table and it's just going to be annoying. But! I was wrong! Mostly! Kind of! I mean, it's not cheap per say, but it's not terrible. And the menu really is fairly "normal" diner food for the most part. Most exciting of all is they serve the southern-Minnesota staple Hot Beef Commercial! See my review of Bump's for my history with the beef commercial. And it's pretty darn good! It's "modern" in that the beef is short rib rather than just regular old chuck roast or whatever, and it's plated kinda fancy, and drizzled with a horseradish aioli, but otherwise it's pretty standard. Only problem is it could've used more gravy. It should be swimming in gravy. And oddly enough, despite its urbane and implied quality, I almost sorta kinda enjoyed Bump's more trashy beef commercial more. Still, I do have to admit that Hi Lo is hitting the right notes in what they're doing. And best of all: Late night pie!. Stay tuned for that.


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05.03.2016 - by Steve
IcehouseSouth Minneapolis
Pork nachos

I already wrote about Icehouse on here a couple years ago, but I just went back and had a much more enjoyable experience. Not a ton to add really, but they have a nice late night happy hour, and the seating in the bar area is pretty chill. The pork nachos were much better than the jazz trio in the main room.

03.25.2016 - by Steve
United NoodleSouth Minneapolis
Japanese curry

United Noodle! The myth is real! A well stocked Asian supermarket hidden in the industrial warehouse glut of the Seward/Riverside no man's land, whose deli serves up some of the most highly regarded noodles in the city, and staffed entirely by first-generation Asian—wait, no, it's a bunch of hipster college kids. That was unexpected. But still, this place is pretty close to matching its reputation. Maybe not quite, but close. I can only speak for the Japanese curry (tasty but a little on the tame side; it got boring after 4 or 5 bites, and the breaded pork was on the dry side) and the bbq pork ramen (of which the broth was a bit bitter for my taste, but the pork itself was soooo good. Absolutely perfect), but it's right up there with any of the cooler, hipper, expensiver, louder shops that have opened up in recent years. I'd love to go back, but they close so early that it's not going to be easy.

03.03.2016 - by Steve
Taco CatSouth Minneapolis
Tacos

Have you seen these hilarious "Damn Daniel" videos? They're hilarious, and everyone's seen them. Have you seen them? Where the guy says "Damn Daniel" to the other guy? Shoes maybe? Have you eaten Taco Cat?

01.17.2016 - by Steve
Victor's 1959 CafeSouth Minneapolis
Cubano

Somehow I've never actually managed to order a Cubano at Victor's until this weekend. Every time I've been there previously was for their (equally-if-not-more famous) breakfast. In fact I didn't even realize that their lunch menu was available during the hours I was there, so the Cubano never even crossed my mind. And I'm a man who loves Cubanos. They're a perfect sandwich, and I imagined a Cuban restaurant would make a good one. Guess what? They do.

12.31.2015 - by Steve
Steve's Favorite Food of 2015South Minneapolis
A List

For reasons (and circumstances [and because]), I once again didn't really hit up most of the hot new restaurants in the city this year. Because while we may live in a great food city, it's really only a great food city if you make at least $100k a year. For the rest of us who can't afford to just pop in to your new Parisian champagne bar or farm-to-table North Loop small plate warehouse space, it's mostly just a matter of making due with old favorites before they all close for good. So take this list with a grain of salt. Maybe next year.

1. Homemade porchetta
2. Chimborazo - Arroz chaufa
3. Naf Naf Grill - Chicken shawarma
4. Sonora Grill - Chicken and Chorizo Khinkali
5. The Happy Gnome - Sausage poutine
6. Pico de Gallo - Tacos
7. Al's Beef - Italian beef sandwich
8. Blue Door - Cheese curds
9. Monello - Braised rabbit
10. Bump's - Hot beef commercial


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11.26.2015 - by Steve
Ramen KazamaSouth Minneapolis
Ramen

Everybody chill out about Ramen Kazama, okay? It's obviously not the best ramen in America. It's probably not the best ramen in the cities. Its existence doesn't turn Minneapolis into a World Class Food City like City Pages seems to want to think. The lines around the block your Facebook friends are raving about are a social media fantasy based on everybody's desperate longing to live in a World Class Food City With The Best Ramen Shop In America. This too shall pass. And when it does, when you stop worrying about how important the myth of Ramen Kazama is to your life, hopefully you'll appreciate it for what it really is: quality counter-service ramen in a refreshingly modest space in a part of town that doesn't necessarily need a ramen shop, but let's just go with it. It's good, alright? And god bless them for making it counter service, although the prices could stand to be a buck or two cheaper. And skip the fried chicken ramen. Go with the pork belly.


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11.16.2015 - by Steve
Cafe RacerSouth Minneapolis
Yucca breakfast poutine

Another food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar, Cafe Racer recently(?) opened up on a quaint little inconspicuous Seward corner that has generally spelled doom for everyone that's ever tried to open there. There was the Donut Cooperative. A bakery of some sort. Another bakery of some sort. I don't even remember. But now comes Racer, who's truck I'd never eaten at, and who's reputation I wasn't even sure of, but they've got some arepas and some pupusas and some latin-inspired, yucca-heavy brunch items, as well as Columbian style hot dogs not unlike Sonora Grill's, and they've got a very, very pleasantly designed interior, not too fussy, but still clean and modern. And it is good. Not Chimborazo good (see below!), but at least Victor's good, maybe better. I'm happy about it. And they'll be out of business before the snow melts.


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08.07.2015 - by Steve
La CeibaSouth Minneapolis
Pollo Jamaiquino

And here, finally, we have a restaurant. A real honest-to-god restaurant. Not a "public house." Not a "eatery." Not a "hard cider brewpub and bacon room." It's a restaurant. (Okay, fine, it's a "bistro!") But look around, and there's no reclaimed barnwood. There's no antique meat grinders doubling as lighting fixtures. There's no white subway tile anywhere. They're not growing their own wild rice on the roof or pairing hot dogs with bourbon flights. It's just an honest neighborhood restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere, attentive staff, and delicious Caribbean food.

And now is the part where I tell you about how La Ceiba is a rebirth of what used to be El Mason, a locally-beloved establishment that I unfortunately never made it to before it closed. But I know that everybody loved El Mason, and were sad to see it go. But now everyone seems to love La Ceiba, and I totally get it. Funny thing is, the two items I had weren't even the best of their class; my little fried pastelillos, spicy beef and stuff in a green plantain batter, weren't quite as amazing as Sonora Grill's kinkhali. Their Jamaican chicken curry (pollo Jamaiquino) wasn't as good as a similar Caribbean curry from Harry Singh's. But both were absolutely respectable, and I ate every bite and had to stop myself from licking the plate and crying. To be honest, I think every menu item is maybe about $2 too expensive, but at this point I don't care. I'm so glad La Ceiba exists, and I hope it lasts as long as El Mason did, and I hope I get there for lunch at some point next week.