July 28, 2013

The People I Love Most in This Town

If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me gushing Friday night over our dinner at Parka.

I've been wanting to go to Parka for a while just because of its credentials (V44 + Rustica + Dogwood). But we kept picking other places to go to because, frankly, Parka's menu never spoke to me.

We should have gone earlier.

Similar to V44, it's a little out of the way for us, especially on a Friday night during rush hour. And Friday night, as I listened to Lola whine in her carseat for 30 minutes, I was regretting the decision and wishing we had stayed closer to home.

But then we walked in and my mood instantly turned around.

Parka has a cool vibe. It's casual and cute. And at exactly 5pm it was empty (yes!). We were greeted by a super friendly server who seated us right under the kids shelves with hip (and clean!) toys. He gave us a children's menu right away and told us he could put in an order for Lola as soon as we wanted. He brought her milk in a straw cup. He asked us if we wanted him to grab us the last ginger cookie that came with her kids meal. (And after we told him we'd pass b/c our girl doesn't like sweets, he got it for us anyway and wrapped it up for us to take home.)

In went Lola's order for the english muffin pizza with tomato pineapple soffrito.

I sipped my glass of malbec, started decompressing, and we watched Lola love the Rubix cube and wooden figurines from the kids' shelves.

We had a slight setback when the complimentary curry popcorn arrived to tide us over and a certain someone not yet old enough for popcorn decided she needed to have it. But alas, we distracted her and took turns hiding the popcorn on the chairs next to us, sneaking bites when she wasn't looking. (It was good.)

So, the menu is heavy on comfort foods. That's what's deterred me in the past. But oh, stupid me. I narrowed my choices down to the meatloaf sandwich, the crayfish "tuna casserole," and the fried chicken, and ultimately decided on the meatloaf sandwich because I had a hankering for French fries. It was so good. I need to seriously consider where I'd put this on my list of favorite sandwiches in town because it would be up there for sure. The meatloaf was fall apart tender and delicious; it was topped with good cheddar, homemade tomato relish, and onions. And maybe a smear of mayo on the bottom bun? I didn't have it on my plate long enough to really look as I had two other people helping me eat it.

But let's be honest. The real reason we came was because their cookie and milk flight has been on my bucket list for a while. So out that came, at about the same time that Lola lost interest in her food, her straw, and the Rubix cube. I'll just show you a picture.

I won't even bother describing it. It was good. You can see that. We took turns scarfing the bars and cookies down while the other walked around with Lola. We asked that the rest (it would be impossible to finish in one sitting) be boxed, and we each made sure we kept our piles separate in the box for fear that the other would snatch our saved goodies.

So, let's see where we're at: the space is great, the food is great, the attention to kids is great. The malbec was maybe my favorite I've ever had. Parka was perfect on Friday night.

We have a lot of places in town that nail the vibe, service, and food. But not as many nail it with kids. Hopefully that continues to change.

Another kid-friendly favorite right now is The Lynn. I love the Hodgepodge on their kids menu--a 6 cup muffin tin that comes filled with cubed cheese, chicken drummies, mini croques, fruit, and veggies. The price? $1 for every year the kiddo is. For parents of a 1 year old, that is a major steal. Something you actually feel somewhat guilty about. But what I loved even more than the price was the quality of the ingredients. The chicken drummies were cooked in a honey sauce and so delicious--and are made just for the Hodgepodge. The cheese was the good stuff, not the usual American / processed cheddar / etc. Instead of a grilled cheese, it was a mini croque monsieur. The peas were freshly shelled peas. I mean, seriously. (They also have really enticing other options on their kids menu, but for now, while Lola doesn't care, we're going the $1 route).

I love the food people we have in this city that are catering to kids as much as their parents. You allow me to have a civilized dinner out and you help me expand my kids' culinary horizons and expose my kid to the great food I love.

July 13, 2013

A $9 Bottle of Juice

Not so long ago, I was a brand marketer. I am a sucker for good branding.

Case in point: Truce, the new-ish juice bar in Uptown. From the moment I saw their store front in progress, on the corner of 32nd and Hennepin, I was hooked. It was full of windows. It looked airy, clean, and modern inside.

Then I saw their logo and their website, a few tweets, a few photos of all of the pretty, colorful filled juice bottles lined up in their case, and I was salivating and excited about this new addition in town. The whole thing just looked so fresh, so vibrant, and so delicious. And because it is only a couple of blocks from the lake, I had visions of picking up a juice and strolling around the lake with Lola once a week or so.

And THEN I learned one day that the day-old juice was on sale for $8, which begged the question, "Um, how much for the freshest stuff?"

$9. For a single-serving bottle of juice.


It's a gripe I'm sure they get a lot. They've addressed it on their website, and I think I saw them tweet about it. They explain why it's so expensive to make their high quality stuff. I can believe it.

But it doesn't make me (or I'm guessing many) super willing to pay for it.

I worked on lots of new products in my brand marketing days that had the potential to be great products, but they were just too expensive to make, and tested out to be too expensive for consumers to pay for. And we had to say goodbye, which was at times a total bummer.

$9 is a lot of money for a bottle of juice. I can get behind a lot of things. $4.50 for one slice of pizza. $3 for a pretty small (pretty delicious) doughnut.

But $9 kept me from trying out Truce for a good month or so.

Today, because I was driving around picking up all sorts of other fun food items, I caved.

Yes, my juice was delicious. I chose the Restart (cucumber, watermelon, and mint). And it was light and refreshing and flavorful. I felt healthy just drinking it. And the neon straw made me pretty delighted.

But ugh, come on, Truce. Most of us can not justify $9 for a bottle of juice. For a single serving bottle of juice.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm just not their target consumer. Maybe there really are enough people in town who will be willing to pay $9 for a bottle of juice on a regular basis. I hope so because I'll happily file Truce away in my special occasion foodie purchase file. Heck, I will probably ask for one of their juice cleanses as an upcoming gift.

You kill me, Truce. I want to love you. I do love you. But I can't buy you (often).