Q fanatic BBQ

I know I’ve gotten a bit behind on posting about our latest culinary adventures in the Twin Cities, and since I’ve previously lived in Memphis and Kansas City, I thought that a review of a local Minneapolis BBQ restaurant would be a great way to restart this blog.

Q fanatic – South Minneapolis location

A foodie colleague of mine, David, has been instrumental in steering us in the right direction for all things delicious in the Twin Cities. (If you want a quick listing of the best places in the area, check out his recommendations on his website here:
https://7minutemiles.com/food/ ) So when Scott and I were in the mood to try some local BBQ last Sunday, we consulted David’s list and headed out to Q fanatic in South Minneapolis. Since it was also Mother’s Day, we figured that a BBQ joint might be a safe bet for getting a table during prime brunch time. We were right.

When we pulled into the parking lot, we could smell the smokers so we took that as a reassuring sign. Once inside, you order right at the counter, and the food is dished out cafeteria style. When we try a new BBQ place, Scott always goes straight for the pulled pork sandwich. I wasn’t sure what to get, but knew I wanted to get something other than pork so that we could try a different meat. The staff was super friendly and helpful, and since I was trying to decide between chicken or brisket, they offered me a sample of the brisket and my decision was made to go with the sliced brisket sandwich.

Sliced Brisket Sandwich
Pulled Pork Sandwich

The sliced brisket is the most expensive sandwich they have on the menu at $9.95, but they give you a ton of meat so I felt that the price was justified. The pulled pork sandwich is $8.50 and was also overflowing with meat. The brisket and the pork both had great flavor. (Side note: I still have yet to find a place that has better smoked brisket than Smoking Jay’s in Omaha, but I’ll save that for an upcoming post on my favorite Omaha places!)

One thing that I found interesting is that after they pile this delicious smoked meat onto the bread they ask if you want all the “fixins” on it. You have the option of adding lettuce, diced tomatoes, pickles, sliced red onions, shredded Swiss cheese, or shredded cheddar cheese. In my opinion, if the meat is good, the only thing you might need is a little bit of sauce. I’ll never understand why anyone piles all of that on top of the meat and overpowers it. Why hide that smoked meaty goodness under lettuce and tomatoes?

Speaking of sauces, they do make all of their own. We tried three different sauces: Honey BBQ (mild), Espresso (their original sauce with just a little bit of heat) and the Southern Mustard. The Honey BBQ and Espresso bottles were out on the tables, and the Southern Mustard was a staff suggestion and served in a small ramekin. The three sauces were good. I tend to like a savory, spicier sauce so the Honey BBQ was too sweet for me.

Table Sauces
Southern Mustard Sauce

The sandwiches don’t come with any sides, so we added a side of the spicy potato wedges and the macaroni and cheese. The macaroni was really good, and it was a huge portion.

Mac and Cheese

The spicy potato wedges were pretty standard. We were both a bit disappointed that they didn’t have basic french fries on the menu. Potato wedges tend to get dried out, and the seasoning on them was a bit too spicy for me. We probably wouldn’t get them again.

Spicy New Potato Wedges

Overall, Q fanatic was better than expected. It doesn’t beat KC or Memphis BBQ, but it definitely satisfied our BBQ cravings. If you’re ever in Minneapolis and want some smoked meat, Q fanatic will hit the spot.

In honor of my blog’s namesake, the obligatory MTM photo. This pic represents me in Minneapolis – satisfied with the BBQ but dreaming of my KC, Omaha, and Memphis favorites.

Tavola Kitchen and Bar

We’ve only been Minneapolitans since August so we’re still discovering a lot about this area. (For example, I just had to Google “What do you call someone who lives in Minneapolis?” so I could write the first sentence of this blog.) Fortunately, since we moved here at the end of summer, one of our favorite restaurants happens to be one we can literally see from our apartment window. How lucky is that?

Tavola Italian Kitchen and Bar opened in late September 2018 and is situated inside the Elliot Park Hotel. Tavola is the Italian word for table, and the atmosphere of the restaurant, with its wood-fired oven right off the bar, has a welcoming and warm appeal.

We’ve enjoyed the cuisine at Tavola a few times since our initial visit in early October. Our friend, Emily, was visiting for the weekend, and this Italian restaurant was the perfect location for a belated birthday celebration.

We were seated at one of the booths near the bar, and we all ordered cocktails to sip on while we perused the menu. Their drink menu is unique, and we all chose a different drink.

Fancy Cocktails
  • Days of My Youth  (top center in photo)
    Lapsang Souchong-Infused Japanese Whiskey, Pineapple, Lime, Spiced Pear, Plum Syrup, Tiki Bitters
  • On a Whim and a Prayer (bottom left in photo)
    Galliano, Gin, Nocello, Honey, Lemon, Bitters
  • My Green Fedora (bottom right in photo)
    Bourbon, Lime, Grapefruit, Green Chartreuse, Bittercube Jamaican #2 Bitters

The cocktails were all perfectly crafted, but we didn’t realize how smoky the Days of My Youth drink would be when Emily ordered it. The whiskey in the drink is Lapsang Souchong- infused, and Lapsang Souchong is a black tea from the Fujian province of China, famous for its smoky aroma and flavor. (Thanks, again, Google!) Luckily, Scott didn’t mind the smokiness and was able to enjoy the cocktail, and Emily ordered a glass of wine.

Since there were three of us at dinner and it was our first visit, we decided to sample a lot of different menu items.

For the salad course, we ordered panzanella for the table, which was a mixture of cucumber, tomato, sweet onion, grilled avocado, fresh herbs, olive oil and red wine vinegar. It was refreshing and delicious.


For the pizza course, we ordered… wait, that’s not a thing? Well, it should be, so we invented it…

We were interested in their wood-fired pizzas so we decided to order the margarita pizza as a starter. Margarita pizza is one of my favorite pizzas, and this one did not disappoint. It’s a simple pizza with only four ingredients: tomato, basil, mozzarella, and black pepper. The crust was delicious, and the wood-fired flavor was perfection.

Margarita Pizza

For our entrees, we all selected something different. Emily chose the fettuccini carbonara (guanciale, peas, cream, farm fresh egg yolk).

Fettuccini Carbonara

I chose the pan-seared salmon filet (grilled and marinated artichoke, fresh lemon, extra virgin olive oil).

Pan-Seared Salmon

Scott chose Conosco i Miei Polli (Oven roasted half chicken, stuffed with ricotta and spinach, served with walnut pesto, tomatoes, roasted parsnips). Conosco i Miei Polli is Italian for “I know my chickens.”

Conosco i Miei Polli (I know my chickens)

We wanted to knock out a few more menu items so we ordered Brussels sprouts and french fries for the table. Tip to all the parents out there – my mom never forced me to eat any vegetables as a kid (shout out to Marilou!), so now as an adult, I eat all of them, and even willingly order them at restaurants! The fries were great – and if any restaurant, no matter the cuisine, has fries on the menu, Scott and I will order a side of them. The Brussels sprouts were fantastic…roasted Brussels Sprouts with black truffle and lemon. You can’t go wrong with that combination.

While we were enjoying our dinner, the chef came out and stopped by our table. We found everything to be top-notch so it was nice to be able to compliment him in person.

To finish off our dinner, for dessert, we had the tiramisu. We don’t eat Italian very often, but when we do, tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts. Their version was great.


Since our initial visit, we’ve been back to Tavola a few times. On Election Day, they offered a free cocktail for anyone who had voted and had their “I Voted” sticker. We had voted early, so we pulled up our photo from the previous Saturday that showed us wearing our “I Voted” stickers, and the bartender gave us each a complementary drink. (The bartender laughed when I showed him the photo – he believed that we had voted so he didn’t really need to see the photographic evidence. I’m a rule follower – can’t help it.)

We happened to be there during Happy Hour, which runs 4 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. in the bar area only. We took advantage of the HH specials and tried a new item. We ordered the tortelli alla lastra, which is a fire roasted ravioli with walnut pesto. There’s an option to add meatballs to this dish so we did add a meatball. The dish had excellent flavor and was pretty filling.

Because of our apartment’s close proximity to Tavola, we’ve also tried their takeout option. One Sunday night when we didn’t feel like making dinner, we called in an order for pizzas. I was boring and went with the margarita again (it’s so good!), but Scott tried the totino’s traditional pizza. The totino’s pizza had mushroom, aleppo, sausage, salumi, tomato sauce, fontina, and parmesan. Scott really enjoyed it – the sausage and aleppo were a little spicy for my taste.

Totino’s Traditional Pizza

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Tavola has quickly become one of our favorite places to eat in the Twin Cities. We are looking forward to trying more of their menu items.

This restaurant is a definite recommendation for anyone in the downtown Minneapolis area and deserves a dreamy gaze from MTM herself. (This is also what I look like when I think about the food at Tavola…especially that margarita pizza!)

New Year’s Eve 2018: Sanctuary – the restaurant

Over the past four months, we have had many food adventures in the Twin Cities, and I promise to write about those as I have time. However, to start off this blog, I wanted to write about the fantastic meal we had last night on New Year’s Eve. We’ve been wanting to try this downtown restaurant, Sanctuary, for a few months so NYE was the perfect reason to finally try it out.

To start off our meal, the server brought out a breadbasket with fresh bread, candied almonds, and an edamame hummus. I am not a huge fan of almonds, but the candied almonds were nice and crunchy and not too sweet. The edamame hummus was delicious.

Candied Almonds & Edamame Hummus with Fresh Bread

We also both ordered drinks off of their cocktail menu. Now that I am writing this blog, I’ll have to get better about remembering the drink details. We both enjoyed the cocktails, and even though they were a little pricey, they were definitely worth the money.

Delicious Cocktails

For a starter, we chose the lobster and steak bites. The dish came out quickly with a few slices of toasted bread on the side. The flavors were excellent.

Lobster & Steak Bites

For his entree, Scott chose the special, which was grilled mahi-mahi on a bed of crab, bacon, and red potato hash with a honey jalapeno glaze. Even though he grew up in Kansas, Scott will almost always choose scallops, swordfish, or tuna when dining out. This dish did not disappoint, as I managed to sneak a bite of it. The honey jalapeno glaze gave the dish the right amount of sweet and spicy, and you can’t go wrong with crab, bacon, and potato hash.

Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Crab, Bacon, and Potato Hash (with a jalapeno honey glaze)

I predictably chose the steak and potato entree. (You can take the girl out of Kansas, but you can’t take the Kansas out of the girl.) It was a grilled 10 ounce NY strip with cheddar mashed potatoes and a bacon jam. On a side note, another lasting effect of growing up in Kansas is having to overcome the thinking that every meal has to have a side dish made from some variation of potato. This dish actually had two versions of potato, as it also had a nice little surprise of fancy waffle potato chips as a garnish on top of the steak. I ordered it medium rare, and it was cooked perfectly.

10 Ounce Strip with Bacon Jam, Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and a Fancy Potato Chip Garnish

As a side dish to share, we chose the oven roasted asparagus and mushrooms with a red pepper aioli.

Roasted Asparagus & Mushrooms with Red Pepper Aioli

To cap off a great dinner, we took our server’s suggestion and had the mulled wine and tres leches for dessert.

The mulled wine was served warm and garnished with an orange slice with cloves. It tasted like the best version of a warm cider. After my first sip, I remarked that it brought to mind a childhood memory of drinking warm cider after picking out our Christmas tree at the local Christmas tree farm. Then I laughed out loud as that sounded like a made-up memory from a bad rom-com – but it’s actually true! Growing up we would trek out to the Christmas tree farm outside of town and walk the rows of trees trying to find the perfect tree…then once we found the tree, we would go inside and have warm cider by the fireplace. Ahhhh….Kansas! (For my non-Kansan readers, click on that link for a nice surprise!)

Mulled Wine

The tres leches was decadent. I actually remembered to take a photo of the menu description for this one. It was sweet and spongy with a mint garnish and blackberries on the side. Yum!

Tres Leches

Overall, this restaurant and meal was a great way to end 2018. With its close proximity to our apartment, we will definitely be back again. They normally offer a different 5 course tasting menu for $35 Monday – Thursday so we’re looking forward to returning and trying that out.

Two Thumbs Up!