date night idea | grub crawl

As you may have read from my previous life update, I recently moved  to Rochester, MN. I love it here. I grew up here. I have made many memories here and am sure to make many more in the next few years. The most important people in my life live here.

There’s just one thing.

I’m a busy body. I’m familiar with the romantic whim of a large city. As a young, twenty-something, it’s important for me to be able to, at the drop of a dime, check out one of at least seven restaurants I’ve been dying to try, go see a concert or new art exhibit, head to Lake Michigan for a run, or roam one of my favorite vintage spots. Rochester on the other hand loves it’s big box stores and chain everything. I miss the spontaneity of a more local, original, lively scene.

In efforts to crave this hankering, I got creative and designed a “Grub Crawl” for Mr. A and I. An obvious spin off of the ever popular Pub Crawl. If you’re not familiar, the point of a Pub Crawl is to visit and partake in beverages at many different taverns. Similarly, I picked three different restaurants in the area for us to “crawl” to and get our “grub” on. It makes for a fun way to try several different venues and types of food in one night. To make it more than just going out for dinner, I kept where we were going a surprise and made a pseudo scratch card out of card stock and washi tape for Mr. A to reveal before each “course”:

Grub Crawl Rochester MN

Read more for how our date night grub crawl went and tips for planning one yourself!

Our first stop was for charcuterie & cheese boards and drinks at ZZest. It was my first time to the specialty market and cafe and my hopes were high. Real estate wise, their focus is the market; one must remember that. The cafe is small, has limited seating, and from any seat in the house, the view is the same: large floor to ceiling windows on one side looking onto a parking lot, bar and open kitchen concept on the other. Still quite comfy though. After we were seated at the bar, we ordered drinks (I a sparkling water and Mr. A a Bad Weather brew: Ominous). To my delight, truffle popcorn accompanied drinks as well as another perk of bar seating, appetizer samples crafted by the chefs doin’ their thang mere inches from you. Ours was a ham pate and pickle skewer drizzled with a stone-ground honey mustard. Their menu offerings are modest, yet just my style. Offering plenty of micro brews, hand-made cocktails, french press coffee, cheese and charcuterie, and specialty-crafted, seasonal entrees.

Cheese Course ZZest

The only thing I was disappointed were the portion sizes. Mr. A and I got a $17, three-piece board with two kinds of meat (mochetta and mild coppa), one cheese (flory’s truckle), and the noted accompaniments that come will all boards. What arrived was fantastic, but small. About 5 THIN slices of each charcuterie, 8 baguette slices, a hunk of cheese about the size of a deck of cards, some peach preserves, two black berries, and 5 or 6 scattered specialty almonds. I knew it would just be a tasting of the specialty cheese and meat, but for $17, I was envisioning a scoop of mousse or a small vegetable crudite or at least a few crackers for a crunch element.

Keeping with more of a trendy theme, next, we headed for the main course at a spot in town called, The Loop. Their menu is diverse, offering a little of this, a little of that for any food mood you’re in, while still having a few specialties that set it apart.

Grub Crawl The Loop Rochester MN

(top picture originally appearing in the Post Bulletin)

At this point, I was starving so opted for the “Loop Burger.” A juicy patty layered with the normal fixings (tomato, lettuce, pickle) and then piled with cheese and their specialty pesto. Served with a side of parmesan crusted fries, it was exactly what I was hungry for. Mr. A had the Bacon Wrapped Shrimp which was shrimp, wrapped in bacon (duh) covered in a Bourbon BBQ sauce, served on top of white cheddar jalapeno polenta cakes and sweet corn puree with a side of fried kale. If you’re a fan of bacon wrapped food, you’ll love this entree. I thought the BBQ sauce was a little overwhelming and combined with the bacon, you completely forgot you were also eating shrimp, but with the polenta cakes a sweet corn puree, the combo is one to try.

Lastly, our stop for dessert was for a holiday-special making its way as a fan favorite every March. Yes, you guessed it, a Shamrock Shake from the Golden Arches. We hadn’t had one yet this year, and a little vanilla mint ice cream perfectly blended was the best way to end our date night.

Shamrock Shake

Suggestions for a Successful Grub Crawl:

  • Try to pick places along a theme or ones that compliment each other. Look at online menus for what each spot offers and plan ahead. Unless you’re going for a same type of food theme approach (ie Mexican), try not to go to restaurants that offer the same type of food (ex. anApplebees and aTGI Fridays). Some other neat combos I thought of were:
    • 1. Soup and salad, 2. Gyros, and 3. The best chocolate croissant you’ve ever had.
    • 1. Drinks and Sliders, 2. Personal woodfire pizzas, and 3. PIE for dessert
    • 1. Tapas restaurant, 2. An Italian spot, 3. Coffee and Cheesecake
  • Are there several restaurants you’ve been dying to try? Grub Crawls are great for trying several new places all in one night. Go tapas style and try splitting entrees at each spot if you’d rather try their specialties than waste stomach room on nachos.
  • Don’t count out places that aren’t your traditional sit-down style venues. Bakeries make excellent choices for dessert!
  • Make reservations at the middle spot(s). If you make the reservation at your middle spot for the time you would normally eat, your first and last stop(s) will be before and after the rush and chances are, you won’t have to wait at all or long for a table. Just ensure you give yourself plenty of time to make your reservations.
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