#30: Carmelitas

Carmelita’s was high on my friend’s list of places to eat while he was visiting from Seattle.  He has mentioned on many occasions that they don’t have much, if any, great Mexican food up there, and he thinks Carmelita’s is one of the best.  The only time I had ever been here was with him, probably a good 3 or 4 years ago when he first tried to show me how excellent Carmelita’s was.  Fortunately, for this blog post, I have a terrible memory so it was like going for the first time again!

We arrived sometime after 8PM and most of the patrons were already winding down and were gone by the time we got our food.  I love having a restaurant to myself for photos :).  Seating is primarily booths, but they have a side room with tables.  I mention this only because I found the booth to be a tad bit claustrophobic due to the table being a little large for it.  As you can see the restaurant is nicely decorated.  I thought the jungle thing they have going on up in the ceiling was pretty cool.

Chips and salsa were served while we looked over the menus.  Chips and salsa always seems great because you’re hungry and it’s the first thing put in front of you, but this pair was GREAT.  The chips were hot, fresh, crunchy and had some weight to them.  They were quality chips.  The salsa was the type were you don’t feel like you’re eating a whole tomato.  It had a little more kick to it than your typical complimentary salsa, but also really solid flavor as well.  These are damn near a reason to go to Carmelita’s on their own.

I think it’s possible I had a chimichanga on my first visit, but I really don’t know for sure.  If so, however, it would probably be the only one I’ve ever had (unless those fried things, with what seems to be meat in them, from the roach coach count).

My friend, Pete, was ordering one for himself.  Not being able to recall what a chimichanga was, I asked.  The idea of basically a deep fried burrito was all he needed to sell.  They are available in chicken, pork or beef on the menu.  Pete suggested I go with the carnitas.  I love me some carnitas, but I thought for the sake of trying something new I might just do the pork.  When ordering, the server (maybe the manager, based on his behavior) also highly recommended the carnitas.  Clearly outnumbered, I surrendered to my sow-roasted, delicious destiny.  I also ordered one of their little tacos on the side just to have a little variety, and went with carne asada.

Not long after demolishing our basket of chips, and a new one being delivered, our food arrived.  In addition to the chimichanga, Pete also ordered a fish taco, which looked pretty good.  His girlfriend, Meg, ordered the Huevos Rancheros (two large fried eggs topped with green chile ranchera sauce).  I didn’t know what it was at the time, and was too preoccupied with my own food to ask, but I thought they looked suspiciously like eggs.  Apparently I was correct.

I had asked how big the chimichanga would be before I ordered it and Meg described it’s footprint as about the size of a Hershey bar.  Although we were clear that this description was only valid in 2 dimensions, I must have let it go to my head a bit, because I was kind of shocked when it arrived.  I sliced into it and a ton of piping hot carnitas spilled out.  The “shell” was nice and crispy as I expected.  This was tasty, filling and HUGE.  I definitely didn’t need the taco.  The beans and rice were just OK.  It’s been less than a week and I really can’t remember a thing about them, so there you go.

The carne asada taco was disapointing.  The steak was dry and mostly flavorless.  It’s possible I was spoiled by all the ridiculously amazing tacos I had on my recent trip to Austin, but I’m going to go ahead and say it wasn’t very good.

Overall this was a pretty good visit.  The chips and salsa were a big hit, and the chimichangas were so good that I ate Pete’s leftovers in addition to mine because I thought he had forgotten about them in my refrigerator (he totally called me on it the next day).  The service was quite good.  The manager seemed very pleased to hear that Pete made it a point to come eat there while in town and they spoke breifly about the state of Mexican cuisine in the northwest.  Despite our late arrival, and the open sign being exstinguished before getting our food, we never felt rushed.  I give Carmelita’s a solid 4 of 5.

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#29: Sushi House

After my visit to Sushi Unlimited I decided I was going to start trying something other than rolls when I go out for sushi. I did some reading online, asked for suggestions in Reddit’s sushi community, r/sushi, and started reading The Connoisseurs Guide to Sushi. It seemed like the things to try were sashimi and nigiri and I was given recommendations on specific kinds of fish to start with. Last week I had a later than usual drive down sunrise during the middle of rush hour traffic. By the time I got back into Roseville I was pretty hungry and pulled into the Sushi House parking lot. They are located on Sunrise in the same little shopping center as the Glass Turtle, across from Bob’s Car Wash.

Inside this smallish restaurant they have high-backed booths around the outside, tables in the center and the sushi bar at the back. There were a few tables seated when I walked in but no one at the bar so I took a seat there. I picked up the 2 sided menu they had sitting at the bar and was just starting to go over it when the waitress came and took my drink order of a draught Kirin. I took my time looking over the menu and before I had made any selections my Kirin and a bowl of miso soup was delivered.

There were two sushi chefs working the bar this night, one that looked about my age and an older one. The older chef asked what I would like and I went with a single order of hamachi (yellowtail) nigiri. This was prepared fairly quickly while I drank my soup and then handed to me over the bar by the chef. One of the things I read about how to eat various types of sushi was that only the fish should be dipped in soy sauce, not the rice. I didn’t know if that meant I was supposed to remove the fish from the top, dip, and then put it back, or to flip the whole piece upside-down and dip it. I removed the fish, but I’ve since learned that this is not the correct way to do it.

The hamachi was good. Very light and subtle white fish flavor. Next up I decided to go with salmon. One of the recommendations I received was to try fatty salmon, or sake toro, if it was available. I did see toro on the menu but they had it described as a type of tuna. First I asked if sake was pronounced the same as the rice wine drink of the same name, which the younger chef confirmed was correct. Then I asked if they had sake toro. He repeated this to the other chef who responded in Japanese (Korean?), they both chuckled and then the younger chef said “no”. I’m not sure what was funny to them, my question, pronunciation, or something completely unrelated. It didn’t feel very friendly though. I asked for just regular sake nigiri.

I’m not sure why, but I can’t stand cooked salmon. It’s one of the few things I avoid. I don’t like the smell, texture or flavor. But raw salmon? I’m all over it. This was excellent. I brushed the lemon slice over one of the pieces and it was very pleasant. Last up for my nigiri orders I asked for one that, again, they did not have. I asked if he could recommend another choice and he suggested shiro maguro (albacore tuna or white tuna). As the chef prepared this I saw him squirt a soy sauce-looking liquid on the fish before setting it atop the rice. These two pieces had just a hint of tuna flavor. A minute or two after finishing them I could feel a light burning on my lips, so either the sauce he put had something more to it or there was a good amount of wasabi hidden between the rice and albacore. Either way, it was good.

To end the meal I ordered none other than the Roseville Roll. Shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber and unagi. The shrimp tempura was reheated in a toaster oven that was on the counter to the left. That was pretty disappointing to see. It’s entirely possible that this is normal practice at all sushi restaurants, but I’ve never seen it done right there in plain view before. The end pieces had some crunch to them but the shrimp in the middle of the roll was more soggy. The flavor overall was great though, and I might order it again if I were to return.

Food-wise, Sushi House is pretty good, there wasn’t really any problem, everything was fresh and tasty. The waitress was nice and attentive in clearing empty plates and offering more beer. I was kind of put off by my interaction with the chefs though. They seemed a little annoyed by my questions and I felt like the thing they laughed at was probably me. I might have that totally wrong but it’s the impression I was left with and that alone will likely have me going to one of Roseville’s many other sushi restaurants before returning to this one.  With that I would say a 3 of 5 is what I feel Sushi House deserves.

#28: Waffle Barn

Time for breakfast again!  I said previously that I rarely go out for breakfast and that when I do it’s usually with company from out of town.  Well, it’s that time of year and good friends were visiting so we met up at The Barn.  There are many breakfast places I have not yet eaten at but I know that Waffle Barn will be at the top of the list, if not very close, once I do.

We arrived fairly late, ok, so noon, but I’m still calling it breakfast ;).  There were 7 of us and I was told the wait would be about 20 minutes.  This is actually a pretty normal wait time, regardless of party size.  I don’t think I’ve ever just walked in and immediately been sat.  There isn’t much room to wait inside.  Some people can sit on a small bench or two, most people stand against the windows or just wait outside.  Out front there are two fenced off areas to the left and right of the front door with built-in metal tables and chairs.  Worst.  Chairs.  Ever.  I don’t know what the designer was thinking unless it was “I hope no one ever sits at my tables” in which case, good work sir.

Once inside we were seated at a couple tables pushed together and drinks were ordered.  You kind of feel like you’re in some old country home with all the random little things they have decorating the joint.  Our Patrick Marleau look-alike server, Sean, showed up and started taking orders and was awesome about handling several split checks (we told him we could take care of it up front later if it was a hassle but he seemed happy to do it right there and then).

The menu is huge, and I regret not taking photos of it since there doesn’t seem to be one online anywhere.  Perhaps I’ll go back this weekend and do that, for the sake of the internet.  It doesn’t seem to have changed much, if at all, over the years I’ve been going.  You’ve got your standard various combos of eggs, waffles, sausage/bacon and hashbrowns.  Then you have a huge list of specialty waffles with fruit and other sweet toppings.  Of course there are plenty of Omelets too.  One thing which I see ordered from time to time are their “Barn Sized Skillets”, MASSIVE piles of potatoes, meat, cheese, eggs and veggies on a hot skillet.  I was barely able to snap this shot past the busy servers into the kitchen window where one was waiting to be taken to a table.  They do have lunch items, but to be honest I’ve never even looked at them.

There’s not a lot to say here, the service was stellar, huge props to Sean for managing our large table well.  Everyone was very pleased.  There was one time when we noticed he looked a bit busy so we flagged down a roaming server for a couple refills.  They seem to have one or two of these servers that take care of the entire restaurant, assisting servers and handling refills when possible.

So without further delay, on with the food (there’s a lot)!

Best Wafle in town (so far)

Bacon, Eggs Over Medium & Hashbrowns
Bacon & Eggs Over Easy
Biscuits & Gravy (which Sean added some to because he decided 2 weren’t enough)
Butter action shot
Syrup’d and cutting
Bacon & Scrambled Eggs
Ranch Hand Omelet
Sausage, Eggs Over Medium & Hashbrowns
Pumpkin Waffle with Cinnamon Butter
Sausage & Eggs Over Medium
Caramel Apple Waffle
Mushroom & Cheese Omelet with Hashbrowns

For the most part, very positive comments all around for the food.  The only complaint I remember was from the other end of the table about the sausage not being that great.  We had one passed down and a few of us tried it out.  I think the flavor was fine, but it wasn’t particularly hot, and the constancy was a little odd, kind of like beans, I don’t know.  It was just a little off though.  Other than that, it was a great breakfast with awesome service.  Ask for Sean next time.

Despite the sausage issue I feel compelled to give this place 5 out of 5 for everything else.  I almost didn’t even remember the little complaint as I was getting ready to sit down and write this.

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

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