#285: Moksa Barrel House

4:15PM, 11/7/2022
https://moksabarrelhouse.com/

Poor planing strikes again! I first headed to Art’s Craft Beer Palace on Monday only to discover they were out of business (there wasn’t even any sign on the building anymore). I was already trying to beat the rain to be able to grab a drone picture but by this time it was too late, the rain had come. Thankfully I already had a drone shot of my backup location, taken during the soft opening a while back. I trekked up Foothills to the Blue Oaks intersection where the Moksa Barrel House is located (just across the street from McDonalds and behind the gas station).

Moksa Barrel House is a collaboration between Moksa Brewing (Rocklin) and Hawks Restaurant (Granite Bay). Although Hawks is considered a fairly upscale restaurant (I’ve not been, personally) they are bringing that higher-end kitchen experience here to serve up something more along the lines of your typical bar food – burgers, chicken sandwiches and ice cream. In addition they offer breakfast in the form of pastries and a breakfast croissant (served for the first hour of the day 10-11, which seems like a really short window to me). As far as beverages go obviously you have Moksa’s excellent beers to choose from but they also have wine available and many coffee choices, with beans provided by Mostra Coffee in San Diego.

The naming of this place is slightly confusing for me, though it’s not at bad as some places (I’m looking at you Kelli’s Cookies) The sign out front simply says “Barrel House” with “Moksa & Hawks” in smaller print below. If you go the website or any of their social media though, it’s called the “Moksa Barrel House” with little mention of Hawks. I propose they meet in the middle and call it the Hawksa Barrel House. Thanks, I’m here all week!

Anyway, when I first pulled up to the Barrel House, right around 4:15PM, I doubted they were actually open. There were just two cars in the parking lot and the windows have been tinted strongly enough that you can’t really see inside from the front. The tinting is a very welcome change from the soft open, where the sun was blazing in and very annoying. In fact they were open, as they are 7 days a week. When I popped inside it seemed like I might have been the only customer, or maybe the 2nd. The only table seated was partly or wholly comprised of Barrel House staff.

The space is big and very open, with high ceilings and big windows on two of the four walls. There’s a nice mix of low and high-top tables to choose from. The place can get pretty loud when it’s busy, as I experienced on my first visit. Some noise-dampening panels in the ceiling could help and would totally blend in to the unfinished look. Outside has a decent-sized patio for when the weather is nice. One wall is lined with barrels, each holding beer to be released in the future, labeled with some info about the barrel, when it was filled and with what kind of beer.

The menu has expanded quite a bit since my first couple visits for the soft and official openings back in August/September. One item I enjoyed quite a bit was the stout milkshake, which is vanilla and/or chocolate ice cream blended with one of Moksa’s delicious pastry stouts. At that time the stout was Pastry Mode (stout with vanilla beans, coconut and hazelnut coffee). At $14 for about a pint it’s a very pricey milkshake, but man it was good. I did not intend to get one tonight but I noticed that the stout featured for the shake had been changed to a recent release, Indulgence (German chocolate cake inspired stout with Mexican vanilla beans, coconut and cacao nibs), so of course I had to try it again. This time I went with all chocolate ice cream. What a chocolate bomb! I recall the Pastry Mode shake having a more obvious alcohol flavor to it. Both beers have the same ABV but in this one it was totally masked by the chocolate. I wonder if vanilla might have been a better choice here to let the chocolate from the beer stand alone. Either way, I enjoyed every last sip of this.

Although I had a bacon cheeseburger previously, and have been wanting to try their chicken sandwiches, I was drawn to the newest burger in the lineup, the Double Juicy (two quarter-pound patties, American cheese, caramelized onions and garlic aioli on a toasted potato bun)[$14]. This thing was messy. Right away I realized I had to put a little more effort than usual in how I was holding it because both patties, slick with melted cheese, slippery onions and a nice dollop of aiolli, wanted to slide right out of the bun. I lost a small amount of onions back into the tray it was served in with the first bite. I would say this was about the size of an In’n’Out double double. The beef patties were cooked nicely, with just a hint of pink left inside. Flavor-wise it’s very rich. Each of the 4 primary ingredients were able to shine through well. As good as this burger is, I might add some bacon or lettuce, something with a little crunch or texture really. That’s the only thing about this that I would change because it’s a very soft, uniform consistency from start to finish.

To finish off my order I wanted to grab a side. I hemmed and hawed looking through the options (fries, onion rings, chicken tenders, loaded chicken fries or fried Brussels sprouts) and ended up settling on the sprouts (topped with barrel-aged balsamic, Parmesan & basil)[$12]. Being the fried type, these were on the drier side and had a load of crispy, flaky leaves that had come off their sprout, which were a nice little treat to have in-between bites of the burger. These were good, but I think I’m burning out on Brussels sprouts in general. Be it fried, roasted or grilled, they are always sort of topped off with the same stuff no matter where you get them. The main difference seems to be how much olive oil there is on them once they hit the plate.

Food/beer/service-wise I think they are doing great here. Granted, I’ve been a long time Moksa customer and someone usually recognizes me so I’ve never really had a bad customer service experience with them. The food was prepped very quickly both times I have ordered it, the beer is obviously solid. The one thing I keep coming back to when I think of my few experiences here is that my wallet cries a bit when I get a full meal. Today’s total was $40 before tax/tip. That’s kinda rough for a burger, side and shake, in my opinion. Going forward I suspect I will continue going to the brewery location and only really visit the Barrel House for exclusive beer releases. I’ll probably come check out the shake now and then to see how it changes with the featured stout. At the very least, it’s nice to have another location to be able to order Moksa’s beers, especially on this side of town. One of these days I’ll have to check out Hawks proper for dinner.

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#284: Tang’s Sushi

6PM, 10/19/2022
https://www.tangsushi.com

On Wednesday for dinner I headed over to give Tang’s Sushi, located at Blue Oaks & Foothills, another try (they were closed for lunch on my first attempt). I arrived just before 6PM. The dining room was pretty busy, and there were even a few people siting in the waiting area (some for take out, some for tables). They have a patio and it was actually quite nice outside, but I opted to sit inside since the sun was setting soon (not that it helped my photos, I’m not super proud of these ones 😐 ). Anyway, there happened to be a 2-top table available and I was seated immediately. The sushi bar was not set up for customers at the time.

I skimmed the menu and picked out my order, then checked out the interior while I awaited my server. The last time I was in this building was in 2014 when I visited Sakura Sushi for this blog, and my sushi chef at the time was, in fact, Tang himself! I looked up the dining room photo from that post to see what, if any, changes had been made since then. I couldn’t really notice anything different – from the color of the walls, the light fixtures, tables and chairs, art work and the neat river rock feature, encased in a metal frame that runs around the dining area – it was identical. In fact, the only major difference (other than the name on the building) was that the trees out front have grown so much in the last 8 years that I had to pick a different angle to snap from. The dining room photo above is actually that one from Sakura, as I forgot to shoot one on my way in/out this visit.

I placed my order for the Blossom Balls appetizer (Spicy Crab Wrapped with Salmon and Tuna Sashimi)[$14.95], the Small Sashimi Combo (10 pieces of Assorted Sashimi {Chef’s Choice})[$23.95] and the Super Fresh roll ({Tempura Asparagus, Spicy Crab Salad} Avocado, Tuna, Tempura Jalapeno, Unagi Sauce, Spicy Mayo)[$14.95] at 6:03. I skimed the beverages but opted to stick with water, on account of the impending cost of this meal and also having just come from donating blood. Five minutes after ordering, the soup and salad (included with the sashimi combo) arrived along with wasabi/ginger. The miso soup was steaming hot and the salad crisp and cold. The salad had that typical sweet, creamy dressing in just the right portion for this little bowl. Once I had finished that and the soup had cooled off a little bit I downed it in a few big gulps. It was very warming and a touch salty. Pretty standard so far.

All three items arrived together about fifteen minutes later. The sashimi and roll were served on a wooden board, something like 14×10″. I only mention the size because it looked like others had the same sized board. At this little table with my gear it took up a fair amount of space. There was quite a bit of empty space on it given my order, however the presentation was nice, something most sushi places excel at. I tried a little bit of everything on the first round and ended up saving all three remaining blossom balls for the end. The roll was straightforward and had just a tiny bit of spiciness to it. I always love a tempura asparagus and seek them out in rolls. This one was good but I wished the tempura batter was a little fuller/crunchier. There was a sprinkling of what sort of looked like crushed pistachios on top and around the roll, which I picked up with bites using the sticky rice to do so. I’m not sure if they were pistachios or not but they did add a nice little extra crunchy texture.

Moving on to the sashimi, I received (left to right, top to bottom) Tuna (bluefin perhaps?), Katsuo or Shiro Maguro (this one is totally a guess), Hamachi (yellowtail) and Sake (salmon). The tuna was the only one that I was not particularly crazy about, and I usually like tuna. It seemed a bit more limp and lacking flavor than I’m used to. The salmon, which is generally my favorite, had good texture but was lacking that buttery flavor I love. I think it was slightly leaner than typical salmon. The yellowtail and the other one were both excellent. All were enjoyed with a little dip in soy sauce.

This brings me to the Blossom Balls. These were unreal. The spicy crab mix actually had a noticeable kick to it. In addition to the crab and sashimi it was doused with an oily-looking sauce that I think really made this a home run, although I couldn’t tell you what it was! These were just a hell of a treat packed with flavor and almost melted in your mouth. I think I could live off of these alone. I was initially mildly annoyed that these came with my main dish(es) instead of ahead but ultimately happy that I was able to save the last three bites to be these. Highlight of the evening for sure.

I love that Tang had been at Sakura previously and has made the spot his own. It was good before, and while tonight wasn’t perfection, it was a good visit and a satisfying dinner. I was very pleased at being seated with zero wait and with how quick everything came out. Add another to the ever-growing list of solid sushi joints in Roseville.

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AM27: Burger Dive (Roseville, MN)

2PM, 10/6/2022

https://www.burgerdivemn.com/

It’s Eating Through Roseville, Bizarro-Roseville Edition! On my trip to visit the folks in WI I had an opportunity to visit our sister Roseville in Minnesota, snuggled right in-between the Twin Cities. I vividly recall the first time I learned of this Roseville. It was around the year 2000 and at the time I was working as a cashier at the SportMart in Roseville Square. A customer wanted to buy a gift card to send to someone in MN and I was looking through a binder to see what SportMart locations might be close to them, and there it was, a location in Roseville, MN.

Roseville, MN is a small-ish suburb with a population of just under 40,000. Much like our Roseville it’s home to a nice mall, the Rosedale Center. I scoured google maps and yelp for a place to visit and landed on Burger Dive, which is located in the food court here (known as POTLUCK, apparently).

Here in POTLUCK, Burger Dive shares a space with a joint called the Smack Shack, which is a seafood place known for lobster rolls (I later saw one of these as a stand alone location in the MSP airport on my way home). They have a few locations in the area including this one.

In the Rosedale Center
Smack Shack in MSP

I found my way to the food court and discovered that this spot had a full bar. Looking at the other Burger Dive and Smack Shack locations, this appears to be more of a Smack Shack thing. The bartender noticed me taking photos right away and invited me over to have a seat once I was at the counter checking out the menu. I asked him if he had any recommendations, and after asking if I liked heat he enthusiastically pointed out the burger of the month – The Ghost Burger (Two Smashed Patties, Ghost Pepper Jack and Cheddar Cheese, Bacon, Sweet and Spicy Pepper Relish and Habanero-Lime Aioli)[$14]. I added fries [$5] and made them Cajun [no up-charge, and this is technically on the Smack Shack side of the menu] when he offered the option. This also comes with a bag of Dutch Crunch kettle chips, which I took with me to snack on later.

Since I was at the bar a beer seemed to be in order, so I ordered a Surly Furious IPA (6.7%)[$6.50]. This was a nice, very hoppy IPA, which was nice to bounce to and from the spicy burger with.

My order was ready in about eight minutes and came out on a metal tray. The Ghost Pepper Jack and (white) Cheddar cheeses caught my eye right away – big, thick slices that were nice and melty and oozing out the sides onto two crisp slices of bacon. Like most smash burger type patties, they were fairly greasy and had loads of nice crispy bits around the edges. Right away I was hit with the heat from the aioli and Ghost Jack cheese. It came on strong and stayed that way all the way through. By the end I was actually sweating a little bit, but it was great. It was nice to step out into the brisk, cool air on the way out after this. All the various ingredients from the seasoned beef to the sweetness of the relish all held up well against the wall of spiciness. It’s a tricky balancing act to get the heat that high but not overwhelm the rest of the ingredients, and they’ve got it down on this.

During my stay the bartender was fun and lively, talking with the half dozen or so people at the bar for lunch, and served up a shot to everyone followed by a cranberry chaser that mimicked a PB&J.

The fries were OK. Those that received a generous dusting of Cajun seasoning helped keep the heat on during my brief breaks from the burger. The rest were pretty plain and really could have used some salt and/or ketchup. I didn’t end up eating more than a third of these. They were nice and crisp though.

For picking this place out of dozens of unknown options, I think I did very well. This place makes a solid burger and the vibe sitting at the bar often had me forgetting I was in a mall food court until I turned around to see it behind me. Should you ever find yourself in this area craving a burger, I’d recommend it for sure.

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