#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.

yelp_logo

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.

yelp_logo

#283: Mochinut

2PM, 9/18/2022

https://www.mochinut.com/

I set out yesterday for sushi at Tang’s at Foothills & Blue Oaks, only to find they are only open for dinner on Saturdays. For a quick backup plan I switched to Mochinut, located near Top Golf on Washington. Mochinut is a Korean donut / corn dog chain (an odd combo, but ok). I’ve been excited to try the dogs here since I heard they were coming to Roseville, however I had to wait a while as they were only doing donuts (or the dogs were very limited) for a while after opening.

I pulled up and snapped some photos before heading in at about 2PM. Inside it’s a very simple, very pink space. The counter shows off one of each donut flavor and ordering is mostly a self serve situation, very similar to Local Kitchens. However, if you want to pay cash you can ring a bell and someone will come ring you up. Interesting to note that they charge 4% on all non-cash transactions. A couple of benches offer a place to sit while you wait for your order to be called out. I only ever saw any staff when they were bringing out an order. Other than that it very much felt like an unattended lobby.

The website shows a sizable selection of interesting donut flavors. Today there were 7 options available (plain, original glazed, milk n’ cookies, funnel cake, maple pecan, passion fruit, and churro).

The corn dogs have six variations to choose from (original, potato, cheddar cheese, crispy ramen, hot Cheetos and crunch cereal). Most of these are essentially a coating over the crispy battered original. The cheddar cheese appears to put a layer of cheese between the hot dog and the batter. On top of this, you can get this with a hot dog or mozzarella cheese, or even a half and half.

I wanted to try a little bit of everything, but that was going to quickly add up. I settled on a 3-pack of donuts (Milk N’ Cookies, Maple Pecan, Original Glaze)[$10.35] and two half & half corn dogs (Original [$5.95] and Hot Cheetos [$7.54]). They do also offer some milk-based drinks (milk tea, Thai tea, use, matcha, etc) but I didn’t order anything from this part of the menu today. According to the website some locations also have some soft serve options, however I don’t recall seeing that here. My order came out in twelve minutes and I headed off deep into a nearby business park to find a quiet spot to eat.

I started off with the corn dogs. First thing was that I was expecting the mozzarella and hot dog pieces to be separate (so basically 4 sticks with half the stick used). Instead I had what appeared to be two full sized dogs each on a stick. Diving right in I discovered that the mozzarella was at the top of this, followed by half a hot dog further down the stick. The original had a really fantastic crunchy texture. The batter was more bread-y than a corndog type of batter. I just read on their website that the batter is a rice-flour batter, rather than a traditional American corn dog batter. The mozzarella was super soft and much like a mozzarella stick it stretched way out with each bite. I should take this moment to note that there were a bunch of sauces available to order but I completely spaced on those. I think they would enhance the mozzarella half of this quite a bit. The hot dog portion was fantastic. They use a good quality beef dog that reminded me of the good ones you get at a ball game (or even Costco’s cafe lol).

Moving on to the Hot Cheetos one, as I picked this up I wondered how the Cheetos dust was sticking on it so well. It become clear as soon as I looked at it closely. There was a layer of something, mayo I think, used to stick the bright red coating on it. This was a much, much messier dog to eat. Thankfully I was standing in a parking lot, so I left the local birds some spicy treats. Actually, beyond the initial few bites as they hit my tongue, this wasn’t that hot. That layer of mayo, or whatever it was, really carried a lot of weight in the flavor of this whole thing and drowned out the hot Cheetos almost entirely. When I got to the flavorful hot dog in the last half the dust was nearly undetectable. This was a really interesting and tasty item, though I think I preferred the original a bit more just for it’s simplicity. I fully intend to come back and try all the other options in due time.

For dessert I cracked open the donut box. All of a sudden I wasn’t sure if I needed to reevaluate my donut categories. Does this fit into my long standing slots – Standard, Krispy Kreme or Fancy? Ultimately, I think I can safely group these with Krispy Kreme. The dough is similar, yet a bit chewier than KK’s original glazed donut, . I found the original glaze and the milk n’ cookies to be very close. Milk n’ cookies had a bit more longer lasting, extremely sweet flavor. Other than the bits of cookies stuck to it (which tasted similar to Chips Ahoy), it seemed not that much different than the glazed. The maple pecan had a good maple flavor, just like every other maple donut I’ve had. The pecans were a nice little touch though, I only wish there had been more on it. As with the milk n’ cookies donut, the crunchy toppings on these two donuts were seriously lacking. The display donuts on the counter had toppings on 50-100% of these two flavors . Mine had more like 25-50% coverage.

While the donuts were good, I find myself thinking about the corn dogs so much more. That’s what I’ll be returning for. The donuts didn’t really stand out apart from all the other donut options we have around, aside from the slightly chewy property of their dough.

yelp_logo