#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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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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AM25: Window Box Cafe

9AM -7/30/2022

https://www.windowboxcafe.com/

This morning I woke up unusually early for a Saturday and scrapped plans to do a post about ice cream spots (probably next week now) and instead headed down to Window Box Cafe after the gym for breakfast. This cute little cafe is located on Five Star Blvd, not too far from Costco. Although the open sign facing the street was on, when I pulled into the very empty parking lot I wondered if they really were open or not (looking at their posted hours now I see they run from 7:30a-2p every day). The doors were unlocked and I stepped into a quiet lobby, where I could see part of the dining room, empty, just beyond. Within 10 seconds a woman came around the corner, greeted me and grabbed a menu as she told me to pick any table. She would end up being not only my server and cashier but also the only worker I saw during my visit.

She offered coffee to get me started as I settled into my seat near the open patio entrance, which let in a nice cool breeze now and then. The menu is a pretty general breakfast menu, nothing too fancy aside from a handful of crepes and eggs Benedicts. The lunch side is equally standard with burgers, sandwiches and salads. I sipped my coffee while my eyes ping ponged around the menu trying to find the right item. With a packet of sugar and a little French vanilla creamer it was totally fine. I think It came hot but cooled off rapidly in it’s mug, likely due to my proximity to the open door.

I ended up deciding on the Corned Beef Hash & Eggs (2 eggs any style served over house made seasoned corned beef with country potatoes, bell peppers & onions)[$15]. Most of the items in this section of the menu come with a choice of hash browns, country potatoes or fruit. This dish effectively makes that choice for you, but you also get another selection of either toast or mini pancakes. That was an easy decision since I had considered ordering a short stack anyway.

My order took just about 10 minutes. By this time about a half dozen parties had arrived and the quiet atmosphere was replaced with the bustling kitchen and conversation that echoed around the room easily. The kitchen appeared to have a long window with some light folding shutters to block it off, but it let most of the noise through. I think it would get very noisy here when they are packed.

I had ordered my eggs over medium, which is always hit and miss nearly everywhere, and I think they did a great job on them which lifted my expectations a bit as I started buttering up my pancakes. The breeze made me work quickly through everything so I could enjoy it while it was hot. The pancakes were nice and fluffy. The maple syrup didn’t seem to be “the good stuff” but it was heated up which sort of made up for that a bit.

As for the main dish, I found myself pretty disappointed with it. While the potatoes, peppers, onions and eggs were all perfectly good, the main attraction of this dish really fell short. It was supremely dry, stringy and chewy. Nothing like that almost melt-in-your-mouth ultra tender corned beef, edges crisped up a bit on the griddle, most places serve up. The flavor was ok, just difficult to enjoy through the unpleasant texture.

Portion-wise this was just right, even with the mini pancakes. I ate every last bite and left satisfied without feeling like I needed a nap. The service was fast, efficient and polite. Ultimately though, I would rather brave the crowds at Four Sisters just a few blocks away, even if they might be slightly pricier. Which is a shame because I had heard good feedback about Window Box.

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