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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Good Local Food at Milton's VVB in Crystal

We were celebrating the 4th anniversary of our first date, and wanted to try somewhere new for dinner. I had heard about a new place near our home in Crystal, and thought we should give it a try. I love supporting local, non-chain restaurants, and quite frankly we don't get the opportunity to do that in Crystal or the northern suburbs as often as I would like. 

I haven't done a food review for awhile, mainly because we haven't been anywhere new or noteworthy, but that changed on Tuesday evening. Milton's is in a very unassuming strip mall, just off 36th and Douglas in Crystal. Surrounded by dance studios and hair salons, you would never guess this quaint little spot was nestled in the middle. 

When we walked in, it as a bit confusing at first, but we rounded the corner and headed to the hostess/bartender/server and asked about a table. We were told it would be a 15-20 minute wait. Business looked like it was flowing, for 6:30 on a Tuesday. The restaurant was packed with families, couples and one large group. I always think if a restaurant is busy, that's a good sign, right ? 

We were offered a "high top" table, which was really two stools near the back, and given menus. The owner (I believe) or someone very knowledgeable about the beverage service, stopped by and discussed the craft beer selection. While not extensive, they do have a nice mix of local and national beers, and it sounds like he is working to increase the selection daily. That appealed to me right away. He even brought us over a sample of the Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA, which was a nice, solid selection for dinner. 

The menu at Milton's VVB (which stands for vino, vittles and beer) is not extensive. But. there was enought variety there for us to make a good dinner selection. We decided on a caprese salad to split as an appetizer. It was the perfect size for a starter, although it would have been good to note we were also getting a salad with our meal. It was lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar, and just a sprinkle of bacon on top of some field greens made it quite nice. So far, we were impressed. 

For dinner, we each decided on an entree, which comes with house salad, vegetable and a choice of side. I chose jerk chicken, with mac and cheese, while Ray chose the half rack of ribs and an apple salad. I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the portions, considering the cost was not extreme. First, the ribs: 

These are really nice ribs. They were smoky, with a nice spicy (but not overly so) rub. They served their barbeque sauce on the side, which I very much liked, because then we can choose the amount of sauce on each bite. The actual sauce was very unusual, more toward a Carolina style, with a good vinegar kick and a hint of sweetness. For my palate, anyway, it was perfect. 

The apple salad on the side was interesting, but nothing special. A mixture of cheese, apples and some herbs, it was good but not great. Which, at this point in the meal didn't matter to us, because the kale was amazing ! I am not a kale lover, so the fact that I even wanted to eat more of this is testimony to its greatness. Perfectly cooked, served with a lightly seasoned sauce, after trying it, Ray wished he had asked for extra kale as a side dish on his dinner, rather than the apple salad. 

I chose the jerk chicken, which appeared to be a quarter of a chicken, grilled and lightly seasoned with a jerk sauce. They also gave me extra sauce on the side, in case I wanted it spicier. I didn't think it needed anything extra, it was perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful. I also had the same amazing kale on my plate, and a side of their mac and cheese. I liked the mac and cheese, Ray thought it needed more cheese sauce....then again, he is used to eating mine, so the comparison isn't fair as I tend to "over-cheese". I thought the balance on this was nice, although it could use a little something to make it more unique, like bacon or jalapenos or something. 
And one stand out for me, was the homemade green goddess dressing on our salad. It was light, flavorful and perfectly seasoned. The fact that I didn't put salt and pepper on my salad (which I almost always do) shows how much I enjoyed it.

All in all, we were pleasantly suprised by our evening at Milton's VVB. We really, really wanted to try the desserts, but were just too full to do it. They have a bananas foster, and chocolate rum cake that both sounded excellent. And dinner for two came in just over $50, which is almost a record breaker for us ! 

I overheard the server telling another customer that they make 90% of the food from scratch, except for the fries and ranch dressing. Those seem like simple things to make from scratch, to add on to their already good, scratch meals. And to find something like this in Crystal, with its lack of interesting dining options, is a real discovery. So we will be back, the bananas foster is calling Ray...

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