by Lauryn Grimes

We all know going out to eat is a fun thing to do on a weekend night, but sometimes our budgets don’t allow us to do more than head to Applebee’s for half-price appetizers. Good news Northwestern, the Twin Cities has countless restaurants throughout that offer great happy hour food menus comparable to Applebee’s, but with a trendy, more sophisticated atmosphere accompanied by better food. CRAVE is one of these restaurants.

I have had many of my friends rant and rave about this downtown hotspot and I was finally ready to head downtown and give it a try. Immediately after walking in, I was impressed with the quality of service and the space. Dim lighting, modern seating design, sushi bar and a great view of Hennepin Avenue set this contemporary, second-story restaurant space.

After I was seated and the server took my order, other restaurant staff came to my table arranging various dishes and utensils to be used with my food. Soon after, my server returned with a hot steaming towel to cleanse my hands and the three dishes I ordered were immediately placed artistically on the table in front of me. I tried to order a few different things that would give me a good idea of the entirety of the menu, and I think I chose well.

I ended up with the edamame cream cheese wontons ($5), shoestring fries with Rosemary aioli ($4), and the classic California sushi roll ($6) – three different items off of the happy hour food menu and my entire order (tip included) cost less than $20, and let me tell you, three orders is way too much food for one person.

The edamame wontons are an interesting twist to the Chinese food staple. In place of the plain cream cheese, the chefs use edemame, in-shell soybeans, to create a cream-cheese paste and then deep-fry them like a traditional wonton. This dish is a bit spicier and adventurous, but paired with CRAVE’s signature sweet and sour sauce, the edemame wontons are tangy and irresistibly delicious.

Now, it’s hard to find a California roll that stands out. However, this is one of my favorite places for sushi.  The cali-roll does not have the riskiest of ingredients, but, nevertheless, it’s one of CRAVE’s most popular sushi items. Other popular rolls are the spicy salmon roll, the futomaki roll and the signature tempura bites. The shoestring fries were a simple American favorite, but instead of ketchup, this appetizer is served with aioli. This sauce is traditionally made with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, but CRAVE adds some Rosemary to the mix, making the french fry feel like a gourmet starter.

Whether you’re a foodie and like to try lots of new flavors or are just looking for some cool twists on your faves, be sure to head downtown sometime soon to experience CRAVE.

CRAVE has four locations in Minnesota including St. Louis Park, downtown Minneapolis, Mall of America and Edina. For more information about CRAVE including hours, menus and specials, visit www.craveamerica.com.

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