Neptune Eatery (Blaine, MN)

By Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier
Star Tribune North
August 9, 2006

You know as well as we do that being a restaurant critic is fun. But the very best part of the job isn't, as you might expect, free restaurant meals. What's really great is when we get to share the news about someplace that's truly special. And we have one for you this time.

Everybody pile in cars and go to Neptune Eatery. Though it's located in a nondescript strip mall and has counter service, don't let any of that keep you from what's going to be a great meal. It'll be delivered with a smile and cooked with heart. And it's all delicious.

Neptune Eatery has a wood-fired pizza oven, and they use fresh ingredients, good quality cheese, and a flavorful sauce. We particularly liked the simply elegant Margherita pizza, with tomatoes and basil, although the pepperoni and sausage pizza is also delicious.

The pastas are also made well. Whether it's traditional spaghetti and meatballs or a lighter agli olio, the pastas come out perfectly cooked. We also liked the chicken parmesan, served on a bed of spaghetti and sauce.

Another delicious entree was the shrimp and salmon spiedini. This is a skewer of jumbo shrimp, salmon pieces, tomatoes, peppers, and onion, roasted in the wood oven and served over basmati rice with a delicious Moroccan charmoula sauce. Basically a perfect dish. They also serve a chicken kebob dish: marinated chicken over the same rice, with a scallion-based sauce.

We also tried the gyro sandwich and the turkey hummus pita. There was nothing wrong with either, but if we went back we would stick to the other items.

On the appetizer menu, we liked the fried calamari and the Tuscan chicken wings. The bruschetta -- grilled bread topped with chopped tomato and basil -- is also delicious. We cared less for the hummus, which had too much olive oil and not enough garlic.

The salads are also fine: fresh ingredients and good dressings. We especially liked the Greek salad. You'll see a variety of deli salads in the refrigerated case at the counter. If there's something you like there, order a plate. If you don't know, ask for a taste.

There are plenty of sandwich options -- hot or cold -- made to order. They also serve pastas, pizzas and more traditional entrees.

Neptune Eatery has a small wine list, available either by the glass or by the bottle. We recommend any of the European wines; they go well with the food. And Monday night is half-priced bottle night.

The desserts aren't made at the restaurant, but they're not bad. We liked the creme brulee and the tiramisu. Both are large, so consider sharing.

The best dessert is the limoncello. This is a frozen dessert: lemon ice cream and lemon sorbet served in a parfait glass. It's absolutely perfect for a hot summer's day.

Neptune Eatery is a pretty restaurant. The lighting isn't that industrial fluorescent you see at so many strip-mall eateries. There's an open kitchen, so you can watch your food being made. And grab a copy of their banquet menu. They have a huge selection of prepared foods for takeout, for the next time you're hosting a dozen people for dinner and don't feel like cooking.

Neptune Eatery

Location: 2330 Cloud Drive, Blaine
Contact: 763-754-5628, www.neptuneeatery.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thu.; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Atmosphere: Pleasant.
Service: Friendly.
Sound level: Not too loud.
Recommended dishes: Shrimp and salmon spiedini, pizzas, Neptune's trident.
Prices: Sandwiches $7, pastas $8–$13, pizzas $9–$11, entrees $9- $12.
Children: Menu available.

earlier review: Al & Alma's Supper Club (Mound, MN)
later review: Piccolo's Pizzeria (Eagan, MN)
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