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May 27, 2006 05:03 AM

Searching for Special places in the Twin Cities area...

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I want to buy my parents a gift certificate to an area restaurant for their Birthdays. I no longer live in the area so sadly I no longer know the spots. I was looking for someplace fun, but a little special and romantic. Someplace they wouldn’t ordinarily go. Originally I was searching for someplace with outside seating but sort of dropped that since I wasn’t able to find much.

I looked into Cesare's Wine Bar in Stillwater but have read mixed reviews. I was thinking maybe they could make a fun afternoon/evening out of exploring and relaxing antiquing whatever, but they are pretty busy these days.

I need some more options closer in. I am a long ways away, my dial up is slow and the searching is tedious so any suggestions?

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  1. A couple of quick thoughts, not having a clue about what your parents like ordinarily. Menus can be accessed from both of these places. Being on dialup myself, I feel your pain.

    Romantic and outdoors. W.A. Frost, Western and Selby, Saint Paul.
    One of the prettiest patios in the cities. Dining room is quite lovely, too. Eats aren't bad, though they are awfully proud of themselves.

    Special, outdoors, and a wee bit quirky, Signature Cafe, Prospect Park, Minneapolis.
    They have a tiny patio, but the only thing that it has going for it is that the location is smack in a residential neighborhood, so it is a fairly quiet patio. But it is little more than a fenced area with tables. Go there for the eats, get a pleasant dining experience and delightful service as a bonus. Beer and Wine only.

    you'll probably get plenty of responses, but more info about your parents' tastes would help the repondees give you better info.

    Bon appetit and happy birthday(s)!

    1 Reply
    1. re: ajs

      i live a mere 150 feet from the signature, and think it's great; Garrison Keillor was on the patio the first time i went there for lunch; go figure!

    2. I, too, feel your pain of a very slow dialup connection. I combine surfing with doing dishes - I start loading a page and go wash a few plates, come back and click a link, wash a few pots, and so on. At least the dishes get done!

      Although it's a really slow-loading site, is a good resource, because you can search on "outdoor dining" or "romantic dining."

      The link below is their "Best Outdoor Dining" list. From this list, I think W.A.Frost is a good bet - very romantic, good food, but stuffy. And it's been around for decades, so your parents might have been here.

      Joe's Garage sounds fun (I've never been) because the outdoor dining is on the roof. And it's on Loring Park, within walking distance of the Walker Art Center and Sculpture Garden - great for before-and-after-dinner strolling.

      Another rooftop-dining place is Solera (a hip Spanish restaurant). Fabulous food. I think there's a DJ on the roof (and lots of smoking, as is the case with most outdoor dining these days). Warning: their web site is annoying and slow. I ran out of patience before it loaded, but I think it's

      Another romantic place, maybe with outdoor dining, is the Nicollet Island Inn. Not sure about the food, though - my only experience is with a mediocre brunch years ago. But the location is great - an island in the Mississippi river, between downtown and Riverplace (S.E. Minneapolis).



      3 Replies
      1. re: AnneInMpls

        Joe's Garage is fun, but for hipsters and twenty- thirty- somethings (not necessarly parents). And the roof doesn't really offer much of a view of the park.

        Just around the corner, and slightly better overall, is Bar Lurcat, with a great view of Loring Park from their patio.

        Nicollet Island Inn does not have outdoor dining, but just across the river is Sofia and Vic's, both right on Main Street (St. Anthony) with patios facing the river. Sofia has live jazz most nights.

        1. re: Loren3

          Good ideas!

          And I found a list with some more outdoor dining options at the Pioneer Press - link below. (Scroll down for the "Romantic" and "Trendy" options.)



          1. re: AnneInMpls

            Wow, what a great list! Thank you so much for posting it!

      2. I recently ate at Mufaletta's in St. Anthony Park which is a small, cute suburb of St. Paul. Great outdoor deck for al fresco dining and the food was really good. It's been around a long time so it might have been here when you lived here.

        1 Reply
        1. re: alison

          Muffaletta is a great place. For clarity's cake, however, I must note that St. Anthony Park is a neighborhood IN St. Paul (not a suburb as previously posted).

        2. Joe's Garage has only location going for it. The food is mediocre and the service is AWFUL. Lurcat has excellent food and terrific service... and a delightful back patio.

          1. Not particularly romantic but a great view and a fun place is the rooftop seating at Stella's Fish Cafe in Midtown Minneapolis. The peel and eat shrimp are great, lots of fresh oysters and all of the fish is good. Good service to boot.


            7 Replies
            1. re: MN Hick Chowhound

              I'd steer clear of Stella's. I've heard from several friends that the food isn't great; worse yet, they've been having significant problems with their credit card processing, often charging diners multiple times to the tune of hundreds of dollars. Here's a link to the Star Tribune's story about it:

              1. re: mcgeary

                While I'm no fan of Stella's, I think it's not exactly fair to blame them for something that one of their contractors (the credit card processor) did. I don't think Stella's had any control over the multiple charges.

                1. re: bob s

                  The issue for me was that Stella's wasn't responsive to the affected customers, and has not gone out of its way to make amends. They handled it badly, from what I've read/heard, and that makes me less inclined to give them my business.

                  1. re: mcgeary

                    Fair enough. I live nearby and have been there a couple of times, but have not been impressed by the food. Therefore I'm not especially inclined to go there either.

                2. re: mcgeary

                  As someone who has been to Stella's several times, I don't agree.

                  The food has been consistently good. (We have stayed toward the more casual side of the menu ... po 'boys, lobster rolls, raw bar.) It's no Oceanaire, but it's a good value for the price.

                  1. re: Jordan

                    Is Stella's really that much better than say... Sea Salt?

                    That said, I wouldn't put Sea Salt in the "someplace special" category, but if I wanted to eat casual seafood outside, I think I'd pick Sea Salt long before Stella's.

                3. re: MN Hick Chowhound

                  I stick to my original Stella's comments. I've been there a dozen or more times in the past year and have enjoyed excellent, intelligent servers and service along with very good food - yes we too stick pretty much to the beach seafood (steamed shrimp, oysters on the half shell, Po Boys, etc. Yes, I was one of the customers triple charged by their vendor and despite the major non-news story, they credited my account quickly and are offering all affected customers a $25 credit on their next vist (I plan to go tomorrow in fact). No it's not the Ritz but decent Seafood (excluding Walleye - not technically seafood) in this town is hard to find (yes, also excluding the astronomincally priced Oceanaire and worth every penny).

                  I also like the funky Joe's Garage. The mashed potatos with grilled chicken and sage gravy was very good along with a nice microbrew named Furious from the Surly Brwing Co.

                  With all that said, I wish you good fortune on finding your parents a fun place.