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Dinner in St. Paul for a group - help!

Help! I'm responsible for planning a laid back bachelorette party in St. Paul in August, and I live in NY. It's hard to get a real sense of a place via the internet - chow hound to the rescue.
I'd like to find a restaurant that is inexpensive, yet hip and interesting. It's not your typical bachelorette party bunch, so nothing too girly or chichi. A good cocktail menu is also a plus. It will probably be a group of 10, so somewhere that takes reservations would be ideal. Any suggestions would be much appreciated - I'm open to absolutely anything!

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  1. First and most important question: does it have to be St. Paul? The first places I thought of were in Minneapolis, though I am probably spacing on some good St. Paul options. In any case, if you can get over to Minneapolis, there is Solera, Sample Room and Loring Pasta Bar. Solera is a tapas place that I have never been to but which everyone loves. Sample Room offers sample plates and flights of wines and scotches. Loring is a hip place near the U.

    4 Replies
    1. re: AliceS

      Even though you said nothing girlie or chichi, I think that Mel's Beauty Bar would be a great place for after dinner drinks and fun. You can get pedicures and manicures if you want to while you sit your drinks, a great place for a group of fun loving gals. It's in the Warehouse District in downtown Minneapolis

        1. re: cooknKate

          I think that Mell's is closed - at least according to this MNSpeak post:

          http://www.mnspeak.com/mnspeak/archiv...

          1. re: bob s

            Rats! I've actually heard lots of good things about that place.

      1. Hey thanks!! I'll check those out.
        St. Paul is definitely more convenient, but I understand Minneapolis has more options.

        1. could you provide a little more info? it would help me zone in on what you're looking for...

          will this be the only place you'll be (are you looking for a place to spend many hours, or will you be dining and moving on to another location)?

          what does "inexpensive" mean to you?

          1 Reply
          1. re: diesel

            In response to Diesel's post:
            We're planning on having dinner/drinks then moving onto a bar afterwards for the rest of the evening. Ideally I'd like to walk, or take a short cab ride, from dinner to a bar where we could hang out at until late.
            As far as being 'inexpensive', I was hoping to find somewhere where dinner and drinks were $30-40 per person. Less would be welcome, but not at the expense of ambiance and a good meal.

          2. Alice is spot on, that this is a tall order for St. Paul. Minneapolis would be easier.

            I was thinking W.A. Frost on Selby could be nice, but it wouldn't be inexpensive.

            Maybe Mai Village on University Avenue in St. Paul? They can certainly accommodate groups and I'm sure they take reservations. The neighborhood is not that pretty, but once you're in the door, the atmosphere's nice (they have an indoor koi pond, which is kind of neat), and it's affordable. The food's pretty good, too. It won't blow you away, but it's certainly above average, I think. (You can do a search on "Mai Village" on the Midwest board here and get a pretty good sense of where Chowhounds would place the food.) I've always wanted to try the seven course beef menu... I can't speak for the cocktails, either, as I've only ordered wine there, I think.

            Here's a review (oldish) from Dara Moscowitz, who's a critic from the free weekly and a two-time winner of the James Beard award for food writing.

            http://www.citypages.com/databank/25/...

            She says they have a full bar...

            ~TDQ

            4 Replies
            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Another place that occurs to me that has a full bar and would be affordable would be Longfellow Grill. It's also a fun place, I think, with a fair amount of innovation on the menu for what it is; some hits, some misses.

              http://www.longfellowgrill.com/index.htm

              I don't know if they take reservations, but you'd need them for a group as large as ten, because it's a neighborhood favorite and gets pretty packed. I wouldn't say it's the best place for a group, but I've seen groups that big there.

              It's in Minneapolis, but just across the river from St. Paul (the river is usually the boundary that divides the two cities), so, it might be within bounds for you. August will probably be scorching hot, otherwise, you could dine on the patio.

              I have to say "hip" doesn't really describe St. Paul as a general rule. No slight to St. Paul--I love it-- but, I think "comfortable" describes it better. Maybe that's where we're struggling.

              Of these two I've recommended, I think Mai Village would better--it's just more able to handle groups--but, I'm just trying to come up with options for you.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Two reactions to Longfellow Grill:
                1. Aside from their small patio, most of the indoor seating is in booths. They may be hard-pressed to promptly seat a party of 10 together without a reservation.
                2. I eat there when I want a burger or a breakfast at the bar, but beyond that I wouldn't really rave about their food. Like you said, some hits & some misses.

                1. re: KTFoley

                  Yep, I agree with all your points, although, on the topic of the food, I think it offers good vegetarian options alongside non-vegetarian options (although, that was not a criterion!)--sometimes it's hard to find a place that does both comfortably. Also, I can't help it, but I'm addicted to their sweet potato fries. :) Also, while I do think they are a good place for a burger or breakfast, I think the do a good job with their daily specials, which are more adventurous and usually chow-worthy.

                  I was trying to think of a place with a full bar that was affordable and "fun." I think some other places subsequently mentioned fit better than Longfellow.

                  ~TDQ

              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                Yeah, I wish we had enough dough for WA Frost. I've been there a number of times and it's lovely. We have a wide range of budgets in the group and I don't want anyone to be uncomfortable. Mai Village sounds good - any place that has a seven course beef menu for $16.95 is alright in my book. Cocktails aren't a must either...as long as they serve some sort of alcohol. Wine will definitely do. Thanks a lot. It's hard party planning from out of town.

                1. re: emilyb

                  Definitely don't walk from Mai Village to anywhere in the evening...

                  ~TDQ