Near Eagan MN
I feared the chains etc ... good choices, all, with just the right amount of yay/nay info. Sambol sounds great, I know my way around Indian food so can help my Dad. But if I give him the vote, I'm betting he'll go Juniors Grill. Thanks, all ... my first time "asking" for help on Chowhound!
Friday night and low-key is a bit tough in Eagan, the land of chains and suburban crowded non-chains. Going a little higher end or ethnic will help -- Osteria I Nonni at Highway 13 and 35E in Lilydale is wonderful Italian. You can avoid a huge price tag by ordering appetizers and primi, still leaving quite full. Of course, it's well-worth the full splurge. One of the top fine Italian restaurants in the Twin Cities and only minutes from the east side of Eagan. www.buongiornoitalia.biz
Marceal's Wine Bar in Chateau Lamothe in Burnsville is also low-key. The food is maybe "three-out-of-five" star territory and all small plate portions for the most part (I think you can request a double portion), but you can assemble a nice meal with good variety if you don't mind some misses with the hits. Just off 35W and County Road 42 (5 minutes from west Eagan). www.funfoods.biz
A bit further out (in Prior Lake -- 20 minutes with multiple stoplights from west end of Eagan) is Perron's Sul Lago. Also low key, very good food but may be stretching your geographic tolerance. www.perronssullago.com
Finally, if you don't mind ethnic, Sambol (Sri Lankan/Indian) is excellent, in east Eagan, and I can't imagine ever crowded. www.sambol.com