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Dec 12, 2006 11:26 PM

MSP report-Cafe Barbette, Heartland Wine Bar

Had a great visit to the twin cities last weekend and ate at both of these for dinner.
Cafe Barbette--we had an 8 pm res on Friday night; it was pretty packed and noisy, but nice atmosphere. Unfortunately, due to the heat wave, the restaurant seemed uncomfortably warm most of the evening; I suspect this was due to the temp change between Th and Fri. Service was prompt and the waitress wasn't hesitant to provide an opinion, although ultimately I disagreed with it! We started with the cheese fondue, which comes with raw mushrooms, apple, and bread. The cheese is melted, seems like a mild gruyere, and is served in a coffee cup; it stays reasonably warm, but isn't hot, and gets tougher to dip in. It was pleasant, but not great. The mushrooms are kind of an odd dipper; the raw mushroom (unlike cooked mushrooms) just doesn't seem to work with the cheese either in taste or texture.
Entrees: there were three of us, and two had the lobster special and one the sirloin special. The waitress raved about the lobster special ($32), which included claw meet and a half of a tail, as well as some truffled gnocchi. The lobster was certainly fresh, and there was nothing wrong with it; but it just wasn't particularly tasty or interesting. Neither I nor the other lobster-orderer finished it. The sirloin was accomplanied by frites with a delicious saffron aioli type dipping sauce. The frites were excellent and the sauce was killer. The steak was also good and prepared as requested.
Overall, the meal was a bit of a disappointment although I would certainly consider returning if only for the frites.
The next night we went to the Heartland Wine Bar. We didn't have a res., and the hostess originally told us it would be about a fifteen minute wait. The wait was more like 3 minutes! We sat down and got an amuse of chicken liver pate with a sour cherry gastrique or compote, and some breads to spread it on. It was good we asked if they could make us a larger portion for one of our small plantes! They were able to do that, which was greatly appreciated. We ordered a variety of small plates, including the onion-apple soup, the goat cheese salad with a grilled seckel pear, the roasted spaghetti squash/black bean fritters, and the pork ribs. They were all terrific, especially the pork ribs, which were large and meaty but very sweet and delicious. The soup was good, although the apple component was pretty much undetectable, and the salad and the fritters were both very solid. For dessert, we shared a three part chocolate pot de creme; also very good. We ordered a bottle of Lemberger from Steele in Washington state; this is a new varietal to me, but the bottle was very good, kind of smoky and pleasanlty dry. Service was good at the HWB, although a bit disjointed, with our original server disappearing for a while and being replaced by someone else, and then reappearing. Still, they went out of their way to get us the special dish we requested, which was great. We were very happy with the meal at HWB, which ran (w/o tip) about 110.

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  1. Thank you for this report! I not sure we've had a full report on the Heartland Wine Bar, so, thank you, especially, for that. We've heard many a time about people's wonderful experiences in the adjoining Heartland restaurant. Given how great the restaurant is, I'm not surprised that you had a good experience in the wine bar. Nevertheless, I'm glad you did!


    1 Reply
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      It was interesting; it appeared that the restaurant was not very busy, and this was a Saturday night at 7:45 or so. The WB was full, and remained so later; parties were being seated after 9 pm. Also, there is very signficant overlap between the menu at the WB and in the restaurant proper; it looked like all that was missing from the
      WB menu was a few of the larger/pricier entrees. If I lived near there, I'd be there a LOT!

    2. (raising hand sheepishly)

      I live close to HWB - I've never eaten at Heartland (the rest side) but have happily visited the WB many (many) times. I haven't actually eaten a full meal there - just parts at different times.

      The service on my most recent visit was awful. I was very upset since we've had excellent and personable service from the staff on every occasion.

      I will give it another chance since it is my happy place in St Paul.

      2 Replies
      1. re: St Paul Susie

        What a shame to let a single instance of poor service keep you from one of your favorite establishments. Instead, complain to management, then give it another try.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          TDQ -

          I know - I'm usually not like that....

          its just that I'm usually greeted with a hug and the night in question they didn't want us there & didn't want our biz. It was really sad.

          With the new Wine bar spot on selby - venovesco (why can't I recall that name ever) being only fractionally further with a much larger space and many more options by the glass......I can picture myself shifting loyalities..... for at least part of the time.

          Ah... the problems of having 2 wine bars so close!

      2. Speaking of Barbette and bad service, I brought my out of town family there for lunch yesterday. While the food was wonderful as usual, I was really disappointed in their service. The woman seating us put us at a table where 1/2 of us were blinded by sunlight so we asked to be moved, and then at the new table it took at least 10 minutes for a waiter to come by to take our order. During that time, I saw several of the staff bickering behind the bar. Throughout the meal the service was pretty brusk and unfriendly.

        I'm not sure anyone else in our party cared but I was disappointed since I only had 3 meals to show off Minnesota and I wanted each of them to be great.

        1 Reply
        1. re: katebauer

          Aaah, we should warn people.

          I do like Barbette's but quit doing breakfast or lunch there because the table service was so existentialist. (Do I exist here at this table? Is this waterglass merely construction of my own ego-consciousness, or has it really been empty for the last ten minutes? Is hoping for cream & sugar with my coffee just proof of life's meaningless absurdity?)

          Sitting at the bar during dinner is a much better experience.