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HELP- visiting MSP + searching for best anniversary dinner place!

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Hello! We're coming into town over Labor Day weekend to visit family, but we're whisking away one night to celebrate our wedding anniversary without the rest of the clan... where should we go???

FYI:
- We LOVE food
- We've eaten all over the US + the World (China, Europe, Australia, etc.)
- We tend to like off-the-beaten-path gourmet finds
- We are afraid of chains
- Love our drinks but really love amazing food
- Could be a great deal or a splurge
- Should be in the metro Minneapolis OR St. Paul areas
- Somewhere someone romantic/interesting- not cheesy

TIA!

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  1. www.labellevie.us
    www.fugaise.com

    (In that order

    )

    Both are elegant, have wonderful food and are perfectly appropriate for a classic, romantic wedding anniversary. I've spent wedding anniversaries at both.

    Congratulations and enjoy!

    1. Check out the menus at Restaurant Alma and Heartland:
      www.restaurantalma.com
      www.heartlandrestaurant.com

      Both of these restaurants are at the top of my list for a special occasion. They focus on sourcing from small local farms, neither restaurant is too stuffy, the dishes are creative and the quality is great. Heartland in particular is strictly regional. Heartland has better desserts, but the food at Restaurant Alma is more reliably delicious overall...at Heartland, it depends on what you order (they do roasts very well, but I have been disappointed with their trout). Also, for the quality of food you receive, the prices are quite reasonable.

      1. Happy anniversary! For interesting, though not necessarily romantic, check out 112 Eatery in Minneapolis, though I wouldn't call it off the beaten path.

        For something more off the beaten path, though these places--certainly Little Szechuan-- have certainly been "discovered" I'll also throw out a recommendations for

        Ngon Bistro on University Avenue in St. Paul (chef-driven Vietnamese in a lovely setting. Very affordable. Nice wine & beer selection, too.)
        Tea House II in St. Paul (Sichuan and Shanghai cuisine in a lovely setting, very affordable)
        Little Szechuan on University Avenue in St. Paul (fantastic Sichuan in a nice, but not as nice as Tea House I think, setting, very affordable. Serves some beer and some red wine.).

        If you make reservations as an of the places MSPD or Quince have mentioned, be sure to mention it's a special occasion. I know at Heartland they'll try to seat you in the little alcove and the other places would probably do something similar.

        Have a wonderful time and please do report back.

        ~TDQ

        1. All of my recommendations are in Minneapolis. I love me some romantic dinners!

          La Belle Vie - Romanantic, World Class, Unpretentious, On-The-Beaten-Path (also, our favorite special occassion restaurant)
          Alma - Comfortable, Sustainable, World Class, Near-The-Beaten-Path
          D'Amico Cucina - Romantic, World Class, Semi-Pretentious, On-The-Beaten-Path
          Azia - Semi-Romantic, Very Good, Two Menus, Away-From-The-Beaten-Path
          Fugaise - Romantic, Modern, Intimate, Approaching-The-Beaten-Path (our favorite local spot)
          Spoonriver - Semi-Romantic, Sustainable, Commited, Off-The-Beaten-Path

          We've also enjoyed Lurcat, Sample Room, The Modern, Oceanaire, Barbette, Quang, and jP Bistro. Though I like other's reccomendations better.

          If Little Szechuan counts, one could include Rainbow (various Chinese), Penninsula (Malaysian), and Nami (Sushi), though I am more of a traditionalist when it comes to romantic dinners (low lights, white table cloths, no fish tanks ;) )

          9 Replies
          1. re: Foureyes137

            I absolutely agree that Little Szechuan isn't a traditionally Western-style romantic restaurant. But, I got the sense that the OP wanted something different and noticed she went out of her way to mention extensive international travel. The lights are in fact low at LS, but it's white butcher paper instead of white tablecloths, I'm afraid. (They do have the stylish shiny stainless steel teapots at L.S.--they are going for a modern stylish look, I think.) Of the three "alternative" places I mentioned, Ngon Bistro has the most charming, romantic decor, in my opinion (and the best wine list), then Tea House II, then Little Szechuan (I listed them in order.)

            So, if you want a traditionally romantic restaurant, then L.S. probably isn't it. But, we always love going there, with the dim lights, great food, nice setting (not plush by any means--, but newly redecorated with black ceilings, red/orange walls, neat light fixtures, and strands of bright red chilis adorning the walls. Note also that the fish tank at L.S. is decorative, not a holding tank for the fish they serve) and I think eating "family" style when it's just the two of us is kinda romantic. But, I am completely willing to acknowledge that maybe that's romantic to just me...

            Tea House II has lovely lanterns, but has these beautiful carved wood booths and wall coverings, bright green bamboo stands, and the same red/orange walls.

            Ngon Bistro is completely different. Bright and airy with lemon-yellow walls, blonde wood furniture and hardwood floors, and ceiling to floor windows.

            Since all of these restaurants is new (none older than a year, I think), the decor is all still lovely. And I think the food is fantastic at all three.

            So, it just depends on what she wants.

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              "The lights are in fact low at LS, but it's white butcher paper instead of white tablecloths, I'm afraid."

              We were there about 2 weeks ago for dinner at about 7pm on a Sunday evening, and the lights were quite bright, full up if I had to guess. Not sure if this was due to the day of the week or the time, but it did not do much for the photos of food on the walls or the ambiance. Have you known this to be the case? Also, people had kids there. I like other people's kids, but watching them eat sorta dials down the romance, but that's me. That, and black lacquer chairs make me cringe. But man those dan-dan noodles were darn good!

              1. re: Foureyes137

                I've always found Little Szechuan to be very dark. Dark carpets, black ceilings, orangey/red walls. Sparse lighting. I'm not sure what question you're asking me "have you known this to be the case." I've dined at Little Szechuan numerous times, always dark.

                Yes, there is occasionally a toddler or two present, but, except for the one I saw admiring the ornamental fish tank once, they don't seem to be out and about much, and never have had an impact on my enjoyment of my meal. No shrieking or flinging of food or running around maniacally. I've never been seated next to one. I was seated next to a couple of teenagers dining with their parents once. They seemed perfectly well-behaved and "watching them eat" did not spoil my meal in any way--it's not like they were slopping food all over themselves.

                As I said before, the OP asked for a restaurant that is "romantic/interesting." I think this recommendation tips towards the second half of what she's looking for, that is, interesting, not the typical/beaten path, perhaps with international influence, with great chow, nice atmosphere. Not everyone's idea of romantic is the same, and, really, romantic was just one of many things she asked for; she listed it last and it was equally weighted with "interesting" the way I read the request. Of the three recommendations I gave, I prioritized LS as the third one on the list--I think the other two are more "romantic" in the conventional sense, though I didn't get the sense "conventional" was necessarily what she was after.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  My question was, "Have you known them to keep the lights up on Sunday evenings." They must have changed something or this night was just out of the ordinary as dark, it was not. Bright lights, dark chairs, booths and tables, orange walls et al is what we found on our last visit.

                  With regard to children, having none, I find that watching them eat is an experience I have not learned to appreciate as I find it an exercise in controlled mayhem. Not that they are running around or being loud, simply watching them attempt to eat noodles is enough to distract me. "How does that kid hold onto the noodles with all of that sauce on it's hands?"

                  I know you love Little Szechuan and recommend it every chance you get, but I am not making a personal assessment of your taste, mearly stating my own and backing it up with details from my experiences. I totally understand you're POV as well, just to spare the time of another reitteration.

                  1. re: Foureyes137

                    Gotcha. I have not known them to keep the lights up on Sunday evenings--can't imagine what that would have been all about. Weird.

                    And, P.S. I only recommend L.S., or any other place, when I think it makes sense based on what's being asked. ;-). However, soupkitten made a good point below about the importance of excellent service on special occasions and I will say that L.S. falls short on that front, in my experience.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: Foureyes137

                      He-who-mostly-lurks has told me that my interpretation of "dim lighting" is off, so I am here to recant my description of the lighting at L.S. as "low." Personally, I think of it as a very dark restaurant, but apparently, I'm just warped. More carrots, please.

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I think of it as the place where I watched the Super Bowl last year. That's probably as empty as it's ever been -- I had about six personal servers that night.

                        1. re: MSPD

                          I don't remember ever having seen the TV's on at L.S. but he-who-mostly-lurks says one time they turned one of the televisions on for a large party so that they could watch some programming in Cantonese or Mandarin.

                          Honestly, I personally would be delighted if my sweetie took me to Little Szechuan or Tea House or Ngon Bistro --all fantastic chow in very nice, newly-decorated settings--for our anniversary. But, we'll end up at WA Frost or La Belle Vie or some place more conventional and Western and we'll walk away feeling like it was a special occasion because we dressed up and spent a lot of money (and had a wonderful meal, for sure). But, I secretly will wish we could have shared an order of the dan dan noodles at Little Szechuan instead.

                          It's clear that I'm in the minority in my idea of what constitutes an appropriate anniversary celebration though, so, on that basis, I think the OP should try one of the options suggested by others. I don't want to be responsible for the OP and her partner being disppointed on their anniversary.

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            i'd totally have a good anniversary dinner at ngon, tea house or l.s., TDQ-- that would be right up my alley. i think they are all beautiful restaurants that have different, good atmospheres and nice service, and have good/great to sometimes outstanding food. they are also relatively cheap! being constantly broke, though, i see those 3 places as nice, and accessible to me, places to go more often-- "rats, have to work 12 hours, lets get dandan noodles after so it doesn't suck so bad!" the almas, vincents, la bellevies, etc. are more consistently fab & outstanding so i know that skipping a couple-few l.s. dinners to go to alma, in my case, is worth it and i look forward to the experience that much more. only my opinion-- its our third anniversary-- i think i'm not a newlywed anymore, but i'm still feeling the need to mark the occasion with a substantial monolith decorated with my mental pictures of an alma tasting menu-- hope i'm not being syrupy!

                            maybe the ops will be so inspired by all the great food recs that they can find time for an extra food foray or 2 while they are in town, hitting something else that strikes their fancy. if they did i'd add obento-ya to the list!

            2. First the disclaimer, this restaurant isn't in the metro area (and others seem to have covered that pretty thoroughly). But it is the absolute best meal I have ever eaten within reasonable driving distance of my own bed.

              Bayport Cookery
              http://www.bayportcookery.com

              1 Reply
              1. re: Enso

                Ah, I tend to forget about Bayport Cookery because it's a goodly distance away, but you are right, the food is really wonderful there, and it is off the beaten path for sure. I had their Morel dinner a few years ago and it was everything I had hoped for.

              2. I agree with the others who say La Belle Vie - I actually ate there this past February for my own anniversary and loved it. I highly recommend going with the tasting menu option there if you want to splurge. Beautiful setting and top notch service.

                WA Frost in St. Paul has a reputation around here as being a very romantic place - but I think it is well deserved. It has excellent food, a lovely patio and charming interior, too.

                1. all the recs are good for all the reasons listed. my picks would be

                  alma-- we are going for our anniversary this week and to me it's so intimate without being romantic in a chintzy or gimmicky way. a meal you remember for years and look forward to for months-- anniversary stuff!

                  from how the op describes themselves, i'd probably also rec lucia's, fugaise, 112, ngon. maybe a few of the others would be cool for a bite out together while visiting relatives, but these 5 are what i'd consider lovely romantic places. have had great service at all, which for me is nice for dining in general but is an absolute MUST for important occasions.

                  i am someone who's admittedly more silly than romantic-- and i'm a huge fan of quang, but going there on my anniversary wouldn't cut it for me, Foureyes! ;-)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: soupkitten

                    Great service--good point. Of the ones I recommended, 112, Ngon Bistro, Tea House II, and Little Szechuan, I'll have to point out that the service at L.S. can be really slow and erratic for dinner... I've always had great service at the other places I recommended.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Ditto - For my Anniv. I would also chose Alma.

                      (edit - tried to post as a response to SoupK)

                    2. What a great list to work from! THANK YOU, guys! I'll give a full report back!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: mcyentyre

                        Might be too late to make a recommendation, but if not, I'd like to add Saffron and Solera to the already good suggestions (particularly Alma and La Belle Vie). Both have interesting/nice/romantic spaces and off-the-beaten-path gourmet food, if by this you mean slightly different from American/Continental. Solera's menu is overseen by the same chef as La Belle Vie and is based on Spanish tapas and the feeling is party. The seasonal tasting menu is particularly good. Saffron is more romantic and the menu has a North African slant. Everything I've had there has been interesting and delicious.

                        1. re: MrSlippery

                          Great call on Safron! It meets every criteria as far as I can tell.

                          1. re: Foureyes137

                            yup-- saffron might be a good ticket too & i blanked on it-- thnks MrSlippery