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Sep 9, 2007 07:50 PM

MSP:Good place to take group of non-CH relatives?

I originally invited a group of 6 relatives over for dinner this weekend. Somewhere in the midst of planning the dinner, my husband and I threw in the towel, and decided we'd like to surprise them with a trip out to dinner somewhere instead.

*said relatives are all very non-Chowhound types - i.e., all living in far outer suburbs they rarely leave, who think Papa John's is the best pizza and Culver's serves the best burger. However, I think they will be willing to try new things (and we will be plying them with alcohol at our place beforehand).

*this is a special occasion: we're moving away and we rarely have them to dinner "in the city," and would like to make this like a surprise adventure experience for them.

*we're ready to spend some money, but within some reason.

*it will be a party of 8 adults.

*we will want to stay in the inner city, Minneapolis or St. Paul is OK!

*no Chino Latino or Psycho Suzi's, please and thank you.

We originally thought of carting the group to the Midtown Global Market for a big ol' ethnic picnic, but we wouldn't get there until around 8PM - when most places there close.

We'd love to take 'em to a sushi joint for a big feast......but OMG $$$$$$!!!!

Any suggestions appreciated!

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  1. If you want great food, but keep the cost more reasonable, Tanpopo (downtown St. Paul) has one table that's good for groups. Still along the lines of good food that's affordable, Ngon Bistro (University Ave, St. Paul) does a decent job with groups.


    1. Your reasons for not wanting to go to Chino Latino and Psycho Suzi's would help steer people away from other suggestions you wouldn't like.

      I assume Fogo de Chao is too spendy. It might otherwise be a good choice.

      Rainbow Chinese does some family style stuff, as does Little Szechuan in St. Paul. They both have nice tables for accommodating groups.

      2 Replies
      1. re: pgokey

        As everyone knows, I love Little Szechuan, and I agree, they accomodate groups nicely, but I worry a little that it might be somewhat inaccessible to non-chowhounds...

        It just depends on how adventurous people are with dishes prepared with "fish flavor" and tofu and chili heat.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          They have their American menu. They have 2 menus - the authentic one and the American one. Something for everyone.

      2. How about like.. Cosetta's on 7 corners in St Paul? Lots of big spaces for groups if you go save seats. It's kinda fun b.c it's cafeteria style.. but it makes it kinda hard to pay for groups (although my husband & I managed to take a group of 15 there and they were very accomodating). I think any shows @ the xcel or theater's will be done by 8.

        Either that or Cafe Latte. Wow them with cake! =)

        Neither of those are fancy, but they're fun in my book. If you want to share food the suburbs already have Buca's, but they don't have Yarusso Bros (W 7th in St Paul).. or Loring Pasta Bar on campus (not great, but they have big tables & I have gone there w.groups a number of times, always works out really well for people from farther away).

        1. BTW Culvers probably is the best burger in the outer reaches. Far outer suburbs and chains, oh my. Far outer suburbs and chains, oh my....

          I think 112 Eatery and the 2 tier menu would be primo. Sea Salt would also be a good less expensive chowish direction (Surley on tap in a park - how excellent).

          7 Replies
          1. re: blowphishery

            I've had a group of 8 at 112 Eatery and you're right, they do a terrific job with a group that size. They are also infinitely patient in explaining the menu (it's part of their schtick, I think) and are delighted to split dishes or let people share so people can try several dishes, if they wish. They even do a fun burger and fries for the non-chowy folks. (Though, it's definitely a burger with a twist--served with brie cheese and on an English muffin.)

            Better get to Sea Salt while it's still the season! Fall is crashing down around us. My major caution against Sea Salt, as much as I adore it (I so crave their po boys, either oyster or catfish! ) is the long wait. My standard wait to order on evenings and weekends is half hour to 45 minutes, with another 25-35 minutes for food to be brought out. I've never been on a weekday for lunch, though; maybe it's better.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I just want to add a note that Sea Salt Eatery doesn't seem to have its normal long lines right now-perhaps the novelty of eating outdoors has worn off for "the season." I'm still not sure I'd take a group of 8 there, but, now's a good time to go to avoid the lines. Note, though, that they have switched to (shorter) "fall hours" in the evenings.


            2. re: blowphishery

              I agree with 112 Eatery. Something for everyone, wide price range, etc. Much has been said already.

              I'm also thinking smaller, neighborhood places like Corner Table, Signature Cafe, etc. Thoughts from others?

              On a side note, I strongly disagree with the Culvers comment. Granted, I don't like the thin-patty style of burger nearly as much as thick, juicy and medium rare, but even in the thin-patty category, Culvers is a yawner.

              I don't want to hijack the thread and can't speak for ALL of the "outer reaches" but in the outer reaches of my neck of the woods (south) you could start with Copper Bleu, House of Coates, Lion's Tap and King's Bar on your quest for a better-than-Culver's burger. Closer in (Bloomington, Eagan, etc.) would be even easier.

              1. re: MSPD

                on the corner table, signature, etc. i'd think that the craftsman would be an excellent choice. chowish types could eat venison and rabbit while the unadventurous can have a burger or salad, or get crazy and order a pasta special. the food is great-to-transcendently-great and the restaurant is beautiful. could be expensive if everyone orders a main in the $20-$29 range, but the burgers and other regular menu items are more like $10-$14. service is very good. imo food is better quality, better prepared, larger portion than corner table for comparable price. i just love this restaurant and am kicking myself for not getting over there sooner! the craftsman might be my new fave, in fact. do consider it!

                1. re: soupkitten

                  soupkitten, you just beat me to it! I had a really good dinner there a couple of weeks back, and you're right -- there are interesting preparations on the menu along with non-threatening (heh) burgers, etc. I think chowhounds and non-chowhounds alike would be very comfortable there. And the 112 will be an impossible reservation for the coming weekend; they book up weeks and weeks in advance. So, two votes for the Craftsman.

                  1. re: mcgeary

                    Oh, I missed the "this weekend" part.

                    It's a lot easier to get a reservation at 112 Eatery since they added the upstairs--and you have a lot better luck if you try for one of the super early slots, like 5pm, (I can almost always wriggle my way into 112 Eatery at 5pm on Sunday, but that's awfully early for most people...) but, still, some of those options like Craftsman and Signature Cafe and Corner Table are really good recommendations.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      I was able to get a Friday reservation for two at 8pm with a three week notice for 112 - It is definately not as impossible as it used to be.

            3. Maybe Thai food? It seems like most of our non-Foodie friends are starting to eat Thai. We've actually been happy lately with Amazing Thai in Uptown with the added bonus that you don't have to wait long like at Tum Rup Thai and it's a bit nicer inside than True Thai.

              Last year we brought my parents and in laws to Al Vento and it was a huge success. The menu/Italian isn't intimidating but it was different enough from Buca or Olive Garden to be special.