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Solo dining in MSP

b
baconstrip Jan 14, 2008 02:31 PM

I need help from all you sweet MSP Hounds! I'm looking for good places to dine alone in MSP.

I dined alone at Barbette last night and was really not happy with the flakey servers. I watched my food get cold through the kitchen window while my server chatted away with her fellow co-worker.

I'm looking for places with good solid food and good service that a solo diner can enjoy.

I don't mind dining at the bar or getting a table by myself. I'm from NYC and enjoy eating alone at places like Blue Hill, Babbo, Gramercy Tavern and many of the city's sushi bars.

I also like more casual places - You can find me slurping pho in a hole-in-the-wall in Queens at a shared table.

  1. s
    shinmn Jan 14, 2008 05:01 PM

    Check out Obento-ya.

    I've dined solo at the bar and had both good service and good food.

    -----
    Obento-Ya Japanese Bistro
    1510 Como Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

    1. c
      churchka Jan 14, 2008 05:39 PM

      I would suggest the bar or a table at The Craftsman. There food is great and I have only received excellent service.

      Also, any of the many ethnic restaurants would be good bets too.

      3 Replies
      1. re: churchka
        The Dairy Queen Jan 15, 2008 03:57 AM

        It's been a long time since I've been to some of the places you mention in NYC, so, I'm afraid I might not be matching the atmosphere of some of your faves and I haven't done much solo dining lately, but to build on what churchka says (I think The Craftsman is an awesome recommendation), here are some places I've dined sola lately:

        The bar at WA Frost on Selby in St. Paul (higher end dining).
        http://www.wafrost.com/home.html

        Shish on Grand Avenue in St. Paul (hole in the wall).
        http://www.citypages.com/dish/detail.asp?CID=20481

        Khyber Pass on Grand Avenue in St. Paul (hole in the wall/mom & pop place).
        http://khyberpasscafe.com/

        The bar at Town Talk Diner on Lake Street in Minneapolis (high end "diner" food, ironic style; great chow, pristine service, not cheap, can be loud).
        http://www.towntalkdiner.com/

        Que Nha on University Ave in St. Paul (Vietnamese, hole in the wall mom & pop place).
        http://www.mspmag.com/dining/restaurantguide/31124.asp?ht=

        Puerta Azul on Selby in St. Paul (Puerto Rican--some hits, some misses on the menu but very friendly, cozy and attentive).

        A neighborhood institution (unless it's very late, expect that there will be children present) for burgers (try the Lodge Burger or the local specialty Jucy Lucy cheese stuffed burger) served with handcut fries and bakery fresh bun is the Nook on Hamline (at Randolph) in St. Paul. Find a spot at the bar. http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=82341412

        While you're at the Nook, a couple of doors down from the Nook is Kopplin's Coffee, which gets rave reviews. http://www.kopplinscoffee.com/ Look for "Rogue" chocolates while you're there, a very small, very local producer of high-end chocolate. http://www.kopplinscoffee.com/

        Oh, I know, Tampopo is a lovely spot, I think, for a sola diner.
        http://tanpoporestaurant.com/

        Good luck!

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen
          The Dairy Queen Jan 15, 2008 04:55 AM

          Oh, you didn't mention breakfast, but Al's Breakfast in Dinkytown (near the UofM in Minneapolis) is another Twin Cities institution--it won a James Beard "American Classics" award a couple of years ago. Great pancakes. Great eggs benedict. 14 seat counter. Long wait. Good for solo dining. Breakfast only. Service with good humored attitude.

          Also, the Colossal Cafe--a tiny neighborhood spot in Minneapolis--does lovely breakfasts.
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/334806

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen
            drew13000 Jan 16, 2008 08:28 AM

            I second the rec for Town Talk. I eat solo at the bar quite a bit and the servers are always really attentive, often giving me free tastes of whatever adult malt they're concocting.

        2. r
          reannd Jan 15, 2008 05:32 AM

          Some people on this board didn't like the place, but I had some of the best service ever on a recent visit to duplex.

          They also have a small bar (it's an old house) w.a nice happyhour ($1 off every drink, and most drinks are under 5 bucks.. huge, fairly unique (for the area) wine/beer list). If you sit @ the bar you can talk w.the servers & cooks (the bar is open to the kitchen.. I thought that was fun.. photos of it on the photos section of their website).

          http://duplexmpls.com/Page_1.html

          1. Foureyes137 Jan 15, 2008 06:14 AM

            Vincent. An outstanding place to enjoy a meal, solo. Highly recommended.

            I have found the D'Amico restaurants to cater very well to the individual diner, Lurcat and Masa (I like the bar) especially.

            Obvious downtown sushi choices (Origami, Nami) are solid.

            I've found the bar at Solera to be welcoming and service attentive.

            Casual: It really depends on your neighborhood. In mine (St Anthony West) I like Nea, Punch, Bulldog, Whitey's, Emily's, Mairin's Table, and The Modern for dining solo.

            Good luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Foureyes137
              m
              marykate Jan 15, 2008 08:04 AM

              If you don't mind casual, French Meadow is really nice. I have dined there solo and find it to be a gentle atmosphere with a lot great food options.

              It's right on Lyndale in Mpls and easy to find. Here's the link:
              http://www.frenchmeadow.com/

            2. l
              Loren3 Jan 15, 2008 08:16 AM

              This is actually a pretty solo-friendly town in terms of eats. Most places with bars are quite mellow with the solo diner. I've had good luck at

              Nami Sushi

              Koyi Sushi

              The Monte Carlo

              20.21 has a prix fixe at the bar

              Pancho Villa

              112 Eatery

              and I'm sure most of the other, better places (even Barbette's) would be good. I think maybe you had an unfortunate off night.

              1. k
                KTFoley Jan 15, 2008 09:06 AM

                I've found that sitting at the bar is the best way to get service at Barbette -- otherwise it gets a little absurd.

                From them, I've found I really do prefer the bar when dining alone. For a nice combination of food and atmosphere that treats solo diners well, most of the usual suspects have been listed:
                112 Eatery
                128 Cafe
                Craftsman

                But also try the Wine Bar at Heartland restaurant. I've found the wine bar is a wonderful spot for a dinner on your own.

                -----
                Heartland
                1806 St. Clair Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

                128 Cafe
                128 Cleveland Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                Craftsman Restaurant
                4300 Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55406

                112 Eatery
                112 N 3rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55401

                1 Reply
                1. re: KTFoley
                  The Dairy Queen Jan 15, 2008 09:58 AM

                  I've always wanted to eat at the bar ar 112 Eatery...

                  ~TDQ

                2. s
                  soupkitten Jan 15, 2008 10:04 AM

                  has anyone eaten solo/sola at saffron? seems like it would be a good candidate, esp at happy hour

                  1. t
                    tasmonia Jan 15, 2008 10:19 AM

                    If you like casual and delicious, then try Kramarczuks www.kramarczuk.com. It`s cafeteria style Ukranian food (so should be good for a solo diner). The portions are huge and I`ve never been disappointed by anything on the menu. It`s also cheap and they serve Eastern European beer. It`s attached to a butcher, small grocery, and gift shop. A place I always take people who are visiting town.

                    If you like pho, I think that Saigon noodle at University and Dale in St Paul makes the best broth. They also have spring rolls with grilled pork (instead of the normal, boring, cold shrimp) that are fantastic. I`ve always been disappointed with the pho places on Nicollet (aka Eat Street--a misnomer IMO).

                    If you`re adventurous, though, go across the street from Saigon to Food Smart, a sketchy looking old grocery store that`s been converted into an asian market. It has a restaurant inside, and you should order the "cowpoon", which is a red curry and coconut and chicken soup with rice noodles. It`s amazing! You can also get platters of sticky rice and fried chicken and sausage to go, as well as weird jiggly drinks.

                    1. b
                      baconstrip Jan 15, 2008 05:50 PM

                      Thank you for all your suggestions! I'm going to try 112 Eatery and Vicent for sure. It seems like many places in MSP have good happy hour, too!

                      Saint Paul is a little away from where I am (South Minneapolis). But I'll trek it over when I get a chance. I definately want to try Heartland when I make it over there.

                      I went to Quang yesterday and had a nice thawing bowl of pho. The classic stuff with rare beef. I wished the beef tasted better, but I couldn't complain about the broth and the noodles!

                      I have been to 20.21 before and really was not impressed. It reminded me of bad Jean Georges "Asian" places in NYC like Vong and Spice Market ;-(

                      1. t
                        tvdxer Jan 15, 2008 07:14 PM

                        Restaurants in Minneapolis - St. Paul I've felt comfortable as a solo diner at ("take-out?" and "just one?" automatically disqualifies):

                        * Safari Restaurant (Somali - East African)
                        * Bombay 2 Deli (Indian)
                        * Tam Tam's African Restaurant (Pan-African)
                        * Midtown Global Market
                        * Three Crowns (Nigerian)
                        * La Hacienda (Mexican / Salvadoran / Peruvian / American / Mediterranean)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: tvdxer
                          The Dairy Queen Jan 16, 2008 04:01 AM

                          Just a note about Midtown Global Market (which I love): except for A La Salsa, it's all counter service/cafeteria style.It's a big public space with a lot of food stalls, basically. Fun place to go, and certainly solo friendly, except that it is pretty dead in the evenings (lively at lunch and on weekends) and if you're looking for table service, it's not the place for you. But Taqueria Los Ocampo and La Sirena Gorda are both terrific. There's an outpost of Safari (that tvdxer mentions above) in Midtown Global Market, too. http://midtownglobalmarket.org

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                            The Dairy Queen Jan 16, 2008 04:43 AM

                            Oh, and Dara, our beloved, multiple-time James Beard award winning, critic just raved about the new (across the street location) of Los Ocampo in today's City Pages (free weekly). http://articles.citypages.com/2008-01...

                            I can't wait to try it!

                            ~TDQ

                        2. h
                          Haricotsv2 Jan 16, 2008 04:51 AM

                          The Heartland Wine Bar--good food, friendly people behind the bar. On the pricier side.

                          1. bob s Jan 16, 2008 07:19 AM

                            Sorry to hear that you had a bad experience at Barbette since I eat there by myself occasionally and with my wife fairly often. I've never felt that the service was any worse for me when I've been by myself.

                            Another spot in the same neighborhood that I often go to when I'm dining solo is Lucia's Wine Bar.

                            Another possibility is Bad Waitress over at Nicollet and 26th. Service there is more variable - but that's sort of the nature of the place. You order at a counter and then the server brings you your food when it's up. A titch pricey for what you get, but I like the place.

                            I love eating at the bar at 112 eatery. In fact, I've only eaten there by myself. I always end up in a conversation with others at the bar.

                            I've also enjoyed a solo meal at the bar at Saffron.

                            1. s
                              St Paul Susie Jan 16, 2008 02:04 PM

                              Baconstrip - you had me at Blue Hill. One of my best meals of 2007 was there.

                              I'm surprised Alma hasn't popped up on this thread yet. Chowspouse and I have had excellent food and service at the bar (which is maybe 10 seats?)

                              Additionally, Broder's Pasta Bar in SW Minneapolis is excellent for a solo diner. corner of 50th and Penn.

                              -----
                              Restaurant Alma
                              528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                              Broders' Southside Pasta Bar
                              5000 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419

                              1. AnneInMpls Jan 16, 2008 02:54 PM

                                I recommend solo dining at any of the Asian restaurants on University Ave. in St. Paul. I think I've visited them all, alone, and can't think of any bad experiences. I was just at Saigon today for grilled pork and sausage on rice noodles (wow). They have good pho, too.

                                Ditto for the little ethnic eateries on Lake Street in Minneapolis. And the ones on Central Avenue - especially Holy Land and Bombay 2 Deli (both order-at-the-counter places).

                                The above places are all extremely casual. For upscale dining, I second the recommendation for the bar at Restaurant Alma. The service is great, and the staff is fun to chat with. With luck, you'll be sitting next to a local restaurant cook on their day off - it seems like there's always someone "in the biz" at the bar at Alma's.

                                Anne

                                -----
                                Saigon Restaurant & Bakery
                                704 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                                Holy Land Bakery & Grocery
                                2513 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

                                Bombay 2 Deli [Closed - May Reopen in Different Place]
                                1840 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

                                1. s
                                  St Paul Susie Jan 17, 2008 04:43 PM

                                  Also try Zelo in downtown minneapolis - I've never had a bad meal nor bad service there & good people watching in the bar.

                                  1. pm1013 Jan 27, 2008 10:12 PM

                                    Try Moscow on the Hill (on Selby in St. Paul) & sit at the bar - you won't be dining alone for long, the staff is incredible & will make you feel right at home. I second the Craftsman recco also.

                                    1. SungSook Jan 28, 2008 02:23 PM

                                      If you like hole in the wall places with amazing Asian food, I would recommend Evergreen Taiwanese. They have yet to disappoint me.

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