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Msp - Heidi's vs Alma?

hello hounds -

I've been reading many of your posts re: Msp in preparation for a 2-evening/dinners trip next month. Having weighed many of your comments (which hold more weight than a printed menu) along with dining destination's sites, I've narrowed down our options to a tight few. I would like a specific rec btwn the two - Heidi's or Alma for one of the evenings. The other night is already claimed, so it can't be both.

I'm a vegetarian, and will be visiting in Msp w/ my dad, who's happily not a vegetarian. I'm also a foodie, not into tofu and "vegetarian" stuff like all kinds of fake meats. I'm accustomed to dissecting a menu and reading the fine print to look for chefs that really sing the praises of the non-animals, and I'm comfortable with both Heidi's and Alma for those reasons. I've reviewed countless - and I mean ALL of the restaurants that y'all post about - menus in Msp, so I'd politely request that we not go off course and get into other suggestions. I've looked at them all. A preference btwn Heidi's or Alma is what I'm interested in. : ) And whichever one we don't get to this trip, we can always try the next time.

One additional question out of curiosity: nobody eats at Cosmos these days? Has it completely fallen out of favor? We're staying at the Graves601, and I thought of that as an option as I'd heard so much about it a few years ago. I'm not planning on eating there this trip unless we'd be missing something. I understand from comments that many think it's pricey. Is that the real drawback, or is it just not worth the bother?

Thanks much for your thoughts - I've really learned a lot from reading the boards.
(and if anyone wants any MT dining recs - good luck...... abysmal choices - I'd be happy to help as much as possible).

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  1. Hi holdthecow. Glad you'll be joining us next month. I'm probably not going to give you a satisfying answer to your overall question, but I would love to answer your question about Cosmos. I think the food there is great and, if you are willing to spend the money, is a great choice.

    I run against the grain of this board, but am not a great fan of Alma. The few meals that I've had there have been very good but none has moved the earth under my feet. (For MSPers I put it at Lucia's level.) I have yet to eat at Heidi's but have heard the same good things that you have.

    I'm interested to hear what you have to say about your ultimate choice. In the past 6 months I've given up red meat and fowl, so I'm in the process of recalibrating my restaurant opinions.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bob s

      Thx so much for the comments on Cosmos.... I did like the looks of the menu, as did my father. But nobody talks about it so I dunno.... A few of the places that seem to be popular amongst hounds will be on a short list in my purse as potential lunch places, dependent upon where we end up during the one full day.

      Really looking forward to the trip, and hopefully more. My dad's biz takes him to MN frequently, so this is a great option for this time of year for us to get a visit together - stay inside and eat. You're very lucky to have so many options.

      cheers!

      1. re: holdthecow

        I'm not going to try to convince you to have one of your dinners at Cosmos, but I do recommend you try it for breakfast or lunch if it fits into your schedule.

        I've had all of the items on the breakfast room service menu, so if you're feeling decadent you could always go that route. From the lunch menu, I've had the salmon and the sea bass -- both excellent. The soups, salads and sandwiches are top-notch as well. A bargain it ain't, but quite tasty nonetheless.

    2. This question might not be getting quick responses because it is like asking people if they like Acura's or Infiniti's. both are good and you'll probably have a good experience with either.

      I haven't been to Alma but I will try to describe the ambiance of Heidi's.

      Heidi's is a small space. about 6 or 7 tables on either side of the room and a wide space for the staff to walk through. It can get somewhat noisy. Appropriately dim lighting and a relaxed atmosphere.
      Wines are typically from smaller cellars so there are interesting options.
      Daily cheese selections are displayed at the door.
      Parking is on the street but available.

      I'm not sure there is anything else I can provide but if you think of any more questions feel free to ask.

      Hopefully someone can weigh in on the Alma "experience"

      1. I will admit to never having been to Heidi's, but last weekend my parents were visiting from NYC and we brought them to Alma. They said after that it was one of the best meals they've had, and these are people that have dined in Paris, London, etc. I know others have had not so fantastic experiences there, but the past 3 meals I've had at Alma have been fantastic. Last week we tried the swiss chard souffle, warm lentils and pork confit, spaghettini & littleneck clams, and I had the pheasant entree. They were all wonderful, with amazing intricacy of flavor. My husband thought the spaghettini dish could have had more garlic, but I thought it was great - perhaps if I were going for a red sauce Italian restaurant version I would have thought differently.

        As far as Cosmos, I've had 2 lunches, 2 room service breakfasts, and their food at the Taste of the Nation charity event. Every meal was fantastic and the entrees mindblowing. We did have Valentines reservations there last year but had to give them to friends because I was busy with work. We don't think of going there often though, because it is in the hotel, and the ambiance feel a little lacking. If I were staying in the hotel and wanted a decadent evening in, I would go there. It is much more modern than the other restaurants, I would feel the need to dress up more (in a Minnesota dress up kind of way).

        1. I'm responding to my own post to thank everyone for the thoughtful input received. Now I know why I was having a hard time deciding btwn the two. The comments have been reassuring, and are making me think that my initial plan (Cosmos the first night, 112 the 2nd) were perhaps worth sticking to! Would that Alma or Heidi's were open for lunch.... A and H may have to wait for next trip. I thought I'd scratch the Cosmos night but I think for now we'll give it a shot for dinner.

          It's so enticing to see so many choices - I'm a former NYCer, but when I go back I'm generally too busy with family to go out to dinner. This trip is an opportunity. And really happy to not see lots of "foams" and other trendy things on menus (where have the sun dried tomatoes and panko crumbs all gone? ; ) ) So pleased with all of the non-laboratory selections.

          I've got a short list of additions for lunch/blunch options to mix in (Hell's Kitchen, Barbette, Fugaise) and will hopefully get to Rustica Bakery both for some yums while there and to bring along to my next stop - my friend's in MI. I'm sure she and I, and her sons, can do some healthy pastry damage over the subsequent days.

          cheers to all, and thanks again.

          2 Replies
          1. re: holdthecow

            I can't guarantee you won't get foam at Cosmos, but it will be delicious foam.

            1. re: katebauer

              now that was funny.

              I'll definitely report back on our experiences.

          2. Haven't been to Heidi's yet, but Alma's is great. Fresh food, well cooked, interesting flavors. Usually it is very very good and sometimes it is great. Never had a bad meal. Eat downstairs or at the bar - upstairs is a bit hot I think. Menu changes a lot, but if they have Kobe pot roast - it is amazing!

            1. I have not been to Heidi's, but look forward to going (and hope it will be better than my experience at Five). Restaurant Alma is one of the finest meals you can get in the TC. Here is a story I heard about Alex Roberts that I will share, because it makes me think that he is such a thoughtful chef that his vegetarian offerings would be incredibly creative, enough so to make your omnivore Dad have food-envy.

              Chef Alex is mindful of the portion-explosion present in so many restaurants these days. He investigated the portions that were thought to satisfy approx 85% (I think that's the right number) of diners, and that is the size he plates. If a diner finishes what s/he is given and is still truly unsatisfied, they can notify their server and they will be given more at no charge. He doesn't advertise this as to not be taken advantage of, but it came from a reliable source.

              Now, that being said, I will give my opinion of Cosmos- my husband and I dined there this past New Year's Eve. Food was good, but not mind-blowing, and service was rushed (twice I had to ask our server to delay the next course, and once they tried to take my plate before I was finished, and then hovered until I was done). We were the second of two seatings, so I know they were not trying to turn the table. Our server was not so knowledgeable about the wine list, and while pleasant, had the most annoying habit of answering me with a string of , "Okay, yes, sure, unh-hunh, okay, okay, yes, yes, sure!" For the price, I expected much better service. I always wonder what the food would have been while Seth Bixby Daugherty was still there.

              Enjoy your trip, wherever you choose to dine!

              1. I haven't been to Heidi's, so I can't compare the two. But every time I think of trying a restaurant in Alma's price range, I go to Alma. I've always had great food there. I agree with Kate Bauer's parents - the food at Alma can hold its own against my best meals in Europe. And the service is fabulous. (My favorite waitress always remembers us and treats us as regulars, even though we only appear twice a year.) The reviews I've read of Heidi's lead me to believe that it's not up to the same level.

                But 112 Eatery is a wonderful place, too! The more casual 112 is definitely good enough to lure me away from Alma. And Rustica is another MUST - good choice.

                I'm looking forward to the report on your visit.

                Anne

                1. Wonderful and helpful comments - and healthy debate! Thank you all.

                  The anecdote about Alex Roberts - that's exactly the kind of sensibility that I go out of my way to support. And one that's abysmally lacking here in MT. For those of you who've seen The Muppet Movie, recall the dinner scene when Steve Martin asks Kermit, in full mode du surl (I made that up), if he'd like to sniff the bottle cap. That, my friends, is often the treatment of customers in Big Sky country. Example: Chico Hot Springs, lauded by many, still has a server whose response to my inquiry about vegetarian offerings (mysteriously they'd disappeared from the menu, and this place has a year-round greenhouse that they tout) responded - in full Steve Martin/Muppet mode - "I guess we can leave stuff out of the pasta. Would that be all right?" with a huff. And he's still there, unhappily serving away. And now I've gotten off my own topic.... but I've got 8 years worth of stories like that. That's why I cook.

                  I think I've come up with a suitable solution for what I hope is my first of many trips to Msp. Two dinners: Alma and 112. Leisurely lunch on last day before I get on a plane and father dearest goes to meetings - Cosmos. Good way to check it out, don't have to drag luggage around pre-airport. Celeriac tart (raptures) doesn't appear on the lunch menu, but we'll give it a go (maybe I could ask ahead and see how accommodating they are.) Throw in some atmosphere at HK, some Rustica, and I'm sure my plane won't get off the ground when it's all over. I'll be the fat one. Singing.

                  Thanks again so much, and cheers.

                  1. I'm reporting back after a most scrumptious visit to Msp -

                    I decided to go a few days earlier and therefore had a couple of nights on my own. After a hideous day of travel, opted for room service at the Graves for dinner. Ordered the pad thai (their spin) and it arrived not in the 30 minutes stated but in less than 15 and while I was still in the shower. Delicious, not saucy, and good flavors and atypical veggies were used. Had it twice, actually.

                    First night out was Alma. Heaven. Menu changes every 6 wks and I refer to the current menu - I had the endive salad and sage risotto to follow. Salad was delish, risotto, too, but should've asked for a wee bit more than the mid-course as it was my entree (but that left room for dessert.) My dad had the mixed greens salad, also yummy, but not as good as mine. And the roast pork entree which he said was sublime. I also just realized looking at the menu that he had a mid-course of cod. And we shared the chocolate caramel dessert. Everything was perfect, including the service. Rave reviews from us.

                    Next day lunch we tried Barbette, which was low-key for lunch and my friend confirmed for me that that's usually the case. I had poached eggs over greens, really nice dressing, not too heavy, he had french onion soup and then the gnocchi which was recommended. We shared fries. We ate everything, happily, and it was a good bistro lunch. No complaints at all.

                    And then dinner. Ahh. 112Eatery. Really great. I had haricots verts and the gnocchi (to compare to Barbette) and he had he lamb ( I made him get that) and then a steak and he could not stop gushing about how great it all was. The gnocchi was the lightest I've ever had, and good thing we tried that after Barbette's. We had a great bottle of Spanish wine and were afraid it would be unimpressive because of the price, but we sampled first and it was a delight (we've been trying tempranillos lately). Despite my protestations, my dad insisted that we order an additional dessert to the tres leche to try, so we had both that and a butterscotch thing. Massive amounts of cream, so I guess it was more like 5 or 6 leches. In any event, all was yummy.

                    Last day, we had blunch at Cosmos, and seriously, that place is amazing. The service was outstanding and it was quite busy but you felt completely special. I had an egg white frittata and he had the salmon over greens and as with everything before, nothing missed a beat.

                    The only thing worth noting is that Barbette's gnocchi is like lead weights compared to 112, but having had it first and being happy, it seemed right for a quick bistro lunch.

                    We had a really wonderful trip, and my dad couldn't get over what a foodie town Msp is - after each meal he'd comment that I'd again hit it out of the park with what I'd selected.

                    Thanks for all of the reassuring feedback. Looking forward to the next trip and trying a few more. But feel like I'll be drawn to 112 and Alma again and again.

                    cheers all!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: holdthecow

                      Thanks for the great trip report. I'm really glad that Cosmos went over well AND that it was busy. I'm always concerned that places like that are forgotten and will fade to black.

                      1. re: bob s

                        Ditto, though Cosmos has been hopping the last couple times I was in there. I don't worry much about them.

                        Thank you for the thoughtful writeup. If I may, be sure to put Fugaise on your list for next time. It sounds like you would enjoy that as well.

                        1. re: MSPD

                          We just ate at Cosmos for the first time during restaurant week. Holy crap it was stellar. Wish it wasn't so expensive, but the food was great - big portions for a 'sampling menu' for sure.. and service, almost too much if anything. Lovely place.

                      2. re: holdthecow

                        I love that gnocchi at 112 Eatery. Glad you enjoyed your visit to the Twin Cities. Thank you for your wonderful, detailed report.

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: holdthecow

                          thank you so much for taking the time to write a report of your stay in msp. your trip sounds just like what i would do, if i ever moved away from msp and was returning for the very best we have to offer. thanks also for the visiting vegetarian pov on fine dining rather than mid-range restaurants, which is very valuable to us for future recs!

                          i agree with MSPD's rec to try fugaise next time, and you & your dad would probably like craftsman, heartland, & lucia's too!

                          re the amazing gnocchi at 112: i think of it as what the hashbrowns in heaven must be like. . .

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            my pleasure, as was Msp.

                            if/when i ever get back, already have Fugaise, Heartland, Lucia's, and Cafe Lurcat (for the fries, natch) on my shortlist. and Hell's Kitchen.

                            i forgot that i strolled to Cafe Brenda on my own for lunch one day at my friend's suggestion (for veggie) and had the Brenda burger. also pretty busy for lunch, but seamless and a good meal.