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MSP - looking for quaint place w/good food

Hello All,

This is my first post, just found this site yesterday. Been reading through many of the local threads, but didn't find what I was looking for. I've only lived in the area for 2 years now, so don't know all the good places yet.

Anyway, the wife has had a hard week and I want to take her out to a nice quiet little place this Saturday. I'd prefer to stay away from any high end place, I don't think she wants to get too dressed up. My daughter, who is a pastry chef in CA, just told me about Heidi's. Would this place fit what I'm looking for? I'd love to hear your recommendations. We have fairly open taste buds, but there's nothing like a well made filet in some kind of creamy sauce. A nice piece of fish seasoned just right can hit the spot too.


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  1. If Heidi's is in your neighborhood, then you are blessed with that spot, Blackbird, Maude's Cafe, Al Vento and Corner Table (which hasn't gotten a ton of attention on this board, I don't know why?)

    Cafe Maude
    5411 Penn Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55419

    Blackbird Cafe
    3800 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55409

    2903 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408

    3 Replies
    1. re: KTFoley

      Whoops, got lost in the middle of the linking operation.

      These are smaller places with well-regarded menus and a comfortable atmosphere for whatever you're wearing. The first three are worth calling to see if they have reservations available, since the buzz of newness still keeps them hopping. Others can weigh in on whether the spots are quiet??

      To range a bit farther afield, lovely small spots include Signature Cafe, Jay's Cafe and Craftsman.

      Corner Table
      4257 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409

      Al Vento
      5001 34th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55417

      1. re: KTFoley

        Dagnabbit, once you get out of linking you cannot get back in.

        Signature Cafe & Catering
        130 Warwick St SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

        Jay's Cafe
        791 Raymond Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55114

        Craftsman Restaurant
        4300 Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55406

        1. re: KTFoley

          According to an article in City Pages (mid-Feb), Jay's Cafe has lost its dinner chef (bummer). I'd be interested in hearing how the dinner holds up, if anyone has been very recently.

          EDIT: P.S. --food_snob, welcome! I don't know that section of town well, so I'm afraid I don't have any additional recommendations. Of the places on KTFoley's list that I've eaten, (Signature Cafe, Craftsman, Jay's), though all very good, I'd say Signature Cafe would qualify as the most "quaint." Craftsman is more polished and Jay's is more austere, for want of a better word. All three of these places focus on sourcing locally when possible.


      2. KTFoley, thanks for all the suggestions. I have some surfing to do now.

        TDQ, Thanks for the additional info. Using local sources is something my wife really likes.

        Thanks again.

        1. I'd also add Lucia's or Lucia's Wine Bar and Duplex to the mix. Lucia's is a little more formal than Lucia's Wine Bar, but I don't think that you would feel out of place even if you are not dressed up.

          Lucia's posts its menu weekly, so you can see if anything tickles your taste buds.

          Lucia's Restaurant
          1432 W 31st St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

          Duplex Restaurant
          2516 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55405

          1. I really like Mairin's Table in NE Mpls. It's small, quiet (though call to check about live music), and moderately priced. They do American and Moroccan-influenced food.

            Moscow on the Hill has a nice salmon kebab on the menu. They also have a steak with Cabernet sauce (which I've never tried). This restaurant is nice, not too fancy, and has been quiet when I've been there.

            The Sample Room is small and has great food. If the other patrons aren't shouters or shriek-laughers, it will probably be pretty quiet, too.


            P.S. Here's a related thread, in case you have time for more surfing:

            Mairin's Table
            23 4th St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

            Sample Room
            2124 Marshall St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

            Moscow On the Hill - Duplicate
            371 Selby Ave, St Paul, MN

            1. HA! I mid-read the post and thought the OP was looking for a restaurant nearish to Heidi's and wondered why people were recommending restaurants all over the Twin Cities. Sorry about that. A few more places I like a lot that have casual, yet charming settings

              Ngon Vietnamese Bistro (University Ave in St. Paul) --very charming dining room and fun, affordable menu with decent wine list.

              Tanpopo--Japanese noodlehouse (downtown St. Paul), very peaceful setting and the noodles hit the spot this time of year, especially

              Khyber Pass--Grand Ave at Snelling, St. Paul--again, nice setting. Not a huge menu, but just enough to choose from.

              Please let us know where you end up and what you thought!


              1. the op's mention of "a well-made filet in some kind of creamy sauce. . . a nice piece of fish seasoned just right" made me think immediately of the strip club in st paul. it is nice, but not too formal (don't have to dress up), although it can be pricey depending on what you order. i highly rec getting a reservation if you do go, it's tiny!

                heidi's also sounds great, though i confess i haven't made it yet. i 2nd the recs of craftsman and lucia's too.

                The Strip Club
                378 Maria Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55106

                2 Replies
                1. re: soupkitten

                  The Strip Club is nice, but not quiet. At least it wasn't on Saturday night.

                  1. re: diesel

                    doh! you're right, Diesel!

                    to the op: have fun at moscow on the hill & in all your msp dining adventures!

                2. Modern Cafe might fit the bill as well.

                  IMHO you can never go wrong at signature.


                  Modern Cafe
                  337 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

                  1. I had a wonderful meal with my wife at Grand Cafe last Friday night (haven't had time to post about it). Quiet, relaxed lighting, no nonsense, well-prepared food (a little more rustic, befitting of the season), attentive and unobtrusive service, approachable price point and no need to fuss about dressing up. I, too have been insane at work and home lately and it was a relaxing, calming evening out.

                    1. Meritage. It's delicious, lovely atmosphere. If you can't get a reservation, I second Ngon.

                      1. Wow, what a great group of people. Thanks for all the tips and advice. After looking at almost all the menus of the places mentioned, I've decide on Moscow on the Hill. A special thank you to AnneInMpls for the suggestion. The menu looks great and it gets good reviews. My wife also enjoys ethnic foods and trying new things. So this place seems right in so many ways. It may not be that quiet, but it sounds like a fun place.

                        AnneInMpls, you really made some good suggestion. My wife and I both enjoy Moroccan food, so Mairin's Table also sounded tempting. The Sample Room is a place we have been, and we love that place.

                        Thanks to all. You have given me a bunch a places I have to try now. I will let you all know how it went.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: food_snob

                          Great choice and welcome!

                          MotH is one of our standby comfort places.

                          A word about Heidi's. I love it. It's great. The space is challenging and it is almost always loud unless they are very close to empty (which hasn't happened since I was in on Halloween). Reservations are key. A little patience is also good to have. Don't be surprised if you have to wait some for a reserved table as every publication in the area has reviewed them in the last 5 weeks. It is totally worth the wait.

                          And as an added bonus they have a new menu (which has the best foie dish we have had from this Chef Woodman).

                          For quieter nights out Corner Table and Craftsman are frequently in the rotation.

                          1. re: food_snob

                            Just wanted to report quickly on Marin's Table, as we were there for their Moroccan night a few weeks ago. The food is good, but not great. It might be the best you can find in the Twin Cities because there aren't many other options, but I've had better Moroccan food at restaurants that are devoted to that cuisine in other cities. They Moroccan menu is a set $30 and you have the choice of 2 appetizers, kinda boring salad or an okay soup, maybe 5 entrees, and 1 dessert. The dessert was an extremely dry filo wrapped thing that could have greatly benefited from some honey. The service was quite slow, but we were there with a group of 10. I don't regret going as we went for a friend's birthday, but I don't think I would return when there are too many great other options around.

                            1. re: katebauer

                              Darn! Bummer about the so-so meal. That's really sad to hear. I hope (for selfish reasons) that it was a temporary slump rather than a permanent slide downhill. I should check it out before I recommend it again.

                              Actually, I haven't been to Mairin's for several months (like maybe 6 or 7 or 8). I did see in the Strib that there has been a change of chefs - don't know when it occurred - and a menu change. But the Strib implied that there are now more, rather than less, Moroccan-influenced dishes.


                              I agree that the food at Mairin's Table isn't Moroccan, just Moroccan-influenced. We don't have any true Moroccan restaurants in the Twin Cities, do we? (The chef/owner at Barbary Fig is Algerian.)

                              I wish we had more North African options here!


                              1. re: AnneInMpls

                                saffron comes to mind for really good north african

                            2. re: food_snob

                              Ask to sit in Chris's section. He always gives us good service at Moscow On The Hill. He has a dry/sardonic kinda funny demeanor. He even cracks a smile sometimes.

                            3. Hello Everyone,

                              Finally got a chance to write a report. First the positive, all the food we ordered was great. We arrived around 7 pm and were seated within a few minutes. We started off with a couple of Martinis, which were awesome. The fresh warm bread was also nice and hit the spot. Next was a beef Perogi. I can’t say I have much experience with this dish, but it sure tasted good. Next up, was a salad for me, and the Borscht for the wife. The dressing got a thumbs up, but the soup was delicious. I was definitely not expecting that. You have to like dill if you order these. Time for the entrées, wife got the Stroganoff and I got the Tenderloin steak. The Stroganoff was to die for. The mushroom sauce was very reminiscent of dish I once had in a French restaurant. I may order this dish next time we go. Dam good dish. Very generous portion too. My steak was pretty good, but it was slightly overdone, so it had a chance of being much better. The porcini cabernet sauce was very good. Both dishes came with plenty of delicious mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies. We both left enough food on our plates to have another meal the next day.

                              Now the bad or not good, like I mentioned already, my steak was a little overdone. It wasn’t grossly overdone, but worth mentioning. It was still very edible. When we were seated, the table hadn’t been cleaned yet, so someone came by to wipe it up shortly after. That in it self isn’t bad, but they left a place setting there that the previous diners didn’t use. This should have been taken away and completely new settings should have been brought out. The glass top tables were kind of a nuisance, but I do understand why they use them. But when I was trying to cut my steak, my plate was sliding all over the place. A couple of times I thought I was going to send my plate off the table. Wine list is sparse, but the basics are covered.

                              Other observations; the place was loud. We didn’t mind much, but beware. This is a fun place. I can see bringing friends or family from out of town here. We will be back; there are a number of dishes that look good and lots of Martinis to try. We didn’t try any of the homemade vodka’s, but maybe next time.

                              Thanks again to all.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: food_snob

                                Terrific report, thank you. You ended up at Moscow on the Hill, right?


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen


                                  Sorry, yes, Moscow on the Hill.


                                  1. re: food_snob

                                    I don't understand ordering a steak in a Russian restaurant. I have
                                    not been super happy with the food at Moscow on the Hill- I am a
                                    pretty adventurous eater but found the Russian stuff to be a little
                                    strange. I don't think I'd send people there for comfort food. And I love

                                    1. re: faith

                                      Did you find it strange in an "it's not really authentic Russian" or an "I'm not really used to Russian food" way? Just curious...

                                      I lived in Moscow and have been to Moscow on the Hill many times. I find the Russian/former Soviet republic homestyle dishes to be very authentic, such as borshch, stroganoff, pelmeni, and chebureki. They always make me miss the terrific food I got in friends' homes (when I was in Moscow, restaurant dining wasn't the best). What I don't care for much there are the more non-Russian dishes (or fancier restaurant-style Russian dishes), such as czar's medallions and walleye "baikal."

                                      What drives me nuts is that Moscow on the Hill lists piroshki as pierogis. They are not the same thing. Piroshki are little baked or fried flaky pastries stuffed with meat, cabbage or other savory things (and sometimes sweet--I used to buy jam piroshki on the street in Moscow). Pierogis are Polish boiled dumplings. In Russian/Ukrainian they're normally called vareniki. I know this won't bother most people, but I find it confusing, especially since I'm Polish-American and grew up eating pierogis.