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Feb 10, 2009 07:50 AM

Pls. advise: Heartland, Craftsman, or Levain - MSP

MSP Hounds,

I will have to arrange for a group of 6 colleagues (4 from out of town) to go out for a celebratory dinner. In the past, this group enjoyed Ngon Bistro and Muffuletta. I am considering Heartland, Craftsman, and Cafe Levain (for a combination of geographical convenience and excellent reputation) and wonder what your thoughts are.

Heartland: I am considering their wine bar because the price is more within our range than the main dining room's price. But, I wonder about the noise level. Also, they do not seem to take a reservation for a group consisting of more than 4 people. Are we likely to have to wait a long time to be seated on a Sunday around 7 pm?

Levain: My understanding is that, on Sundays, they have a limited a la carte menu in addition to the prix fixe Sunday Supper menu. My group does not have a picky eater. But, I still wonder if the options will seem too limited to some people.


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  1. Re: Heartland - a group of more than 4 could be awkard in the wine bar - its a VERY small room, with an 8-10 seat bar and a handful of tables - like 4 two-tops and a couple 4 tops. Despite this its not very "bar-ey" in terms of noise levels and ive never had trouble with conversation there - in fact i think its a great place to go for a drink and a bite when you want good accompanyments for some conversation. that said, dinner in the wine bar isn't what id call cheap, the small plates can be pretty small and id think you'd end up spending only a little less than if you ordered a la carte in the dining room. That said i think Lenny Russo's food is a bit more creative and better executed than the Craftsman, but not by miles and miles.

    1. If noise level is a concern, you should avoid Cafe Levain. If the room is at all crowded, it can be deafening (nothing but hard surfaces in that high-ceilinged room).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Jordan

        I never notice a noise problem at Levain. We go on Sunday nights whenever we can, the prix fixe menu is always really great. I'm sort of a picky eater with a few food aversions, but I've learned to put my trust in the kitchen there.

      2. I have not been to Levain, but between Craftsman and Heartland, the easy winner for me is Craftsman, especially given the reservation issue. I took a group of 6 to each restaurant and I would say that all of us enjoyed our food more at Craftsman, from the more adventurous eaters among us to the more picky eaters among us.

        1. Given your criteria, I would choose Craftsman. I have been 3 or 4 times, most recently a few weeks ago. My first few times, I thought that our meals were perfectly good but unexceptional. Last time, I was impressed with our meal, as were the others in our party of 6.

          If you expanded your choice to include the dining room at Heartland, I'd probably go there. It would be a little more expensive than Craftsman. But the wine bar probably would not work for your group of 6.

          I love Levain and might choose it if I was comfortable with the idea that everyone would enjoy the prix fixe dinner. But it sounds like you have your doubts about that.

          2 Replies
          1. re: bob s

            tex.s.toast, Jordan, Kersie, and bob s,

            Thank you all for your thoughts and recommendations! I really appreciate the information about Levain's noise level and how small Heartland's wine bar area is. I will compare Heartland's main dining room menu with that of Craftsman's once again before making a decision. Thank you!

            1. re: Ms. Fennelbulb

              What night of the week are you considering? Here is why I ask. As much as I love Heartlad (both dining room and wine bar), there have been times when I've had to wait longer than I'd expect for a table in the dining room, even with reservations. That doesn't stop me from going. But if you have six people and you want to make an impression, it would be something I'd consider.

              For food, service, and wine, I'd pick Heartland in a no-brainer contest. But if you are wieghing other factors, Craftsman might better meet your needs.

              But now consider this... Cafe Levain has dining in the kitchen area (not directly in the kitchen, but near there) that is more for private groups. Your group of six would likely have that area to yourself on a Sun-Thur. Maybe even on a Friday or Saturday.

          2. I think there's only a table or two in the Heartland Wine Bar that seats six people. But if you call and explain the situation, they may be able to help you. They're very nice there. The food and wine are fabulous, as is the service. Maybe call ahead and see if there's some special way they could accommodate you, pricewise and spacewise.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PatSirek

              Hello All who have shared your insights,

              Wow, I really appreciate how specific and detailed your comments are about these restaurants. The dinner will be on a Sunday. I was just about ruling out Levain because of the noise and the (fabulous but limited) Sunday menu. But, what Brad Ballinger says about the cozy nook sounds very inviting. Decisions! Decisions!