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dinner with the in-laws

Thanks for posters for their advice on my cake thread. My wife, infant daughter and I are visiting my in-laws/ extended family for my upcoming daughter's birthday.

We want to take my in-laws out for brunch/lunch on Friday. It looks like brunch is out, since it's not a sunday, and although some places do breakfast, that's probably a bit too early. My wife and I are foodies, but my in-laws are very conservative in their food tastes.

I was thinking of somewhere mid-priced, with a nice ambience and good food. My thought was the "Nicollet Island Inn" for lunch -- the menu is a little on the dull side, but if the food is actually done well, I would be more than happy. There seems worryingly very few reviews on this board, however.

An alternative that caught my eye was Meritage. It looks like a simple French brasserie, but gets good reviews here. But I am concerned that my in-laws will have very few options there. And it's not clear if the space itself is that nice, and looks a little crowded between covers (we'll be dining with my daughter aswell).

What would fellow CHers do?

thanks,

tb

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Meritage
410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

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  1. Nicollet Island Inn and Meritage aren't exactly next door to each other. Were you hoping for one city over the other?

    I haven't made it to Meritage yet, but everyone raves. A suggestion for somewhere I have been would be W. A. Frost. You can sit in the dining room, the more casual bar, or outside on the patio (which I just experienced Sunday and was great, although Friday looks to be really hot still). There lunch menu has much of the same things as the dinner, but for a good 1/3 off the price for entrees.

    1 Reply
    1. re: semanticantics

      We'll be going from Eden Prairie, so it's a hike either way for us. Of course, if anything good comes to mind closer, that would be great too.

      I don't know why (perhaps because we don't have an island with a restaurant in the middle of the Charles in Boston), but the idea of the Nicollet Island Inn appeals to me -- unless CHers warn me that the food is terrible.

      tb

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      Nicollet Island Inn
      95 Merriam, Minneapolis, MN 55401

    2. The room at Meritage is very nice, and if you were to reserve one of the circular tables by the windows, you would not be crowded too close to other tables. The food is pretty traditional French - very good IMO - and I'd think anyone could find something (steak frites is pretty accessible, anyway) but you can look at the menu online if that'll help.

      http://www.meritage-stpaul.com/food.html

      W.A. Frost is also a great suggestion, especially if it's a nice day and you can sit on the patio, which is lovely.

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      Meritage
      410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

      1 Reply
      1. re: LiaM

        I'd say there are enough options at Meritage for a less adventurous diner-- including their house burger, which is spectacular in my experience.

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        Meritage
        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

      2. I may be in the minority, but why spend so much time in the car unless you really want to see St. Paul?

        Nicollet Island Inn is a lovely space with OK food, but a bit of a drive in it's own way. My suggestion would be Lucia's in Minneapolis. Limited lunch menu with a "local foods" focus, but I would think something for everyone. Then if it is a nice day, a little walk to the lake is enjoyable.

        I can't believe there is nothing more "west", but I admit, I cannot come up with any ideas. Enjoy your visit, and do tell us where you end up and what you think.

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

        Nicollet Island Inn
        95 Merriam, Minneapolis, MN 55401

        3 Replies
        1. re: rockyd

          Nicollet Island Inn is perfectly pleasant, but you don't get much of a feel of being in the middle of a river from their dining room. It looks out over a small channel - maybe 30 feet across - to the mainland.

          I like the idea of Lucia's and would throw out the idea of Barbette as well. Both have outdoor seating if it's a nice day. Barbette is probably a little more "go with the flow" than Lucia's so you may feel a little more comfortable with a one-year-old at Barbette than at Lucia's which has a bit more of a "ladies who lunch" feel at lunch time.

          In case you're looking for something to do with your daughter after or before lunch, there's a playground aimed at young kids and a beach right on Lake Calhoun at 32nd Street. It's an easy walk from either Lucia's or Barbette. Also, ice cream is available at the Tin Fish at the corner of Lake Street and East Calhoun Boulevard.

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          The Tin Fish
          3000 E Calhoun Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55408

          1. re: bob s

            Hmm. For some reason, Barbette did not link...

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            Barbette
            1600 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

            1. re: bob s

              Lucia's is totally a ladies who lunch place. And mostly ladies over, oh, say 70? I don't really know why that is, but there you are. But it is very good, not boring at all, very fresh ingredients. I did lunch there with my husband and 19-month old a couple of weeks ago and we didn't get any sour looks or anything. Then again, we'd tired her out before at the playground bob s mentions (best swingset with a view!) and my daughter is used to being in restaurants. We eat out a lot. It's kind of embarrassing but the other day I said to her, "It's time to eat lunch," and she looked at me and made her sign for driving, meaning we must be getting in the car to eat lunch out!

              In fact we have not taken our daughter to Meritage but I think that's because we save it for special occasions/date night. She has eaten at Nicollet Island Inn many times as it was on our extended family brunch list for awhile. However, my mother doesn't like it- she likes the old world ambiance but all the menu items, while they sound conventional, eg eggs benedict, are prepared with a modern twist (I can't remember quite what it was, but the hollandaise sauce had something slightly unconventional in it). My mother hates this because she gets an idea of what something should be like/taste like and when it's not that she can't wrap her head around it. One memorable time she ordered a chicken dish that came with a caesar salad - the lettuce had been chopped very finely and she was horrified and said to the waiter, "THAT'S a caesar salad?!" Even though they describe right on the menu or the waiter tells you if it's a special she doesn't read any further than the initial wording. So - a word to the wise if any of your in-laws seem like they might be that type and you go to Nicollet Island Inn.

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              Nicollet Island Inn
              95 Merriam, Minneapolis, MN 55401

              Meritage
              410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

          2. The food at Nicollet Island Inn is fine. They have performed an upgrade in that area from recent years. I just has brunch there (five course prix fixe option) about three weeks ago. I was impressed that they made their own head cheese in house, and it was very good. The view is very nice if you have a window table. And parking is convenient (in the inn's parking lot).

            The space at Meritage is nice, but the food hasn't impressed me as well as it has others who post on this board. But I'm always willing to keep giving it a chance. You will have to search for parking on the street or park in a ramp.

            Closer to Eden Prairie, your in-lwas might enjoy dining at one of the restaurants in the Galleria complex in Edina. Many people enjoy Crave, although I'm always leery of places with so many different cuisines on the menu. There is also Kozy's, a steak and seafood place that does a decent job.

            If you're willing to be a little bit adventurous, however, I'd send you to Modern Cafe in northeast Minneapoiis. It's comfort food done very well, with just enough "foodie" variations. But the ambience isn't as elevated as the other places mentioned here.

            1. Can I assume you've been to the new Santorini? I was very surprised by my lunch there, and I think the food there would appeal to conservative palates. Thought I'd throw it out there since it's in the backyard.

              Cafe Maude also has a new lunch menu, which I have yet to try. They aren't kid friendly by night, but during the day should be fine.

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              Cafe Maude
              5411 Penn Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55419

              Santorini
              13000 Technology Drive, Eden Prairie, MN 55344

              1. I highly recommend Cafe Maude. It's trendy but not pretentious or put-on, the food is fantastic but not too complicated and it's comfortable and friendly. And it has a patio.

                It's not exactly in the areas you were looking at, but it's certainly worth the drive to south minneapolis.

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                Cafe Maude
                5411 Penn Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55419

                1. Meritage still gets my vote as top restaurant in the Twin Cities and is probably a good choice for people where something like Piccolo wouldn't fly. I would just make sure they aren't going to be annoyed by what was in my experience very french service to go with the food, expect a minimum of 2hrs at your table. No big deal for a chowhound but this might bug others not use to not seeing their waiter for 20+mins at a time.

                  Crave is an ok option if you want sushi and the other people aren't adventurous. Though its not a very good value you will have paid enough money to get better food and sushi a la parasole.

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                  Meritage
                  410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                  1. Thanks for all the fantastic suggestions. In the end, we decided to go bowling as a big extended family, which although was great fun and allowed the family to go out together, was certainly less gastronomically favourable. We're off back to Boston today, but will save these recommendations for the next trip back.

                    tb