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engagement dinner--LBV, meritage, other?

  • r
  • red37 Apr 27, 2011 10:21 AM

So I'm going to propose to my gf in a few weeks (hope she's not reading!) and I'm looking for a fancy celebratory dinner for later that night. We're both relatively new in town so it's going to have to be somewhere we've never been before. For that reason I'm concerned about going somewhere that might be unreliable–it would be a bummer if the service were bad or, worse, if the meal was sub-par.

Based on what I've read on the board, La Belle Vie seems like the no-brainer and the safest bet for a great meal with exceptional service. I was also attracted to Meritage because it seems like it may be good and charming and, for various practical reasons, that specific location in St Paul is appealing. But I don't want to sacrifice quality of food and service for practicality.

It doesn't have to be French. Just reliably exceptional food and service and, preferably, a setting befitting the occasion. Money is no object.

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La Belle Vie
510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405

Meritage
410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

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  1. I think you've hit the two top choices from most people here.

    LBV has more of a formal feel, while Meritage is more relaxed, whether or not that matters. Both places are going to serve you some of the (consistently) best food in town.

    Congrats :)

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    Meritage
    410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

    1. I would highly recommend LBV. The food and service are stellar. You can choose to either do the dining room (more formal and private) or the bar, which is lower key but still private enough if you reserve one of the booths in back. I'd say have a drink in the bar then do the dining room. And if you do decide to go there, mention your engagement in the reservation (call) and they'll make sure you get really special treatment.
      I like Meritage (but don't think it's on quite the same level as LBV). The only drawback to your particular situation is that, at least when I've been there, the dining room is loud.
      My only other thought is Vincents. Still not on par with LBV though.
      Congratulations!

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      Meritage
      410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

      1. Wish I had more of a home run to give you, but LBV is likely your best bet. It's kind of sad that we don't have a great restaurant with nice views of the river in either city, but I guess it is what it is.

        You'll find few objections to LBV. The food is consistently among the best in town. The service is top-notch. The bar area is one of the best in the city. The room has a stately feel about it that says special occasion. And you have the park/sculpture garden within walking distance if you feel like going for a moonlit stroll after dinner.

        Meritage is a nice restaurant, but it's a cut below in most aspects compared to LBV. And that's by design as French bistros aren't meant to be formal. I find WA Frost and it's patio to be a much more romantic restaurant, but the food there can be hit and miss.

        If you are looking for exceptional food and service, you may want to consider Restaurant Alma as that is likely the other fine dining restaurant in this town that compares to LBV. The room is less formal, but the food and service have always been on par in my book.

        Congrats. Hopefully you've got a good spot picked out to pop the question.

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        Restaurant Alma
        528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

        Meritage
        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

        1. I'm going to go against the grain of what's been said before me and suggest that you find what you think is the most romantic place - albeit with solid food and service - rather than the absolute best food available. Assuming that all goes as planned, you're going to be basking in the glow of each other and won't be concentrating on the food. IMHO, you'll probably be much more interested in each other than what's on the plate.

          I love LBV, but the room is very formal. I'd choose some place like Lurcat with its view of Loring Park or some place like that. If you let the restaurant know ahead of time, I'm sure they'd accommodate you with a romantic table.

          You'll have the rest of your life together to explore the food so you can go to LBV some other time.

          5 Replies
          1. re: bob s

            I'm in with Bob. LBV's food is great but the Menu hasn't changed much and is getting predictable. Go to a place you can enjoy each other....Congratulations

            1. re: ibew292

              "LBV's food is great but the Menu hasn't changed much and is getting predictable"

              According to their website, the A'La Carte menu hasn't changed since October .... of 2005!!! The tasting menus have been updated to Spring 2011 at least.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                It's very common for website menus to not be updated over long periods of time, even when the actual menu changes frequently.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  It hasn't change to much over the time I've been going there. I only make it there 2-3 times a year so I may have missed the changes. I do wish they would retire Poussin for a while it has been on the Tasting menu for at least 3 years.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Which explains why so many of them go out of business.

                    It may not be common. But there isn't a faster way to disappoint your customer than to have a menu item on your website and not have it on your menu.

                    Your website is one of your best marketing tools. Ignore it at your own peril.

            2. St. Paul Grill overlooking Rice Park is a top-notch spot. W.A. Frost is always listed as a romantic spot, but I cannot vouch since I haven't been there.

              6 Replies
              1. re: clamchowder

                I am frequently dragged to both locations for work. I wouldn't even take my wife to either on a date.

                After LBV, you can walk to the cherry and spoon dealio. What's more romantic than iconic sculpture?

                1. re: kevin47

                  Too bad your wife isnt into the $12 Jameson flights at the Grill. Best drink special going in town right now.

                  1. re: Db Cooper

                    Insofar as she's pregnant, not so much :)

                    1. re: kevin47

                      Congratulations to you too then I guess!

                      I'm with you on the food at both places which is why I find myself using them more as a place for drinks (SPG) or a bottle of wine (Frost Bar Area - Patio).

                2. re: clamchowder

                  Skip W.A. Frost. The other restaurants named are far better options.

                  1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                    I disagree - W. A. Frost has always been wonderful for me, and I've had several romantic dinners there with my husband. Their service has been good, and their tables feel personal and quiet.

                    Meritage is loud and not very intimate - tables are quite close together. I was also quite unimpressed with their food when I went, and found it rather bland.

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                    Meritage
                    410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                3. For "reliably exceptional food and service" and a setting befitting the occasion, LBV would be my choice. And, I might add, my only recommendation to meet the criteria you've stated. The others are where we go for everyday good food, and some of those mentioned we frequent only under protest. ;)

                  1. Congratulations on your impending engagement! My vote goes to La Belle Vie. I am a huge fan of Meritage (service, food and chef) and agree with your assessment of it being good and charming. LBV feels a little more special ocassion in the dining room and it is more private so you can revel in each other's company. I especially like Mark as a server. He is great with recommendations and little touches that make your night feel special (like a complimentary glass of Cava because you are celebrating or a glass of Calvados because it goes so well with the foie gras you ordered). Either way I'm sure it will be wonderful.

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                    La Belle Vie
                    510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405

                    Meritage
                    410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                    1. I'll pile on regarding LBV. I think the dining room is the best dining room in the Twin Cities. I'll also add a couple of places not mentioned yet. If you want a romantic vibe and good food, I'd recommend Cafe Barbette. Great Champagne list there as well. I'd also put in a plug for Cosmos. The decor might be a bit overly modern for your mood, but maybe you'd like that decor, and the food is excellent.

                      Meritage is a solid choice, but the atmosphere is more brasserie than intimate.

                      The good thing is you have time to actually visit these places and check out the ambience for yourself.

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                      Meritage
                      410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                      1. Congrats on the proposal and good luck!!

                        1. I think you've been given good advice elsewhere on the thread. I will only add this (and you may already have planned it): when you make your reservation, call and mention the occasion. It gives the restaurant a chance to do something special for your special occasion (I have no idea if LBV is likely to do this, but some nice places will).

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mtullius

                            I swear I posted the same thing, but the post seems to have disappeared. Grrr... Anyway, what I posted was the same thing - to let the restaurant know that you intend to propose over dinner. They may have some creative suggestions regarding how they can assist with "popping the question" - for example, bringing out a covered dish when it's time for dessert, then disappearing after removing the cover, revealing the engagement ring.

                            1. re: nsxtasy

                              I believe that red37 is proposing before dinner sometime. Regardless, letting the restaurant know that this is a special occasion dinner is a great recommendation.

                              I've only been to LBV once for an anniversary dinner and while the food and service are absolutely top tier...I'm not sure that I consider their dining room to be particularly romantic, per se. I find it rather ... cavernous. Tables are not particularly intimate. But I think lots of people disagree with me, so take that with a grain of salt. And red37 may not actually be looking for something incredibly romantic, but more celebratory in nature.

                              My automatic response to this post was Alma. But thinking more logically about it, Alma is not particularly romantic in ambiance, either! Decor is rather industrial modern and the view....well, no. (I like sitting near the kitchen and watching the dance of a well-run kitchen but that's just me). I think of Alma as romantic because I've had a number of wonderful meals there with my sweetie (in fact, we've never eaten there with other people!). The two-top tables are cozy and intimate. And the service is very very good. I happen to adore the food, it has ranged, over the number of visits over the years from very good to downright fan-fricken-tastic. And the chef's philosophy appeals to us, so it's a perfect fit for ME and my sweetie. But I recognize that my experiences there have colored my perception of it as a romantic place. If you've gone their with friends or business associates you prolly don't get the romantic vibe that I do!

                              In any case, congrats to red37 and his sweetie! I hope you have a wonderful day and a great dinner and that they are both the first of many to come in your lives together!

                              1. re: turtlebella

                                Turtlebella, I share your view of a romantic meal - Alma doesn't have a view, but the food is sublime, and I love watching the kitchen. My sweetie and I go there for anniversary dinners, then walk across the Stone Arch Bridge to get the requisite scenery.

                                Anne

                                P.S. Ditto on the best wishes and congrats to red37! Don't worry - whatever you pick will be great because of the happy memories.