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Feb 25, 2012 06:15 PM

Romantic, but not snobby?

I'm in charge of an anniversary dinner. We like good food and friendly service, and I'd preferably like a romantic restaurant...but we really aren't super classy (e.g. I can't tell a pinot noir from a Burgundy)... any recommendations, please?

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  1. Location? Meaning what would you prefer/not prefer in terms of driving distance? Also, any type of cuisine you lean toward/away from?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Brad Ballinger

      We'll go anywhere in the metro area and Hudson. We are up for any type of food; I'm more concerned with finding a restaurant which is both obviously romantic and friendly to us amateur foodies.

      1. re: MKAbel

        Happy Anniversary! I was just discussing this with my husband in a completely different context, but I think Meritage in St. Paul has fantastic service that way. They have a way of making their guests (from 8 months to 80) feel at home without making them feel like rubes. Yet, the food is very very good (Russell Klein is up for a James Beard Best Chef Midwest Award--again) and the atmosphere is really charming in that cozy, bustling, French brasserie kind of way.

        It's been ages since I've been there or heard anything about them so I hope things haven't changed, but Signature Cafe in Minneapolis is similarly friendly and cozy, though not on par with Meritage food-wise. Not as loud or bustling as Meritage either.

        I think Tanpopo is very serene and romantic and not at all snobby. It's pretty casual and affordable so may not feel special occasion enough to you if you dine there all the time, but I always love it there. I feel the same way about Ngon Bistro. I just noticed your comment about "obviously romantic"--I guess neither of these last two are obviously romantic but I like them for a romantic meal, so I'm going to mention them anyway.

        P.S. while I mention Meritage welcomes a range of guests and that I might take a young child to Meritage for brunch or lunch, I wouldn't take one to dinner there.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          I have sort of a grudge against them, so you may want to take this comment with a grain of salt, but I really wouldn't recommend Meritage, for two reasons. The time that I was there, they were actually a bit snotty, and the volume of the dining room prevents the atmosphere from being romantic.

          (I also don't think the food is anything to write home about, but many, many people disagree with me, including the James Beard awards committee.)

          W. A. Frost is, in my opinion, the most romantic restaurant in the Cities, but I've heard others say they've had mixed experiences there. (They do have an enormous tome for a wine list, but I've never felt like they looked down their noses at me for not using it. Service has always been polite and helpful.)

          1. re: gildeddawn

            Bummer that you had a bad experience at Meritage. Was it right when they opened? I recall that service was very spotty in the first 6-9 months. If so, you might consider giving them another shot. I've had those experiences places (not Meritage, at the Strip Club for instance, where my experience was so bad in so many ways I'm not willing to give it another shot even though I'm pretty sure my experience was an aberration ) where I'm too bitter to give it another go. Meritage might be like that for you, but a data point of one experience sometimes might not be enough.

            I've been many times --for brunch, lunch, and dinner-- with many different combinations of people and have never had anything but warm, gracious service. I do agree that it's a little loud, but in that way that makes you feel like you can have a conversation at a normal volume without having to whisper. It just makes you feel like you're in your own little bubble.

            I like W.A. Frost and have only had good experiences (there have been a lot of mixed reports about W.A. Frost since Chef Klein left to open Meritage), but it's what I would call stuffy, except in spring or summer for patio dining, which is glorious. Defintely romantic, though.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I agree that only one data point isn't really enough, but I just don't know if I'm willing to give Meritage another chance; it's like your experience with the Strip Club, I think. It was pretty negative, especially for the expense. Eating at places with prices that high is not something my husband and I do regularly, and it's hard to choose a place we really didn't appreciate over a place that has always treated us very well.

              I'm trying to remember when it was that we went to Meritage, and I want to say fall of 2009, but I'm not positive.

              I think that volume can be an extremely variable preference, but I find it slightly too loud for an intimate conversation, which can be fine if you're just out for any old dinner, but is one of my most important criteria when considering a romantic location.

              I suppose Frost could be called stuffy, although I think it's really only the decor that reflects that. They're pretty seasonal and interesting these days - although, certainly not as chic as some other places in the Cities.

              1. re: gildeddawn

                If you go on Sunday night Meritage has a 3 course Prix Fixe that is $28. It was wonderful last time I had it. It also wasn't noisy on Sunday night.

                1. re: gildeddawn

                  Funny, I was just come back in to say I think stuffy isn't the right word to describe Frost. I think it's just uncomfortably quiet, like you have to whisper there (La Belle Vie is the same way, but a million times better food and service), and it's in that old building. I agree that they are trying to do the seasonal and local thing and from that perspective, it's not stuffy. Like I said, I've only had good experiences at Frost, but I just don't find the ambiance very vibrant. I don't know why I'm being so down on it; it is perfectly lovely.

                  I know what you mean by one experience that was so bad you swore off of it. No point in giving a place another try if you just think you'll stew the entire time. There are too many other places to eat. I think Meritage opened before 2009. Whether it was 2007 or 2008, though, I'm not sure.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Looks like Meritage opened in late 2007. I know it was widely inconsistent in the beginning. It should have been over it by 2009, though.



            2. re: The Dairy Queen

              I would agree with TDQ about Meritage. I am the foodie in the family and my worthy partner would be fine with sardines on toast for most occasions and is a penny pincher, to boot. He loves Meritage and we go there for all romantic, celebratory occasions.

            3. re: MKAbel

              Places that come to mind as obviously romantic are Vincent, Sapor, In Season, Cafe Maude. For me, part of what qualifies as romantic is being able to linger without pressure. You would get to at these places.

          2. Grand Cafe and Cave Vin in south Minneapolis; both have great food and are very friendly. I personally think the space at GC is more intimate- very french country. Cave Vin has a big room with a large table in the middle, more open than Grand.
            112 Eatery is always delicious and lovely, great space, really terrific service.

            1. How about the lounge at La Belle Vie? The main restaurant is probably the fanciest in town, but I don't find the lounge snobby at all. It's a beautiful room, the service is, in my experience, friendly and knowledgable, and the food is delicious. You can get fries and sliders, or something unusual and delicious. They also have fun and interesting cocktails, if youndon't care to wrestle with a wine list.

              I also love Lucia's in Uptown for romantic dinners. It's got a small, candlelit dining room, and even though the menu is short, I think it's great.

              I also like the Grand Cafe and Cave Vin suggestions. I also, unfortunately, had a pretty negative Meritage experience with really brusque service, so i'm hesitant to recommend it (or make a special trip to go again).

              1. It's been a few years since I've been there, but the Nicollet Island Inn always seemed like a very romantic type of place. I know it's been around seemingly forever, but sometimes a place like that fits the bill perfectly. Perhaps others will have recent experience with their food offerings which they can relay.

                I took a glimpse at their website and they emphasize romance. IIRC they even had horse and carriage rides for two around the island. The time I was there was right before Christmas, so perhaps that was just a seasonal thing.