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Aug 30, 2012 07:19 AM

Need a rec - corporate dinner, needs a exceptional wine list, fine dining


Would appreciate some assistance on this one. I'm in town for tonight... need tos chedudle dinner for 6-8 people... my boss is a little loose with the expense account and wants something higher end with an exceptional wine list... we've been to Oceanaire and Manny's... something less chain like would be nice too


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  1. La Belle Vie is your best bet downtown. You won't be disappointed. It's one of our best and the wine list is really solid.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Db Cooper

      great - looks perfect... no openings tonight but I'll call and see if I can get in

      if I can't - do you have any other recs? this one looks spot on

        1. re: LiveCJ

          Lurcat has a serviceable wine list, semi-fine dining (resets, sync-service, back waiters) with some outstanding bottles in their reserve section and you can likely get a table tonight.

          1. re: LiveCJ

            I'd suggest Alma if you can get in. That's our other best.

            The other suggestions below are also all good. Lurcat is a step below the others, but is not a bad fallback.

        2. Heidi's and Piccolo are worth investigating.

          13 Replies
          1. re: semanticantics

            the wine list at piccolo that they have online is not impressive, but the list at the restaurant is very well selected.

            1. re: mitch cumstein

              Neither is really fine dining or conducive to the type of back-slapping drunkenness that typically accompanies expense account dinners. 8 loud people is not going to go over well in tiny dining rooms with low ceilings.

              As the recipient of many a corporate-dining expense, I can tell you it's not typically about the food, it's about showing-off and getting drunk, hence Lurcat. Plus, of all the places except Meritage & LBV, they can accommodate a table of 8. If the bar is Oceanaire & Manny's...and you've ever been to either for a client'll know what I mean.

              The notes regarding the sommelier's at LBV and Meritage are right on. Same goes for Bachelor Farmer...but I wouldn't take eight people there for a business dinner either unless you work in design.

              A note as well: Alma, Piccolo nor Heidi's have a liquor license (beer and wine only) if someone wants a 30 year old scotch, they'll be SOL.

              1. re: Foureyes137

                Those are all good points which also leads me to suggest Capital Grille. Damn good steaks, boisterous atmosphere, and 30 year old scotch always available. Wine list is pretty impressive too and you can drain that expense account real fast...

                1. re: Db Cooper

                  Concur: Capital Grille is a great recommendation...I read "no chains" and nixed the recommendation. Good wine list, full bar...big's a win.

                  1. re: Foureyes137

                    I was leery of it too since it technically is a chain, but it's a high-end one. It's sort of like Legal Seafoods in Boston. Yeah, it's a chain. But you can't really go wrong at it though.

                    I hope the OP will let us know where they ended up going....

                    1. re: Db Cooper

                      appreciate all the insights and active discussion today... you guys have a great community here...

                      I've not been successful getting into La Belle Vie or Alma. This group is probably unwilling to make the short drive to St. Paul just given the calendar today so those options are out.

                      I do like Cap Grill, but we did steak on Monday, and its something I can get at home so going to skip that. My experience with their wine list is also usually full of brand priorities (albeit some very good ones) but the guy buying tonight has a real discerning palette and keeps finding gems I've never heard of from the old world and smaller producers... so a reserve list at Lurcat is appealing.

                      I think Lurcat is a real possibility.... concerned about some of the comments about it being a step down.... is it just "not as good" as some of the top places or more that its sub-par?

                      I'm going to take another look at Heidi's too.

                      1. re: LiveCJ

                        It's by no means bad. I didn't mean it as you're eating at Applebees. It's good food and for a business dinner, you'll enjoy it. Every town has the best one or two restaurants and a ton of really good ones. This is one of the really good ones.

                        Though I'll admit I'd choose Heidi's. I drink beer and wine so the booze list doesn't matter to me.

                        1. re: LiveCJ

                          i'm going to throw 112 eatery into the mix right about here. that upstairs room is a good expense account spot-- but the downstairs may feel cramped w a large party of drinking folks.

                  2. re: Foureyes137

                    Full bar at Heidi's with some very tasty and inventive cocktails. The space is probably a little intimate for a business dinner, however

                    1. re: keithinmpls

                      So one of the locals we work with just said we should go to Bar La Grassa and sold it pretty hard.... thoughts on that?

                      1. re: LiveCJ

                        I like it a lot, but if someone else were buying i'd want something more expensive. Also, it's really loud in there. I like the 112 eatery idea above.

                        Also, what about Porter and Frye? I've never been there, but does anyone else have thoughts?

                        1. re: Bobannon

                          so the boss just made the executive decision based on the rec from that person... thanks for all the help... I'll book something based on the recs here next time I'm in town...

                          1. re: LiveCJ

                            fwiw, 112 & blg are same (james beard winner) chef-owner. of the two, 112 screams expense-account to me, blg is more for exuberant folks comfortable w eating off each others' plates, so to me is less biz-dinner. but it isn't a bad rec by any means...

                            let us know what you and your party thought of your evening, won't you? :)

              2. with the qualification that the food is likely to be more outstanding at all of the other recs above... w.a. frost in st. paul has a great wine cellar and solid-- if not-so-much cutting edge food, and has a great patio, if outdoor seating is an option. the inside of the restaurant can be seen as charming, or it can be seen as stuffy, depending on your sensibilities. nevertheless, quite non-chain-y, & the restaurant is worth a look if the location is right and the wine list is paramount.

                1 Reply
                1. re: soupkitten

                  I agree - Frost is also nice and quiet, which I can't say about Meritage.

                  Heartland, in downtown St. Paul, is also a good choice.

                2. If you're willing to go to St. Paul (and I hope you are), I enthusiastically second the Meritage rec. Amazing food and their wine list is a book - no kidding. For Minneapolis, Heidi's, maybe Corner Table? I'm not sure about CT's wine list.

                  Edited to add a couple more: The Strip Club in St. Paul and Sea Change in Mpls. Though maybe TSC may be a little "cheeky" for a corporate dinner.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: drew13000

                    I would not take a business associate to The Strip Club, way too much opportunity to offend.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Ditto - I've actually avoided it because of the names of some menu items, though people tell me the food is good.

                      1. re: gildeddawn

                        The food is good, based on my ONE experience there a couple of years ago. We had really bad (forgetful, slow) service, really uncomfortable (cheap Ikea) seats, and found the place ear-splittingly loud the time we went, so we never went back. So my experience is pretty stale and based on a datapoint of one.

                        I would really like to try their brunch one of these days, though, unless it's kid friendly, we're unlikely to go.

                        I wouldn't avoid it for the name of the restaurant or the tacky menu names alone, but I wouldn't take a business associate, my mother in law, my grandmother, my priest, or an adolescent there...


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          One of the menu items' names seemed vaguely racist to me, and it really turned me off. Since I'm not much of steakhouse person, that was enough to keep me away.

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Seriously? We take my mother-in-law there all the time. And I'd totally take my nieces. I think it's all tongue-in-cheek. You need to have a sense of humor about these things.

                            Anyway, we don't go there for dinner much because we just find the tables too close together and uncomfortable. However, we do love their brunch. It's not nearly as packed and the service is super friendly. And I'd say it's kid-friendly, but I don't have kids, so I'm not sure what you're looking for exactly. There are certainly items you could order for kids (sides of eggs, bacon, etc.), but I don't know that you get crayons and an activity page with the meal or anything like that.

                            1. re: Seige

                              I guess people's senses of humor can vary as much as their taste in food. Really, I just don't ever want to be in a position of having to defend their sense of humor when it's not really something I agree with or am personally comfortable with, namely on the concern gildedawn mentions above.

                              By kid-friendly, I mostly mean will other patrons be disturbed if we bring our toddler and he bangs his hands or spoon on the table or shrieks loudly, even in delight. And will the waitstaff be annoyed that he might drop food on the floor. We won't let him continuously bang on the table or scream incessantly or throw food repeatedly, but he might occasionally do those things until we intervene.


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                We've been going with our almost-four year old to TSC brunch for her whole life. So, yeah, I'd say it's kid-friendly! It's a laid back friendly vibe for brunch and the wait-staff is more than accommodating and attentive. They always make Thalia a kid-cocktail cos she gets jealous of our brunch cocktails, very sweet about it. I'm willing to bet at least one other table will have a child or a baby or both, and it might be us!

                    2. If you end up at Le Belle Vie, Bill Summerville is an outstanding sommelier, and I'd definitely get his input. Ditto for Nicolas at Meritage.