help me figure out a reasonable group drop-in dining choice?
An out of town friend (who happens to have a lot of friends scattered throughout the Twin Cities) just came out of a bout with breast cancer and is coming back to town for the first time in awhile.
I'd like to organize a casual get-together somewhere south-central, perhaps along the 494 corridor in Bloomington somewhere, someplace with food and drink but the bigger focus will be the socializing.
The challenge is not only wanting someplace reasonably priced (fancy food and drink is waaaaay less important than the chance to hang out), but also someplace that doesn't care if our group starts out with 5 people at 6pm, peaks at 20 people at 8pm, and then back to 5 people at 10pm, with some folks just drinking and others ordering a full meal.
For all I know there's a ton of obvious choices, but I've never tried to do something like this before.
At this point the best idea I have is just gathering in a hotel lounge somewhere, but I know there must be better choices than that to be had...
What night of the week are you looking at? Sunday through Wednesday will generally give you more options (more tolerant management regarding people just hanging out). Although it's not along 494, my first thought was Vic's in St. Anthony Main. Going a bit more low-brow would be the Park Tavern in St. Louis Park.
I would try the bar area at Chez Collette in the hotel Sofitel. I think that would meet all of your criteria.
If you set it up, Ciao Bella might be able to handle this with ease. They did our company holiday party last year and handled it much the same way. They have an area off to the side which fits these types of gatherings pretty easily.
Ciao Bella is off the France/494 exit. Pretty easy to get to from all points of the Twin Cities.
RedRossa across from the Mall of America is spacious and never seems to be very crowded. It has a decent atmosphere and the food is surprisingly above average (considering the area and that it's a chain-ish place).