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Need a place to eat Friday night after work with friends....can you make some suggestions?

Two of us work in downtown St. Paul, one in downtown Mps., so a location somewhat in between would be great. We are looking for good food, good drinks, and a place that is quiet enough that we can talk. (Re the drinks: We could live with wine and beer only, but a place that serves cocktails would be awesome.)

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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  1. That's a tough one. There really isn't anything that fits your criteria that is "somewhat in between" the two downtowns. You might want to try Muffuletta on Como. It is not cutting edge or anything, but the menu is Chef-driven and it has a wonderful dining room that is perfect for conversation.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jeff55432

      Hey Jeff and Slightly Grey,
      Thanks for your suggestions. This is a bit of a tough one, isn't it? Muffuletta was actually on our list, but I don't think they have cocktails. However, we may go there anyway because except for that, it sounds ideal.
      SG---Interesting to get your take on Twisted Fork. We live fairly close and have eaten there a few time. I find the menu items very uneven; some are great and some are dreadful. I have had some lovely wine there though.
      Thanks again.

    2. Salut on the St. Paul side - kind of in between, or Twisted Fork a bit more down Grand, although I wasn't impressed with the new items on the menu.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Slightly Grey

        I'll second Salut, even though it'll be a bit far for the Minneapolis folk.

      2. What about Craftsman on E. Lake? I haven't been in a long time, so can't comment on recent quality, but otherwise it meets your criteria.

        6 Replies
        1. re: dsg

          +1 on Craftsman. They do a good job with their cocktails.

            1. re: shoo bee doo

              +3 on Craftsman. Great food. I don't think there's anything in between downtown STP and MPLS thast comes near Craftsman in quality.

              Salut is mediocre at best. Anything on Grand is mediocre at best (other than Brasa).

              Ngon and Frost are hardly between the two downtowns (did you read the OP's request?).

              Another option is South MPLS - easy to get to from both STP and MPLS. In that case, Al Vento would be a great choice. While not technically "in between", Al Vento is easy to get to from both downtowns, and is a quality resto.

              1. re: shoo bee doo

                Happy Gnome and Cheeky Monkey while technically are between STP and MPLS, are both a 15 minute walk from downtown STP, and a 25 minute drive from MPLS. I don't think that's what the OP had in mind by "in between".

                1. re: foreverhungry

                  Considering the OP works in SP and seems to post on this board fairly regularly, I think she is capable of determining what she has in mind by "in between" and probably would appreciate more suggestions rather than fewer.

                  While I think Craftsman does meet that criteria (and has had good food in the past - haven't been there lately), I don't think your suggestion of Al Vento is much "in between" either. The fact of the matter is that there ISN'T much "in between" and you're pretty much resigned to having to pick a place that's significantly closer for one or the other. So let's not get too nitpicky here, ok?

                  1. re: Seige

                    A big pile of what Seige said. I even touched on the 2 vs. 1 in my suggestions.

                    Al Vento is 25 minutes in ideal traffic from DT St. Paul. About the same as Victory 44.

          1. Ngon Bistro. Beer / wine only, but a nice menu and not overly noisy. WA Frost is a bit fancy, but the bar and it's downstairs Lounge are quite cozy. Otherwise one of the zillion ethnic restaurants on University.

            I'd rather get pizza at Green Mill than go to Twisted Fork.

            Where does everyone live. I think that might be more important than where you work for logistics. But generally, the odd man out gets to drive farther.

            1. How about the Happy Gnome? Great atmosphere and great beer. They have cocktails (though I have no idea of their quality, because, beer). Food is good. A little more toward downtown SP but still definitely one of my go-to spots.

              1 Reply
              1. re: 3Bros

                Big shock - Seige comes out of the woodwork for a Happy Gnome post. :) But they do have pretty good cocktails and decent wine and beer and of course, I like the burgers. Only slight downfall is that it can be a bit noisy depending on who else is in the dining room. Bar would definitely be too noisy.

                Another option is Cheeky Monkey. Limited beer and wine, no cocktails and more bistro cuisine, but good food and quiet and cozy for conversation.

              2. Hey fellow MSP Chowhounders,

                Thank you so much for your great reccs and for this spirited discussion. We ended up at Muffaletta and were very pleased with our food and wine. Believe it or not, I had never eaten popcorn seasoned with truffle oil, which was served with our drinks. It was soooo good. This was a pleasant little bonus :0)

                One person in our party had commented as we were casting about for a place to eat/drink that Craftsman has very good food and drink but she thought it would be too noisy.

                I need to give Ngon another chance. We ate there once and I was underwhelmed. But it gets a lot of love on this board, so I need to search the Ngon posts on this board and then go back and order wisely.

                Al Vento was an intriguing suggestion...... I live in Mac Groveland and know all the shortcuts to get there.....25 minutes sounds about right.

                Good to know that Happy Gnome and Cheeky Monkey have Happy Hours. I have eaten at both places and think food at both places is good.

                ForeverHungry---your statement is very interesting "Anything on Grand is mediocre at best (other than Brasa)." I've been trying to think of other non-mediocre places besides Brasa....If we are not talking about places with Happy Hours, but rather all restos, would you put these on your non-mediocre list? Cafe Latte, D'Amico, the Nepali place near Grand and Hamline, and the little Vietnamese place just west of Macalester.

                Once again, 'hounds, thank you. I love this board.

                4 Replies
                1. re: soccermom13

                  soccermom - I'm just not a fan of most places on Grand. Latte has very good desserts, but I'm not a fan of their non-dessert offerings. I also like Barbary Fig, though haven;t been in several years. D'Amico is fine for what it is - cafeteria style service, OK food, but nothing terribly exciting. I compare D'Amico to Broder's Deli, and while D'Amico has a broader menu, I prefer the food at Broder's Deli. Haven't been to Cat Man Do - is that the Nepali you are referring to? I've eaten at Everest on Grand, and it was good, but not something I would drive across town for. Not sure of which Vietnamese place you mean, though to be honest, I'm just not a fan of Vietnamese. I've tried it on several occasions, and everything I've had strikes me as "meh". I like Thai, but for some reason, Vietnamese just doesn't do it for me.

                  For me Grand Ave has a reputation as a destination street, but for so many restaurants there, with a very few exceptions, I just don't find any that remarkable. While not concentrated on one street, I think South Minneapolis has a much stronger restaurant scene. I'm surprised to an extent, because there are wealthy neighborhoods in the Grand Ave area, that could certainly support higher end restaurants. As for Al Vento, I work in downtown STP and live a few blocks from Al Vento. With no traffic, it takes 18 minutes. With traffic, 25ish sounds about right. True though, if you're coming from Mac Groveland, then you're on surface streets, and that can bog down.

                  Glad Muffaleta worked out for you. I often forget about Muffaleta, but on the few occasions I've been there, I've really enjoyed it.

                  1. re: foreverhungry

                    + 1 for Barbary Fig! Great food, quiet, and really pleasant.

                    1. re: foreverhungry

                      Hi Forever,

                      I've been thinking about your thoughtful post for the last week and I now realize that I hold the Grand Ave restos to a lower standard than others. Here's why: they are very close to my home and also on the way home from where I work in downtown St. Paul. When I am bone-tired and can't bear the thought of cooking, we will happily eat at Cafe Latte (I do like their salads, and DH loves their soups) and D'Amico and sometimes Grand Shanghei. My criteria for this kind of eating out (done when too tired to cook on a weeknight) is that it's decent food and won't break the bank. Do we go to these places as destination restos? No. They are not good enough for that.

                      Also---can't remember the name of the Vietnamese place. It's somewhat close to the new gelato place. And I did mean Everest on Grand, which I thought was Nepali, but when I googled it just now, it was described as Himalayan.

                      Thanks, Forever.

                      p.s. What are a couple of restos you love in S. Mpls? I am in Mac Groveland, so S. Mpls is just a hop, skip, and jump away. I could broaden my horizons :0)

                      1. re: soccermom13

                        Hi Soccermom -

                        If I lived in the Grand Ave neighborhood, I'd be frequenting the area a lot more than I do now - it makes sense to frequent your neighborhood. For me, it takes a bit of work to get there from home. I totally understand the criteria of decent and economical - and Grand has some great variety that fits that bill, including more "destination-y" type places like Brasa and Barbary Fig.

                        As for the west side of the river...Al Vento is a few blocks away and is a great value, and so is Las Teresitas - darned good Mexican food. Buster's on 28th is a go-to "bar food" place with a great beer selection, and what I think is the best burger in the area. A (somewhat) recent addition a little further out is Pat's Tap (on Nicollet) - been there twice, and the food and service have been outstanding - the pork terrine sandwich was one of the best sandwiches I've had in recent memory. Turtle Bread Co. on Chicago always serves up solid soups and sandwiches, next door Biga has very solid pizzas (not on the scale of Black Sheep or Lola), and next door to that is Pumphouse Creamery - darned good ice cream with local ingredients. During the summer, Sea Salt in Minnehaha is a fantastic value - though some on CH disagree with that. Midtown Global is also easily accessible from you, straight down Marshall-Lake and free parking. (Almost all our take out pizza is from Broders).

                        Stepping up from the $50-ish or less for 2 for meal and a drink (no, I don't include Al Vento in that) - then easily accessible from you are both Al Vento and Craftsman; Cafe Levain; Patisserie 46 (for a breakfast or lunch fix, and awesome deserts); Broders (both Pasta bar and deli), and for top notch special, Piccolo. Those are all restaurants and eateries that are our favorites in the S. MPLS area.

                        A bit further out (though still in S MPLS) that we go to are Cafe Maude, Pizza Lola, Icehouse (just one trip there recently, though very good).

                        What gems are in your neighborhood that you hit often, often that the Grand Ave places?