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Date night within 15-20 minute drive of Como Park

My husband and I have two kids, and no family in the area, so we don't get out by ourselves very often. However, we have someone to watch the kids on Saturday, Feb 16. Since it's Valentine's weekend, I want to go ahead and make reservations somewhere.

I'd like to find somewhere...
*within a 15-20 minute drive (we live close to the State Fair Grounds)
*not completely booked for V-day weekend (we'll be eating around 5:30, so hopefully that will help)
*not a chain
*not a lot of kids
*reasonably priced ($15-$25/basic entrees)

The last place we went was Salut on Grand. We both enjoyed it, but would like to try someplace new.


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  1. I think Ngon Vietnamese Bistro (www.ngonbistro.com) would be a great choice. The menu has both a "traditional" (ie. Vietnamese) section as well as an Western/Asian fusion type menu. All dishes I have had have been excellent it is a great value for some seriously chow-worthy food.

    Very nice atmosphere and service too. Make sure you have the rabbit dumpling appetizer.

    1. +1 on Ngon. It was the first place that came to mind before I scrolled down and saw that Dale beat me to it. I will also echo that you'll like the atmosphere for date night. Better than the atmosphere at Salut.

      1. Meritage or the strip club would be nice. I think they both have a more polished service/space than ngon. You could pretty much get anywhere in 20 minutes, minus downtown minneapolis with the parking.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mitch cumstein

          Someone needs to explain the Strip Club to me. I don't get it. I had a mediocre, and really expensive meal there. Service was indifferent and the space not all that cozy. Why do you like it so much?

          1. re: rockyd

            For the OP, if they like Salut, I would say that Strip Club is in the vein of meat and potatoes, like Salut.

            I sit at the bar at the strip club, so service is right in front of me and I never write a place off after just 1 meal. but it does have higher priced stuff on the menu, but meat (especially pasture raised meat) costs what it costs.

        2. + 1 for Ngon, but also since you are going so early, lots of options in my mind.

          -Muffuletta (the only Parsole place I like)
          -Cafe Biaggio-on University (generally quiet on the weekend, at that time you might be alone.)
          -Craftsman (might be 25 minutes and little pricey, depends how you order-but I love the space and feel is quiet and adult)
          Also look at the places along Selby and Dale/Western (La Grolla, kind of sweet space, or Moscow on the Hill (never been.)

          5 Replies
          1. re: rockyd

            How is the craftsman pricey? Every dish but 1 is below $25.

            1. re: mitch cumstein

              Not to quibble, but per their latest online menu, 5 out of 9 entrees is 25 or higher. I guess the economy is on the mend! Yes, they do have also have "sandwich" items on the menu.

              1. re: dalewest

                jeezus. this is the most frugal market I have ever seen. quibble away for a f'ing dollar that you would save on the not having to pay valet, or park in a ramp. Count your blessings minneapolis, so many CHEAP restaurants for the quality of food you get. Craftsman serves high quality ingredients with a not enormous portion size...but responsible for the cost of the ingredient. Go to manny's for "fine dining" then if you want mediocre waxy meat and a few pounds of starch.

                1. re: mitch cumstein

                  Lighten up Mitch.

                  I live in the neighborhood and eat there at least three times a month. Its still a great value for excellent food. I was just pointing out for the readers' benefit that your numbers might be a little outdated.


                  1. re: dalewest

                    Sorry, Dale. I'm a little sensitive on the price thing, but thanks for clarifying the info for the op....

          2. As Mitch mentions, just about everywhere is within 15-20 minute drive. Are you specifically seeking "Date Night" promotions?

            1. Ristorante Luci is nice for low-key, romantic Italian - nothing groundbreaking, but it's solid. On Randolph at Cleveland in St. Paul. Quite romantic and intimate - and you should be ok getting a 5:30 reservation, I should think. One caveat - the tables are a bit close together for my taste.


              1 Reply
              1. re: gildeddawn

                Luci also has a sister restaurant across the street that offers a little more space and creativity in their cooking if that is what you are after. It's called Luci Ancora. It's also romantic, but in a more modern vein vs the old-school original.

              2. Colossal Cafe on Como. They have a special Valentine's Day menu through Saturday. We were there for NYE and enjoyed the special menu. This one is different and sounds even better. The service is consistently excellent.


                1. With such a consensus, we're going to give Ngon a try. I just made reservations.

                  Do they have good desserts at Ngon? Or is there a place within a short walk/drive that you would recommend for post-dinner dessert? (Alcohol isn't important at the moment, since I'm expecting baby #3.)


                  8 Replies
                  1. re: cheese_please

                    I don't recall ever having ordered dessert at Ngon. But I feel confident in saying they are probably good. A short walk would be to Homi, at the SW corner of University and Victoria, next to Best Steak House. You'll be taking a large step down in terms of atmosphere, but the food is fantastic. They will have authentic Mexican desserts.

                    Heading straight south on Victoria, you'd reach Cafe Latte at Victoria and Grand in about 5 minutes (no traffic lights crossing over I-94). Lots of dessert options, as I'm sure you know. Parking can be a PITA with that option (especially on a Saturday night).

                    1. re: cheese_please

                      There's always ice cream at Izzy's on Marshall.

                      1. re: shoo bee doo

                        A hearty +1 for dessert at Izzy's after dinner at Ngon. If I were pregnant, I would INSIST on Izzy's ice cream for dessert. (I'm not, and I do anyway.)

                        Important tip: Ask for tastes before you decide on your main scoop and your Izzy scoop. I've topped out at 5 tastes, but have never known them to set a limit on how many tastes you can have before you decide on your cone.

                        Have a lovely date night!

                      2. re: cheese_please

                        I don't see any desserts listed on their dinner menu right now, but surely they still offer dessert!?! Maybe they just don't have the dessert menu online right now?

                        ANYWAY, when Ngon first opened, a small group of us went to Ngon and ordered, among other things of course, every dessert from their menu. Here's an excerpt from and link to my post from back then:

                        "We also ordered all the desserts that were available (alas, they were out of the Vietnamese Coffee Cake):
                        -chocolate cheese cake with mong bean
                        -vanilla cheese cake with mong bean
                        -ginger creme brulee
                        (I see according to their dessert menu online they also offer a chocolate molten won ton--they didn't offer that last night! But, if they did, we would have ordered it, too!)"


                        I remember really loving the mung bean cheese cakes --the vanilla was my fav, I think. The ginger creme brulee was nice, too.

                        Izzy's or Caffe Latte are also both lovely options, of course.

                        Have a terrific time. And next time you have a date night, you might consider Joans in the Park on Snelling, a few blocks south of Randolph. I've not had great experiences at Ristorante Luci, but Luci Ancora isn't bad. Brasa (on Grand) is fantastic, too, though I wouldn't necessarily recommend it (or Salut, which is a local chain) for date night simply because those are places I recommend as kid-friendly! Nevertheless, I would never hesitate to dine at Brasa. Scusi on St. Clair might also be a good choice--I've not seen kids in the wine bar there.


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Joan's in the Park is over their $15 - 25 price range.

                          A visit to Izzy's could blow their evenings budget out of the water. Izzy's is quite expensive (they don't list prices on their website, always a warning sign).

                          Cafe Latte has great desserts, but Shish (also on Grand) is a great back up. You get a slab of a slice of cake.

                          Ngon's desserts are fine. Not bad, not great. I had creme brulee and a molten spicy cake there.

                          1. re: american_idle

                            Wow, you're right about Joan's prices. I don't remember them being that high, but it's probably been a year since I've had dinner there. I wonder if the prices have gone up or if I am misremembering. Nevertheless, on the current menu there's only one entree in the OP's range. Normally (and more recently than my most recent dinner there) I do salads, flatbreads, and appetizers there. Not out of cost-consciousness, but just because that's what appeals to me on their menu. And it's quite affordable. Thanks for catching that.

                            I'm not really sure I agree that Izzy's is going to blow their budget, though. Izzy's has a few sizes. Or you can share (it's Valentine's Day afterall) or get an Izzy's pop. The OP hasn't really set a budget for dessert for us and I think Izzy's is reasonably-priced.

                            Shish isn't bad. Parking is kind of a pain there.


                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                            The desserts I've had at Ngon were excellent. I remember a take on coffee cake that was based on Vietnamese iced coffee flavors. Fantastic. I don't know what the offerings are now. If they don't appeal, Izzy's is a great option.

                          3. re: cheese_please

                            Yes, they've got great desserts at Ngon. The ginger creme brulee is one of my favorites, and my partner has had a poached pear that she loved. They also have nice dessert wines if your husband is interested in that sort of thing.