As Valentine’s Day approaches, we thought we’d ask some of our staff and contributors to talk up their favorite spots to wine and dine. Responses run the gamut from fancy romance to an average evening out, from breakfast to late-night, and they are, together, just a sliver of what our area has to offer.
The Kitty Cat Klub (315 14th Ave. SE) — where I reconnected with my now-husband after several years — has a romantic Euro vibe, with beautiful décor. The KCK has an array of mood settings, faux candlelight, art and antiques, and huge couches to hang out on with your artful lover while you drink wine and listen to excellent live music, whether you like gypsy, jazz, funk or pop.
Chai’s Thai (414 1/2 Cedar Ave.), a tiny corridor café located next to the Cedar, is very romantic and inexpensive — a gem on the West Bank, with zen-like décor, warm colors and candle-lit dinners of excellent Thai food presented artfully on nice ware. Their seafood dishes are to die for, and their spicing with ginger, lime, lemongrass, pepper and more are subtle yet heavenly.
Midori’s Floating World is the go-to traditional place in Seward, Longfellow and beyond for excellent sushi, saki and soba. With its friendly, comfortable vibe, wonderful food and array of art teas, this is a wonderful place to share sushi with your sweetie on Valentine’s Day and everyday. Look for them now across the street from their old location. The brand-new new digs at 2629 E. Lake St. — which opened Jan. 27 — feature a larger dining room, sake bar and two restrooms, according to Midori’s website.
— Cyn Collins
Ever since the Viking Bar closed on the West Bank, the Minneapolis Eagles Club (2507 E. 25th St.) has graciously welcomed the West Bank music scene and its fans. Whether I’m stopping by for a quick drink and to see who’s there, dancing New Year’s Eve away with old friends, or attending one of the many community benefits, parties or ceremonies that have been held there over these past years, I always feel welcome. With a décor that feels like a roadside-stop on the way to International Falls and a drink selection that defies trendiness, the Eagles is the comfort food of the area’s watering holes.
— Becky Clawson
Rich and I like to go to East Lake Street for an easy night out. One of our favorite restaurants is Italianni’s (3508 E. Lake St.), where we order the heart-stoppingly good grilled chicken fettuccini alfredo (for him) and a spinach and mushroom calzone (for me) washed down with a really big glass of wine. We also enjoy the authentic and tasty Mexican food at El Norteño (4000 E. Lake St.). Both restaurants feature friendly service and garden-fresh ingredients. Saturdays after dinner, we like to go to Merlin’s Rest (3601 E. Lake St.) and listen to Pappa John’s live blues and jazz — always enjoyable and, depending on who is sitting in that night, sometimes downright amazing.
— Holle Brian
When traveling to exotic places, isn’t it great when you find that cozy bistro that the locals call home, but the cooking is way better? It will always be your place of fond memories and instant salivation. Even though I’m just coming from across the river (I think Prospect Park is a little exotic — just check out those streetlights!), the Signature Café (130 SE Warwick St.) has always been that place for me.
The “trip” is always worth it. Nathalie, the chef, and her husband Tony pour their soul into the place and spice it up with their personalities in such a way that you always come away with a quenched appetite for a special meal with friends.
— Dan Nordley
When we head out for a drink, we usually choose neighborhood haunts as comfortable as old shoes. But when we’re in a high-heeled mood, we’re drawn to the sparkling lights on the other side of the river.
For a taste of the transgressive Twenties, I recommend Prohibition, at the top of the W Minneapolis hotel in the Foshay (801 Marquette Ave.). Between the beautiful people and the breathtaking views, you won’t care what the drinks cost. For more intellectual intimacy, get thee to the Guthrie (818 S. Second St.), where you can enjoy jazz and fine wine at Cue or grab drinks to share tête-à-tête in a romantic hideaway corner. To indulge your inner child, check out the wxyz bar in the new Aloft Hotel (900 Washington Ave S.). Play your favorite games (Hungry, Hungry Hippos anyone?) while enjoying grown-up refreshments, from local brews and mod martinis to steamed edamame and tater tots.
In Marcy-Holmes, the favorite spot for romance and sensual delight (of the culinary kind) is our beloved Restaurant Alma (528 University Ave. SE), owned and operated by Marcy resident Alex Roberts. Now celebrating its tenth year, Alma specializes in eclectic American gourmet cuisine served in a cozy, casual space with the warmest hospitality. My husband and I are especially fond of the three-course tasting menu, which allows us to design a palette of delightful dishes, perfect for sampling and sharing. Serve each other forkfuls of lamb dumplings and slow-roasted duck and you’ll definitely be in the mood — at least for dessert.
— Linda Lincoln
What could be more romantic than a weekend wake-up into the loving care of a good brunch menu? While the hip and hungover are throwing elbows for greasy hashbrowns, my wife and I like to slip into the Red Stag Supper Club (509 First Ave. NE). As always, the meal begins with the arcane signal for still or sparkling water and the tiniest bite of coffee cake. From there, it’s on to the sweet and savory — she likes the waffles with berries and cream; I like the green eggs and ham or chicken-fried steak. Add coffee, a Bloody Mary or Mimosa (or all three) and start Saturday or Sunday right.
Finally, who says the midday meal can’t be more than a dash to fill your stomach? I recall fondly a spontaneous weekday date at Obento-Ya (1510 Come Ave. SE) with my then-student wife. We were both pleasantly surprised at not only the food, but the presentation: the prefect-sized portion of bento with miso soup, side greens and japanese potato salad. The lunch special is the tip of the iceberg — there’s sushi, robata, noodles, and we haven’t been since they added beer and wine (long lunch, anyone?) For a true romantic dinner, check out their $30 Valentine’s Day course.