Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant

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Dakota is located in the heart of Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. It’s always been the standard against which live music clubs are judged. The ambience is warm where the exposed brick walls are accentuated with dark woods – a great atmosphere to listen to cool Jazz. There is the main floor as well a mezzanine section and frankly it can feel a little compact when crowded, but we guarantee you there’s no bad seat in the house. We were seated in the back corner in the mezzanine section and there was no reason to complain (we actually liked our table because the tables in the back are a little further apart and more open). The night we visited, we were treated to a stunning performance by Rondi Charleston and an all-star band.

1010 Nicollet Ave
Minneapolis, MN
Phone: (612) 332-1010
http://www.dakotacooks.com/pages/restaurant.html

Category: American-upscale

Rating (Scale 1-10, with 10 being the highest):
Food: 9
Service: 9 (Dinner); 2 (Happy Hour)
Ambience: 9

Recommendation: Excellent for dinner. Dakota has found a winning combination – innovative food prepared with culinary deft and great live music from the best Jazz musicians. A word of caution, though – if you plan on going there for happy hour, you might feel unwelcomed and rushed (see April 2008 update below).

The menu is in the careful hands of Chef Jack Riebel – a Minnesotan who has sharpened his culinary skills while working at top local restaurants La Belle Vie and Goodfellows. The menu is what you would expect at an upscale American restaurant but the craftsmanship in the resulting product is anything but ordinary. The complimentary Baguette was wonderful – warm and chewy. For appetizers, we had the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes (with pickled habanero aioli and sweet sour jicama slaw) – the three cakes were cylindrical and taller than your average crab cake and topped very beautifully with the jicama slaw; a very clever plating. The Beef and Basil Carpaccio was excellent and truly unique (mini beef chunks were wrapped into thinly sliced beef and topped with a spicy salad of cucumbers, basil and chilies). We loved the spiciness of the Carpaccio but if you don’t like spicy food, stay away from it. The Fries with Bernaise Sauce are definitely worth a try. The Chef’s three course meal was outstanding; the Golden Beet Salad (with feta, apple, avocado, and citrus vinaigrette) was light and fresh with hints of tangy citrus and sharp feta; the Coconut & Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi (with sweet potato puree, grilled shrimp, and roasted pineapple beurre blanc) left a lasting impression; the Baked Meringue dessert (with pineapple and pomegranate) was average, especially because of the overpowering flavors from the lemon rinds. Our server, Dan, was wonderful – his recommendations superb and his attentiveness unmatched. It’s an absolute delight to be on the receiving end of a dining experience where all aspects of the restaurant seem to work in such harmony.

$$$$. Dinner for 2 with a glass of wine each was $130.

Update (April 7, 2008) – Our second visit to Dakota wasn’t as fabulous as our first. We should have known what was about to befall us…when we inquired about happy hour there was an uncomfortable silence from the host before we were told to grab a table only to be reminded that we would be asked to leave in a short time (there was a show that night). Fair enough, the tables are reserved. When we sat down, we were shocked to learn that happy hour ends at 6pm instead of 6.30, as stated clearly on their website. We asked for an explanation on the discrepancy, only to get a long winded confusing answer about something to do with music nights and non-music nights (we didn’t completely understand it so we won’t elaborate, except to say “call ahead and confirm”). The food was the saving grace (we did squeeze in our HH order a couple minutes before 6) – the Bison Burgers were juicy and packed with flavor while the Dakota Fries were some of the best we have had in the Twin Cities. The Crab Cakes on the other hand were overpowered with spice, and still tasted fishy! We would have written about the Chicken Wings if they had been served. All three of us clearly remember ordering a half a dozen wings, but our server reminded us that he had repeated the order to us and we hadn’t caught the omission (he didn’t apologize or offer to fix it, he did graciously tell us that we can order them off the main dinner menu.) Just a small piece of advice to the server – a pen and pad is real handy when it comes to taking a customer’s order. Within seconds of finishing our food we were handed the check along with the customary “whenever you are ready.” We were in and out in just over 30 minutes. And if you’re wondering why the antagonistic review…we spent $60 (not a cheap HH by any stretch of the imagination) and I think that calls for a minimum level of service.

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