These long, dark nights are best spent by low, warm lights in the company of your person. The past year has brought a new crop of restaurants with seductive lighting and dishes worth lingering over. These are the top picks to visit before those long nights get shorter.
Styled like a desert oasis, Colita sports smooth white walls, succulents planted into rocks along the exterior, and a lush walled bar. It’s there that cocktails (including low and zero-proof) are being poured forth into all manner of trippy containers. From the kitchen comes dishes placed atop all manner of masa creations, with lush, crunchy, pliable tortillas made from corn, especially fermented just for the chef. Colita is chef/owner Daniel del Prado’s second restaurant, but the joy of the food and staff has it more like a taste of vacation, even on the coldest MN winter day. Order several things and share to get the best dining experience, including the negrita cocktail presented atop rose petals.
5400 Penn Avenue S., Minneapolis
Jamie Malone is the restaurant makeover queen. The Food & Wine Best New Chef made Grand Cafe into a French bistro that had Minneapolis all abuzz. Now, she’s turned her attention to this restaurant in the downtown area. There’s a sleek ’90s vibe and tons of dishes to share with friends. Luxuriate over the mahogany roast duck or marvel at the boneless whole roast fish and toast the phenomenal wine list or a few of the delight-to-tip cocktails.
305 Washington Avenue S., Minneapolis
Slide into the little booths that look like they were upholstered with fabric swiped from Prince’s wardrobe and take in the floor show before the massive wood-fueled hearth at In Bloom. The dangling calla lily blossom light fixture slowly winks through pastel colors. The food walks a delicate balance of masculine and feminine with hunks of roast meat, sliced and adorned with thoughtful touches and finished with edible flowers. Its hearty, delicate, earthy, ethereal mix makes for a singular dinner best built for two.
928 7th St. W., St Paul
The mix of dark moss green and lightly tanned leather signal entry into the cozy, slightly fancier half of this new Northeast dual restaurant. The fine-dining Mexican cuisine is as beautifully presented as it is fun to eat. The fire crackles in the corner as the staff constantly lowers and rises the grill to catch just the right amount of char. The pork tostada are the most succulent presentation of tender, rich meat delicately placed atop chewy, tender crisp tortilla. Pair with a glass of Mexican chardonnay or one of the bar’s fantastic cocktails.
1414 Quincy St., Minneapolis
Stepping past the humble exterior and into the window-surrounded dining room is like slipping into the most comfortably, elegant special occasion outfit in your closet. Effortlessly beautiful, it gives you an air of sophisticated confidence before even touching a menu. Start with the crispy fried lumpia, the Filipino upgrade on an eggroll: it’s fun hold-it-in-your-hand eating. Move on to a giant mound of sweet, salty fried rice or chef Ann Ahmed’s take on green papaya salad topped with chicharron (crispy fried pork cracklings.) Pair with the jaw-on-the floor gorgeousness found in a cocktail glass from this bar, like the violet, frothy and floral garnished Anchan.
8815 7th Ave. N., Golden Valley
This sly little spot on Grand Avenue feels like it could have been transported from some beyond-hip Brooklyn neighborhood. That might be in part because the owner, Rikki Giambruno, relocated along with his crew from New York here. The Italian bistro is teeming nearly every night with locals who are thrilled to have this level of cooking available within walking distance. The fusilli tossed with kale, pine nuts and ricotta are worth driving across town to try. Pastas are really where this golden-lit restaurant shines. Linger over a glass of wine and long conversations in an intimate atmosphere.
790 Grand Ave., Saint Paul
Wilde Cafe & Spirits
This classic is under new ownership, which means it’s time to revisit the community-owned restaurant. Slide into the cozy restaurant with the sexy lighting and tuck into one of the intimate nooks. The Wilde crab cakes are perfect for sharing and pair beautifully with a highball and hand-holding.
65 Main St. SE, Minneapolis
The grand dame of dining rooms has risen as the new restaurant inside the gilded first floor of 510 Groveland has opened to a throng of excited guests. If anything, dining here is even more occasion-worthy than ever. Drive up to the door with easy valet and choose a dining experience: the more casual lounge or the steeped-in-handsome-darkness dining room. The bar sports a crackling fire and sultry lighting. The dining room is a seductive den of masculinity serving massive steaks and a whole-roast pheasant for feasting. Even though it just opened, the experienced staff behind the place, including chef Mike DeCamp who ran the day-to-day kitchen back when it was La Belle Vie, operate like a well-oiled, fine dining machine.
510 Groveland Ave., Minneapolis