Hyacinth III (St. Paul, MN)


I ate at Hyacinth twice in 2019. The first time with the missus and some friends; the second time with colleagues. I enjoyed both meals even as I felt that its charms were really those of a neighbourhood restaurant. Nonetheless, if the pandemic had not intervened we would probably have gone back at least once in the last couple of years. And this past weekend we finally did, taking our boys out with us once again to an adult dinner experience. Italian food is the easiest option with them (see oiur previous outings to Terzo, Luci Ancora, Bar La Grassa, 112 Eatery and Mucci’s) and Hyacinth’s current menu seemed like it would suit them just fine. I’m glad to report that this did indeed prove to be the case: they enjoyed their dinner a lot. Their parents liked it too but thought it was a little uneven and we were really not convinced by the meal’s value proposition. Continue reading

Terzo (Minneapolis)


Those of you who are misguided enough to follow this blog closely know that this year the missus and I began taking the boys out to an adult dinner with us once a month or so. Our ports of call so far have included Luci Ancora, Bar La Grassa, Myriel, 112 Eatery and Mucci’s. Those who also know these restaurants can also tell that with the exception of Myriel they have in common either a full-on Italian focus or—in the case of 112 Eatery—a menu that features a number of pastas and grilled meats. These, you see, are the best bets for dining out with our boys—they’re probably more adventurous as eaters than most of their peers but we’re not paying for them to spurn 75% of what’s on their plates at places like Alma or Tenant or Spoon & Stable. But Italian food is easy. Accordingly, we’re in the process of doing a slow-motion tour of the more popular/better-regarded Italian places in the Twin Cities. This month saw us make a stop at Terzo, the most formal of the outposts of the Broders mini-empire at the intersection of 50th St. and Penn Ave. in South Minneapolis. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Luci Ancora (St. Paul, MN)


I have been told on occasion that for someone who reviews a lot of restaurants in the Twin Cities I have a major blind spot when it comes to older restaurants. I suppose this is true, especially at the high end. With very few exceptions, most of the high-end restaurants I’ve reviewed either opened after we got to Minnesota in 2007 or not so very much before. I’m not really sure why that is—I suppose I am guilty as much as anyone else of following the pr-driven newer places that get more attention online. Well, in an attempt to begin to redress that gap we had dinner recently at Luci Ancora, a venerable St. Paul institution for Italian food. Continue reading

Bar La Grassa, 2022 (Minneapolis)


Earlier this year we began taking our boys out to the occasional formal dinner with us. They’ve been enjoying these meals greatly. While our dinner at Myriel—with their practice of not posting menus—was a chancy shot in the dark, the other two dinners—at Mucci’s Italian and 112 Eatery—were pretty solid bets as both are places with a number of pasta options (as it happens, they enjoyed Myriel as well). Thus when the younger boy expressed an interest in eating a fancy dinner for his birthday in July we decided to go back to a place with many, many pasta options: Bar La Grassa. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Estelle (St. Paul)


Estelle opened a couple of years ago in St. Paul in whatever that neighbourhood right by Macalester is called. It got rave reviews from the local press and despite my suspicion of the local press—whose excitement often seems to me to have as much to do with the idea of a place as with the food itself—we’d planned to eat there in early 2020. But you know what happened next. I don’t know if they had a takeout pivot through the pandemic but with the exception of one occasion with Tenant our pandemic takeout meals skipped the high end. But we finally made the return to dining-in last month (yes, at Tenant) and Estelle was the next place we made reservations at. We were joined by friends we eat out with regularly—and with whom we ate a number of takeout meals in the last year and a half. This is how it went. Continue reading

Hyacinth II


We first ate at Hyacinth in March. That was a nice dinner but nothing so very special; and on our drive south all four of us agreed that if we lived in St. Paul we’d eat there every once in a while but that it wasn’t anything we needed to drive an hour each way and pay a sitter a lot of money for. Nonetheless, I had wanted to go back in the summer or early fall to see what their kitchen would do with the best of Minnesota produce but, alas, it wasn’t to be. But I did get a chance to go back earlier this month with friends from work (the missus wasn’t along). As it happens, I liked this meal more than our first. Here are the details. Continue reading

Rezdora (New York, August 2019)


Back to New York. After a run of informal or relatively casual meals, here’s the first fancy’ish restaurant for which we hired a sitter and abandoned the boys to go eat at. (By the way, Manhattan babysitting rates: what the fuck?)

When I was planning our New York eating I asked the brain trust at Mouthfuls to recommend a couple of “fine dining” (whatever that means these days) places in Manhattan where two people could eat well and get out for about $250 all-in. This sounds like a tough proposition in Manhattan but bear in mind that the missus never has more than one drink and I rarely have more than two. A few names came up but after filtering for “sounds interesting to us” and “not difficult to get a table” only two remained: Rezdora and Crown Shy. We ate at both on consecutive nights. Here first is the Rezdora write-up. Continue reading

Hyacinth (St. Paul, MN)


Hyacinth opened on Grand Avenue in St. Paul last autumn and quickly made a name for itself. This was partly/largely—depending on your point of view—because the owner/executive chef had previously worked in the kitchens at Corton and Franny’s in New York. Twin Cities food writers, you see, manage to both scoff at coastal inattention to/disdain for our local fine dining scene and fall over themselves with excitement when a chef from New York comes (back) to town or a local chef goes on to great success in San Francisco. Such are the contradictions of being a food critic in a third-tier food town. Continue reading

Bar La Grassa

crespelle
Bar La Grassa
is the Italian restaurant spun off by the folks at 112 Eatery a few years ago. As we like 112 Eatery a lot, and as the Italian stuff on that menu has always been good, we’ve wanted to go for a long time but somehow have never gotten around to it–well, other than the “one hour from the cities, two small children, no time to do anything” bit. Now that we’re sort of back in circulation and slowly hitting all the well-reviewed places it was only a matter of time till we got to Bar La Grassa, and that time came this month. Continue reading