Hotels >Nicollet Island Inn
Terrible Valentines Day Dinner.
My new wife and I decided to go to the Nicollet Island Inn for our first Valentines Day together. We made a reservation for 7:45 and showed up at 7:40. We were told they were running a little behind and it would be about 15 minutes. We went to the bar to have a drink, and there was only one bartender on staff on what has to be one of the busiest nights of the year. It took forever to get drinks. 45 minutes later we were seated. It was very cozy as the table next to us was about 6 inches away. We ordered the 6-course meal for $65 dollars per person. We also started with two drinks. After about 10 minutes we got our drinks, but they were wrong. We realized this after the waiter was gone, but we didn't see him for the 25 minutes. We drank the wrong drinks waiting for him to come back and when he did we explained and he got us two more drinks (one of which was wrong again). When the food came it was room temperature and mediocre.
The NII was concerned about one thing that night, and that was making as much money as they possibly could, and they sure did off of us, $220 dollars later. The least they could have done is apologize for over booking and terrible service, I don't even care that they charged us for things we didn't order.
I had always heard good things about the inn, and maybe if we had gone another night we would have had a different experience. Overall based on my one experience I certainly won't go back.
I wanted to take my girlfriend out for a nice dinner for our anniversary, but I wan't sure where to go. I asked around for some suggestions, but didn't get any new or exciting ideas. After some internet research, I found that the Nicollet Island Inn was rated as "most romantic" on this site and several others, so I figured it must be the right place! I remember my parents talk about the Nicollet Island Inn as an old favorite, but my girlfriend and I had never been there, so I wasn't sure what to expect (my parents and I don't always have the same taste in restaurants!). When we arrived, though, I couldn't have been happier.
As soon as we pulled up I knew we weren't at some chain or cookie-cutter restaurant. The setting is charming and elegant and inside the restaurant was warm and welcoming. We got there a little early so we decided to sit in the bar for a drink before dinner and were surprised (happily) to find a live music lounge! The girl playing piano was perfect -- great voice, great songs, great atmosphere.
They sat us for dinner at a window table overlooking the River. Our waiter was friendly and informative, our dinners (steak for me, salmon for her) were well-prepared and delicious. Our waiter recommended a bottle of wine that matched everything perfectly. Everything was topped off by a petite four (sp?) tray with little bite-sized desserts -- just the right amount after a great meal.
After dinner, we went back to the lounge for a little more music, an after-dinner drink and just to enjoy the atmosphere -- we didn't want the evening to end. The whole evening certainly lived up to its billing as Most Romantic!
On our college budget, the Nicollet Island Inn is a bit too expensive to become a frequent favorite, but for special occasions we will certainly be back!
Food, Setting, Value!. My wife and I love steak, red wine, and nice restaurants, we recently joined some friends of ours for dinner at a local steak favorite and had a really good meal. An iceberg wedge salad a porterhouse a tuna, mashed potatoes, broccoli w/ hollandaise and bread pudding, a bottle of Phelps Cab and left really content. Our friends had never been down to the Nicollet Island Inn, so we decided to show them our neighborhood favorite. We also were curious what makes a "steakhouse" different from the great Steaks we eat at the Nic. We ordered the same meals weeks later with our guests, porterhouse, tuna, wedge salad, and cheesecake for dessert, the same bottle of wine same vintage was nearly $30 less. We did not order sides, because the entrees come with delicious creative accompaniments. The bill was over $50 less at our Favorite the Nicollet Island Inn. Don't get me wrong the steakhouse was good, but with great service, delicious steak and a very elegant setting, I'll take the Nic every time. (and we can eat there 25% more times!)
Invited and wowed!.
A group asked us to join them Saturday night at the Inn and my response was, "why"? They said "you'll be surprised -- meet us in the lounge for drinks".
As my date and I walked down the hall, we heard a piano and vocalist that I thought was a CD. What a WOW when you turn the corner to see this quiant, upolstered, muraled lounge with a live female vocalist singing old and new American Standards ... and It just got better.
The menu was clear and flavorful. I had the big porterhouse steak -- an absolute value -- and my date had what the waiter said was their most popular dish, Minnesota Walleye. Both well-prepared and delicious. Out table of 6 shared four bottles of domestic wine, a $38 bordeaux that was positively drinkable. Just when I thought we were done, the waiter presents a petite four tray with eight house-made pastries (they also explaied that all breads, pastries, etc., were house-made) at $2 each!
Driving away, the car talk was 'this restaurant must be in the top 5 in the city' and 'so comfortable that it can't be duplicated'.
By the way, I booked a room and a table for two for Valentine's Day. The 'why' definately turned into a 'Wow'!
Not very romantic and poor steak, plan ahead and you'll be fine. This place has potential for romance and good food, but plan ahead. Get a window seat, don't sit in the booths where hurried servers rush by in a breezy whirl making you wonder if there is a fire somewhere, so ask for a table at the windwo. Be selective about the steak you want, if you want a tender and melt in your mouth juicy steak you will pay more, but make it clear you want it rare and very tender. The salads are wonderful, and flavorful. The three chocolate dessert was out of this world. If you get to sit under the skyline, eat a crispy salad and tender steak, you won't be disappointed. If you sit in a booth, receive a tough steak and have servers running, almost literally, in front of you, then it is no fun. Better, to wait for a good table and view. The bar area is fantastic, and the wine selection is broad. The bartenders are super friendly and very cute.
Food, Service, Atmosphere!. This was not the best meal I have ever had in my life, but the caramelized onion soup was perfect for the dreary weather. Paul was not only helpful in his description of the food, but he enjoyed what he was doing. We tried the pork loin which was absolutely delicious. Not dry and cooked to death, but moist and accompanied with delicious counterparts. The ribeye was outstanding. They apparently use beef from pasture raised cattle. It was not as succulent as a Nebraska corn fed cow, but the flavor was incredible and there was just enough marbeling so that it was far from tough and certainly not dry. At night they have cute little lamps adorning the windows, the whole place is just really classy. We blew it and did not try anything from the dessert tray, but the cheesecake off the menu was great. There was a young lady playing the piano and singing in a lounge, which really made the evening special. The most remarkable thing was we ate really well, drank wine, left a gratuity which was much deserved by our server and did not feel the remorse that comes along with paying the bill in most restaurants. We will return without a doubt!
Call FEMA, this was a disaster.
My girlfriend and I had a great Sunday planned; first we'd do brunch at the Nicollet Island Inn at 11:30 (with reservations, of course), followed by a play at the Guthrie at 1:00.
We were not aware that the NIIR had swapped out their buffet (meats, cheeses, omelettes, veggies, etc.) for a 5-course ensamble. This was 'our bad'; if we'd looked online at their menu we'd have seen it.
At any rate, we got there on time, were seated promptly next to a window that faces the little bridge by E Island Ave. The hostess drew open the blinds, which immediately brought into focus 5 or 6 box elder insects. 3 of the little suckers were on the inside. (By the way, we continued to be pestered by them throughout the meal - I had one on my collar).
We had very slow service throughout the meal. A summary:
1st - I ordered a mimosa - it was good. Laurie ordered a bloody mary. They apparently ran out of tall glasses; her drink came in a low-ball glass. The flavor was ordinary, and the drink was watered down. She also ordered herbal tea - for which the restaurant charged an extra $3.00.
My 2nd course was the egg and sausage bake - this sorry entree appeared to have been constructed maybe 2 hours earlier - it was dry and hard.
3rd course was decent - pecorino stuffed risotto. But it took a long time between courses, and I had to ask to have my coffee cup refilled.
4th course - glazed meatloaf - suffered similar to the egg/sausage bake - I think they pre-build plates, and store them until needed. The meatloaf was dry and hard on the top. The potatoes and brussel sprout leaves were good, however.
We were running out of time - at 12:30 we told our waitress we wanted dessert to go.. Fine.
At 12:48 I informed her that our play started in 12 minutes. At that point, she started getting our check and the dessert.
Bottom line - we were late to the Guthrie, after expensive lousy food, and had to wait in the foyer for the 1st 30 minutes of the play.
Aesthetics and location. My wife and I had partaken of the brunch here several times in a relatively distant past and thoroughly enjoyed it. This was our first dinner here - 20 September. Alas, it was a bit disappointing. For appetizers, we got crispy calamari (is there anyone who does not serve this?) and pecorino stuffed risotto b___s with an herb pistou. (Citysearch censored the word here because it's "inappropriate". It's even on the menu. Hint: It's the object that baseball and tennis players play with. Are unreconstructed Puritans, and stupid ones at that, in charge?) The former was afflicted with the all-too-common thick breading, although the squid itself was fine. The latter was quite tasty but we were shortchanged on the herb pistou. The quantity was so miniscule that it was barely detectable by sight and not at all by taste. The salads were excellent. The hearts of romaine, gorgonzola, and bacon salad was a standout, and my wife was very pleased with her baby greens salad. For entrees, my wife continued her quest for a risotto better than or even equal to the ethereal gold standard at Pazzaluna by getting the seafood risotto. Certainly edible but in last place behind several other restaurants. My choice was the gnocchi gratinee with lamb ragu. The tenderness of good gnocchi was lost in this preparation. In other words, I don't know if it was good gnocchi or not. The parts didn't coalesce into a satisfying whole. Grapefruit and mint oil was supposed to be present, but I couldn't detect them. A frozen chocolate dessert was very nice and nicely presented. Our server was pleasant and timely in his appearances. Some menu pretentiousness was present; e.g., "puffed" wild rice? If it's done, it's going to be puffed, so what's being communicated here? All in all, this is one of the TC's most pleasant restaurant venues - very pretty, a park next door next to the St Anthony Falls, and the decibel level of the restaurant is wonderfully low while not being crypt-like.
Food was delicious, service was just right.... I was a little concerned, not having heard a great deal about the Nicollet Island Inn. The menu was not confusing, but full of interesting ingredients and more than a few great options. We were not disappointed, from the various steaks with gourmet accompaniments, to the outstanding pork dish, it was really good. the wine list has to be the most reasonably priced in town. $80 for 2001 Napa Cabernet? Everything seemed to be $10 to $20 less than other restaurants. The service was just right, not too formal, certainly not clumsy, and everyone seemed intelligent and excited about the food, the wine, and the Restaurant. I would certainly make this a must see, if you are in the Twin Cities or travelling there.
We'll be back. Knowlegable staff, greeted well, still above average food combinations and still an excellent wine list. Need to show more creativity and better presentation on plates and bring more energy and passion. We enjoyed ourselves and we will be back but also hope to see improvements.
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