Restaurants & Bars

MSP hounds: standard recs for the unadventurous (help me, please)


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MSP hounds: standard recs for the unadventurous (help me, please)

soupkitten | | Mar 6, 2008 10:08 AM

so: friends & family ask me & dh for restaurant recs all the time. usually for a birthday or anniversary dinner or other special event.

once the question is asked, dh & i are apt to start talking about restaurants new & old, chefs and who's working here or just got hired there, specific dishes, cooking techniques, seasonal ingredients, blah blah blah. . . and then fifteen minutes later we realize that the two of us are talking about some obscure farmstead cheese from somewhere outside sheboygan and how it's suddenly available to restaurants a, b, & c because sheila the farmer's daughter just turned 16 and can drive it down once a month-- but not when there's too much snow on the ground because it makes her mom nervous. . .

and we'll look over and the person who just innocently asked where to have a birthday dinner is looking at us as if we are, indeed, truly bonkers. --well.

i don't expect everybody to be food-obsessed. i don't think that everyone's meal ideal corresponds to my own. when i rec a restaurant to a family member who just doesn't care so much about food, i do try to match them to a well-executed cuisine that matches up with their expectations of what a good meal should be. so--i'm not sending construction workers to the small-plates place or forcing elderly lutherans to dine on gomtang. these folks go out once or twice a year for a special occasion, they got a sitter, made special plans. they set aside money for this meal, not an unreasonable amount of money for dinner, mind you, they work hard for the money-- but enough for a nice meal with a 15% tip. they expect to leave the restaurant full and happy, and if applicable, in a romantic mood, having gotten good value for their dollar and with something to talk about with co-workers in a couple days. it shouldn't be too hard to please these folks, and if i do my job right, they'll have tried one or two new and exciting to them items and/or had the best-executed (steak, fish, salad, cheesecake, whatever) as far as they are concerned.

but lately i've been striking out. some of my "great-for meat & potatoes types," "just edgy enoughs," and "classics" have not taken off. the in-laws didn't love the place we rec-ed for their last anniversary, even though we thought the place (w.a. frost) was a sure all-around pleaser. i need input from my fellow hounds on sure-fire winning recs for less-experienced diners, and i fear i'm losing touch about what average diners want re: ambiance, service, food!

i'm also interested in good choices for first timers to a new cuisine-- i.e. where in msp would you bring someone to eat japanese food, or pho, or german sausages, or whatever-- not for the best food experience, but as a comfortable entry point for someone trying an unfamiliar cuisine for the very first time in their lives? i am really not trying to be snobby at all, just incrementally improve the quality of my family & friends' dining lives in ways that are-- for them; both comfortable and exciting. i feel that by giving bad recs, i'm failing them. please help!!!