Looking to ward off winter’s chill? A fireside dinner, a dram of whiskey, or a stop at the Chambers ice bar might be just the warm-up you need.
Did you know that some of the most memorable restaurant experiences in Minnesota can only be had once the snow starts to fly?
Icy Happy Hours
In the colder months, the snazzy Chambers Hotel turns its sexy, sculpture-filled courtyard into a bar made of 12,000 pounds of crystal-clear ice into which lights have been frozen. Women in miniskirts and parkas flit from fire pit to frozen ice table clutching signature cocktails that never warm. Last year’s visitors will notice some changes, including Italian food from the new D’Amico Kitchen, available in the adjacent restaurant. Also, the ice bar is now less weather dependent, thanks to built-in, on-site freezing technology. Barring July in January, it should be open now through mid-March.
During the St. Paul Winter Carnival, held January 21 to 31, ice sculptures will grace Rice Park. Stroll through the beautiful display, and then nip into the bar at the St. Paul Grill for a warming dram of whiskey. Better yet, reserve a table at one of the front windows and treat yourself to a perfectly cooked steak in view of the sparkling ice marvels.
» Chambers Hotel 901 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-767-6999, chambersminneapolis.com
» St. Paul Grill 350 Market St., St. Paul, 651-224-7455, stpaulgrill.com
To offer good snow-viewing, a restaurant must have close, unobstructed views of either downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul. The best viewing spots tend to be on the edges of downtown. In St. Paul, Meritage boasts the prettiest view: When the snow flies, the grand old Landmark Center across the street looks like a castle in medieval Europe.
Across the river from downtown Minneapolis, Japanese-themed Kikugawa has an astonishing snowfall-view: Score a seat in the restaurant’s atrium and the lights of the city turn the view into an uncannily pretty snowglobe. If it’s a very pretty soft snowfall, you’ll want to walk the river path outside after dinner—it’s more romantic than a boat-load of cupids.
Nearly as pretty are the views at the Minneapolis wine bars Toast and Bev’s. At Toast, watch the snow fall while sharing a bottle of some obscure, tasty European red. At Bev’s, stand on the loading deck outside to marvel at how close the city seems while catching snowflakes on your tongue.
» Bev’s Winebar 250 Third Ave. N., Mpls., 612-337-0102
» Kikugawa 43 Main St. SE, Mpls., 612-378-3006, kikugawa-restaurant.com
» Meritage 410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670, meritage-stpaul.com
» Toast Wine Bar & Café 415 N. First St., Mpls., 612-333-4305, toastwinebarandcafe.com
With four fireplaces and a legendarily romantic atmosphere, W. A. Frost is famous as the top dining-and-snuggling destination in the Twin Cities. Insiders know they also have a killer wine list.
A recent trend has been gas-fired outdoor pits, perfect for cuddling on those warm nights when soft, fat snowflakes drift from the sky like so many puffs of goose down. My top two picks: South Minneapolis’s Tryg’s is perfect for a winter warm-up once you’ve taken a brisk walk around Lake Calhoun; at Tavern on France, the fire pit is the center of a rollicking bar scene fueled by good, budget-friendly comfort food.
Finally, for those of you whose snuggle-bunnies have strings on their mittens, remember the Galaxy Drive-In in St. Louis Park, which offers s’mores kits for use at their fire pit starting at 4:30 p.m. (and sometimes earlier—call to find out). It’s a great excuse to be outdoors on a warm winter day, and a perfect reward for anyone who aced their spelling test when it’s too cold for ice cream.
» Galaxy Drive-In 3712 Quebec Ave. S., St. Louis Park, 952-277-7777
» Tavern on France 6740 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-358-6100, tavernonfrance.com
» Tryg’s 3118 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-920-7777, trygs.com
» W. A. Frost & Co 374 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-5715, wafrost.com