While Minnesotans relish the outdoors no matter what the temp, we also know when it’s time to come inside and warm up. Be sure to enjoy the season with the TCF Holidazzle Parade in Minneapolis or the winter wonderland of downtown St. Paul, but also duck in from the chill and defrost with a hearty meal beside the hearth. Fan the flames between you and yours, or simply capture a sense of home, at one of these local hot spots.
A four-sided open fireplace—with a square, stone chimney suspended from the center of the dining room ceiling just above the open flames—gives an extra “flare” to this fine restaurant’s steaks, chops and handmade pastas. Located in the downtown Minneapolis Block E complex, Bellanotte offers the perfect atmosphere to wine and dine your sophisticated lady (or man). The large fireplace isn’t the dining room’s only stunning attraction: Choose your favorite vino from the more than 1,000 bottles stored in the 14-foot wine tower. With a charming atmosphere and a world-class menu, Bellanotte has all the ingredients to make yours a “beautiful night.” 600 Hennepin Avenue S., 612-339-7200.
W.A. Frost & Company
After touring one of St. Paul’s most architecturally stunning districts, lovers can cuddle close at W.A. Frost, a quaint hideaway on historic Cathedral Hill. Since the former pharmacy from whence the name came was restored in the mid-’70s, the restaurant’s turn-of-the-century interior has served as the backdrop to many a hot date. Arched windows and exquisite brickwork, oriental rugs and oil paintings, tin ceilings and four wood-burning fireplaces add a certain splendor to the overall dining experience. The brunch, lunch and dinner menus change to reflect the season’s flavors, and most dishes are made from organically grown or naturally raised meats, cheeses, poultry, fish and vegetables. Dacotah Building, 374 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, 651-224-5715.
From this landmark building in Northeast Minneapolis, the Kozlak family operated a furniture store, a funeral home, a dance hall, a billiards parlor and a liquor store before launching their restaurant in 1933. By the early ’50s, the restaurant expanded to fill the entire building, and the family soon added Minnesota’s first outdoor dining patio. While the patio’s trout stream has become a summertime gem, Jax’s appeal is perennial. Come winter, be sure to reserve a fireside table in the Roundtable Room, order some perfectly seasoned prime rib and a nice bottle of wine. Just try not to doze off over dessert. 1928 University Avenue N.E., Minneapolis, 612-789-7297.
Il Vesco Vino
As soon as one enters this St. Paul Italian restaurant, a warm fireplace welcomes you on the right, and warms those waiting to be seated. Taking place of what used to be Vintage Wine Bar, Il Vesco Vino displays – and serves – wine just as prominently. It’s served by quartino or Mezzo, which means a ¼ or ½ liter, and while accompanying Chef Walter Leo Buffalo’s classic Italian dishes, is bound to keep diners toasty warm, with or without the nearby flames. 579 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, 651-222-7000.
Kozy’s Steaks & Seafood
After managing two local mainstays—Jax Café and Kozlak’s Royal Oak—for five years, third-generation owners Bill and Dana Kozlak took on another venture in fall 2005. Located in the southeast corner of Galleria, a posh mall in the similarly posh suburb of Edina, Kozy’s Steaks & Seafood dishes up stick-to-your-ribs comfort food in a rustic yet refined setting. A four-sided central fireplace adds some sparkle to the restaurant’s muted wood and brick furnishings. Request a two-top beside the glowing embers and “kozy” up with your favorite gourmand. 3220 Galleria, Edina, 952-224-5866.
French Mediterranean flair meets Minnesota hospitality at La Fougasse, located in the suburban, four-diamond Sofitel Minneapolis hotel. Mosaic tiles, whimsical lamps and décor in vivid blues, reds and golds complement a menu inspired by the Provence region of France. Meals begin with two warm loaves of their signature fougasse bread, followed by mouth-watering starters and entrées such as lobster ravioli with leeks and artichokes, pan-seared sea bass or the Mediterranean Tasting Tree—featuring six, artistically presented flavors. The two see-through fireplaces do more for the mood than the room temperature, but they still emit an inviting glow. An open demonstration kitchen only enhances the mood. 5601 W. 78th Street, Bloomington, 952-835-0126.
Downtowner Woodfire Grill
A huge stone, double-sided fireplace fills the Downtowner with warmth, which is probably why the surrounding tables are the first to be filled every night. But the fire goes beyond the ambiance, as the restaurant specializes in fire-roasted meat from chicken and swordfish to tenderloin and sirloin. Considered American with a touch of Persian, the menu rounds out with wood-fired pizzas, pastas, salads and luscious desserts. With live jazz almost every night, there’s no better place to heat up on a cold winter’s night. 253 W. Seventh Street, St. Paul, 651-228-9500.
Photo by Janet Hostetter
Forepaugh’s is notorious for things that go bump in the night. The story goes that the ghost of Molly, an Irish maid who worked in the mansion in the late 1800s when businessman Joseph Forepaugh owned it, haunts the restaurant. According to some staffers, Molly makes herself known via flickering candles, unexplained brandy glasses on the bar, sudden spine chills and other invisible gestures. Otherworldly reputation aside, Forepaugh’s serves up a snug atmosphere of French elegance with a menu—including duckling pâté, imported escargot and shrimp creole—to match. The Victorian manor has one wood-burning fireplace in the bar, three on the first floor, and five with candles on the second and third floors. Get comfy by the fire, and don’t be alarmed if the flames begin to dance. 276 S. Exchange Street, St. Paul, 651-224-5606.
Nicollet Island Inn
How convenient. If you fall in love with the Mississippi River view, you can check into a room upstairs. Many couples do, as Nicollet Island Inn is one of the most romantic getaways in town. From the antiques to the stone fireplace to the limestone walls of this 1893 building, the upscale inn is a transporting experience. Feast on a seasonal menu of European-inspired fare, paired with a pour from their award-winning wine list, then take a glistening stroll along the riverfront. If time doesn’t slow down for you there, hop a horse-drawn carriage on historic Main Street—just a stone’s skip away on the mainland—where Minneapolis, and likely many love affairs, began. 95 Merriam Street, Minneapolis, 612-331-1800.