Project Runway

How do you feel about seeing and being seen? Were you among the first to belly up to the bar at Redstone in the late ’90s? What about Champps in the ’80s?

If you were a fan of either, you’ll be happy to know that the founder of those two restaurants, Dean Vlahos, is back with a new restaurant: Blvd Kitchen & Bar in Minnetonka. Not surprisingly, it’s a see-and-be-seen kind of scene.

I checked out Blvd on a Tuesday night, and the place was jam-packed, with a 45-minute wait for a table (they don’t take reservations). But the delay gave me a chance to revel in the surroundings. My first observation: If you’re looking for a beautiful 40-something from Minnetonka, Plymouth, and Hopkins, start at Blvd. They’re here.

There’s more to this restaurant than people-watching, though. I loved the wild-mushroom-and-arugula flatbread. The mixture of shiitake, portobello, and button mushrooms united by a truffle cream sauce was fantastic. The calamari was nice, too. It was the same version of the dish that everyone serves, but admirably done, and the lemon-garlic aioli on the side was a pleasant touch.

Blvd specializes in competent versions of popular dishes: caesar salads, club sandwiches, burgers, grilled salmon, steaks, and so on. Most everything I tried here was, well, it was fine. It was good enough.

The décor at Blvd is more elegant and modern than at Redstone, but the expanses of polished wood and pretty tin ceilings come at a cost: It’s extraordinarily loud. Blvd is definitely not the place for a quiet chat.

Another design oddity: The flat-screen TVs in the open kitchen, which show rotating images of the right and wrong way to plate each dish, can be easily seen from the dining room. It’s plenty informative (we liked the red slashes indicating the wrong way), but it kind of ruins the illusion that your meal is being prepared by culinary experts.

Those issues aside, Blvd is clearly a crowd-pleaser. The menu is familiar, the food is competently executed, and the concept should work well as a future chain. Is that what you’re looking for? The answer probably depends on whether you want to be seen—or heard.

Blvd Kitchen & Bar, 11544 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka, 763-398-3200, blvdkitchen.com

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