Turn up the Barry White, baby. This month, it’s all about feelin’ the love. And what better way to celebrate the lovey mushiness you feel for your special someone than to hit up a favorite eatery for a sizzlin’ hot date night?
This month, Woodbury Magazine went off in search of cozy, delicious venues for couples and friends alike to dig into some fabulous fare. From rich ricotta cheese- and spinach-stuffed gnocchetti to marbled steaks with a caramelized crust and blue cheese crumbles, we’ve rounded up some truly tempting dinner options. So what are you waiting for? Get yourself all gussied up in ravishing, romantic red and make a reservation already.
Bleu Cheese Crusted Flat Iron Steak with Buffalo Jumbo Shrimp
Amid the sweet nothings you’re whispering into your honeybun’s ear, be sure to mention the words “bleu cheese” and “steak.” It will set the mood for a scintillating dinner chez Ray J’s. Spoil yourself and your beloved with the bleu cheese crusted flat iron steak and buffalo jumbo shrimp ($21). A massive plate piled with fire-seared surf and turf will arrive, smelling like rich blackened spices commingling with garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. If you’re in the mood for something a little lighter and more heavenly, go for the angel hair pasta with tomato and basil ($12)—featuring Roma and roasted tomatoes with basil pesto, butter, garlic and white wine, topped with Parmesan cheese. 9854 Norma Lane; 651.714.2035.
Italian Meat Lasagna
Carmine’s Restaurant and Bar
Frank Sinatra sang it best: “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.” Love and Italian food make a perfect pair. That’s why we’re hitting up Carmine’s during this lovey-dovey month. Once you’re comfortably seated in a soft booth next to your sweetie, order the Italian meat lasagna ($15), which shows off the eatery’s luscious Bolognese sauce and toothsome, wavy lasagna noodles. While you wait for the main course to arrive, opt for the calamari ($13). You and your partner can get silly and feed the tender little battered shrimp to one another—but not before admiring the piquant additions to the appetizer: cherry peppers, banana peppers, roasted garlic butter and green onions. Whether you go with lasagna, calamari or pizza pie, that’s amore. 9900 Valley Creek Road; 651.730.4500.
Lake Elmo Inn
Long walk on the beach? Sorry, Charlie. That’s not an option for a romantic evening if you live in this Midwestern climate. Here’s the next best thing to get you closer to the seaside: Indulge in the seafood buffet ($50) at the Lake Elmo Inn. Available on Fridays this month, this has got to be the best deal in town. Help yourself to a heaping plate of fresh fish, shrimp, crab, salty oysters, smoked salmon and sushi. If you’re interested in a lobster tail, you can add one to your plate for a scant $10. Finish off that fabulous feast with the classic “sin of the inn” dessert ($7.50). This final note sings with a nutty pecan crust, caramel, white satin, chocolate ganache and white chocolate mousse. 3442 Lake Elmo Avenue N., Lake Elmo; 651.777.8495.
Spinach Ricotta Gnocchetti & Chicken
Sole Mio Ristorante
Cozied up with your love at Sole Mio, the first thing you must do is order a glass of wine. Make a romantic toast. Clink! And now fall into the vortex of authentic Italian flavors that the menu contains. An excellent choice is the spinach ricotta gnocchetti and chicken ($16), which features spinach and rich ricotta cheese gnocchetti (darling stuffed pasta dumplings) with juicy sautéed chicken in a pesto-Parmesan cream sauce with gorgonzola cheese sprinkled on top. Chef and owner Angelo Montes recommends the shrimp & pancetta agnolotti ($17), a delectable dish filled with plump sautéed shrimp, pancetta and cheese, all tossed with a silky Roman-style carbonara sauce. End your epic evening on a sweet note with tiramisu ($5). The cocoa-dusted layers of mascarpone cheese and ladyfingers soaked in espresso will make you fall in love. 1750 Weir Drive; 651.789.3220.
Baby Back Ribs
Outback Steak House
Tie on your best bib. You’re going to the Outback Steak House for a plate of saucy ribs! There may not be violins and candlelight, but there’s no shortage of deep-seated love in this joint, especially when it comes to the ribs. Get the tried-and-true baby back ribs ($17.99). Each savory rack is smoked, wood-fire grilled and brushed with tangy-sweet BBQ sauce, served with a side of Aussie fries. It’s easy to get over exuberant about the ribs, but that just means you and your beloved can tenderly clean any wayward sauce off each other’s face with paper napkins. Another yummy entrée is the grilled chicken on the barbie ($12.99). It features seasoned and grilled chicken breast, served with Outback’s signature sauce and seasonal veggies. Bring on the love with an extra side of BBQ sauce. 10150 Hudson Road; 651.735.3268.
Roasted Duck Breast
Cravings Wine Bar and Grille
From the moment you and your honey walk into Cravings, you know you picked the right restaurant. The atmosphere is as sophisticated and sultry as a European bistro, yet the mood feels as light as meringue. Take your honey there and enjoy the roasted duck breast ($25), served with butternut squash risotto, pistachios, balsamic caramel and sage. With meat so tender and savory–succulent, the dish exemplifies how duck ought to be served. If you haven’t yet made up your mind on the entrée, order an appetizer to get the wheels turning. We recommend the white wine steamed mussels ($15). The sea-fresh bivalves are paired with bacon, smoked blue cheese, jalapenos and tomatoes, finished with sweet butter and served with grilled crostini. It’s hard to go wrong with any item on this menu. 755 Bielenberg Drive; 651.528.6828.
Take a romantic drive along the scenic St. Croix River and you’ll slip into the sleepy town of Afton. Here, you and your darling will find the quaint wine shop and restaurant, Swirl. Seated in a private corner table, ask your server to recommend a lively wine to pair with the eatery’s truffle fries ($9). Served with a nutty-sweet gouda cheese fondue, fine herbs and grana padano (an Italian cheese), you’ll be in French fry heaven. And for an entrée, we recommend a plate of linguini and mushroom ($16). The dish features the earthy flavors of grilled wild mushrooms, shallots, spinach, fresh herbs, black river gorgonzola and white wine butter sauce. For a little more body, add shrimp ($3) or chicken ($2). Swirling your glass of elegant, clean white wine as you savor your pasta, you’ll know you came to the right place. 3291 S. St. Croix Trail, Afton; 651.436.2010.