Eat Downtown!

Kate and I have been Eating Downtown lately, part of the annual promotion of downtown restaurants.

“Fourteen days, from March 1st through the 15th 2012 of multi-coursed, pre fixed price menus at unique and distinctive local establishments. Lunches are available for $10 and Dinner will be offered at $20.”

We ate at four spots:

1. 301 in the Sheraton:
Probably the most solid meal we’d had — the salad (Chorizo salad – a new experience for us both) was awesome, and the entree (a tempura Trout) was something neither of us would have even imagined eating. Truly awesome.

JJA Mahi Mahi
2. J.J. Astor in the Radisson
Kate and I were split on this one. I had the Mahi Mahi (because fish is almost always too expensive in Duluth except at this time of year), and it was to die for. See the picture above. Kate had the pressed chicken — something tasty but a bit too salty to appreciate — at least, as she and out dinner companion, Kim, both saw it. Where the Astor excels, every year, is dessert. I ordered the Pot de Creme, which is basically a bowl of tasty chocolate pudding, and Kate ordered whatever the other thing was, that she loved, but that I paid no attention to because I was eating my pudding.

3. Black Water
Here we were also mixed. Kate ordered the lobster mac & cheese, while our friend Lisa ordered the bacon-wrapped scallops. I would have easily ordered the scallops, but the $5 apps remained too good to pass up.
This is the second “high end” mac and cheese we’ve had in town, and both at Black Water and Zeitgeist, they suffer from being not Mac & Cheese enough. That is, they use cheeses that I am sure are magnificent but are not Mac & Cheese cheeses, with the result that it always feels bland, even with the lobster mixed in. Maybe our tastes are too blasted out by Kraft to even know what cheese should taste like, but still, I preferred the $5 sliders.

4. Valentini’s
Kate and I eat at Valentini’s about once year, and each time, we walk in thinking — wow this place is special. The atmosphere and location are amazing. The dinner, though, is always just above average — I tried to explain it to a friend by saying that sauces, at Valentini’s are not flavor accents; they are part of the structural integrity of the plate. That changes how you experience your noodles.

Notable for not participating this year: the Brewhouse. Last year, their dinner was one of the best deals on the menu. I like to see restaurants work together to promote each other, and regret to see this old fave not on the team this year.

Did you Eat Downtown this year?



about 12 years ago

I love my dinner at Zeitgeist, it was soup, followed by mushroom ravioli, followed by a sundae. Va Bene for lunch was also delicious, a caesar salad, followed by a pesto pasta, and gelato for dessert. Lunch at JJ Astor is on the schedule, I love your pic!


about 12 years ago

My go-to is Zeitgeist. I try to move around the menu a little. My current fav is the Nicoise salad- pan seared tuna filet in a mix of fresh greens with a mustardy vinaigrette- mmmmm. We also enjoy Hanabi and make the occasional stop at Luce, Lake Avenue Cafe, etc.


about 12 years ago

I like the comfortable chairs at Sheraton and like the new and expanded wine selection at Zeitgeist - especially for carrying downstairs to the movies.

I have to tell you though - no prejudice here - the mac and cheese at Chester (get the one with bacon and shrooms) is the very best.


about 12 years ago

Had lunch at Luce and appreciated that they offered both a $10 and $20 for two option all day.  My friend & I split a Pizza Athena (heavenly), and I had the spinach salad for starters (also amazing).

The service, however, SUCKED.  There were 7 of us, and it took TWO HOURS from seating to finishing--and not because we were slow.  Drink refills were close to non-existent.  Two ladies who came in and were seated right after we were got their food even later than we did (30 min+).  Both were having salads.  Really?

One of our party commented that eating downtown for those of us who don't work downtown would be impossible, between finding parking, being seated, eating, and getting the check.  Add in less than stellar service, and there's no way.  Dinner out on a Saturday night?  Sure, I've got time to lounge around.  Weekday lunch?  Nope.


about 12 years ago

I used to go out to lunch fairly often with a former co-worker who would just get up and start slowly walking toward the door if he didn't get a check in a timely manner. Someone always came running with one before he got there.


about 12 years ago

I'll be eating downtown on Wednseday - guess I'm just behind the times!

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