It was a damp and dreary night. We'd been to a hockey game (indoors, thankfully) to watch our niece play. (Her team lost, boohoo.) The January rain fell on mounds of ice-covered snow, and the streets were slick and strewn with slushy puddles. When we walked into the Loring Kitchen & Bar, it was like entering a sanctuary from winter.
We had 7:30 reservations, and we were quite surprised to see so many open tables when we walked in. We had tried to get last minute reservations a week earlier, and were told that the only opening they had was at 4:30 p.m. So I expected the place to be packed. Maybe everyone was too intimidated by the bad weather. (Maybe everyone was on their way to New Orleans to watch the Vikings in the play-off.) There was a steady stream of people in and out during the evening. But at no time were all the tables full.
While waiting for my sister-in-law and her husband to arrive, my wife and I ordered drinks. They have a nice line up of signature cocktails. My wife ordered a Blue Martini with gin. It comes with blue cheese stuffed olives. My wife thought it was a nice touch that the martini was served in a frosted glass.
I asked if the bartender could make a sazarac cocktail. The server came back after a few minutes and confessed that they had never heard of a sazarac. They looked it up online, but didn't have the pernod (or absinthe) that's an essential ingredient. I said that was ok, and I didn't really want him experimenting on me with a cocktail that he hadn't made before. I suggested that for his next vacation, he should go to New Orleans and learn how to make a sazarac. So I also ordered a Blue Martini (with vodka). She served it. But then a few minutes later, she brought over another drink. "Try this," she said. No charge. The bartender had improvised with ingredients he had on hand. It was pretty good. So I drank the ersatz sazarac and gave the martini to my sister-in-law.
I'm including that anecdote because on Yelp, some of the reviewers complained about poor service. We just didn't have that experience at all. All the staff who we encountered were friendly and accommodating.
One more thing about the Loring Kitchen - it's a "see and be seen" place. We saw three tables of friends there over the course of our meal. And as we left, we noticed that Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak was unobtrusively seated at a table with his wife.
I almost made this my first Yelp review with a 5-star rating. But Yelp defines a 5-star as flawless, and our meal wasn't flawless. Click here for my review of the food. Suffice it to say that we really liked our meals, but there were a few minor glitches. The tuna ceviche wasn't up to par. My wedge salad was good but nothing extraordinary. The chocolate chip cookies that we had for dessert were unexceptional. That said, my wife and I agreed that we'd gladly return. Frankly, I can't wait for spring and summer when we might score a table on the veranda overlooking Loring Park.