D.Rough had invited me to go to a random banquet with her, but it was an hors d'oeuvres thing only, so we needed to eat. Since we were going to be dressed up anyway for this function, we thought we’d have a night out on the town and hit someplace fancy. I asked her to pick, since I was busy watching the final episodes of Jersey Shore (yes, I’m serious). She chose someplace that neither of us had been, but both wanted to try – Forepaugh’s.
This up-scale restaurant in St. Paul is in a LARGE house/mansion south of the Xcel Energy Center and is a beautiful building. And word on the street is it’s haunted. The valet parked our car and we headed into to check our coats (yeah, it’s one of THOSE kind of classy places). The hostess walked us up three flights of stairs to the top floor of the house in a small dining area. Room for like 6 tables in one room (where a pregnant mistress/maid hung herself when the wife found out about her) and then a larger banquet table in another room that held about 20 people. The lighting is dark and it’s pretty swanky. The music cracked us up since it swelled outlandishly with classical brilliance and then would drop suddenly and you’d realize you were practically shouting at your dinner partner. Hilarious.
The water boy brought us water (obviously) and some bread - white and dark bread. Both were really good, but the dark had some raisins in it, which D.Rough isn’t a fan of. I powered through since the bread tasted pretty good. The white was fine – nothing special, but definitely not store-bought, we were thinking. We scanned the menu which has a variety of “New American” cuisine (which means American standards with some fancy or “out there” flourishes or flavors).
We ordered the Poutine (which had been highly recommended in a review or two), which is actually Canadian street food instead of new American food, but whatever – fries with beef gravy and deep fried cheese curds, but with red chilies and deep fried chilies. The poutine came out pretty quickly and was worth all the rave reviews. It was extremely tasty. I’ve had poutine a variety of ways, and while it may never LOOK good, it always tastes amazing. This was probably the best I’ve ever had. It was spicy without being overwhelming and none of the flavors were overbearing. The cheese curds were mild and not greasy and the gravy was just enough to make things flavorful and not sloppy. It was served in a metal cup with waxed paper (I apologize for the dim photo) and was simple and awesome.
We ordered a couple of pre-drinks as well. D.Rough got a Perfect Lady Martini and I went with the Bay Breeze (pineapple, coinctreau, and cranberry juice). I don’t remember what was in the Perfect Lady, but it was super tasty, though not nearly as tasty (or girly) as my pink Bay Breeze. Both drinks were good and strong and I’d probably order the Bay Breeze again.
The choices on the menu all looked good and, as a word of warning, the chef changes the menu pretty regularly, so don’t expect the same items every time you go. D.Rough and I both wanted the Beef Wellington – beef tenderloin wrapped in a fancy mesh of pastry and spinach in a red wine sauce with wintery vegetables – but we said we’d better both get something different, so we could try a couple different things. I decided on the Roasted Lamb Shank, which sounded perfect since I love lamb chops. We also needed some wine so we both got glasses of Malbec (which just sounded right for the evening).
The food came out without waiting long at all. My dish was a single lamb chop, but honestly, it had a lot of amazingly tender meat on it – my butter knife worked fine on this chop and I almost didn’t need the knife at all. It was a pretty large chop as well, so please don’t think it was just a small portion. The lamb was also in a red wine reduction, which I’m not usually a fan of, and this was a little odd with the meat itself – thankfully the lamb flavor was awesome, so the meal was still delicious. Consequently, the red wine sauce was in the bottom of the shallow bowl it was served in with various winter beans and it was probably the best part of the meal.
The Beef Wellington was pretty amazing as well. Perfectly cooked with pink in the middle and light crispy pastry on the outside. It was a big piece of beef, without being an obnoxiously large chunk of meat, if that makes sense. The waitress forgot the steak knife for D.Rough, and while it was pretty amusing watching her try to saw through the meat with her butter knife, we had to ask for a steak knife to cut it with. But the flavors of the beef with the spinach and pastry were quite good together. The vegetables that came with it appeared pretty nice (unidentified squash and various beans), but since someone ate those first without sharing, I didn’t quite hear the verdict on them.
We watched some of the people around us while we ate and were amused at the white bread people next to us that ordered a cheese and fruit plate for an appetizer and then the exact same thing we did, but they were considerably stiffer. Or the flip side is we’re lamer than we originally thought…
The place had really nice staff, but not fun loving – which is typical for a fancy restaurant. They made sure we were taken care of thoroughly, but they weren’t going to have fun with us, like most restaurant staff are able to do. They were there to serve us food and not to help out with our dining experience. Either way, they still made sure we were well taken care of. No complaints there.
I’m glad we got a chance to try this place. It’s been on my list of places to go to for a while, since they re-opened their doors in the last year or two. It IS upscale and you should expect that from the service to the menu to the check, but it’s pretty darn good as well. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed at all.
Top 5 things about Forepaugh’s
1. Poutine, for sure
2. Winter vegetables/beans in red wine sauce underneath the lamb chop – this should have been a soup all on its own
3. Beef Wellington
4. Lamb Shank
5. Bay Breeze
Bottom 5 things
1. Music was oddly distracting, especially when it stopped and you were yelling
2. Should have gotten a Waldorf Salad since the chef worked at the Waldorf in NYC and is rumored to make it authentic-style
3. Service was a little stiff, but that’s fancy, I guess
4. Hard to eat a piece of beef with a butter knife
5. If you’re handicapped, you’re not making it to the top floor up all those stairs – I hope they have some sort of elevator somewhere