Erin had been antsy to go on a date night to a nice restaurant and gave me a short list of places to choose from our list. We settled on Heartland because they actually had a reservation available at a reasonable time, and it was within walking distance of a pre-dinner drink spot.
I had some credit with the new driver service, Uber, that recently launched in the Twin Cities, so I figured we could really make a night of it and get a ride to and from dinner.
Using Uber is way easier, and more fun, than ordering a cab. You request a driver through their iPhone app and then optionally watch the car on the map as they arrive at your pickup location. The phone tells you how far away they are as well as the driver’s name. When you arrive at your destination, you simply get out of the car and go on your way. No money changes hands, as Uber has your credit card info and will charge it automatically. Tips are also built-in and there is zero pressure from the drivers.
We had Uber drop us off at Barrio in Lowertown, about two blocks away from Heartland, to get a drink and an appetizer. We had a little over an hour to kill, so we were in no rush at all. Barrio was surprisingly (to me) quiet for 6pm on a Saturday and the bartender joked that IF they got busy, it would be much later.
We sat at the bar and got drinks and chips with salsa. I was impressed with the chips - they were salty, thick tortilla chips that came with three different salsas of different heat levels. I was less impressed with my martini that was small and watered down. That’s what you get for ordering a martini at a tequila bar I guess.
We made our way to Heartland a little before 7:30. It was oddly warm out (a stark contrast to this Monday morning), so the walk over was pleasant. Heartland is across the street from the Saint Paul Farmers Market location, which I’m more familiar with at 9am on the weekends with kids in tow.
We were seated right away in the bar area. Heartland seems to have several different rooms with slightly different feels to them. The bar spot was fine with me, I think the bar there is rather pretty, as is the entire building for that matter.
We had the server recommend a bottle of wine for us, within our price range, and he chose a Green & Red zinfandel. It was good, but I’m not one to judge a wine. I’m sure this bottle would be $30 cheaper at the liquor store, but not much you can do there.
Erin quickly settled on getting the three course tasting menu. The tasting menus are a decent value, but I saw the cassoulet and instantly had fond memories of our dinner at Meritage a couple years ago and how awesome the cassoulet was there, and I knew I had to try Heartland’s.
I wanted something else to share with Erin, but her tasting menu came with an appetizer already, so I got the broccoli with smoked tomato bechamel sauce for myself. The broccoli was excellent, with a rich, creamy tomato sauce drizzled over the top. Also, it wasn’t very filling, leaving me with a fighting chance of finishing my cassoulet. While we had our appetizers, we were also brought dinner rolls, which I happily had seconds of when they came around a second time - so much for not getting full :)
The cassoulet came out in a bowl that didn’t appear to be large, but was deceiving by it’s depth as well as the richness of the food inside. The creamy mixture of beans with several variations of rich, cured meats was absolutely delicious. In spite of all the food that I’d had so far, I still managed to finish the bowl, though I woke up painfully full around 3am. Probably not the wisest choice, but fun at the time :)
As we sat finishing our glasses of wine, I inconspicuously requested the Uber driver to head over to pick us up. I could see that he was a few minutes away, so we were in no rush to leave. We had a great time at Heartland and I would definitely go back.
It had been awhile since we got to have a date night that didn't involve a wedding, so we confirmed with my sister and her husband that they could babysit, and I set out to try to get a reservation somewhere! Most of the places we have left on our list are definitely on the expensive and fancier side. I checked quite a few places in downtown Minneapolis (including the new-ish Butcher & the Boar and Bachelor Farmer) and saw they had ZERO reservations available even a week in advance! We decided on Heartland, and had no issues getting a reservation. Lowertown definitely has more action than it used to, but it certainly will never be the same as downtown Minneapolis. I actually went to Heartland for the first time back in April with girlfriends and LOVED it, so I was excited to check it out again with Ben.
We enjoyed our pre-dinner drinks at Barrio, and walked the few blocks over on the unseasonably warm evening to Heartland. The building that Heartland is in is quite beautiful - it's a very open space, with a few different rooms. They also have a separate market that is more like a deli and you get get things to go. I loved the bar area where we were seated this time - the separate rooms have a bit more formal of a feel to them.
Heartland changes their menu daily, and has two 3 course menus - Flora, vegetarian, and Fauna, with meat. I got the Flora last time and really loved it, so wanted to try the Fauna this time. It was settled when the main course even had "Irish Creek Annie" beans in it - I'm a sucker for trying anything with my daughter's name in the description! I was a bit nervous reading that the beef and beans were in a goat's milk sauce, as I am not a fan of goat cheese no matter how many times I try it. I wasn't really sure if goat's milk always had the same flavor as goat's cheese so I figured I'd give it a try regardless. The flora option also had something with goat's cheese too and for some reason I was set on the 3 course menu.
Ben requested a zinfandel for our wine, so I asked the server to recommend one that paired well with the food we were getting. He talked for awhile about how the one he recommended was a good "food" wine, and how many zinfandels are not... whatever. I enjoyed the wine and it DID seem to pair well with our food, so he chose well! While we enjoyed the wine, we were brought an amuse bouche of butternut squash mousse and apple which was delicious.
I LOVED the first course of my meal - the fish was so tender, and the sauce was amazing. I wished there was much more, especially because sadly I was not a fan of the 2nd main course of beef roast and beans in the goat's milk sauce. For anyone wondering (and yes, I should have asked), goat's milk does indeed have the same flavor as goat's cheese. The meat also LOOKED like it would be tender and delicious but I found it very tough. The server came back and raved about how delicious the sauce was - it wasn't his fault I don't like goat's milk so I just smiled and nodded. After the bread, appetizer at Barrio and the first course, it wasn't as if I was actually HUNGRY, so I wasn't too upset about it.
The dessert course was fine. Nothing amazing, nothing bad. The pairing of flavors was a bit odd to me. Pumpkin pot de creme with a cranberry mousse - Thanksgiving flavors I suppose, but the white chocolate in the mousse was just not working for me. I still finished most of it, of course but it wasn't my favorite dessert. I did really enjoy the little french press of decaf coffee I got to go with my dessert! I love how they instruct you to wait one minute to press - reminds me of every weekend morning where Ben sets a timer for 3 minutes before we are allowed to plunge our french press at home.
Having gone to Heartland twice now (check out the instagram photos from my first visit here), I would definitely recommend it for a delicious dinner. I was truly wowed the first time I went, and while this visit didn't live up to that experience, it was still an excellent meal. The setting is beautiful, and being in downtown St. Paul it's a pretty relaxed and low key atmosphere.
Ben also talked about the Uber car service we used that night - I LOVED it, and it was definitely worth the few more dollars versus taking a cab! Such a nice experience to be able to order the car and see it coming on the map while we were sitting at our table, versus calling a cab and just hoping they show up. I also loved not having to exchange money. And, you for sure feel like a high roller with a town car pulling right up to the curb, and a driver getting out and asking for you by name! Definitely a great service, and one I can see us using again in the future.
289 East 5th Street