406 Main St.
Red Wing Minnesota 55066United States
Midwest Living Recommends
Cozy and historical, The Port at St. James Hotel lures guests who crave a date night that lingers over several courses.
Built spaciously for the days when women wore cumbersome hoop skirts, Red Wing's St. James Hotel feels extra-wide and airy until you get to the basement. Here, upstairs' wallpapered walls and painted woodwork give way to ornate iron gates leading into The Port, its evening restaurant. A see-through fireplace adds ambience while brick walls decorated with steamboat photos from the Mississippi River remind diners this is one of the state's oldest places to eat. Fortunately, the late-1800s menu of possum and mountain sheep have been replaced. Modern first courses may be rabbit strudel; a salad of fingerling potatoes and spring greens; or a smoky, tangy clear-broth reinvention of Minnesota's well-known wild rice soup. This rich soup blends smoked pheasant, cranberries, wild mushrooms and the nutty grain of wild rice for an excellent starter. Creative plating and intriguing flavor combinations makes snitching from fellow diners inevitable, especially when it comes to entrees. The staff recommended the fall-apart tender lamb shank marinated in juniper berries, garlic and herbs and served on top of risotto made with farro, a dense, ancient wheat grain. It was excellent: Salty and savory and smoky all at once. The locally raised chicken breast is served with a savory cheddar-sage waffle, greens and a bourbon-maple jus. North Dakota bison ribeye comes with truffled pomme frites, asparagus and wild mushrooms. Choose a bottle from the extensive wine list (recognized by "Wine Spectator") to accompany the delicious meal. All desserts come with homemade ice cream: Bailey's ice cream with a hot Guinness chocolate lava cake, brown butter ice cream next to bananas Foster, and fried ice cream drizzled with cinnamon foam, whipped honey and a honeycomb. It makes for a sweet, cool finish to the evening. Entrees from $20; reservations recommended.