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 include the odd but deliciously salty duo of pork belly confit with truffled popcorn ice cream ($10). Creative plating and intriguing flavor combinations makes snitching from fellow diners inevitable. The staff recommended the unbelievably tender Wagyu Short Rib with truffled cauliflower and foraged mushrooms ($29). It was excellent.
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.