Especially on a dark November night, this cozy Russian restaurant is a convivial place. Pull up a pair of red leather chairs at the bar and order a Golden Eye (vodka and Drambuie) or an Ivan the Terrible (vodka and Sambuca) and a coupe of dark chocolate mousse. When your drinks arrive, declaim “za vas” (here’s to you) and explain that in 1885, a reporter visiting from New York declared St. Paul “another Siberia, unfit for human habitation.” Suitably outraged, the chamber of commerce launched the St. Paul Winter Carnival, still going strong more than a century later.
371 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-291-1236, moscowonthehill.com
Clients with a penchant for the pre-war charms of New York’s Upper East Side will be enchanted by the lounge at La Belle Vie. Situated inside the lovely 510 Groveland building, built in the 1920s as a residential hotel, the lounge is furnished in Park Avenue style with an array of conversation areas finished with paintings, mirrors and chandeliers. Relax on a sofa by the fireplace and order a La Belle Royale Champagne cocktail or a Handsome Devil—a salty-spicy libation made with bourbon—and a lemon chantilly with a frisson of red currant ice cream.
510 Groveland Ave., Mpls., 612-874-6440, labellevie.us
Clients from Portlandia will feel right at home in this simple, unassuming space owned by James Beard Award-winning chef Isaac Becker. Join the covey of restaurant insiders at the bar or slip into a quiet wood-paneled booth. Order a jar of Nancy Silverton’s butterscotch budino with two spoons and carry the rich caramel flavors forward with a bottle of Oregon pinot noir from Domaine Serene, the Willamette Valley winery owned by Ken Evenstad, CEO of Maple Grove-based Upsher Smith Laboratories.
112 N. Third St., Mpls., 612-343-7696, 112eatery.com
Clients with a taste for brown goods (bourbon, roasted meat and Chesterfield-style leather banquettes) will resonate with the manly vibe of this restaurant. Score a couple of seats at the polished wooden bar and peruse the menu. In addition to nearly 50 kinds of bourbon (and $5 shots of Maker’s Mark), you’ll find a shortlist of vintage after-dinner drinks. Rich, sweet and potent, a grasshopper, brandy Alexander or pink squirrel easily does double duty as dessert. As you take your first sip, recall the words of poet Ogden Nash, who observed that “candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.”
1121 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-238-8888, butcherandtheboar.com
Late at night, when Calhoun Square’s spiky neon corona illuminates a never-ending procession of youthful revelers, Uptown feels like an urban boardwalk—even when Lake Calhoun is frozen over. To join the fun, grab a booth at Libertine, where the crowd is as quirky as the menu. Depending on your client’s appetite for irony, order a king can of Grain Belt Nordeast and the adult Twinkie, or go for a zesty Vote for Summer cocktail made with grapefruit vodka and Aperol and a delectable baked Alaska.
3001 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-877-7263, libertinempls.com