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Last night’s trip to downtown Minneapolis and the chic urban Chambers Hotel and Kitchen proved a great little diversion. Here’s a three-minute review:

Greeting from Hostess: Friendly

Seating: Slippery

Table Set Up: Funky, angular dishware that refused to support flatware between bites

Waiter: Chuck served our table and also recently waited on First Lady Laura Bush when she was in town for the RNC. Unfortunately, this piece of fame-dom gave Chuck a bit of an attitude. Service was slow and we didn’t get an adequate amount of attention from him or Alex, the water/bread server.

Wine: The bottle of 2005 Laetitia pinot noir was a highlight, but marked up more than 100 percent. It retails for around $30 but the Chambers sells it for $63. Yikes!

Food: While the menu at the Chambers Kitchen is in desparate need of a refresh (has it been touched since the place opened two years ago?), the food was all prepared to perfection. We shared apps including a miniature satay plate (chicken, sausage and beef) and tomato salad consisting of locally grown yellow and red tomatoes soaked in a mystery tomatoey sauce. Entrees we ordered included duck, seared chicken, sea bass, and a beef tenderloin that was delicious (but needed a side order of mashed potatoes, which was “extra). The asparagus side was a winner as well.

Desert: We shared a smallish round of cheesecake topped with a spiced ice cream and coffee. All memorable and more than adequate – although I would have liked my second cup of java to NOT have come from the bottom of the coffee server (and I only received a half serving).

Overall Dining Experience: It’s the little attention to details you expect when eating at a trendy, chic restaurant. While the serving sizes were perfect and the chef clearly knows what he’s doing, it seems two years of business have put the wait staff in a lull. The restaurant was hardly full on a Saturday night, and it was all we could do to wave our arms off in order to request the check, pay and depart.  As one person at our table said, “I never ever have to go pee twice when eating out.” Yeah, it was a two-trips-to-the-restroom night for most of us.

Total for four: $298 plus tip (which we intentially skimped on due to the lack of good service).

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It just occurred to me that we began daylight savings time today. No wonder I’m tired!

The weekend brought about excellent opportunities to get out and visit unique places in Minneapolis.

SevenFirst, the new sushi bar Seven, located one floor above R. Norman’s (a newly opened, high-end restaurant focused on great steak). In the time we sat at Seven, the atmosphere literally evolved. At 7 p.m., plenty of open tables and chairs – as well as lots of room to sit at the bar and sushi counter, which is where we chose to sit. The wine list was plentiful and the wait staff very attentive – even when it got busy later in the evening. By 10 p.m. the place had evolved into a class ultra lounge with great views overlooking Hennepin avenue. It was standing room only but the staff remained smiling – happy to be part of a terrific and popular venue. We held tightly to our chairs at the sushi bar enjoying a Spider and Winter roll all very well prepared and filled with flavor. People, a 20- and 30-something crowd for the most part, dressed in the most expensive suits to the shortest of painted-on skirts and blouses strutted through the venue as the music popped and grew louder. We never felt really out of place, but certainly got our eyes filled with skin and club-like behavior. When in Rome, right? Our visit to Seven ended shortly after midnight and it seemed the place was really just hitting its peak.

Then today, at The Wilde Roast Cafe, a cafe and coffee shop in Northeast Minneapolis, I could barely believe my eyes as I nearly had to push and shove for a table – ala after 9 p.m. at Seven the night before. But as I stood and waited for my iced mocha a table opened up just for us. Sharing a great tasting, fresh cranberry scone (which seemed like it’d just been baked even though it was 2:30 in the afternoon), we people watched again. There’s never a shortage of interesting…ahem…people trapesing through for their coffee or late lunches on the Northeast side of the city. The Wilde Roast’s Victorian-casual atmosphere, with deep leather-covered barrel chairs, a mix-and-match assortment of tables and straight chairs, high-top tables and stools and a hugely uncomfortable bench running the length of the north side of the shop, features breakfast and brunch as well as unique salads, pizza, sandwiches, desserts, and of course a great list of coffees.

Of course any bar, restaurant or coffee shop can be first rate if you’re in the right company. I was definitely with the right girl, which made the explorations of downtown and Northeast Minneapolis all the better.

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