Because you've exhausted all 346 conversation topics with your spouse including the one about the kitty-cat hairballs. You can't face another drinking session with no company but your Kindle. You've been tasked to plan a night out with your mother-in-law who makes Bunny MacDougal look like a liberal and "awkward" doesn't begin to describe it.
There are plenty of reasons to take dining out of a regular old dining room and into the realm of entertainment. It doesn't really matter how big a foodie you fancy yourself, staring down into a plate of food, even with company you like, well, sometimes it's boring.
It is! Admit it. Sometimes.
The unbelievable success and cult following enjoyed by the people of Travail (our #1 pick) is proof-positive of this fact. The interactive experience, the way it surprises and induces shit-grinning, inspired us to take a look at where else we could take in a little entertainment with our evening repast. Here are 10 places that are a feast for the eyes and ears as well as the appetite.
10. Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis
Taking in a concert is not the civilized affair we sometimes wish it were. Jostling through a crush of sweaty bodies until most of the beer we just bought is running down our arm? Ugh. And a stadium, despite the seats, just doesn't inspire. Icehouse puts some style and class back into a night on the town. Caberet-style seating with great sight-lines and grownup dining that's just this side of fine, along with a craft cocktail program, make this as perfect a date night as things ever really get. Check for salsa night when the tables get pushed to the edge of the dancefloor and folks make like it's Old Havana.
9. Loring Pasta Bar, 327 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis
Ever seen tango dancing in real life? It's just as romantic, exotic, and unabashedly sexual as it looks on TV and in the movies. If not, it's time you did -- it's one of those things that makes an impression, like a walk through a quiet twinkling snowstorm with somebody you really like. It's that good! And, if you're an intrepid soul, you can even join in. The same band, Mandragora Tango, has been performing here for over a decade, and according to them it is a very rare thing indeed to have a milonga (a place where tango is danced with live music). "There are very few cities outside of Argentina that have a weekly milonga with live music. We're pretty sure that we've played more milongas than any band outside of Argentina." If that alone doesn't convince you, share an artichoke ramekin instead of a dance -- it's the Loring's signature dish 20 years running.
8. Nye's , 112 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
Predictably, we had to include it. Its impending closure means this is one show you'll need to pencil in STAT. There is little that can truly be said about the vittles -- most of it probably fell off the Sysco truck -- but for listening and watching it simply cannot be beat. Your choices are many: The World's Most Dangerous Polka band is the house music yes, but many forget that the stage is host to an entire range of other musical acts like the New Primitives, who play world and reggae beats every Thursday night. But for that Vegasesque, loungey, twinkling piano vibe, push through the swinging door and nestle at the piano bar. If you get hungry, eat the olives out of your martini.
7. Chanhassen Dinner Theater , 501 W. 78th St., Chanhassen
Kitschy maybe, and the food can be a little institutional, but the theater is surprisingly entertaining -- the kind of thing with a true artistic team, pro sets and acting, and serious production value. The strange building in the far-flung suburb is actually the largest professional dinner theater in the country. If wedding-banquet fare like wild-rice stuffed chicken breast with hollandaise isn't your thing (whose thing is it?) you can skip dinner and drink instead. We like it that they blend old-fashioned boozy ice-cream cocktails like grasshoppers and pink squirrels. Pro tip: There's a discreet bar way in the back that pours a stiff drink if you just can't make it through the final rendition of "Under the Sea."
6. Dakota, 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Feeling particularly flush? This tony dining room is the most adult way to take in some world-class live music along with the sort of food that stands up to some of the best in town. Foie gras torchon and day boat scallops vie for your attention as the lovely strains of both local and national acts keep your ears perked. Pro tip: Foodie Nights offer special menus, no cover for music, and select $10 bottles of wine, so you can live like you're in the pink for little more than a regular old dinner.
5. The Seville Club, 15 Glenwood Ave. N., Minneapolis
Naked ladies and a steak? What could be more desireable to the red-blooded American male than that? The club constantly receives accolades for its comfort and accessibility to all who seek its charms -- even couples and women are invited to ogle. Viands trend toward country club favorites like filet mignon, asparagus bundles, and mini tenderloin sandwiches -- as straightforwardly appealing as a busty blonde in boyshorts. Be careful though, it can be easy to rack up a hefty tab as you grasp sandwich in one hand and a stack of singles in the other, making like a modern-day Bacchus with wine splatters on your button-down.
4. Hell's Kitchen, 80 S. Ninth St., Minneapolis
It's not really a speakeasy, nor is it exactly a dive bar, and the food rarely reaches greatness but it is good, solid crowd-pleasing fare with signature twists that make it uniquely Minnesotan and funky. But we like it for the nightly live music -- the sort of bluesy, down-home stuff that makes an already mysterious underground lair feel that much more sultry. We also like it for the early dinnertime shows, usually 6 to 9 p.m., for those of us whose dancing shoes turn into pumpkins after 10 o' clock. And there are even live brunch sets on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., making the thought of getting out of bed for some lemon-ricotta hotcakes that much more enticing.
3. Jerusalem's , 1518 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis
Maybe it seems a little bit wrong to have a big-hipped lady gyrating all around your gyros at dinnertime -- bellydance can be cringe-inducing or thrilling depending on your constitution. But the food at this dusty little Nicollet Avenue relic is consistently surprising in its goodness. The space is in such dire need of a remodel that it's almost humorous, with blowsy fabrics stapled to the ceiling in an attempt to mimic some sultan's harem quarters. But the whole package can't be beat for an off-the-beaten-path night out. Their lemon-chicken soup is downright restorative, and the Shawarma platter with all the accoutrements is a steal for less than 12 bucks. Bellydancing on Friday and Saturdays starting at 7 p.m.
2. Eggs and Drag at The Gay 90's, 408 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
You haven't lived until you've seen a drag queen try to get her eyebrows on straight before noon on a Sunday. And not just that, but the girls, in full sequined regalia and teetering around on platform shoes, are in charge of the brunch buffet, too. Scratch it isn't -- Eggos, toaster strudel, Jimmy Dean, and steam table eggs are the name of this game, but you know, it ain't half bad once you've downed a couple of the strongest Bloody Marys in town and tucked a few bucks in Cher's garter belt. First Sunday of the month, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
1. Travail, 4124 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale
Their talent for inserting theater, comedy, and real emotion into the overall service of world-class cuisine is nothing short of genius. The merry band of miscreant chefs of Travail have removed all pretense from the production of fine dining and replaced it with a ribald dose of hilarity, interactivity (take a tour through the kitchen and build your own dish), dancing, whimsy, and a bumpin' sound system. The incredible thing is that no part of the dining side of the equation suffers -- it's a mad food caper with some of the most inventive, technically precise eats anywhere.
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