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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Minneapolis, St. Paul power tables: Where they are and who has them reserved

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Blogger Bob said...

Kathie Jenkins, Pioneer Press Restaurant Critic
Updated: 07/16/2009 04:21:22 PM CDT

When multimillionaire philanthropist John Nasseff walks into the Downtowner Woodfire Grill in St. Paul, he doesn't look around the room. Doesn't have to. His table — No. 30, a big booth near the window — is always available, no matter how busy the restaurant is.

And when football coach Mike Tice dines at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis, he demands Table 3 in an alcove. (When he was Vikings head coach, the super stitious Tice also expected to be waited on by the same server every time and drink the same label of wine.)

At the same restaurant, socialites Steve and Sheryl Newman must have Table 18, smack in the center of the dining room so they can see and be seen. If they can't have 'their' table, they would rather eat elsewhere.

That's the last thing Ruth's Chris general manager Jonathan Schulze wants. 'The Newmans are the most popular restaurant guests in town,' he says. 'And their table is important to them.'

Like many restaurant operators, Schulze and the Downtowner's Moe Sharif believe in treating royalty royally. Not only will they return again and again, but they also add spark to the restaurant's cachet.

Pazzaluna general manager Heidi Birkholz can relate. When Phyllis Diller dined at the downtown St. Paul restaurant a few years ago, she was seated at Table 53, smack in the middle of the restaurant.

I once worked for a man who said if you have celebrities in your restaurant, make sure everyone knows it, Birkholz says. So now, when I get someone famous swinging through town, that's where I put them.

Some diners like to sit where the action is; others prefer to be where the action isn't. At Pazzaluna, that would be Tables 81 and 91. Conversely, the bar facing the kitchen is also a coveted spot.

They like it because they can interact with the chefs and get free samples and tips on cooking, says Birkholz.

The tables of choice at Mancini's Char House in St. Paul are Nos. 48 and 49 in the back of the Red Room, where celebs like baseball legend Pete Rose are seated when they're in town. Tables 50 and 51 in the Red Room near the fireplace are the most requested for anniversaries and engagements. At Mission American Kitchen, a power-lunch spot in downtown Minneapolis, prominent lawyer/DFL fundraiser Sam Kaplan prefers Table 21. It's in the middle of the dining room, so he can see what's going on but have his back to a wall.

Table 50 in Mission's secluded Green Room is the favorite table of Irwin Jacobs, Minnesota's answer to Donald Trump.

But the most popular table at Mission is Table 12, a three-seater corner booth visible to all. Lawyers Tom Borman and Neil Sell both call it their table.

"We kind of joke about who gets it," says Manager Berta Herman. "Depending on the day, we call it the Borman booth or the Sell booth."

Fame or fortune isn't the only prerequisite for seating privileges. Some longtime regulars at the Lexington in St. Paul apparently feel a sense of entitlement. When they don't get the table they want, it's not unusual for manager Steve Englund to get the spiel: "But I've been a card-carrying member of the Lexington for 50 years. This would never happen if (retired general manager) Don Ryan were here."

"And we're not even a membership restaurant," says Englund.

To many restaurateurs' relief, the majority of diners don't care where they are seated. Even big stars like Tony Bennett chill out when it comes to table position.

When Bennett was in town five years ago, his handlers called Man-cini's to request a table tucked in the back. But when the crooner arrived at the restaurant, he showed no interest in special seating.

"When we asked him where he'd like to sit," say co-owner John Mancini, "he just said, 'Wherever.' "

Kathie Jenkins can be reached at 651-228-5585 or Read more about the restaurant scene on the Eat blog at

10:59 PM  
Anonymous story continued said...

Just where are the best seats at the best restaurants?

Capital Grille, 801 Hennepin Ave.; Minneapolis; 612-692-9000; Tables 62 and 73 on a semiprivate level off to the side of the dining room are popular with politicians and athletes.

Downtowner Woodfire Grill, 253 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-228-9500; No. 30, a big booth in the middle of the restaurant that sits a little higher than other tables, is multimillionaire/philanthropist John Nasseff's table. No. 80, a tall table in the bar attracts former St. Paul Police Chief Bill Finney; No. 60, a U-shaped table behind the hostess stand, is where St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington has breakfast meetings three or four times a week.

Kincaid's Fish, Chop & Steak House, 380 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651-602-9000; Execs at U.S. Bank, Bremer Bank and Securian Financial love Booth 46 for the privacy.

La Belle Vie, 510 Groveland Ave., Minneapolis; 612-874-6440; Table 12 in the middle of the room is the see-and-be-seen spot, and Table 21 in the corner is the most romantic.

The Lexington, 1096 Grand Ave., St. Paul; 651-222-5878; Table 5, a corner booth in the bar, is so popular some diners will book another night rather than sit elsewhere.

Mancini's Char House, 531 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-224-7345; Tables 48 and 49 in the back of the Red Room are for people who want privacy. Romantic diners prefer Tables 50 and 51 in front of the fireplace in the Red Room.

Manny's, 821 Marquette Ave. (the W Hotel at the Foshay), Minneapolis; 612-339-9900; Table 36 in the middle of the dining room is where New York Yankees Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada dined last week. But the booths along the cowhide-covered wall are the most requested.

McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant, 800 Nicollet Mall (U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Building), Minneapolis; 612-338-3300; Table 45, a corner table overlooking the dining room, is the most popular. But the six snugs (private booths with velvet drapes) are also in high demand. Mission American Kitchen, 77 S. Seventh St., Minneapolis; 612-339-1000; mission Table 21 in the middle of the room is the one preferred by power lawyer/DFL fundraiser Sam Kaplan. Business honcho Irwin Jacobs prefers Table 50 in the more private Green Room. But most execs request Table 12, a corner booth overlooking the entire restaurant.

Pazzaluna, 360 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651-223-7000; Tables 81 and 91 for privacy. Table 58 in the middle of the room is for those who prefer to be in the thick of things. The counter overlooking the kitchen for interaction with the cooks.

Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, 920 Second Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-672-9000; At Table 50, diners can see everyone entering and leaving the dining room. No. 18, in the center of the dining room, is the most preferred booth. Table 3, hidden in an alcove, is coach Mike Tice's table. It's also the Denny Hecker table. "Or was the Denny Hecker table," says General Manager Jonathan Schulze.

St. Paul Grill, 350 Market St., St. Paul; 651-224-7455; There's a long list that reserves Table 69, underneath the bronze bear in the bar, on a regular basis. Tables 1 and 82, in the front and back rooms, respectively, are popular with large groups. Celebs usually get seated in one of the six booths facing Rice Park. "That's so they can have some privacy," says General Manager Randall Kahn. "You have to walk by and really look to see them."

W.A. Frost, 374 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-224-5715; Table 26 by the fireplace is the proposal table.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

I eat at the Downtower and I have seen Jason Lewis at table 30.

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed they didn't reveal what resaurants and tables were reserved for Eric and Chuck

12:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think they eat at Porkys.

12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just curious...does anyone know which tables Bill Dahn has reserved at the palces?

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill eats at Cosseta's, food is good and the people are friendly.

7:29 PM  

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