Rochester has an abundance of great restaurants. This can make it hard to decide where to go for dinner, especially when it’s a special occasion. Thankfully, there are places to go whether you’re going on a first date, celebrating an anniversary or taking the kids out for a meal. Here are a few suggestions for you.
For an anniversary:
ZZest Cafe & Bar
1190 16th St. SW
A couple celebrating their anniversary can go adventurous at ZZest and order the chef’s tasting for $36 per person. Foodies enjoy pulling up chairs at the counter and gabbing with the chefs while they work, which adds to the special occasion feel, says ZZest owner LeeAnn Zubay.
The chef’s tasting is three courses and varies by the night. Many people save it for their anniversary meal, but it has such a loyal following “a lot of people will eat (it) on a Monday night, because it is that amazing,” says Zubay. Different cuts of meat, rare ingredients customers share from their travels – everything unique ends up here.
From the regular menu, the grass-fed beef and lamb burgers are among Rochester’s best, and the house-made pasta shouldn’t be overlooked. Plan to spend $15 to $27 per person if you’re ordering from the standard dinner menu. Take that meal outside through Oct. 15 before the cozy patio closes for the season, and enjoy one of ZZest’s renowned craft cocktails as you bask in the trendsetter scene.
For a night out with the kids:
El Carambas Taqueria
1503 12th St. SE
El Carambas promises the “best of Mexican cuisine,” and it doesn’t disappoint. With dinner prices averaging $10 to $12 per person and a kids’ menu featuring meals all priced at $7.99, El Carambas is an ideal, affordable family destination.
From the small waterfall in the foyer to the soccer always on TV and the bright, authentic decor – including birdcages and piñatas aplenty – you immediately feel welcomed. It’s a casual place, and you’ll be served quickly so your minors won’t have time to get restless.
If like most families, you have one who doesn’t agree with tonight’s restaurant selection, feast your eyes on the array of nacho options. A seasoned diner might vie for the Carambas or Fiesta Nachos, featuring green peppers and guacamole, but a safe eater can opt for straight-up cheese nachos.
For a first date:
Twigs Tavern & Grille
401 6th St. SW
Centrally located near downtown Rochester, Twigs is a quiet, comfortable respite for enjoying your first date. The menu is designed for easy sampling and sharing, which is sure to provide conversational fodder as your night unfolds.
Savannah Manning, the assistant manager, recommends a couple start with a few small plates, such as Risotto Poppers and a Plum Fillet and Blue Cheese Strip. Then it’s definitely time for what Twigs is known for – hot rock grilling. You get your choice of steak, Babcock pork, shrimp, scallops or ahi tuna. Your entree is delivered to the table with a 650-degree rock where you cook your food to your liking; sauces and sides are included. Also of note: for gluten-free eaters, this is your home – Twigs has an extensive selection of gluten-free dishes and has a dedicated gf kitchen.
Top your evening off with a local Minnesota-brewed beer, glass of wine or a signature fall cocktail, and you’re set for a phenomenal first date.