Nicollet Island Inn (Minneapolis, MN)

Continuing the recollection of my last few months of culinary indulgences, the next decadent memory is of Minneapolis hotel and restaurant, Nicollet Island Inn. This quaint little restaurant is an old, yet beautiful, three-story building on the bank of the Mississippi River. The first floor houses the elegant dining room, while the second and third floors are a dedicated hotel with first-class suites. I had been to this spot several times, mostly for special occasions, and the restaurant’s service and cuisine is always top notch and certainly one of the best dining experiences you can have in the city. My one experience with the hotel several years ago was also pleasant, with petit fours and chocolate-dipped fruit waiting on arrival and a very romantic view of the city and river outside the window.

The beautiful and elegant Nicollet Island Inn.

This post, however, will be all about the dining. In all of my past trips to Nicollet, I had partaken in their dinner experience, which is top-notch. Despite how exquisite their dinner is, Nicollet is more well-known for another course: their Sunday brunch. This was my first time attending said course. I had been missing out.

Nicollet’s Sunday brunch is a smorgasbord, five-course feast. Each course of brunch — a breakfast appetizer (i.e pastries), breakfast, a lunch appetizer, lunch, and then dessert — has four choices. You pick one, but you can’t really go wrong with any of them. The entire meal is only $36 per person, which is a steal for the quality and amount of food they prepare at the inn. Oh, and did I mention they serve endless champagne and mimosas throughout the brunch? Well, they do and it’s as awesome as it sounds.

For those who want to know each choice of each course, the full PDF menu can be found here:

Let me break down the delectableness by course for each item I tasted:

Round 1: Pastries

Just what it says in the menu. Assorted pastries – cinnamon rolls, croissants, and turnovers — all melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

Served with mimosa number 1 and a cup of coffee.

Round 2: Breakfast

Duck Confit and Hash – I’m a huge fan of duck, so when I saw this on the menu, I wasn’t going to pass it up (although passing on the Crème Brulee French Toast was painful). The dish was a great way to start off the meal, with fried egg, fresh red peppers, savory sweet potatoes, and crimini mushroom mixed with the confit and hash. All of this was topped with a drizzle of Mornay sauce, which is a Bechamel (white) sauce combined with cheese.

My apologies for the utensils in this and the following pictures…the food just looked too good to not eat right away.

Round 3: Lunch Appetizer

Eggplant Caprese – For my lunch appetizer, I wanted to try something a little different. Eggplant is generally something you don’t see on many menus, and when I saw that it was encrusted in Parmesan, I was sold. This dish might be my vote for my favorite course of the morning. The plate came with two slabs of the crusted eggplant with a solid layer of mozzarella between, topped with candied tomatoes and a few leaves of arugula. The contrast in textures between the Parmesan on the eggplant, the crunchiness of the eggplant itself, and the stringy softness of the mozzarella was incredible, and the mixtures of flavor – the sweetness of the tomatoes with the sharpness of the cheeses – was to die for.

Served with mimosa #2. Starting to get full at this point…

Round 4: Lunch

Corn-Crusted Walleye – This was the hardest choice of the day. The menu options for this course included a New York Strip (worth the $36 itself) and a gnocchi dish (one of my favorite Italian specialties). In the end, I opted for the walleye, mostly because after being down in Kansas for four years, I was ready to taste fish that had actually been caught in my state of residence. Minnesota is known for its walleye, and every time I’ve had dish with it up here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I have not been disappointed. With that said, this was probably the most average dish of the day. The walleye was cooked perfectly but was rather bland, and the smoked remoulade it came with did little to add to the flavor. Don’t get me wrong, the dish was still good, but after my previous two courses, it had a lot to live up to and fell short. However, the highlights of the dish came as sides. The whipped sweet potatoes and grilled asparagus were heavenly. I could have eaten an entire plate of just the sweet potatoes.

Served with glass of champagne #1…and 2. I’m pretty sure I’m not driving home at this point.

Round 5: Dessert

Mocha Cake — Dessert was bittersweet (no pun intended). On one hand it meant the end to one of the best dining experiences I’ve been a part of, but on the other hand, IT’S DESSERT. Having tasted a few of Nicollet Island Inn’s sweets before, I was giddy for what would come of this course. All of my wildest dessert dreams came true in the form of their Mocha Cake. Combining two of my favorite things, chocolate and coffee, the dish consisted of a massive, moist slice of chocolate cake, drizzled with espresso, and topped with more chocolate, this time a ganache. As if that wasn’t enough, the cake came with a side of coffee ice cream. For all of you chocolate and coffee lovers out there, think about how good that sounds and then crank up the deliciousness by 10. I’ve had a lot of desserts at a lot of top-notch restaurants in my day, and this easily cracks the top 3 greatest desserts I’ve ever devoured.

Served with another cup of coffee. Because more caffeine was exactly what I needed…

And so ended the dining odyssey at Nicollet Island Inn. For $36, I don’t think you can get a better culinary experience in the entirety of the Twin Cities. On a fun side note, the restaurant has been rated Minneapolis’s Most Romantic for about forever. So grab a date and come for brunch, lunch, or dinner. You won’t be disappointed in whatever course you choose (and your date will be pretty happy too).

I’ll end with a quick shout out to the waiter who served my table. The best service I’ve ever had at a restaurant hands down. I never had to ask for a refill on drinks and the courses came out on a dime after the previous course was finished. Since you asked for my blog URL for your food-blog loving girlfriend after the meal was over, I just wanted you to know that you did a great job. Internet high-five!


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