I am damn near speechless right now. On one hand, I’m not as surprised as I’d like to be – fine dining is an expensive and challenging niche. I was able to eat the full tasting menu twice and enjoyed the lounge a couple of times as well, they weren’t cheap meals but they are some of my most memorable and worth every penny.
The local restaurant and bar scene owes damn near everything to La Belle Vie. The chefs who worked their way through Tim McKee’s kitchen have gone on to be a who’s who of the MSP dining scene.
Jim Christiansen, of Heyday, and Erik Anderson and Jamie Malone of forthcoming Brut. But the list would also include Sameh Wadi of Saffron and World Street Kitchen, Jack Riebel of Il Foro, Mike DeCamp of Monello, Don Saunders of The Kenwood, Matthew Bickford of Icehouse, Lucas Almendinger of Co-op Creamery, Sean Smalley of Smalley’s Barbeque (which McKee still partly owns), pastry chef Diane Yang of Spoon and Stable, Adam Eaton of Saint Dinette, and many, many more.
Then there’s the cocktail scene. At the first week of Iron Bartender, I remember that LBV was going up against Saint Dinette. I *love* Saint Dinette’s bar program but I still thought it was a bit mean to put the newest restaurant up against an icon like LBV. But then…when the Saint Dinette team did their introductions, both of them said their name, and followed it with “Of Saint Dinette, formally of La Belle Vie.” The four competitors, two from a 17-year-old icon and two from a months-old rising star, had all worked together at the La Belle Vie bar.
La Belle Vie was also enormously influential in crafting Minnesota’s beverage landscape. Longtime La Belle Vie sommelier Bill Summerville, now an independent wine consultant, was responsible through his list at La Belle Vie for some significant part of Minneapolis’ focus on wines from small European vineyards. The restaurant also started the local craft cocktail revolution with longtime maverick bartender Johnny Michaels; just last week La Belle Vie’s current bartending team, led by Adam Gorski, won the city’s top bartending competition, Iron Bartender.
Much of my current passion for cocktails exists because of the scene that Johnny Michaels started out of LBV.
I didn’t eat or drink at La Belle Vie as often as I would have like, and I know that makes me part of the problem. As McKee stated, “The simple math of it is: I know a ton of people are going to let us know how much La Belle Vie meant to them. If all of those people would have come in twice more a year, we’d still be open. It’s so important that if there’s a restaurant or business in your community that you feel is important, you’ve got to make it your mission to support them. Otherwise they will close.”
Get out there, support our amazing local bars and restaurants, vote with your feet and your wallet. The reward is so much greater than a little red sticker, it’s more great places, innovative food, and amazing cocktails.