In my mind, La Belle Vie is what old Manhattan was like — gorgeous, sweeping, historic, refined, with a back room filled with swank and fun.
And now, Minneapolis institution La Belle Vie is closing after 17 years. Instead of litigating the myriad reasons that beautiful place will go dark (you can find that article everywhere else), I’m simply going to share how La Belle Vie has been a beautiful part of my charmed life with my favorite La Belle Vie moments.
Once upon a time, a cute boy asked me out on a date on Friday, March 13th. One month later we were still seeing each other and it was my birthday. Said cute boy asked where he could treat me to dinner and gave me a few options — La Belle Vie was one of those options, so that’s where I chose.
I’d never been and it seemed glamorous and romantic. It was both those things and more. Tucked away in a tufted corner of the main restaurant, that cute boy and I were all dressed up and shared the most expensive, exquisite dinner I’d ever eaten.
At one point, I excused myself to go to the ladies room and walked past a long table filled with gentlemen who appeared to be executives with a hefty expense account … and my shoe fell off. I felt like a little kid wearing her mom’s too-big outfit in a place that was WAY too fancy for her broke-ass freelance life.
But I made myself feel that way. I’d left our secluded, magical corner and broken the spell in my own head. Once I cozied back in again, the expert staff continued to make us feel like we’d always belonged there, even when we had to ask questions about what was on our plates.
I couldn’t tell you today what we ate that night, but you could ask that cute boy because he’s now my husband.
In fact, as we were planning our wedding just a year and some change after that date, we made a trip to the lounge at La Belle Vie with our friends Jonathan and Diana. We wanted some signature cocktails for the reception, so we pulled together our team of connoisseurs and headed to the big, velvety corner table to taste our way through the cocktail menu for “inspiration.” Which was really just an excuse to sit and sip in that gorgeous sweeping space and drink. We were definitely inspired and the four of us came up with a sampling of libations that kept people on their feet and dancing all night at our wedding. Sadly, we were never able to recreate my very favorite La Belle Vie cocktail, “My Paranormal Romance.”
The little nook off the main lounge space was the perfect place for birthday celebrations — WAY classier than your own living room, but just as comfortable. Laughs, cocktails and a buffet filled with juicy, perfectly spiced little lamb burgers. a pile of fine meats, the crispiest French fries with the most craveable curry dipping sauce ever and crunchy soft shell crab sandwiches with cheeky little condiment faces smiling at you. Plus ordering every single dessert on offer because how could you possibly choose just one when it comes to edible art?!
When the weather was nice, the giant windows would be open, the breeze ever-so-slightly blowing the diaphanous curtains. When the Minnesota winter hit, the space radiated warmth and togetherness while still maintaining exclusivity. That’s a rare combination to nail, but nail it they did.
And just last weekend, we gathered with friends for dinner and made our way to the lounge at La Belle Vie for one final treat. As we sat together in the warm glow of the twilight hours of this fine establishment, we raised our glasses in thanks to their dedication to excellence in everything and for being the go-to place for everything special in life.
We mused on what might happen to the space and hope that its next life can continue to be one that hosts warmth and high-class and delectable and sparkle.
You will be missed, La Belle Vie. Congratulations on your amazing run. You’ll never be forgotten.