Lounging at the top-notch

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April 4, 2005 // UPDATED 1:53 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Ellen Gabler
Ellen Gabler

The Dakota Jazz Club is going for the Triple Crown, striving to delight with its food, music and wine. Dubbed one of the premier jazz clubs in the Midwest, The Dakota blends an eclectic mix of tunes with a chilled-out atmosphere.

What's hot

Jazz lovers can look no further. The Dakota brings in top national talent throughout the week and lines up local jazzers to dazzle crowds on the weekends.

Regulars also rave about The Dakota's food and feel. "It's cozy, kind of like it's your own," said Sherry, 51, who frequents the establishment about once a month with her husband Bill. "They treat you like guests - they treat you like you're special."

Most nights, a 26-foot curtain separates The Dakota restaurant from the club until 9:30 p.m., said Lowell Pickett, one of the club's owners. That way diners can eat in peace, but still get a full-blown taste of jazz during dessert.

Diehards say the year-old Dakota is a step up from its old digs in St. Paul's Bandana Square. A balcony and shallow-yet-long room make nearly every seat in the house a good one.

What's not

The Dakota's chilled-out atmosphere is not for extreme fun-seekers. It's also a tough place to mix. Loud music in the club makes it difficult to talk, and individual tables and booths make The Dakota restaurant more of a date destination.

The scene

Besides the small bar area, The Dakota is mostly a sit-down place. Most people settle in for the evening. The contemporary design, wood floors and candles dotting each table give it a warm, classy feel.

Different musicians conjure a unique vibe each night. Some get people dancing between tables, as there's no formal dance floor, while others just stir up a little clapping and head bopping.

The range of music is anything but narrow and traditional - The Bad Plus, a local jazz group making waves on the national scene, plays Nirvana cover songs. Other artists bring in rockabilly blues, Texas swing and jam-bands and, of course, there's contemporary and

traditional jazz.

Although the evening's crowd varies by the genre, owner Pickett said the clientele is simple to describe: "It's people who enjoy good music."

The crowd

You don't even have to be of age to kick it at the Dakota. Families with young teens celebrate birthdays at dinner tables as couples cuddle in nearby booths. Students into the jazz scene show up just as often as Downtown office workers looking for a drink.

Drinks, food and hours

You don't have to be a big spender to hang out here, although it definitely helps. The extensive wine list features $20-$135 bottles. Wine-by-the-glass is also available (beware, the $4.25 wine tastes like, well, $4.25 wine). Martini connoisseurs will enjoy the lengthy martini menu, featuring $7.95-$18.50 concoctions.

Food also runs the gamut, and is a major step up from regular bar food. Sandwiches, fries and chicken wings on the club menu are just $7.95-$10.95 for quality cuisine. Higher-priced fare rounds out the dinner menu. There's Minnesota fish in the $20 range and even $17.95 macaroni and cheese.

Happy hour runs weekdays, 4-6:30 p.m. and features $3 select beers, wine and single-shot well drinks; $6 martinis; and half-priced food off the club menu.