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Steak frites served with Wagyu beef and miso butter. / Photo by Jim Tanner

As we approach Valentine's Day, many are looking for that unique place to take your special someone to show how much you care on that day devoted to love.

There are many fine restaurants around town, frankly even more than ever these days. So there are options for all tastes and budgets. But if you're wanting to make it a special night of good food and ambiance, it's hard to beat one of downtown's tried-and-true locations.

St. John's Meeting Place has been a popular gathering place since 2004. The small restaurant provides a nice balance of casual comfort, great food and an intimate setting. It's the perfect place for a Valentine's Day date night.

 

THE SPACE

Meeting Place is located on Market Street next to its fancier sibling, St. John's, in a building that formerly was home to St. John's Hotel in the early part of the 20th century.

Where St. John's restaurant has more of a refined feel, Meeting Place is designed to have a more relaxed and casual atmosphere. The downstairs dining area is narrow with small tables perfect for couples and small groups of friends to share a meal.

For slightly larger groups of friends or those just wanting to have a drink and appetizers, the upstairs area at the rear of the restaurant features a small bar and more relaxed seating on comfortable chairs and sofas. Dim lighting and candles give the space a romantic and intimate feeling.

The Meeting Place is designed to live up to its name: a comfortable place to meet friends or have a special dinner for two.

If you go

› Where: St. John’s Meeting Place, 1274 Market St.

› Hours: 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday; closed Sunday

› Price range: From $8 for goat’s cheese fritters to $37 for beef filet.

› Phone: 423-266-4571

› Online: www.stjohnsmeetingplace.com/

 

THE MENU

The beauty of the the Meeting Place is that it shares its kitchen with St. John's restaurant. Thus, Meeting Place guests get to enjoy the amazing creations of executive chef Rebecca Barron in a slightly less formal setting than that of St. John's.

Despite the shared kitchen and cooking staff, Meeting Place features its own unique menu with a wide selection of small and large plates for guests to mix and match.

Small plates feature such items as goat's cheese fritters and pork belly sliders, while large plates range from a high-quality burger to fried rice with pork shoulder and pork belly on up to steak and even duck confit.

The Meeting Place menu does a good job of offering something for any type of gathering at prices that are quite reasonable considering the caliber of food being served.

 

THE FOOD

On a night out to celebrate a friend's birthday, we started with a bottle of Austrian wine and an order of the goat's cheese fritters topped with rosemary honey and chili flake. The fritters ($8) had a delicate flavor and set the stage for a wonderful meal.

For dinner, I chose to go with meatloaf ($18), but this was not your mother's meatloaf. Meeting Place meatloaf is made with bacon jam and served over potato puree with broccolini.

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Meatloaf at the Meeting Place is made with bacon jam and served over potato puree with a side of broccolini. / Photo by Jim Tanner
 

On many occasions in this space, I have made my feelings about bacon abundantly clear. Meatloaf with bacon jam did not disappoint.

My dinner companion chose the steak frites ($22), with perfectly cooked Wagyu beef, sliced and served with fries. It was an excellent meal, and a perfect meal for two in a perfect setting.

 

THE SERVICE

The service at Meeting Place is on par with the quality of the food and drink. Our server was eager to offer suggestions and gave informed answers to questions about the wine list.

Drinks were kept full, but the server was discrete enough to allow us time to enjoy our meal and conversation.

 

THE VERDICT

If you're looking for a special, but relaxed, place for a Valentine's Day meal, St. John's Meeting Place is hard to beat. It's fancy enough to impress that special someone while still having a welcoming feeling.

Meeting Place is the perfect balance of fine dining excellence and casual atmosphere.

Contact Jim Tanner at JFTanner@gmail.com. Follow him at twitter.com/JFTanner.

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