Via is a good, easy answer to "Where shall I meet you?"

By anne
September 9, 2007 - 14:38.

I’ve been meaning to write about the new restaurant Via for weeks, but I’ve been too busy eating there to blog about it. That should tell you something. But it’s not that the food is outstanding (though a few items are), or that I’ve been wowed by the service (although the wait staff are attentive). It’s that Via is big and comfortable and offers a variety of pleasant vignettes in which to sip, sup and socialize.

Normally I tend toward downtown or neighborhood restaurants—112 Eatery, Café Maude and Jasmine Deli, for example—but sometimes it’s nice to just whip into a sprawling parking lot, hang onto your keys, and save $10 (no need to valet park in Edina).

Via is an all-occasion place to meet for anything from a casual cocktail and calamari to a celebratory formal dinner. It boasts the not-quite-southwest suburb’s largest outdoor patio—not as intimate as Crave’s wooden trellises, or Eden Avenue Grill’s little garden spot—and I, for one, welcome the Redstone-like, see-and-be-seen ambience a bit closer to home. Via’s patio has not one, but two fire pits, a marble bar (with stools that need another six inches in height to get me level with my lunch), and cozy sofas and settees, plus the usual glass-topped rattan rounds.

So…now let’s talk about the food. To be honest, I have yet to indulge in a dinner entrée, but I’ve heard the halibut is good. Mostly I venture to Via for apps and their phenomenal homemade ginger ale (trust me—this is why Mr. Webster finally listed the word zingy). The stuff is even better when mixed into a ginger mojito—the perfect quaff to complement one’s summer-to-fall wardrobe from Len Druskin.

For a seafood lover like me, Via offers pleasant options including roasted mussels in a paprika broth, ahi tuna tartare, and coconut rock shrimp with a nice-and-spicy red chile sauce. Then there’s the standard fare: chicken satay with peanut sauce and some brick oven pizzas, which are fine but unremarkable. My least favorite dishes have been those that staffers rave about. The crab wontons, for example. While the glaze of curried pineapple and thai basil might sound interesting, it’s simply overwhelming. You can hardly taste the crab, and the wontons are greasy when they ought to be light. Equally disappointing were the overly aromatic vegetarian summer rolls, which my girlfriend and I actually sent back to the kitchen.

My most satisfying visit to Via happened to be lunch. After my co-worker and I hoisted ourselves up onto cushions that we stole from our neighboring barstools, we rested our elbows on cool marble and ordered up sandwiches. I had the fried egg and smoked salmon with arugula on toasted sourdough. My friend opted for the roasted ribeye with carmelized onions and horseradish. Both were tasty and drew envious glances from two women who had ordered BLTs. I’ve had smoked salmon in omelettes, of course, but the combo with arugula and sourdough is earthier and more energizing—especially when washed down with a tumbler of the aforementioned ginger ale.

My suggestion for cocktail hour is to order one and nurse it—it’s expensive to drink here. Via lists only one bottle of wine below $30, and far too many in the $65-$95 range. Ironically, $120 for the Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet is a pretty good deal, but if you’re out with me, don’t get your hopes up. I tend to grumble at anything rated below 84 points and priced higher than $50. Even bottled beer is expensive at Via ($3.75-$8.25) and martinis are $9-$12 (at which point I’ll take mine with a twist and a cityscape, thank you very much).

Via is at 6740 France Avenue South, Edina. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Reservations recommended—it’s been packed every time I’ve been there. 952-928-9500.

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