By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It is a rare achievement in the restaurant world to stay in business for 15 years, but La Belle Vie has done it.

It’s the place you go for an anniversary or special occasion, but now La Belle Vie is celebrating its own birthday.

The perfect pour, the perfect bite — that is the expectation at La Belle Vie. It opened in Stillwater 15 years ago, but has been in a stately Loring Park apartment building since 2005.

The restaurant won the prestigious James Beard Award in 2009.

“The food is a focal point, but without the wine and service and atmosphere, the food is just food,” chef and co-owner Tim McKee said.

McKee expects perfection in the kitchen, down to the littlest micro-green. Co-owner Bill Summerville expects the same from his service team.

“Everything we do — from the kitchen to the front of house to the valets — every aspect is working towards creating an emotion in the guest,” Summerville said.

Their menu is filled with such emotions — lamb rib eye with porcini mushrooms, beet pasta with lobster, trout, trout skin, trout roe.

“It’s really crucial to have a fine dining restaurant like this, just like it’s crucial to have an art institute like the Walker or the MIA,” McKee said. “It’s part of the culture and I think we need to have something like this.”

But La Belle Vie’s alums are opening places aimed at the blue jeans crowd, like Jack Riebel’s acclaimed Butcher and the Boar and Michelle Gayer’s Salty Tart Bakery. A dozen working Twin Cities chefs are part of The Tim McKee family tree.

“I’m really proud of the people who’ve come through here. I’m really proud to have had an effect on the dining scene in the Twin Cities,” McKee said.

Just like McKee has been nominated for the top cooking awards in the country, Summerville had the same recognition for his knowledge of wine.

“This is how we force cool wine on people. That’s great.”

It’s the total package that makes a night at La Belle Vie a night to remember, hopefully for at least 15 more years.

“The reason Tim’s food tastes so good is he really cares about cooking for people,” Summerville said.


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