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Restaurant Review – Forepaugh’s Magic
The Forepaugh’s mansion is a beautifully preserved Victorian “Painted Lady” built in the hey days of lumber barons, railroad barons and retail barons. Joseph Lybrandt Forepaugh was the latter and built his first St. Paul home on Exchange Street. And like many other old homes from that era, it fell into a long period of ill repair until purchased by the current owners in 1983 and lovingly restored to the turn of the century opulence of the original inhabitants. This was at a time when Victorian was in as a design theme for restaurants. Neighbor W.A. frost just opened their giant oak doors and across the river Winfield Potter’s had already been wowing guests with ornate wood and stained glass. Restaurant names like Blue Horse and Chouette were on everyone’s top ten lists and the memory of Charlie’s Cafe Exceptionale was still fresh in the collective culinary consciousness. Fine dining meant Beef Wellington, Coquille St. Jacques and Roast Duck Al Orange. Mobile phones were the size of small children, T.V.’s were low def and Ronald Reagan was munching jelly beans in the Oval office. I first visited Forepaugh’s Restaurant when the restaurant first opened over twenty years ago. I had not been back since and when I walked in the other night I felt like nothing had changed. And that was a good thing.
Forepaugh’s is caught in some sort of double time warp. The environs have been purposely maintained to help us relive another time and place. And the menu, though partially updated to 21st century tastes, still has elements of a time when food was rich, indulgent and had to be Continental in order to be good. Also a good thing. The food is well prepared and the service is impeccable. And that’s all I’m going to say about it. This is an experience where the sum is definitely greater than it’s parts. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. This is a must for anyone who needs to remember what dining was like twenty years ago or anyone who needs to feel like there is still a connection to our past that you can experience in food as well as environment. This is not a virtual experience, this is real. I felt though as if I were under dressed by 1980’s standards. I was in slacks and a shirt. One guy in our group did wear the requisite for the time, tie and jacket, but not one woman was in a dress. An interesting comment on who we are today I thought. The women looked great though!! (yes I meant it)
The group I was with by the way was not my usual dining brigade. I was meeting an old friend from Chicago who was in town to give lecture on magic. His name is Eugene Berger. He is a master at close-up and has taught hundreds of magicians around the world. I have hired Eugene and several of his protege to work in several of the restaurants I’ve been involved. Close up magic is a great form of entertainment for restaurants. It’s quiet, it keep adults and children entertained and its cheap. Magicians work mostly for tips. The trick, so to speak, is to find great story tellers that also have good slight of hand skills. The cheesy, showy magicians who twist up balloon animals turn me off and most restaurant patrons as well. Eugene is a great story teller. He had my usual companions captivated with stories accompanying his magic as well as tales about Penn and Teller, Sigfreid and Roy, Doug Henning and David Copperfield, all magicians he has either worked with or consulted with in his career.
Finally, it was very appropriate to have dinner in the mansion with a magician…the place is haunted. Here’s a story I found about the Forepaugh’s mansion. Enjoy it and when you go there for dinner, say hello to Molly.
“Many of the staff believe that it is Molly, a chamber maid who hung herself on the third floor, who has returned to the house. Restaurant owner James Crnkovich recalled an event in which the staff had worn 19th century clothes. A waitress was getting one of the dinning rooms ready for dinner and saw a unknown woman wearing the same type of clothing walking down the hallway, where she promptly disappeared.
Staff have also reported hearing someone walking around in the upstairs room. One day the staff was just opening up the restaurant and heard Molly tramping around the 3rd floor. The staff called the police, who responded with a K-9 unit. The dog refused to go any higher than the 2nd floor, but was eventually coaxed higher. No one was found in the restaurant and the police accused the staff of calling in a false report.”
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