"This lamb is amazing," said my friend. We were enjoying an early evening dinner at Richard's Restaurant & Pub  in St. Peter, and after he forked over a slice, my first thought was that he wasn't giving the succulent meat its proper due. It was incredibly amazing, the kind of juicy, intensely flavorful tenderloin that yields to a butter knife and truly melts in the mouth.

It wasn't a fluke, either. The brined pork was a similar triumph, a thick, on-the-bone, locally raised chop that was grilled to crackling perfection. Yep, chef Emily Streeter (she ran the show at the former Three Muses in Minneapolis' Lyn-Lake neighborhood) is giving diners plenty of reasons to daytrip to this picturesque college town.

Her covers-the-bases dinner menu reflects the restaurant's setting -- its cozy, marigold-and-green dining room and bar occupy the first floor of a century-old structure that now houses the Konsbruck Hotel, the Olson family's five-room bed-and-breakfast inn -- but does so with plenty of flair and care.

A current star on Streeter's seasonally minded menu is a plate of smoked tomatoes ("I wasn't ready for raw tomatoes just yet," she told me) paired with mozzarella, basil and a mellow balsamic; nothing could have been more delicious.

A pretty salad made top-drawer use of sweet gold and red beets and salty feta. Tangy chèvre, rolled into balls and studded with fennel and zesty paprika, proved a smart start to tasty crostini.

Dessert was similarly pleasing: a pair of puff-pastry turnovers filled with cherries, and a towering slab of coconut layer cake slathered in rich cream-cheese icing and finished with crunchy toasted coconut.

Entrees are in the $18-to-$25 range, appetizers average $10 and most desserts are $7. The bar shakes up a long list of fancy cocktails and stocks a decent wine and beer list, and service could not be small-town friendlier. Next time, I'm booking a room upstairs and hanging around for lunch.

RICK NELSON