The Emperor's New Digs

A supper-club oasis in a sea of sports bars

And yet who cares? I don't need every restaurant to have great chef-driven food. A couple of great cocktails and a good steak are not to be underestimated. Plus they do a great job with potatoes. The aforementioned Imperial fries are hand cut, skin-on, and irregular, and they have a nice caramel squishiness. The kitchen puts out good mashed potatoes that have a light roast-garlic edge to them. And if you're an over-21 on a budget and love mashed spuds, here's an invaluable nugget of data: Happy hour at the Imperial Room runs every Monday to Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and offers a free mashed-potato bar. What's that? Well, I went down and checked it out. It's a big pan of mashed potatoes set next to a half-dozen soup cups of add-ins like bacon crumbles, blue cheese, Cheddar, scallions, and sour cream. Fill up a plate with potatoes and toppings and voilà: your base for drinking. Personally, this isn't really my cup of spuds, but I'm guessing this is many readers' idea of heaven, so I thought I'd tell you.

During happy hour, Imperial Martinis are half price, going from $9 to $4.50. Seeing as how the things are so enormous and built from such high-price ingredients as Belvedere vodka and Godiva liqueurs, I asked the general manager if they were losing money on every happy-hour martini: "We sure are!" he answered cheerfully. So maybe you should go get some free spuds and cheap high-roller drinks before someone in a position of authority reads this.

Or who knows, maybe somebody's trying to build a long-term business of character on First Avenue. It could happen! I mean, somebody could look down First Avenue and not see it merely as a place to harvest the biggest profits out of Big Gulp-sized cups of Miller Lite sold to fresh-faced cutie-pies exploring the meaning and substance of brand-new credit cards.

The Imperial Room: Only the décor says Brainerd, 1968
Craig Lassig
The Imperial Room: Only the décor says Brainerd, 1968

Location Info


Imperial Room

417 1st Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Yes, there may be hope for downtown. True, non-inebriated mainstays like Chez Bananas and the New French might have left, and Hooters might be fast on its way in the coming Block E development--oh no! I feel a rant coming on...can't resist.

Are any of my tax dollars responsible for this Hooters? I mean, even one? I need to know so I can dedicate an equivalent amount to a deserving political organization, like maybe the Heather has Two Mommies PAC supporting the Overthrow of Gametic Reproduction, Crisis Line for the Flat-Chested, and Fund for Random Cattle-Prodding of Morons. Tight orange shorts, indeed. A Hooters. In the middle of downtown. And right where I had some very convenient surface parking. Another outrage!

Okay, I'm better now.

Yes, with the recent closing of Chez Bananas and the New French, I had begun to fear that First Avenue was turning into a beer-goggles-required zone, so anything that bucks that trend and contributes to downtown feeling like somewhere and not anywhere, well, it's appreciated. I mean, martini goggles, now that's something completely different. Really. Just ask John Cheever, ask John O'Hara, ask any John of Literature you see lying about. Or, just step gently over them, because I think they're passed out. But I'm telling you, life is better glimpsed through Peppermint Bonbon-colored glasses.

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