Happy on the Inside

Sculpture, sunshine, and soul-sustaining sandwiches in Seward

It turns out that the Clicquot Club is the lucky thing that happens to a neighborhood when empty nesters with a penchant for European living realize they can't abandon the good life in Minneapolis. It began when Maher and Olson realized their son soon would be graduating high school, and began to think about leading life in different ways. Maher, a New York City native who came to Minneapolis via Miami, left his job as a tech guru for Padilla Speer Beardsley, and the two scoured the country for better places to live. "We looked at Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, a lot of fast-growing cities with lots of opportunities, and all it did was make me realize how much better it is living here than in any of those places," Maher told me. "No matter how beautiful Seattle is, I couldn't put my finger on it, but I just deeply felt it wasn't as good. You know?"

Oh, I know. As far as I can tell, pretty much the only downside to quality of life in Minnesota is that as soon as you remark upon it bloggers rise up and label you smug and provincial. But that's as good an example as any of the advantages of living life not electronically but in the actual world, the one with the sunshine, the softly babbling fountains, the hot grilled sandwiches, and the cute little yippy dogs frolicking in a sculpture garden while their owners linger over coffee.

In my conversation with Bryan Maher it came up that that lingering is more significant than it seems at first blush. There are evidently two sorts of things that happen in coffee shops, the first being "transactional" coffee sales, during which you pay $4 for a coffee to go, and the rest of it being the rest of it, from the paint on the walls to the people behind the counter to you yourself, and whether you linger over your coffee and take up valuable heat and air that could be better devoted to people getting $4 coffees to go. "We are not interested in the transactional nature of the coffee shop," Maher explained. "Even though I love coffee. I live coffee. I can't get enough coffee, and coffee is my world. I probably drink three liters a day. In fact, it's probably going to kill me. We have great coffee. That said, we aren't about transactional coffee. A Starbucks could open across the street from us and it wouldn't affect us at all, we have a totally different customer."

"I am living the dream with the Clicquot Club": Co-owner Bryan Maher
Tony Nelson
"I am living the dream with the Clicquot Club": Co-owner Bryan Maher

Location Info

Map

Cliqcuot Club

2929 E. 25th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55406

Category: Restaurant > Small Plates

Region: Seward/ Longfellow/ Minnehaha

Who's that? People who live in the neighborhood and live more of a stop-and-smell-the-roses sort of life. People who work at home, or have kids, or dogs, or gardens, or some other reason to have part of their day off-task. "When people think of Seward they think, 'the hippie neighborhood,' or, 'the vegan neighborhood,'" Maher said. "But it's not just that. It's gays, lesbians, blue collar, academics, doctors and various medical workers, writers, art directors, photographers, lots of stay-at-home moms. Oh, I forgot about the architect—I can see her pulling out of her driveway. I live four blocks away from here, I won't say I know everybody in Seward, but sometimes I feel like I do, and I'd say seeing my neighbors every day, my four-block commute, working with someone you love, it's all just been the icing on a big blessy cake.

"We modeled this place after various cafés in Europe; we'd always find ourselves traveling and basing [ourselves in] a particular café. After a while you realize a whole community is kind of circulating through [the café] and that's what we wanted to be, in Seward, which is the most amazing neighborhood. I always say you can find weird people anywhere, but the people in Seward believe in their weirdnesses, and want you to believe in them too."

If the weirdness du jour in Seward is happiness, joy, spicy sandwiches, tasty brunches, sculpture gardens, and, generally, nine kinds of icing on a big blessy cake, pour balsamic on my head and call me a salad, I'm moving.

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