News-A-Rama

Restaurant Massacre in St. Paul; Top-Secret Most-Ambitious-Restaurant-Ever Debuts in Minneapolis—What a Season!

We have so much shocking news this week I don't even know where to begin. Okay. Deep breath. Pour yourself a martini, and get ready to wrap your head around this one: We are about to get the most important, most ambitious, most luxurious restaurant in the history of Minnesota—again! Again! We got the most ambitious, luxurious restaurant in the history of Minnesota twice when Cosmos and dear, departed Restaurant Levain opened, and then we got it again when La Belle Vie opened, and now it just keeps coming and coming and coming. And the next one is coming in December. Which is practically tomorrow. And it's got Steven Brown at the head of it!

Yes, that Steven Brown! Chef, underdog, incredible home-grown talent, last heard from when he shelved plans to open his own place in order to launch downtown Minneapolis gastropub Harry's Food and Cocktails, which is up and running, but which he is now only consulting at. So who's running Harry's? Promising newcomer Colin Murray has taken over the day-to-day affairs of the kitchen. Murray, a 26-year-old Stillwater native, is a former cook at Restaurant Levain, Auriga, Solera, and Bayport Cookery; he also did a long stint in Hawaii at Roy's Restaurant. He tells me he plans to use the menu Brown developed and add his own comfort-food take to it, "like going to Mom's house, but with a little extra."

But back to Brown. So, Brown, who rang in 2007 by closing Restaurant Levain, is now officially chef for the restaurant Porter & Frye, at the soon-to-open Hotel Ivy, the Midwest's first ultra-prestigious "Luxury Collection by Starwood" hotel (1115 Second Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612.333.4489; www.ivympls.com). You know the Ivy, right? It's the Old Britain-looking building, by the Minneapolis Convention Center, that's been under construction forever while they pack it full of prestige. I mean, you may be asking yourself, how prestigious is a Luxury Collection by Starwood Hotel? Boy howdy, we're talking luxury: Sister properties include a Frank Gehry-designed inn in Rioja, resorts in Bali and Santorini, and Vienna's famed Hotel Imperial. You're not familiar with Vienna's famed Hotel Imperial? Well, get a jet already, buddy, it's time to kick it up a notch.

Owner Jeff Laux at Porter & Frye, in the soon-to-be luxurious Hotel Ivy
Sean Smuda
Owner Jeff Laux at Porter & Frye, in the soon-to-be luxurious Hotel Ivy

Location Info

Map

Nick and Eddie

1612 Harmon Place
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Category: Restaurant > Fusion

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

I spoke for a little while with Alister Glen, the hotel's general manager, who comes to us from Cape Town, South Africa, via Atlanta, and he explained to me that, more or less, this place is going to double, maybe triple whatever we might currently know in this town as luxury: Think the priciest penthouse between Chicago and Seattle, think wood-paneled individually designed suites, think a 17,000-square-foot spa and gym. No, that's not a typo, really, a 17,000-square-foot spa (www.ivyspaclub.com) at which you can have caviar facials, soak in an "anti-stress milk bath," and score what is sure to be the Target executive's new status move of the year: The neck-and-shoulder massage, manicure, and box-lunch combo package. (That particular package comes at a non-member price of $89; but if you're one of those people whose bank balance doesn't joke around, you can join the Ivy Spa as a member. If you do, I think you'll get some really snazzy robes.)

Luxury and prestige aside, what is most interesting to this Minnesota champion is that the emphasis of "Luxury Collection by Starwood" properties is "exceptional indigenous experiences," meaning that they intend to create something unique to each city they're in, and, by extension our city—not something that's trying to be New York or Paris, or, for that matter, Austria.

"We will be bringing in travelers from around the globe and around the country," Glen told me. "And when we do, we want them to have an experience that isn't intimidating or snobby, that is above all warm and comforting, but is also unlike anywhere else, and is unforgettable." So, while the Austrian Luxury Collection Hotel Imperial by Starwood property is all gilt, Baroque plaster, silken tapestries, gold tassels, meringue pastries, and other super-Austrian things, our new Hotel Ivy will be...something else. Something essentially Minnesotan. It's hard to say, but Glen kept emphasizing the words warm and comforting, and didn't say they were going to glue wild rice and rough-hewn pine logs to the walls, so I wait with bated breath. Really, someone is going to take being here seriously? I have waited my whole life for this moment.

"My charge is to make it indigenous," Brown told me from his new office near the Ivy. "So, I've been thinking a lot about what that means. The menu will be at least evocative of what it is to be Minnesotan, what it is to be in Minneapolis in the year 2007. You could say that Porter & Frye will serve, roughly, modern American food, in an iconic way." Brown wouldn't tell me too much more, except that the restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and he is working with some ideas originally developed for the Hotel Ivy by a Minnesota team of super-chefs, namely Stuart Woodman, formerly of Levain and Five, and now of the eagerly anticipated Heidi's, which, as of this writing, was within days of opening (819 W 50th St., 612.354.3512, Minneapolis); Charlie Torgerson, a legendary local restaurant consultant, and Russell Klein, formerly of W.A. Frost, and more on him in a minute.

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