Forum is reborn in stunning art deco space

Contemporary Americana spot finally situated after many incarnations

One of my favorite things to do at the Forum Restaurant and Bar is to seek out diners who look as if they might be old enough to have visited the place between 1930 and the mid-1970s, when it was the Forum Cafeteria. Many such diners frequent the restaurant; one of the servers I spoke with estimated that 95 percent of his customers had dined at Forum in its previous incarnation. Don't plan on doing your inquiries on a Sunday night, when you may very well be the only party in the restaurant, but at any other time a little light conversation with someone at the next table may well tease out fond memories of the storied downtown canteen.

Those tales involve diners queuing up beside a row of small, clear doors with plates of food behind them; when you saw something you wanted, you opened the door and put the item on your tray. The Forum's heyday was an era when streetcars rattled and squeaked in their tracks and women wore white gloves. And the Forum was a place where young Minneapolis children were treated by their doting grandmothers. It fed the masses a quick, inexpensive lunch, the McDonald's of its day.

The new Forum, which opened this spring, has restored the cafeteria's towering ceilings and etched-glass chandeliers, its shiny tiles in shades of green and onyx, and its oversize mirrors painted with stylized North Woods motifs. Some of the imagery portrays pine trees and waterfalls, others Viking ships. Stalks of yellow grain crop up as decorative accents. To the contemporary eye, the effect is like the Hamm's Bear having lumbered into 1930s Hollywood. "What a Wonderful World" plays on the stereo, but it might just as well be a recitation of The Song of Hiawatha.

If you think this filet mignon looks good, wait till you try the pork chop
Hannah Delon
If you think this filet mignon looks good, wait till you try the pork chop

Location Info


Forum Restaurant and Bar

40 S. Seventh St.
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)


Forum Restaurant and Bar
40 S. Seventh St., Minneapolis
612.354.2017; www.forumrestaurantmn.comappetizers $6-$16; entrées $11-$30

The striking decor originally belonged to the lavishly appointed Saxe Theater, and historians have said it's the best remaining example of art deco design in the Twin Cities. In the 1970s, after the Saxe's original building was demolished, the interior was reassembled next door in its current City Center location. When the cafeteria closed, the place was remade as a disco called Scotties on Seventh. "I fell down the stairs many times when it was Scotties," a woman at the next table told me one night, pointing to the place in the floor that had formerly opened into the basement. "I even lost a shoe."

After Scottie's, the space was home to the Paramount Cafe and a restaurant called Micks. Most recently it housed the famed Goodfellow's, which closed in 2005, around the time that restaurant's former chef was convicted of having robbed the larder.

The space sat empty for several years until Jim Ringo, a former Cargill executive turned restaurateur, toured the space when he was searching for a location for a restaurant concept based on changing global destination menus. Ringo didn't think the Forum space was right for that restaurant, named Ringo, which he opened earlier this spring in a new mall in St. Louis Park. But Ringo was so taken by the Forum's charms that he decided to launch a second restaurant.

His revival of the Forum makes the tiered dining room feel far less pretentious than it did as Goodfellow's (the name alone, not to mention the astronomical prices, always made that restaurant seem like an unwelcoming boys' club). The dull fabric panels of the Goodfellow's days have been pulled from the walls to reveal more of the deco, and a large oval bar has been installed. It's a little like Grandma's costume jewelry: pretty and fun, if a little gaudy.

The Forum's menu concept is similar to Ringo's, with a base menu of American fare, plus a rotating menu of dishes from regions of the United States (Ringo's destination menu is international). Ringo tapped chef Christian Ticarro, of the former Canyon Grille in Coon Rapids, to lead the kitchen staff in turning out classic steaks and chops alongside a few regionally specific dishes such as Southern gumbo and Puget Sound clams. The Forum's first destination menu featured New Orleans, the second, Santa Fe. July showcases Ketchikan, Alaska, and August will focus on our very own Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Among the rib eyes and filet mignon, the Forum's Cider Apple Jam Pork Chop offers the more interesting meat preparation. The bone-in chop is Duroc pork, a heritage breed with well-marbled flesh, which is brined overnight to make its meat nearly as tender and succulent as braised pork shoulder—a generous pat of boozy compound butter on top probably helps.

The steaks and chops run between $24 and $38, so if you're on a tighter budget, look to the pastas for good value at a lower price. For $14, the small portion of macaroni and cheese ($25 for large) is not small at all, particularly for its richness. It suggests the luxury of the original Saxe: creamy, sharp, salty, and pungent with white cheddar, pancetta, and truffle oil—three heavy-hitting flavors that somehow leave space for the briny whisper of the lobster meat. Gourmet mac and cheese may well be the most overdone dish of the last decade, but this is one of the best versions I've tasted, and it makes the idea seem as fresh as it was at the turn of the millennium.

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