Tangiers goes for the speakeasy vibe

The North Loop lounge is more about drinking than dining

Tangiers goes for the speakeasy vibe

Check out all our photos from the Tangiers...

Since its first major revival 10 years ago, the Warehouse District, and the North Loop neighborhood in particular, has not stopped evolving — nor has its dining scene. Just as the 222 Hennepin condos were unveiled, complete with a convenient Whole Foods market, residents started researching candidates for their go-to bar. As if in response, the Tangiers, a new eatery and lounge, popped up directly across the street.

Husband-and-wife owners Ivy and Behnad Taheri have clearly invested a lot in the decor of Tangiers, located in the long-dormant Hennepin Steam Building. Dramatic, bright-red high-backed booths line the walls, ornate mirrors frame the main bar, and twinkly chandeliers hang at varying heights over the stairs to the lower level. Overhead beams are draped with fabric, and oversized prints of vaguely flapper-esque ladies decorate the walls.

Tangiers tackles small plates with limited success
Alma Guzman for City Pages
Tangiers tackles small plates with limited success

Details

THE TANGIERS
116 First Ave. N., Minneapolis
612-599-2651;
thetangiersmpls.com
menu items $8-$14

Check out all our photos from the Tangiers...

They've managed to pull off the luxe speakeasy vibe without being too gimmicky. Unfortunately, the team at Tangiers does not pull off the menu with such success. Though the name suggests a menu of Moroccan tagines and saffron-tinted stews, most of the dishes stick to Mediterranean flavor profiles. While everyone loves a creamy little ball of burrata smeared on crusty bread, a pile of glossy olives, or a selection of cured meats, the problem with these safe offerings is that they don't require any cooking. "Minor assembly required" seems to characterize a lot of the food at the Tangiers.

Billing itself as a "small plates eatery" is the first misstep. The best small-plates eateries in Minneapolis are formidable: Nightingale with its almond gazpacho and seared scallops, Rincon 38's exquisite braised pulpo, and Jonathan Hunt's oft-overlooked Rinata serving up eggplant involtini with tomato sugo. These prototypes make beautifully executed, creative, thoughtful food that happens to be portioned into small, mix-n-match plates. By comparison, the Tangiers serves wine snacks, things you would put together for dinner party guests to nosh on while they wait for you to finish braising the osso buco.

For example, one small plate described as prosciutto and fresh figs was pretty, but too tiny to be taken seriously. There were maybe 10 dried figs draped prettily with narrow slices of prosciutto and a couple of crostini. The combination is nice, but hardly worth the $12 price tag Tangiers puts on it, especially when the same amount of money will get you the calamari salad with baby artichokes or sweetbreads with pickled shallots at 112 Eatery, just a few blocks away. The sweet and salty dates, speared with toothpicks and served with a small green salad, had a similar premise but fared better. The fruit is wrapped with crispy bacon and served with a sticky jalapeño jelly, but its pineapple stuffing hardly came through in flavor. A brightly acidic tomato bruschetta and almost-whipped black olive tapenade were enjoyable enough, but could have easily been ratcheted up a notch with the addition of a few unexpected ingredients: a little herb, some heat, more adventure.

Two dishes veered away from the Mediterranean bent with varying degrees of success. One was a lettuce wrap that promised nutty Thai flavors but delivered a cold chicken salad with a few crisp vegetables for texture. The final product was not terrible, but it missed the mark on creating the complexity of sweet, hot, salty, and sour one expects from a Thai-inspired dish. The other option was a sort of fusion taco that sounded risky — pork belly, roasted carrots, and basil pesto — but actually had a rich flavor that made it the most satisfying, dinner-like bite on the menu.

Rounding out the small plates, a handful of flatbread pizzas mostly served as vehicles to remix ingredients from the appetizer section of the menu. The Bianca showcased the combo of crispy prosciutto and figs again, but this time with the addition of some gorgonzola cheese and a balsamic vinegar reduction, making it the standout option in that section of the menu. Despite its lack of imagination, the Tangiers does a good job with the small details that can sometimes make or break a dish. Salads were all nicely, lightly dressed, undressed greens were salt-and-peppered, and bread was always lightly toasted and drizzled with olive oil.

Drinks were, across the board, strong, and designed to carry you through that passage of time between happy hour and full-blown club scene. Some were simple and straightforward, such as the refreshing James Gatsby with Maker's Mark, simple syrup, and mint leaves, or the Bee Keeper made with organic gin, honey, and orange juice. Others were one-dimensional, like the Dream Berry Crush cocktail, which contained fresh juice and fruity jams, but was overpowered by a candy-sweet flavored vodka base.

The location is primo and the Tangiers team were smart to open when they did, but something about the restaurant's concept feels only partially gestated. The get-tipsy-and-dance drinks seem to do their job, but the food menu needs to incubate a little bit longer. The kitchen staff earns respect for managing to make several dishes out of the same dozen or so ingredients, but it would be nice to see a little more cooking and a little less assembly.

If it succeeds, Tangiers may signal a new era and a new brand of gentrification in these parts. We might even see more downtown club culture creeping closer to the river's edge and bottle service taking precedence over a really well-crafted cocktail. In the meantime, go with a group for happy hour when the prices are aligned with the product, the spacious booths are open, and service is attentive and accommodating. Sink into a curvaceous couch and enjoy a Tangiers signature martini made with Grey Goose, St-Germain, and Prosecco. You'll get used to the VIP room treatment in no time.

Check out all our photos from the Tangiers...

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14 comments
beth
beth

did the writer really put "tangiers tackles small plates with limited sucess?" under a picture of their food!!!! wow ... lol sorry but that just is plain wrong i absolutely love their tacos so i highly doubt the writer on this ever went in..... city pages whats up?!!!! ..... i literally laughed when i read this entire article cause all i thought was uh-oh someone when in and felt like they didn't belong so they wrote a big bad article about this place.... makes me laugh...can we say biased????. i heart the tangiers- work at aria and this place  rocks- i would like to say sorry to the owners cause this article is just a joke..... 

beth
beth

 did the writer really put "tangiers tackles small plates with limited sucess?" under a picture of their food!!!! wow ... lol sorry but that just is plain wrong i absolutely love their tacos so i highly doubt the writer on this ever went in..... city pages whats up?!!!! ..... i literally laughed when i read this entire article cause all i thought was uh-oh someone when in and felt like they didn't belong so they wrote a big bad article about this place.... makes me laugh...can we say biased????. i heart the tangiers- work at aria and this place  rocks- i would like to say sorry to the owners cause this article is just a joke..... 

a.d.rheartcalhoun
a.d.rheartcalhoun

Come on really? lol.. this chick is totally biased....lol maybe she dated a bar tender there or something and wants to stick it to the place now.... i have been there a few times and the food was simple and good and the drinks were fine too... i am pretty sure they are not trying to re-create the wheel and are all about simple staple items as the bar tender  explained to me, not everywhere is trying to be the new craft cocktail place that takes 15 minutes for one drink to be made... i worked at uptown caffeteria and they have a signature drink list too but signature drinks doesnt mean craft cocktails its just unique drinks the manager or owner ads for a fun twist rather then just looking at the bar and deciding yourself.... i think this review is way over the top , you cant try to make something be a place it never claimed to be and then demean it for that...ohhhh writers you guys are a funny bunch....... 

abby1
abby1

Okay so i read a few articles about this place in the same publication long ago links being: http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2013/08/the_tangiers_announces_grand_opening_dates.php

and 

http://blogs.citypages.com/food/2012/05/tangiers_eatery_to_open_north_loop.php

saying they were a small plates place with american fusion deff not saying Moroccan food and also mentioning the name is from casino.... so not sure if the city pages writers go rogue and don't have any contact with other articles but they should probably communicate ...look unprofessional i write for urb magazine and sorry but you have to tie in your article or it looks amateur hour.... come on city pages i know your better then this... or i hope your writers do their homework....gulp..... 

Thadr
Thadr

I just moved here from san fran 2 weeks ago and i love this place personally and i have not had a bad experience been there 4 times in 2 weeks. im surprised to see mpls people being from city centric publications being so judgmental i guess that  is that mn nice thing i have been hearing about!  for as many people as i met here who have a  live and let live mentality there is a big group still is a group who.... i hate to say it is threatened or uncomfortable by places that are not their scene and instead of just not going they have to run their mouths.... in cali you just live and let live but here people get all worked up and seem to have some weid vendetta...sad...come on minneapolis i know your bigger then that mentality dont act small town!!!! 

mplsproud
mplsproud

Interesting review. Although I try to stay away for the comments section I felt the need to share some insight about the establishment that was left out of this lackluster and somewhat scathing review. I understand the it is Emily Weiss's profession that puts her in a position of sharing her personal opinion, which is a guise of professionalism due to the misdirected anger, and misinterpretation of the Tangiers.That to me is just plain wrong.  As a repeat customer and returning customer I have been wowed more times then one with the level of service, unique drink offering and flavorful food offerings. Not Moroccan enough for you? Did the Tangier's ever mention their food offerings would be, or did they state they would offer "mouth watering array of items including exotic flat breads, salads and charcuterie plates". I believe the City Pages to be a great information source for our city's community, but unfortunately this write up feels more like someone had a deadline meet, and less about informing our public about a new great, and upcoming establishment.

jenr37
jenr37

I work next door and  i am pretty sure they set out to create a unique speakeasy as mentioned with food but i don't think they are necessarily trying to compete with "foodie" restaurant people by any means and i actually dont think its a moroccan place either, they are listed as american food in their advertisments more or less, I don't the their name is supposed to be anything that represents the food, personally i had a really fun time there last wed for happy hour and i like that a new lounge with simple food is in town i think its exciting its been a while, so im a supporter and not everywhere has to be a $100 date night foodie place either, there are room for a lot of different type of places for socializing , also if you go try the pork belly tacos they were super good. 

MplsSouthSide
MplsSouthSide

I like the review, it is honest, detailed and forthcoming, and I will definitely try this restaurant as a result, I don't find "reviews" that must only praise everything and anything very helpful at all.  Also, the fact that they don't open on Saturday night until 7:00 p.m. seems to jive with the reviews point.

trahshechique
trahshechique

I can understand if someone else's menu doesn't satisfy your palate. Your tastes are your tastes. I don't know why you decided to be negative towards their ideas...on a high profile website. This potentially hurts the success of the new place.

"Unfortunately, the team at Tangiers does not pull off the menu with such success."

Extremely rude. A low-blow to someone's dream, Emily. I hope you write your next 'review' with more compassion.

trahshechique
trahshechique

@Thadr Welcome to Minnesota. A California native here as well! Don't worry! If you're hanging around Tangiers and places similar, you'll find awesome people. :) 

a.d.rheartcalhoun
a.d.rheartcalhoun

@MplsSouthSide why does it matter they don't open till 7 on sat?lol.. sat people don't do happy hour so maybe they just cater to dinner and late night crowd? lol....im so amused by how much people care about these silly details ...i just moved here from chicago and i literally am amused how much minneapolis get up in other peoples businesses and have these funny judgments, this place in chicago would kill it and people would be absolutely flocking here not scrutinizing it over mundane details like when they open on a saturday hehehe.... i love mn people so funny what gets their undies in a bunch! ;).... 

jenr37
jenr37

@trahshechique i agree! i like that place and they never said they were moraccan theme lol ..... people are funny they just assume stuff 

trahshechique
trahshechique

@jenr37 @trahshechique I guess Tangier is a city in Morocco. I had to Wiki it. Regardless, I didn't see this idea/vibe promoted throughout the restaurant when I was there. Just food, fun, music and gathering. I have no affiliation with the owners or anyone who works there. But I was offended to hear this negativity against an attempt to make our city better and more exciting. If we all haven't noticed, Downtown has become somewhat of a ghost town in comparison to recent years.

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