510 Lounge opens, and is instantly one of the classiest bars in Minneapolis

Sink into one of the seating areas at the 510 Lounge, and feel both classy and comfortable.

Sink into one of the seating areas at the 510 Lounge, and feel both classy and comfortable. Mary Jo Rasmussen

The classiest barroom in Minneapolis is open again.

Admirers of the late, lamented La Belle Vie, and fans of new owner Don Saunders have been filling the seats since the updated space opened at the end of June. They’ll be happy to find that the 510 still feels like the most civilized place in town to enjoy a drink.

Saunders, who also owns neighborhood favorite The Kenwood, has altered the space though not dramatically, letting the architecture and history of the building dictate the decor. The room is slightly anachronistic, like something out of Mad Men, but with a decidedly modern-day sensibility.

The Loring Park neighborhood has seen lots of change since the historic 510 Groveland Ave. building was erected in 1927. The structure itself maintains the aura of a different era, and the space has a certain history and patina that commands respect.

The staff is welcoming, not stuffy, but it still strikes you as a place where you put on your good manners. The host greeted us warmly and introduced himself by name (hi, Robert!) when we mentioned we lived in the neighborhood. Our waiter politely asked if he could show us the French way to eat mussels when he saw us wrenching the meaty morsels out with forks. (Use one of the consumed bivalves' shells as pinchers, and pluck the other mussels out of their shells.) 

Mussels pistou

Saunders was smart about reinventing the space. The large dining room down the hall from the lounge will be used for private events. The main room of the lounge space is divided into drinking and dinner spaces, though you can enjoy the full menu in either area. The main difference is whether you eat at a dining table or sink comfortably into one of the luxuriously appointed seating areas.

The drinking space is dominated by the bar, now featuring very comfortable and stylish upholstered bar stools. It’s the best place to see the skilled bartenders ply their trade, and maybe make a new friend or two. Whether you have a favorite cocktail or want something new, the bar staff will do right by you.

The French 75, one of the featured cocktails, can often be sickly sweet, but here is the perfect warm-weather libation, bracingly tart and lemony. The restaurant also boasts a varied wine list.

If you are drinking with friends, opt for one of the plush lounge areas. We nabbed a cozy spot next to the fireplace. I have never belonged to a country club, but imagine it must be like this: Just sitting and savoring, no one giving you the side eye like it’s time to move along and give someone else your seat.

The menu has an entree section, but small plates are the way to go, sharing with your companions so you can try more dishes. The mussels pistou featured an abundance of green herbs and impeccable mussels. The fries, on the other hand, were confoundingly disappointing -- a bit wilty and showing no signs of having met a salt shaker. The accompanying aioli was fabulous, however, satiny and just the right amount of garlicky; it almost made up for the fries.

This is definitely the place to go if you want to indulge in caviar. The menu offers five options, at different price points, so you can splurge no matter what your tax bracket.

And desserts here are as lovely as the surroundings.

Sunflower financier with fennel granite dessert

Saunders has said that it was residents of the 510 building who encouraged him to take over the restaurant. It was a canny move on their part. It’s like having a private dining room staffed by one of the best chefs in town.

Who wouldn’t be thrilled to ride the elevator down to the first floor, or step in off the curb after a day's work, and find the 510 Lounge in your lobby?

The 510 Lounge
510 Groveland Ave., Minneapolis
Monday – Saturday 4:30 p.m.- 1 a.m., Sunday 4:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.