Cafe Maude Loring Park: A first look

The lady arrives in the city. It's Maude!
The lady arrives in the city. It's Maude!

The awning is familiar, but the interior is a bit more Loring Park in decor than the original southwest Minneapolis location of Cafe Maude. A golden fabric with tie-dye effect crowns the bar, wrapping around it and drawing the eye deeper into the restaurant, where plush, gold fabric cushions decorate the back booths. It's reminiscent of the boho vibe that the lamented Loring Bar brought to this neighborhood. It's not entirely unintentional. Owner Kevin Sheehy has long been a supporter of local artists and, as a former musician, a lover of our sound scene.

Local art graces the walls, and more is coming. The music they have planned includes some really interesting up-and-coming musicians. Art is also on display on the plate and in the glass.

Cafe Maude has made a reputation for cultivating some of the top bartending talents in the Cities, beginning with its first drink menu put together by Sheehy's pal and the man who literally wrote the book on craft cocktails, Johnny Michaels. The bar program at the Loring Park Cafe Maude is from Adam Harness (who also works the original location) and Chad Larson, who was most recently at Bradstreet Craftshouse.

Kentucky Pilgrim
Kentucky Pilgrim

Drinks are full of complex flavors and surprising ingredients. Ever heard of a shrub? It's not a lawn ornament. Shrub is a way of preserving fruit in vinegar and sugar. Used to flavor the Kentucky Pilgrim ($10), it's a flavor wallop with woodsy bourbon, a tart sweetness from the cranberry, and a bitter twang in the finish from the bitters. Most of the bar menu is unique to this location and will change seasonally. The Fruited Pig ($10), made with Pig's Nose Scotch, grapefruit juice, spiced grapefruit bitters, and Pierre Ferrand 1840 Champagne cognac, tastes like fall-tinged sophistication, a stunning balance of sweet, sour and smoke.

Much of the menu is also new, although a few classics like their mac and cheese remain. Matt Kempf has been working double time at both restaurants. Even items as small as the solitary empanada ($5) on the Leisure Hour menu is elegantly plated and full of flavor, a buttery, shattering crust laid upon creme fraiche and drizzled with a fiery chili oil.

Hola Empanada
Hola Empanada

The bacon chipotle popcorn ($3) is smokin' hot but balanced with just enough salt and butter that it's hard not to keep dipping your fingers back into the little bowl for another bite.

Cafe Maude fits comfortably into the Loring Park neighborhood, with a bit more sophistication than Joe's Garage but not quite as fancy as Bar Lurcat. It almost feels like they've been here for years.

Cafe Maude
1612 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis
612.767.9080; Cafe Maude website

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