Do you remember the Marq VII Lounge in the old Marquette Hotel in the middle of downtown?
It was a hotel bar dripping with all the trappings of that label: gauzy curtains, oversized furniture, overpriced cocktails, little bowls of nuts. It all felt very fancy.
But like many good, old things, it was starting to feel a little more dated than fancy, and it was getting easy to overlook unless a hotel stay was part of the deal.
Recently, the hotel underwent a $25 million renovation, and with it came a renovation for the lounge. Natural light abounds, and a long marble bar and neutral tones round out the modern makeover. In the corner, a couple of old regulars seem to lament the old space:
“Macy’s is closing, Vincent is closing, Barnes and Noble is closing, everything is closing,” gripes one.
He goes on to order a Tom Collins. The bartender squints at him. “Are you serious?”
“I’ve been coming in here for 14 years and ordering a beer,” the customer explains to me. But for the new digs, a Tom Collins it is.
Change: You can’t stop it, so you might as well join it.
While the old regulars are still here, the rest feels very new. Along with all the the crisp, clean design lines, there’s a cool (though still somewhat overpriced) cocktail menu, designed with efficiency in mind. It’s a happy medium between mixology and get-me-my-goddamn-drink.
My favorite by far was the Diamonds and Pearls (so lovingly named by bar manager Alexander McGregor that I can’t even be annoyed by the Prince nod) involving raspberries, vanilla-infused L’Etoile du Nord Vodka, lime, and house made ginger beer. Sounds busy, tastes divine, with the vanilla tamping down the raspberry bite like a soft kiss. Spend $13 for the pink pleasure.
An affable Italian menu makes up the new kitchen offerings, the kind of Italian that doesn’t try to fight with you (ahem, crudo) but wants to make friends like a good hotel restaurant should (hello, pizzas and pastas).
A goat cheese pizza with a garlic cream base gets even richer with pistachio. Truffle honey adds yet more interest. A veal meatball with “three hour sauce” is a comforting starter, and a fall-apart tender osso bucco over organic polenta is a comforting finisher.
You can still get the hotel basics, too: salmon with broccoli rabe, pressed chicken, a big tall burger with an eye-popping $17 price tag. (Hey, $25 million is a lotta money for a renovation.)
So, is the new Jacques a destination if a hotel stay isn’t part of the package? Maybe.
The food, drinks, and service rise to better-than-typical downtown fare. It’s certainly already at deep-pocketed Super-Bowl-goer level, which has to be at least part of the point. (Enormous TV screens are coming soon).
The question of destination-worthy dining is another matter. What really is "destination dining" anymore? We’ve integrated dining out into every aspect of our lives from breakfasts on the go, to the too-early happy hour, to midnight bar snacks.
The new Jacques has all of that and all points in between, in a swanky new 2017 space, plus classic Italian food with a modernist twist.
Destination? Only you can decide, but here’s a potential tipping point: validated parking with any purchase.
710 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis
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