comScore

Open and Airy Apothecary Replaces Bradstreet in the Loews Hotel

Apothecary opens from the street level, and lots of natural light makes it feel welcoming.

Apothecary opens from the street level, and lots of natural light makes it feel welcoming.

A decade ago, the world was in its speakeasy phase. Natty barmen in handlebar mustaches with eyedroppers and atomizers were the cutting-edge thing, and super secret, cavernous rooms gave the air that we were the anointed, banishing the riffraff to some other, less private affair. Feh to them.

But 10 years is enough, and we've grown a bit weary of these affectations. We're ready to grow up a little and move on and see how spirits factor into the future. Apothecary might offer a little glimpse into what's forthcoming -- the space itself is a refreshment. See also: Tim Fischer Returns to Minnesota to Lead Cosmos, Cask Cookhouse, & Releve

Gone are the murky shadows and cloistered aura. The restorative pleasure of natural light has been allowed back in, with an entrance direct from the street, rather than the labyrinthine enigma of the old Bradstreet entrance.

The throwback nod to Prohibition hasn't been completely chucked. Apothecary retains a few old-timey pharmacy touches, with vintage medicine bottles lining the walls, but it isn't crammed down your throat, and the overall feel is open and more of this era than of ones gone by. A bank of televisions for every sports event known to modern man is a bit of a disappointment, but the traveling businessman would probably heartily disagree with me as he tucks into a local beer and a ballgame, all present-day like, no fedora required.

Chef Tim Fischer has taken the mystery out of the menu too, and established a straightforward house charcuterie program with a full roster of the stuff -- prosciutto, lomo, salamis, soppressata, et al. Mix and match for a reasonably priced two for $8, four for $15, or eight for $25. Absolutely not to be missed: the au bon canard foie gras dog, which is no ordinary dog with torchon piled on top -- instead the foie is infused into a chicken sausage and made much like a boudin blanc. It was easily one of my top bites of the year.

Other classic small plates like shrimp cocktail, oysters, sliders, truffle fries; a few signature dishes like spring vegetable cavatelli; plus local cheeses and some sweet treats round out the simple and approachable yet pro menu.

A house charcuterie program anchors the Apothecary menu.

A house charcuterie program anchors the Apothecary menu.

For spring, the bar offers lighter, brighter spirits, like a Smash, with aquavit, mint, and almond, or a strawberry margarita if you can believe it, or even a Grasshopper with clarified milk punch, chocolate, and mint. And if your white-knuckle death grip simply will not release the brown liquor, there's an entire program just for you: a build-your-own Old Fashioned bar, where you choose the spirit, the sweet, the bitter, the "fancy" (roasted pineapple or citrus peel for instance), and the rinse, for $14 bucks. They'll even keep your recipe on file.

See? No more smug barmen telling you what to do. And hey, if you, like us, just want an Old Fashioned, no forms to fill out, they can do that too.

The guest rooms and lobbies have also been remodeled to attain more light, air, and accessibly -- the concierge and guest reception area sports jaunty little "pods" rather than a big imposing desk, for more agile hospitality.

Cosmos will at some point also undergo a much needed update, but first, they're tackling the banquet spaces.

Now open.

Apothecary Loews Hotel 601 First Ave. N., Minneapolis 612-677-1100

Send your story tips to Hot Dish.