After a months-long hiatus, one of the Twin Cities’ most architecturally thrilling dining venues is back in business, looking spiffier than it has in years. Hurrah.
Just in time for the Super Bowl, the restaurant formerly known as Basil’s quietly reopened this week as the Jolliet House, the Marquette Hotel's breakfast-only destination (lunch and dinner are now served downstairs at the hotel’s new street-level Jacques'). It's the second time that the space has been named for 17th-century French explorer Louis Jolliet. It debuted as the Gallery in 1973, then became Jolliet's before settling into its long run as Basil's.
Still can’t place it? Sure you can. It’s that third-floor balcony overlooking the IDS Crystal Court.
The restaurant exterior's transformation is a big boost for IDS boosters. Gone is that dreadful green canvas awning and those ugly banners, and good riddance.
(That's the balcony, pre-renovation, in a pair of Star Tribune file photos, pictured, above). Surely IDS Center architect Philip Johnson never intended such a tacky, golf club-like desecration of his glass-and-steel Modernist masterpiece.
The restaurant's post-renovation appearance (pictured, above) is a victory for architectural purists everywhere. A big thanks to Hilton, which operates the Marquette Hotel, for returning the property to something close to Johnson's original intention.
The good looks continue inside. The color palette relies extensively on muted variations of black and charcoal, a suitably understated backdrop given the Crystal Court’s architectural swagger. The clubby-yet-modern furnishings – including comfortable Chesterfield-style sofas upholstered in sleek black leather -- appear as if they’re straight out of the Cambridge collection at Restoration Hardware. It works.
Even better, with that canopy removed, the terrace's indoor-outdoor aura has been fully restored, in all of its climate-controlled glory. For those hankering for a dose of sunshine-induced Vitamin D on a frigid winter's morning, this is the place. There's really no other dining perch quite like it, anywhere. (That's the view from a table on the terrace, pictured, above).
(That's the view from the dining room, looking out to the terrace, pictured, above).
Still, something’s missing. It’s the famous plaque -- the original dates to the late 1970s – commemorating the restaurant’s most famous diner, the late Mary Tyler Moore. (The image, above, is a Star Tribune file photo).
The balcony was prominently featured in the opening credits of the 1970s sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (that's Moore, pictured, above). That made the terrace's "Mary Tyler Moore" table a popular reservation, for years. Today, there's a table in roughly the same spot as before, but no plaque. (When the restaurant's renovation was announced last summer, the plan was to dedicate the entire terrace to Ms. Moore; there's nothing commemorating that intention, at least not that I could see). Here’s hoping this morsel of Minneapolis history returns, and soon.
As for the food, it’s straight-up upscale hotel breakfast fare, at business meeting prices.
Translation? Well-embellished pancakes ($13) and Belgian waffles ($13), design-your-own omelets ($16), steel-cut oatmeal ($9), Canadian bacon-asparagus eggs Benedict ($15) and Greek yogurt with honey, berries and granola ($9). A pair of eggs, three slices of bacon, hash browns and toast with butter and orange marmalade runs $14, and a basket with a croissant, muffin and jam is $10. Coffee is $5, a latte is $6. Service is as gracious as it always was.
There’s also a well-stocked buffet ($22) with all the usual suspects.
It’s all perfectly respectable. And predictable. After all, this is Hilton, the epitome of corporate suitability. But given the showy surroundings, such rote cooking feels like a missed opportunity. The Jolliet House has the potential to be so much more.
Finding the front door isn't easy. Take the hotel’s elevators (and not the elevators in the Crystal Court) to the third floor. The restaurant is open 6:30 to 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 to 11 a.m. Sunday.