Amalgamated Eating and Drinking Co. Underground St. Louis Park
Although diners remained on terra firma, the hokey amusement park-like lobby did its inexplicable best to replicate, rattles and all, the effect of descending into a mine shaft. A defunct Custer, S.D., museum supplied the dining room’s many mining artifacts. Shorthanded to “Amalgamated” (1974-1980), it was the subject of the first restaurant review in Taste (Oct. 2, 1974) and an early example of the “eatertainery” phenomenon, which reached its kitschy pinnacle in the Mall of America’s Rainforest Cafe.
From 1966 to 1988, this caricature of a medieval stone fortress — complete with a moat and drawbridge — reigned over a suburban highway interchange. The mazelike stone-and-timber interior, illuminated by dramatic cast iron chandeliers, was very Ye Olde King Arthur’s Court.
Carousel St. Paul
When the Hilton Hotel (later the Radisson, then the Crowne Plaza, now the InterContinental) opened in 1966, it included a midcentury must: a revolving rooftop restaurant — serviced by a glass-fronted exterior elevator — with commanding 22nd-story views. The floor performed its slow rotation until 2006.
The Deco Restaurant St. Paul
If not born, the Twin Cities’ brunch culture was certainly nurtured on the fourth floor of the then-home of the Minnesota Museum of Art, a glorious 1931 Art Deco treasure that was ruled by Finnish baker and chef Soile Anderson from 1986 to 1993.
The staginess of this sleekly nostalgic homage (1982-1995) to the All-American diner stood out in its generic shopping mall setting, and the upscale-meets-downscale name is one of the all-time greats. Others followed in Uptown, Roseville and Minnetonka.
In 1967, visionary restaurateur Reiko Weston sparked a rebirth of the Minneapolis riverfront by moving her thriving eight-year-old Japanese restaurant into a series of serenely minimalist spaces (including the region’s first sushi bar) constructed over a burned-out flour mill near St. Anthony Falls. “Mom chose it because it was on the river — that was a good luck sign — and you could see a bridge from there, which was another good luck sign,” recalled Weston’s daughter Carol Hanson in a 2009 Taste story. The location closed in 1990.
Everyone remembers the singing servers. They frequently upstaged the space (1984-1999), which epitomized 1980s angles, mirrors and glass. The northern Italian fare? Easier to forget. “It’s for people who like to be entertained while they eat and don’t mind much if what they eat is far from perfect,” decreed Minneapolis Star critic Joan Siegel in her 1984 review.
Leeann Chin Minnetonka
A paradigm shifter (1980-2001) that rejected traditional Chinese-American restaurant design clichés in favor of an art museum’s muted colors and clutter-free aesthetics. “It was a destination, and it was an immediate success,” said its architect, David Shea of Shea Design, in a 2018 Taste story. The company’s outlet in St. Paul’s Union Depot was also a stunner.
Les Quatre Amis Minneapolis
The ownership invested the 2019 equivalent of $2.5 million to fashion the dramatic former trading floor of the newly renovated Lumber Exchange Building (a seedy porn bookstore stubbornly remained in the lobby) into a dazzling but sadly short-lived (1981-1983) French restaurant. Minneapolis Star restaurant critic Joan Siegel put it this way: “Frank Lloyd Wright once said, ‘I can live without the necessities, but not without the luxuries.’ Wright would have loved Les Quatre Amis.”
Orion Room/Windows on Minnesota Minneapolis
When diners stepped off an express elevator onto the IDS Tower’s 50th floor, their stratospheric surroundings (1974-1993) boasted best-views-in-Minneapolis honors. Prices were appropriately sky-high.
Turf Bar Minneapolis
Discreetly located on the IDS Center’s lower-level concourse, this chic, dimly lit lounge (1972-early 1980s) got its name from its oh-so-’70s decor. Architect Philip Johnson carpeted the floors and walls in, yes, AstroTurf, the plastic grass formulated for sports stadiums, including Houston’s Astrodome.
Winfield Potter’s Saloon and Dining Room Minneapolis
Siblings Rick and David Webb (of CocoLezzone and Rupert’s fame) created the ultimate in fern bars (1979-1989), an opulent pile-on of stained glass, etched glass, frosted glass, mahogany, brass, stamped tin and other Victorian Revival touches. The well-appointed patio was a seldom-bested model for those that followed.
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib