Market Bar-B-Que quietly opened the doors to its new home in northeast Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon. It was a sweet moment. As his father and business partner, Steve Polski, aimed and clicked his cellphone camera, Anthony Polski flipped the switch to illuminate a red and blue neon “Open” sign. It was 4 p.m., and a 73-year-old Minneapolis dining tradition sparked a new chapter.
Looking around, it all felt, well, old. In a good way. Better yet: familiar. As in comforting, and nostalgic.
That’s because the Polskis have effectively re-created their Minneapolis dining landmark in a new address. They've salvaged an extraordinary amount of materials from their Nicollet Avenue restaurant, carted it four miles to the northeast and carefully reinstalled it (with the help of Blumentals/Architecture of Minneapolis) in what had been a vacant, condemned eyesore.
That neon sign will be familiar to Market fans. Ditto the eye-grabbing exterior sign that used to light up Eat Street. The windows and the front door also came from the old place.
Inside, the time-worn wood beadboard, light fixtures, ceiling fans and ceiling tiles are present and accounted for. The booths and ornate bar (originally retrieved, decades ago, from the former White House restaurant and nightclub in Golden Valley) have all been carefully and lovingly reclaimed. Even the distinctive red carpet will ring visual bells; the Polskis made use of the leftover rolls they were storing in the basement of their Nicollet Avenue location. "We had enough to carpet this entire place," said Anthony Polski with a laugh.
Once again, the dining room’s walls are lined with autographed pictures of every sports, entertainment and political bigwig that ever graced the place.
“I love it,” said Steve Polski. “It’s new and shiny, but you know that the minute you walk in, it’s the Market. And you smell it.”
That’s because the restaurant’s heart made the move, too (the soul, without question, is the Polskis, and their 25 employees, many with decades of experience). It’s the kitchen’s brick-lined, wood-fired barbecue pit. It has been re-created in the same dimensions, finished with the same salvaged doors and framed in showy red tiles. A window (pictured, above) offers diners a glimpse into what makes the Market the Market.
“It’s basically a fireplace,” said Steve Polski. “It’s the oldest way on earth to cook, and it’s the way we’ve been doing it since 1946.”
When Anthony Polski (pictured, above), opened the door, a cloud of oak-fueled smoke wafted out, perfuming the air all the way into the 150-seat dining room.
“This is what makes us special,” said Anthony Polski. “It’s unique, it’s special to our family’s history, and to this restaurant. We fought hard to keep it, and I’m proud of it, and proud of what it produces.”
Which is ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken wings (pictured, above) and other add-the-sauce later barbecue classics. Nods to contemporary tastes include Dorito dusted-pork rinds.There's also a new happy hour.
“I didn’t want to go totally crazy when we first opened the doors,” said Anthony Polski. “But we’ll be doing some fun stuff.”
Even the kitchen’s layout closely mimics its predecessor.
“The other day, I was standing here at 4 in the morning, and I was having a trip, because this view is literally the same,” said Anthony Polski with a laugh, as he gazed across the kitchen, pointing out the new home for the Market’s trusty 73-year-old broiler. “I probably blew a bunch of money on sentiment. But it feels like home. It feels like my home.”
A few finishing touches remain. When the weather cooperates, the exterior stucco will be painted the restaurant’s signature pink. The Market will continue its late-night schedule, serving food to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and to 1 a.m. other nights.
One of the Twin Cities’ oldest family-owned restaurants, the Market was founded in 1946 by Steve’s father and great-uncle. The original location was a hole-in-the-wall at 130 N. 7th St., which is now the site of Target Center; some of the booths in the new Market date to this original location. In 1962, the restaurant moved around the corner to roomier digs (pictured, above) at 2nd Av. and Glenwood, which is now a parking ramp.
Steve Polski (pictured, above, right, with Anthony Polski, left) is a 57-year veteran of the family’s business. He started when 13 (“I stopped in to use the bathroom, and they wouldn’t let me leave,” he said with a laugh), and took over in 1975. In 1988, he moved the restaurant to its third home, at 1414 Nicollet Av. S.
That’s where Anthony grew up; he’s the one who branched out into food trucks a few years ago. When an apartment development replaced that address this fall, the Polskis decided to move to 220 Lowry Av. NE., and take their restaurant with them, literally.
“We reused everything,” said Steve Polski. “It’s a really green place.”