One of south Minneapolis' most popular restaurants gets dressed up for its expansion to Loring Park.
FYI, I'm busy Thursday night.
I'll be at the new Cafe Maude, which opened its second location this week on Loring Park. In naming it, owner Kevin Sheehy went with the obvious: Cafe Maude at Loring Park (no one's getting lost!).
So why Thursday? For Maude's second outpost, barman extraordinaire Adam Harness has assembled one of the cocktail scene's most impressive teams. Think: Avengers with shaking tins.
Heading up this crew is the triple threat of Harness (who's been at Maude No. 1 for the past year), Chad Larson (formerly of Bradstreet Craftshouse) and Shawn Jones (still at Bradstreet, formerly of Amore Victoria).
The three plan to work together at least one night a week -- and right now that night is Thursday.
But enough about my social calendar. The bar team isn't the only thing getting dressed up at the new Maude.
"We've got the art, the music, the cocktails, the chef-driven menu and the wine," Sheehy said. "We're trying not to leave anything out."
This corner of Loring Park is an old haunt for Sheehy. The Loring Cafe (now Cafe Lurcat) was a favorite hangout for him and his musician friends. Sheehy's second Maude has moved into the former Nick & Eddie, which closed in April.
With its bright white walls, Nick & Eddie was designed to be a blank canvas for its artist community. Maude likes art, too, but with a bit more flair.
Sheehy has outfitted the place with the original's Near East aesthetic (he moonlights as a travel guide for people interested in visiting Istanbul).
Red lanterns hang overhead. The velvety booths are the color of marmalade. Other than a 100-year-old Suzani embroidery from Uzbekistan, most of the pieces are from local artists. Looming above the maroon-stained bar is a long boxy light fixture encased in hand-dyed silk. It looks like a floating ring of fire.
"I was going for a turn-of-the-century bordello look," Sheehy said.
Most of the drinks are new, several on the cutting edge of current cocktail trends. And by current trend, I mean they harken to the 19th century. Larson's bourbon-based Kentucky Pilgrim is what's known as a "shrub" cocktail, a tart sipper whose secret ingredient (vinegar!) will surprise some bargoers. Shrubs, typically made by boiling vinegar with a fruit maceration, were a common mixer way back when. The rest of Maude's $10 drink list, much of it Larson's handiwork, is just as adventurous.
Like the cocktails, chef Matt Kempf has tweaked his menu for the Loring address. Dinner still leans heavily on Mediterranean influences. Take his $14.50 North African flatbread, made with spiced lamb, aleppo pepper, halloumi cheese and walnut yogurt. Small plates are in the $6-$12 range (check out the duck "banh mi" salad). Big plates run in the mid-$20s. Late-night diners on Fridays and Saturdays will be treated to live music, ranging from folk rock to African jazz.
Sheehy has fun plans for the backroom bar, a speakeasy nook where Josh Hartnett was known to hang out during Nick & Eddie's heyday. But that's a project for the winter.
My favorite spot is the small mezzanine that overlooks the bar. Sheehy installed a fancy railing around its edges to give the perch a more stately look. Harness jokingly called the vantage point a "holding pen" for people waiting to get a seat at the bar.
Well then, lock me up.