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Mary Tyler Moore hangout with view of IDS Crystal Court now a breakfast joint

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. 

New speakeasy bar in NE. Mpls. boasts secret photo booth entry, $35 cocktails

 

 

Inside Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room, all looked normal.

Patrons sipped beer and watched TV. Bartenders went about their business.

But I knew better.

I’d heard — first in trickles through the grapevine, then via a PR person who reached out to me, seemingly ruining the point of all this — about a secret cocktail room hidden upstairs.

The entrance was concealed too: in an innocent-looking photo booth in the bar’s rear.

We opened the curtains and stumbled around, trying to figure out what to do next. A peep hole in the back “wall” of the booth hinted to something amiss, though I’m not sure I would have noticed if I hadn’t already been tipped off.

We knocked.

A man in a vest, tie, jacket and newsboy cap opened the wall — a door!! — and stared at us.

“Yes?” he inquired, his face expressionless.

“Um, there’s two of us,” I said.

“And?” he countered.

“Two for Al’s?” I offered in part statement, part question. He cocked his head so I kept talking. “Al’s Place?”

“Never heard of it.”

We looked at each other.

“Well, what are you doing back here?” my friend Liz asked.

“We run a furniture shop upstairs,” he explained.

AHA.

Got it. It’s a “furniture shop.” Sure.

“Well,” Liz jumped in. “I am in the market for a bed frame.”

“And I really need a new sofa,” I added.

“We don’t have those,” Newsboy Cap Guy said.

Oh.

“What do you have?” Liz asked.

“Bar stools.”

We were in.

Newsboy Cap Guy let us pass, and we leapt up the wooden stairwell, on a mission to purchase a set or two of hand-crafted, super tasty bar stools.

As we climbed, steams of smoke flitting down the stairs began to envelop our feet. Everything was starting to get fuzzy and we hadn’t even consumed any of those cocktails — errrr bar stools — yet. 

When we reached the top, a smiling woman in a sequins-laden dress greeted us. We looked around a darkened room, filled with smoke — from an unseen smoke machine, not cigarettes, though it mimicked that bygone era. The haze obscured the details, making the attic-like room — boasting a white-tablecloth dining area and a bustling bar — seem dreamlike. Jazz played; soon, a woman in full flapper getup would sing Ella Fitzgerald and more under a single spotlight.

 

 

We sat down at the counter, and the bartenders introduced themselves — Hoover and Doctor Sunshine. 

Where were we anyway? 

We were handed a “Captain’s List” of cocktails – drinks prepared tableside with premium spirits, for the hefty price of $35. But we turned our gaze to the regular, more realistically priced cocktail list instead — because isn’t sitting at the bar and watching bartenders the same experience as having drinks made tableside?? I ordered a Manhattan, and Liz, an Old Fashioned. Both were nicknamed — Mattress and Ottoman, respectively. There was also a “Sofa” strawberry sour, by the way, which made me want to inform Newsboy Cap Guy that I was going to get my desired home decor after all. We shared an antipasto plate, one of a handful of dishes on a decidedly old-school Italian menu.

 

 

After a couple hours passed, just like a dream, we decided to come back for our bar stool sets another day. It seemed like a lot to carry.

And we left, as instructed, through a different exit than the entrance from which we had come, down another stairwell that dumped us back into the street, into northeast Minneapolis and reality.

“It’s safer that way,” Newsboy Cap Guy had told us. 

Especially since we didn’t have our furniture packages. 

We looked around. Coast clear. No one eyeing us suspiciously. No one questioning our shopping trip.

Whew.

 

(And if you're wondering, here's the address: 2500 University Av. NE., Minneapolis, 612-788-2529)

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