Daniel del Prado already has one high-profile restaurant opening this week, with Macanda in Wayzata debuting July 9. So why not add three more?
"I like to put a challenge to myself," said the restaurateur and chef, who has opened four restaurants and two cafes since the pandemic, in addition to running his flagships Martina and Colita in south Minneapolis.
His next three ventures will all be under one downtown Minneapolis roof.
For months, del Prado has been quietly working with his team to transform the food and drink offerings at the Rand Tower Hotel, the Art Deco tower and former office building that converted to a boutique Marriott hotel in late 2020. The project goes public Friday with the launch of Bar Rufus, a classic French reworking of the ground-floor lobby bar briefly known as Whiskey & Soda.
Later this summer, del Prado will open two more spaces on the hotel's fifth floor: a large cocktail lounge and terrace called Miaou Miaou, and a restaurant under a retractable roof called Blondette. Del Prado is also overseeing in-room dining. Megan Luedtke, the beverage director for DDP Restaurant Group, is designing distinct drink menus for all of them.
All three concepts are loosely French, and get increasingly modern as guests move upstairs.
Bar Rufus will capture the quintessential French bistro and cafe scene. "I was super excited to do the most beautiful version I could think of a hotel bar, just elegant and French and cute," said Luedtke.
The menu, served every day for dinner with lunch coming soon, will include French onion soup, salade Lyonnaise, moules frites and oysters. Cocktails include a bubbly Kir Royale and the 75, and Luedtke's spins on the classics, such as a French martini with housemade lacto-fermented raspberry liqueur in place of Chambord, and the Rand Tower martini delivered with herbes de Provence and caviar on a gold tray. The wine list is mostly French.
The name Bar Rufus is an ode to Rufus Rand, the building's original designer and a pilot who fought for the French during World War I. When the hotel first opened, the bar and restaurant areas had reflected Rand's aviation background. But those spots never took off.
"Everything was based on Rufus Rand's life as an aviator. And I was like, who is this guy besides an aviator?" del Prado said. "He was a Francophile. The French part was coming up intensely, and we modernized it a little bit."
When Miaou Miaou (French for what a cat says, pronounced myoo-myoo) opens, the focus will be on Luedtke's large-format punches, with housemade French-style spirits, served in a crystal beverage dispenser.
Blondette, which del Prado says is named as a tribute to his mostly women-led staff, will bring the chef's flair to French technique while telling the story of his early career in Portland, Ore. One job tasked him to create a menu on the fly with a daily changing basket of fresh ingredients. The menu at Blondette will be inspired by the bounty of the Pacific Northwest, with service for dinner, breakfast and brunch.
Del Prado was drawn to the challenge of operating within the framework of a hotel, "a totally different beast than a restaurant," he said. Especially one in the heart of downtown Minneapolis. "If you've been downtown lately, it's just sad, you know?" he said. "I feel like the only thing that can bring it back up a little bit is restaurants."
He's in good company, with downtown hotel restaurants finally starting to shake off their reputations for serving tired, common fare. Gavin Kaysen recently opened Mara at the new five-star Four Seasons on Hennepin and Washington avenues. Chef Steven Brown is involved at Giulia in the Emery hotel just a block away from Rand Tower.
No longer does hotel dining have to be aimed at an imagined masculine business traveler with a taste for bourbon and an unlimited expense account, said DDP Restaurant Group's communications director Madde Gibba.
"It's really Dani looking at how do you make hotel culture chic in Minneapolis?" Gibba said during a recent tour of the new spaces. "The modern business traveler is a woman who wants something different and who wants flair, or somebody who wants something a bit more gentle that has adventure to it."
"That being said," added Luedtke, "we will still have whiskey."
Bar Rufus is open from 4 to 10 p.m. daily. 527 Marquette Av. S., Mpls., 612-688-4500, barrufus.com. Blondette and Miaou Miaou will open later this summer.