Nick and Eddie seems like a funny name for a restaurant where none of the owners is named Nick or Eddie.
But that's not the point. The name is more about carrying on tradition, said Doug Anderson, who calls himself Nick and Eddie's "curator." The hip new bar overlooking Loring Park is named after a famed New York restaurant where Anderson worked in the '90s (it's now closed). He's tried to replicate its coolness, even having the old spot's owner oversee some of the construction.
"He washed the place with his DNA," Anderson said.
Nick and Eddie also harks back to an old Minneapolis institution, the New French Bar and Cafe, which closed in 2001. Remember that place? The New French was one of the restaurants and bars that sparked the Warehouse District scene in the 1980s. If the jocks were hanging out at the Loon, then the New French was ground zero for boho artists and musicians.
Anderson, a former punk rocker who still plays in Sam Planet, said he missed having such an artists' haven: "The New French was like a clubhouse for me. It was great. No pretense."
To bring that feeling back, he's staffed the bar with friends who used to hang out at the New French in the '80s. They're mostly punk rockers of yore. Behind the bar you'll find Dave Foley (of Things That Fall Down), Todd Trainer (of Shellac), Paddy Mulloy (of Skull F---) and Lori Barbero (of Babes in Toyland).
Yep, this place is like a big comfy couch for aging rockers. Note the "comfy." With its two-story ceilings and full-length windows onto the park, it's a great place to come and unwind after a long day.
There's also a lot of room at the big L-shaped teak bar. Anderson wanted to get away from what he called "Disneyland"-style restaurants, so the rest of the place, including the ceiling, is really only one color -- bright, blinding white. It's like a blank canvas that will probably transform over time, he said. Right now, the restaurant has some great paintings, including a big skull by James Lahey that sits over the bar. Scott Seekins, local artist-about-town (and former New French regular), also has a piece up: a comic-book wedding portrait of him with Britney Spears.
A lot of people are already talking about the bar's eclectic mix of music, which pumps through a state-of-the-art sound system. Two columns of subwoofers -- two dozen in total -- climb up the walls, and smaller speakers surround the room.
As for drinks, it doesn't have a large cocktail list yet. But a couple of signature drinks are worth trying. It being spring, I'd go right for the nameless but refreshing Vodka and Ting cocktail, which uses a carbonated grapefruit drink from Jamaica. "It took me months to find it here," Anderson said.
On the food side, everyone is talking about the gnocchi, and it doesn't disappoint. Usually thick and chewy, the gnocchi here tastes like tiny pillows of fluffy awesomeness. If you're into gourmet comfort food, I'd also try Keith's Burger, named after a New York guy who liked his burger on an English muffin. And then there are the desserts. Try the butterscotch pudding, a sundae cup filled with gooey madness, made by Anderson's pastry-chef wife, Jessica. (She's actually the co-owner with an old buddy of theirs, chef Steve Vranian.)
In his quest to carry on the New French's artistic past, Anderson is trying to make Nick and Eddie a party spot for local art events. A couple of weeks ago it hosted a bash for the fashion-and-rock show Voltage. Its next party is Saturday, following "Patti Smith: Dream of Life," a documentary on the music legend playing at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. Anderson plans to show archival footage of great Minneapolis bands from the '80s and '90s on three screens.
Beyond the art and drinks and the food, it's really the attitude that connects Nick and Eddie to the past, he said.
Like the New French, he wants the new restaurant to be a place "where nobody is going to raise an eyebrow at you. You can be whoever you want to be here."
See you there.
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