I could almost hear good ol’ blue eyes himself belting out “I’ve got the world on a string…” when I entered Manhattans Restaurant & Bar. Manhattans is a modern version of a New York City-style bar from another era, with bartenders sporting the traditional sleeve garters, servers in white dress shirts and black ties, and dim lighting.
With candles flickering at every turn, and yes, some Sinatra-style music playing, Manhattans is elegance and charm incarnate, all right in the heart of the Minneapolis theater district. I must admit, the décor, the ambiance, and the locale all came together in an apropos fashion, as visions of The Rat Pack danced in my head.
Manhattans occupies two separate spaces, one a swanky lounge adjacent to a small dining area, and then, across a hallway, there is a larger space where you’ll find the actual bar, as well as additional seating for diners. At the gleaming granite bar, a staff of professional mixologists stand ready to concoct any number of martinis, champagne cocktails, and classic adult beverages of every kind like, of course, the Manhattan, all made with fresh fruit and herbs.
Sitting at the bar is an experience in itself, watching them work their magic before a backdrop of glass jars that line the front of the bar displaying all variety of fresh herbs and sugar cubes. These masters of the bar muddle, shake, and pour the most elegant, refreshing little sippers. I ordered a nontraditional beauty called the Rockstar ($9.50), with cherry vodka, ginger beer, and champagne. The “ooh-aah” moment came when my mixologist, Ryan, tossed in a handful of Pop Rocks resulting in a mini explosion of snap, crackle, and pop!
Chef Marc Pavola, new on the scene at Manhattans, also works a little magic of his own, reminding me that this urban retreat is not just about the cocktails. His Brooklyn Burger quartet ($8.95) hits the high notes, with a dollop of chipotle-leek mayonnaise to add a touch of zip, crowned with a pickle slice and fried onions.
Further down the menu, the Crispy Calamari and Shrimp ($10.95), paired with a roasted vegetable cocktail sauce and lemon aioli, are delicately breaded crowd-pleasers, and the Broadway Show Salad ($10.95) is a perfect segue to the stars of the show. Chock-full of candied walnuts and spicy radicchio, this Broadway baby is tossed with a light, refreshing rice wine vinaigrette.
Entrees include a Pork Tenderloin ($17.95) which is another show-stopper. Slow-roasted, tender, and juicy with a delectable wild mushroom demi-glace, the slices of pork are topped with crisped onions which add a delightful crunch.
The Prosciutto and Sage Stuffed Chicken Breast Duo ($12.95) is woodsy and savory. Resting on a petite pond of carmelized onion sauce, this dish elicits visions of family and friends gathered around the table to raise a glass and share an autumn feast.
The Colorado Lamb Chops ($25.95) were cooked to perfection, resulting in some choice chops that were pink, tender, and juicy, their flavor accented with an herbaceous and savory rosemary demi-glace. The Pan-Seared Sea Scallops Provençales was likewise delish. The scallops were fresh and sweet, sautéed lightly with garlic, lemon, tomatoes, and white wine. Another hit!
The standing ovation, though, goes to the Pistachio Crusted Walleye ($15.95). I know, I know, that modest comfort food is so Minne-apple, not Big Apple, but I cannot tell a lie. This fair fish deserves the applause. In a Galliano butter sauce, it is sublime, melt-in-your-mouth walleye splendor.
Desserts include a New York Cheesecake, drizzled—at tableside yet—with white chocolate and raspberry sauce, and a Lava Cake served warm and oozing with rich chocolate decadence.
A few other tidbits from my playbill of all things Manhattans are that insiders must know about The Boardroom. Manager Cassandra Fonder was kind enough to give me a sneak peek at this private room available to reserve at no cost. Featuring seating for eight at a gorgeous dark wood table, this room can be used for business meetings or private parties. As an added perk, the plasma television on the wall can be used for PowerPoint presentations.
Fonder also advised me that Manhattans offers a late-night happy hour from 9 PM to midnight, making it the perfect locale to both begin and end an evening of dinner, drinks, and a show.
As of Monday, September 10, Manhattans is also open for lunch with a separate menu that will offer deli-style sandwiches, burgers, soups, and salads at prices that won’t break the bank.
Whether enjoying a classic whistle-whetter at the bar while Sinatra croons, enjoying a scrumptious pre-theater dinner, celebrating a special occasion in The Boardroom, or grabbing a quick lunch, Manhattans, very much like its namesake city, is a feast for the senses. Offering a hypnotically inviting setting, polished servers, flavorsome cuisine, and chichi cocktails, NYC is as close as downtown Minneapolis.
Manhattans Restaurant & Bar
800 Lasalle Plaza, Mpls.