DeRushaEats: Icehouse and the Importance of Service
Photo by Jason DeRusha
Icehouse is a restaurant that outside of it’s beautiful design, never really excited me. I’m not sure why—I absolutely love Be’wiched Deli, and the same team runs Icehouse. I guess I felt like if I needed lunch, I’d just go to Be’wiched, and if I’m looking for dinner—well, the menu just didn’t thrill me.
But a couple weeks ago, my parents took my kids, so my wife and I had a week where we went to dinner every night. And while I had amazing meals at The Sample Room and Lucia’s, and good stuff at Sunstreet Bread’s Monday night pizza night, it was the meal at Icehouse that keeps coming back to me.
The food was perfect: a side of brussel sprouts made with sherry and smoked garlic that made it almost taste like there was bacon in the dish; a broiled shrimp dish that had flavors of paprika and zucchini and marinated tomatoes that danced across the tongue; a sautéed squid salad served with fennel and watermelon and just enough spicy chiles.
Icehouse's brussel sprouts. Photo by Jason DeRusha
But the service is what really impressed me. I told Chef/Owner Matt Bickford and managing partner Matthew Anderson that our server was one of the best we had in a year. Mandy Lee is her name—her only sharp edge tableside was her Mohawk. Her service was so warm, friendly, and knowledgeable—it really made the meal.
So what was Mandy doing that made it so perfect? It’s hard to describe. She guided us through the super-fun $5 sipping shots, pointing out her favorites, but also suggesting flavors that would go with the food we ordered (don’t miss the Red Star carbonated negroni or the For His Majesty – a sazerac with black pepper gin and a hint of pine smoke in the glass).
She perfectly paced the meal, she knew when to linger and visit, and knew when to let us enjoy the patio seating and each other’s company.
Anderson wasn't with Icehouse at the beginning, and his job at first, was to change the service dynamic.
"We started out when I got there with a focus on hospitality rather than just service," he said.
"It was not a flip of a switch by any means," Anderson told me today. "It takes each manager and each person working to want to be in a position of taking that responsibility. It's about being the type of person that's genuinely interested in the guest that's sitting at the table and making sure they feel good about what's happening to them at the table."
My number one beef with restaurants in this town isn’t about the quality of the food—it’s about the service. In fact, there’s one restaurant I visited that week where the food was excellent, the service was awful, and I won’t likely be back.
"If you trust the people caring for you, you get to focus on the person(s) you're with. I want you to trust me to make sure you're well cared for and have an amazing experience," said Anderson.
He's exactly right. And that's why you should get over to Icehouse soon. Ask to sit in Mandy's section.
2528 Nicollet Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404