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Icehouse Cool

The Eat Street music club features crafty cocktails and gourmet comfort fare

Icehouse Cool
Photo by A. Brisson-Smith/Sidecar

(page 1 of 2)

The face floated before me in a froth of whiteness, frozen in an expression of crazed exuberance. His eyebrows were raised so high they nearly merged with his pompadour; eyes so open they were mostly whites; mouth agape in the jubilant shriek of a sweepstakes winner. I picked up the face, licked the cream off the back, and took a sip of the drink. Good golly, Miss Molly! The Little Richard was my new favorite cocktail.

The drink list at Minneapolis’s new Icehouse is a doozy and this may be its capstone: a pink phosphate rum punch topped with vanilla cream and a paper cutout of the famous rocker’s mug. It combines culinary sensibility, booze, and music—much like its host restaurant/bar/venue. At most triple-threat hangouts, one of these aspects always seems to fall short. But Icehouse nails all three, at the price point of a neighborhood standby, or, as co-owner Matt Bickford likes to say, “an adult playground.”

So first, Icehouse as a music venue. Bickford, who also runs the North Loop’s popular Be’Wiched deli, launched the new venture with his music-savvy pal Brian Liebeck this summer and the space is as cool as its namesake, century-old Nicollet Avenue digs that once stored blocks of ice in the days before electric refrigeration. ¶ The former ice warehouse feels urban, with vintage brick walls and metal catwalks that evoke an old apartment building’s alley-facing fire escape. Reclaimed wood boards and C-shaped leather booths add warmth and polish to the raw, gritty—and acoustically impressive—cavern. Minimal covers  make Icehouse a nice middle ground between amateur night at the neighborhood coffee shop and a national act at the Dakota.

Upon arrival, you’ll receive Icehouse’s extensive drink menu, which was conceived by Johnny Michaels, whom Bickford once worked with at Michaels’s main post, La Belle Vie. Craft-focused barkeeps have lately adopted the global flavors and high-tech tools favored by cutting-edge chefs, and Michaels has been at the forefront of the local “cooking with liquors” trend. He’s known for introducing fresh flavors—lacing an Icehouse gin-tini with herbal chamomile, or a gin sour with tart balsamic vinegar—while maintaining balance. His grapefruit-rhubarb margarita, for example, (cutely named after Bickford’s mom, a.k.a. the Mothership Rita), avoids any too-sweet or too-tequila pitfalls. A refreshing blueberry Collins offers a subtle hint of cardamom and whole berries in the bottom of the glass, like tapioca pearls in bubble tea. 

The beverage menu also includes  petite sipping drinks—essentially oversized, gussied-up shots, served on the rocks for $5 a pop—to accommodate smaller budgets or tolerances. There’s a drink for every mood, from sunning on a Brazilian beach (a fruity, cinnamon-orange riff on a caipirinha) to lounging in a dank basement rec room (a smoky, absinthe-kissed sazerac), as well as plenty of inside jokes. The Straight Cash Homie takes its name from former Viking Randy Moss’s ridonculous quote; the Colonel Mustard consists of a squirt of whiskey, delivered from a mustard bottle in the style of chef Landon Schoenefeld’s infamously impulsive act. Order Satan Laughs & Spreads His Wings at the bar,  and it’ll arrive on a Christian comic-book coaster.

But the staff doesn’t joke around when it comes to efficiency. The servers tote iPods instead of notepads—they’re not impertinently texting their friends while you order, just sending your request to the kitchen. With so many winners on the menu, I wished they also had a decision-making app. 

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