What do Minneapolis’s West Bank and Paris have in common? Little, I’d wager, till now. But Matty O’Reilly, of the 318 in Excelsior and Astor Café in Minneapolis, says he aims to transform Seven Corners into a sort of Parisian plaza with his newest venture, Republic. “They don’t make streets like this anymore,” he says. “When I was in Paris last summer, I sat outside this little café every night, looking at the plaza, noticing how you can’t see around the corner but you can hear the motorcycle coming, thinking about how cool these urban pockets can be.” Seven Corners, cool? Actually, O’Reilly is well on his way to making this traffic-plagued part of town very cool indeed.
Cool things: a good wine list, including many bottles for less-than $25; more than 30 beers on tap, nearly all local or Belgian (be sure to try the Kwak Amber Ale for the coolest glassware—it’s served in a sort of glass barbell in a wooden stand—and the Furthermore Fatty Boombalatty, a cloudy, yeasty Wisconsin wheat beer, one of our region’s best). More notables: hand-cut fries, the best steak frites on the West Bank, good burgers, and nice vegetarian options, like a poached egg-topped squash-and-potato hash.
The final very-cool element of Republic is this: the return of Sheela Namakkal! Namakkal, of course, made her claim to fame with the cuisine-redefining cupcakes at Cake Eater Bakery in Minneapolis’s Seward neighborhood, but then sold her interest in the shop and took off for Chicago. Now she’s back and exploring new territory, namely $2 mini-desserts. The half-dozen offerings she typically has on hand include such delights as salted-caramel pot de crème and mini chocolate whoopie pies. So put on your best beret and head over: ooh la la, Seven Corners! Or should we say Sept Coins? Republic, 221 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls.; 612-338-6146; republicmn.com