There really is no hotel restaurant culture in the Twin Cities. When I travel to larger cities, many of the best restaurants in those towns are inside hotels. We have a few nice spots–Manny’s is inside the W Hotel, the St. Paul Grille is part of the St. Paul Hotel, but overall we lack a hotel restaurant and bar scene.
But there is hope. After two visits, I like the new Marin Restaurant in the Chambers Hotel on Hennepin and 9th.
My first exposure was to the brilliant Periodic Table of Gin and Tonic at the outdoor patio bar, the brainchild of bartender Mike Rasmussen. I love gin, but I’ve never really explored it deeply. The bar makes its own tonic (from actual cinchona/quinine bark), so it’s darker in color than you’d expect. But there are 12 different gins, from FEW and Death’s Door to Old Raj Blue, Junipero, and Prairie Organic Gin. You pair those gins with 12 different aromatics: anise, clove, hibiscus, lemongrass. It’s fun, it’s cool, it’s unlike anything else in town.
The restaurant itself is from the same team behind Mill Valley Kitchen, so it’s light and “healthy”–with calorie counts, fat content, carbs, protein, and fiber all right on the menu. We had the spiced cauliflower hummus and pita (490 calories, $7). The cauliflower wasn’t what I would consider spicy, but it was tasty with great texture and flavor.
My braised tuna, sweet potato, and green bean salad ($14) was delicious and filling for 370 calories. Our server said it was inspired by canned tuna—the braised tuna was similar in color but full in flavor. The carrot-ginger dressing had a nice snap to it, I really recommend this salad.
Many of the entrees sounded delicious, but the price points are a little aggressive for the non-business account diner. A $24 salmon for lunch? A $27 seared tuna? A $21 oven roasted chicken? Not for me.
Still, in a downtown that’s mostly a hamburger and fries lunch scene, this light, refreshing menu really appeals to me.
The real treasure at Marin probably will go undiscovered until the fall. The basement has been transformed into the “Library” bar. It’s gorgeous. Leather everywhere. I predict this is going to be an extremely hot destination when the temperatures start to cool down. Until then, it’ll be hard to get people into that windowless cove.
The redesign of Marin by Shea is bright and much more Minnesotan than the previous incarnation. This is modern luxe–upscale hotel design with the warmth that you’d expect in the Midwest. I liked the old design, but it was distinctly coastal. Lots of white dining downstairs.
The new rooms just feel good. They taste good too! So get at it.
Marin Restaurant & Bar
901 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis