Back when Zeno opened, its New York owners — two attorneys, no less — thought they’d make millions bringing their ultra-hip wine bar-sandwich shop-coffeehouse concept to Minneapolis. And they might have, if they’d stuck it out with their flagship storefront in Uptown for more than about 30 seconds. Instead, they rushed to open a second store in a risky Hennepin Avenue location and made plans to expand to the suburbs. By 2006, their tiny empire came crashing down.
Enter Daniel Gelb, president of Plaza 1, Inc. He and his partners were smart. They bought the law guys out, closed the Uptown Zeno briefly and re-opened it under the same name some weeks later. But the downtown restaurant — an odd split space with a bar facing Hennepin Avenue and a separate seating area across the hall from Palomino — stayed vacant for a while.
Last month, Gelb took advantage of the weird layout to open Manhattans, a clubby restaurant and martini bar designed to feed the State Theater crowd. It’s decorated in olive green and charcoal gray and features a “boardroom” for private dining. The wine list is varied, with a lot of robust California options, but some others — including a Spanish Albarino and a Tuscan Chianti — and the drinks menu features cocktails so complicated they require a “mixologist.”
Currently, Manhattans is serving dinners only — and here’s a lineup of good, solid standards: steak, pork tenderloin, pasta in vodka sauce. For those who want to re-live the stock market boom of the 1980’s, I suggest you make a reservation. Leave today’s real estate crisis behind, order calamari, a Caesar salad, maybe a NY Strip. And imagine your portfolio growing. . . .