22 January 2017

Icehouse, Mpls: Inventive music complements inventive menu, drinks

Here's a venue that really has it all.

Located on 'Eat Street' in South Minneapolis, Icehouse is a surefire winner whatever your mood. For my wife and me, the Saturday night dinner show is our usual attraction. The music starts at 6:30 p.m. There's no cover charge. It's usually a duo, occasionally a soloist. The music is restrained enough to accommodate dinner conversation. But the line-up of locally renowned artists assures that you're going to hear some good music as well. When we came last Saturday, the performers were Patrick Harison and James Buckley. Harison plays the button accordion and Buckley plays acoustic bass. They performed a wide variety tunes, mostly jazz, some with Middle Eastern harmonics.

As a music venue, Icehouse is intelligently designed. The stage is in the middle of a big, two-level dining room. We've only ever been seated on the ground floor where there isn't really a bad table for hearing and watching the performers. There may be some tables upstairs where the sight lines are not ideal. But the sound fills the room nicely, so no worries about hearing. There is a back room where we've never been seated. For sure you wouldn't be able to see the band from that room. I don't know how well you'd hear the music from there either.

But Icehouse is more than just a nice music venue. They have a creative drink menu. On our most recent visit, I had a cocktail called Smoke on the Water. It was a scotch-based drink with cynar and other ingredients. I tried looking up the recipe online. But it turns out that "Smoke on the Water" is a fairly common name for a cocktail, and there's quite a wide variation on how it's made. Most of the recipes I saw didn't even include scotch. My wife's cocktail was from the "Rocks" portion of the drinks menu. These are called "sipping shots" and cost only $5. Yes, it was smaller than my cocktail (which cost $13). But it still was an ample drink. Her drink was called "Satan Laughs & Spreads His Wings." She had it on a previous visit and really enjoyed it. That time, for a coaster, the drink was served on one of those little evangelistic religious pamphlets. But last Saturday, it was served on a regular paper napkin.
Duck Platter with a nice Barbera

After we sipped our drinks for a while, we ordered dinner. Honestly, the food menu at Icehouse is equally as varied and creative as the drink menu. We ordered a plate of roasted squash, which we sort of intended to be a starter. But it was was served as a side dish with our meals. The squash was sweetened with maple syrup and sprinkled with smoked nuts which added some nice texture to the dish. For my entree, I ordered a duck platter from the 'Main' section of the menu. It featured 3 different preparations - duck confit, roasted duck breast, and a duck liver foie gras style. These were served on a bed of spaetzle. I thought all 3 preparations were very well done, though when my wife tasted the confit, she felt it was too fatty and she didn't like the foie gras. She picked her meal from the "Sides & Snacks" part of the menu. She had BBQ brisket "burnt ends." It was a smaller portion, but adequate for her, especially since we also had the squash starter. Her only complaint was that the menu indicated that there would be "brussels" which we assumed would be Brussels sprouts. At most, there were only a few leaves from a sprout.

I did have a glass of wine with my duck. Icehouse has a nice selection of wine by the glass as well as by the bottle. I chose an Italian Barbera. It was very good. We've had Barbera in the past that has pronounced tannins. This one didn't and it went very well with the duck.

We found the service at Icehouse to be very accommodating. Our server was attentive, and when we asked for some time to sip our drinks and listen to the music, she left us alone. When we did get around to ordering food, she was very helpful and enthusiastic about the items on the menu.

We left around 9, when the dinner show ended. After dinner, Icehouse transforms into a music bar. Food is still available. But the entertainment tends to be more high energy and not so suited to conversation.

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