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Last month we celebrated my birthday on a Saturday night in downtown Minneapolis. Pete had made dinner reservations at Restaurant Max, a place we’d never heard of.
Evidently, we don’t get out enough – Restaurant Max was named best new restaurant for 2009 by the readers of Minneapolis-St. Paul magazine.
My husband, the lifelong marketing guy, is always responsive to effective promotions. Restaurant Max had him at hello with their clever ploy of offering a free bottle of wine priced at the equivalent of a birthday honoree’s age. Let’s just say I pretended to be 36 when it came time to make a selection. 🙂
We sampled some unique white wines, of which our favorite was Vinho Verde, from the Twin Vines Winery in Portugal. It had just the refreshing citrus-y lightness required of a humid summer evening. “Vinho verde” means green wine in Portuguese, referring to its youthful attributes. I found myself hoping the “youthful” part would transfer.
Whatever that possibility, the wine went perfectly with the Land and Sea Skewers we started with. These were kabobs of filet mignon, grilled shrimp and chorizo sausages with salsa verde and dipping sauces. I liked the filet so much I ordered it as an entree with a side of delicious sweet potato gratin. Pete had Red Curry Ahi pictured here, seared in cilantro oil over red beet risotto and orange-braised hazelnut fennel. Yum!
By the time our chocolate cake and coffee arrived, we wanted to know more about the restaurant and the Hotel Minneapolis. Our server, Katie, was happy to tell us. The project renovated the former Midland Bank Building, costing in the neighborhood of $60 million, and was completed last August.
If I had to describe the atmosphere in both Restaurant Max and the adjacent hotel in one word, it would be “swanky.” There’s a romantic nod to the deco elements of the building, but everything is done in a cosmopolitan, clean and uncluttered way. The motto for Restaurant Max is “Taste buds live 8.5 days. Show them the time of their lives.” Likewise, the hotel was envisioned as an upscale business and leisure boutique property.
The main hotel lobby is an ode to the moderne, a jewel box evocative of 30’s movies where one dressed for dinner. It would be easy to imagine oneself as Claudette Colbert or Jean Harlow in a satin gown, slinking across the marble floors trailing a boa, or embarking on an ocean liner to dance across the pond with an elegant partner like Fred Astaire, Clark Gable or Cary Grant.
Toward the end of our tasty dinner, it occurred to us that we had been remiss in not considering a stay-over at the hotel. So, admittedly a bit giddy from our wine, we waltzed across the marble lobby to the check-in desk where we were greeted by a pleasant young man.
Morrissey Hospitality Group manages Hotel Minneapolis along with other historically-significant properties in Minnesota, including two of our favorites: The Saint Paul Hotel and the St. James in Red Wing. Morrissey also runs market-leading restaurants such as the Saint Paul Grill, Pazzaluna, and caters event venues the Xcel Energy Center arena, St. Paul’s RiverCentre, and others throughout the Midwest. Hotel Minneapolis is part of the Doubletree division of Hilton Hotels, so our Hilton Honors points would have applied.
The commitment to Morrissey’s guest experience is embodied in their motto “Authentic Hospitality.” Before we knew it, our representative at the desk was handing us electronic keys to three different rooms on the tenth floor. “Go on up and have a look,” he offered. “You can decide what type of room you want for next time.” So we did.
The rooms are elegantly spare. Beautiful appointments, luxurious finishes, and electronic amenities are the norm.
Adding to the luxurious experience are classy extras such as fluffy terrycloth robes and imported bed linens. Each room is complemented by a magnificent, spa-worthy oversized bath.
A hotel-building boomlet added about 1200 rooms to downtown Minneapolis and hundreds more in the suburbs last year. The net effect was a reduction in occupancy rates to levels at their lowest in several years, according to a July 19th Star Tribune article (only available in the print edition), which cited Tennessee-based Smith Travel Research. The downtown projects consisted of upscale boutique properties rushed toward completion in time for September’s Republican Convention. The Strib article explains that the economy has subsequently taken its toll, with several new hotel owners reporting rough starts and performance levels below expectations.
For potential customers in the Twin Cities and other markets, this means rate-trimming and extra amenities to lure guests, especially on weekends when downtown business travelers return home. The Hotel Minneapolis is no exception. The nice young man quoted us a remarkable weekend rate – less than $100. This makes for an affordable, yet luxurious getaway.
We’ll admit we rarely consider downtown Minneapolis as a destination for a weekend “away.” We can get there within 15 minutes. But we’re probably like most people who look too far beyond their backyards at times. Let’s rethink this practice!
At Hotel Minneapolis , we’d be right in the thick of things. We could walk to attractions such as the new Guthrie Theatre, great shopping, outstanding art collections at the Weisman and the Walker, sophisticated eating and entertainment in the warehouse district, sporting events at the Metrodome, concerts at the Target Center and even light-rail transportation to the Mall of America.
In your city there are sure to be marvelous little gems, places to stay close to attractions and public transportation that would make you see where you live in an entirely different light. Bloggers such as Lisa Newton of Travelin’ Local are pointing out hidden treasures in Los Angeles and environs. Websites like Hometown News Atlanta are a wealth of information on places to go that aren’t too far. Convention and Visitors Bureaus in even the smallest burgs, like our new friends at the Galena CVB , are delighted to acquaint locals with the great things about town.
Aren’t there undiscovered treasures where you live? Why not combine sound budgeting practices in this economy with supporting local businesses who will appreciate you and deliver great value in exchange for your travel dollars?
Are you planning a staycation this year?
Photo Credits: Restaurant Max and Hotel Minneapolis
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