Saturday night we dined at Nye’s Polonaise Room. For those of you not from the Twin Cities, Nye’s is a real taste of Minneapolis days gone by. The decor, the food, the music and the ambiance is superbly maintained from 50 years ago. Classic crooners anchor the background music in the restaurant, as the hours wind away on the weekend, the classic Rat Pack music gives way to an old fashioned piano bar with classic style karoke and a traditional polka band that plays real Polish polka.
Situated in NorthEast Minneapolis, the place has the feeling of a traditional “supper club” combined with a neighborhood pub where over time, they’ll learn your name and your favorite drink. For those of you familiar with the traditional pockets of ethnic neighborhoods common in the boroughs of New York and areas of Chicago, you’d recognize the roots of NorthEast Minneapolis or as the locals call it “Nordeast.” Nordeast Minneapolis was populated by many people from Eastern Europe. The name “Polonaise” is a the french term for Polish. Using the french makes one think it’s sophisticated, but that’s not the case. You could dress up if you want, but it’s just as appropriate to show up in your jeans and sweatshirt.
From the gold glittered vinyl booth seats and the colored glass light fixtures to the hostess that looks like your great aunt with thick eye glasses on a chain around her neck, Nye’s successfully captures time, stands it still and beckons you to forget the troubles of the day and relax with strangers that could be your next best friend. Esquire magazine rated it the “best bar in America” for a reason.
The menu at Nye’s is traditional too, steak and chops, seafood and a smorgasbord of sausages and polish delicacies. The food is exactly what you’d expect and the sounds of a dozen conversations of your fellow diners buzz into your ears while you relax and make it a real dining experience. A real dining experience in the sense that you’re there for the duration. This isn’t the typical American experience where your wait person is trying to give you the bill before you’ve taken your first sip of after dinner drink or coffee. The bill is brought over when you’re ready for it, until then, enjoy yourself. You don’t hurry your dinner at Nye’s and you don’t want to. Doing so would seem almost rude. As the hours go by and the bars fill up, the thought of leaving and going somewhere else seems foolish. And of course it would be. For dinner, make a reservation, enjoy your steak and potatoes and settle in for a taste of the past. If you’re just in the mood for cocktails, just show up and pull up a bar stool and make some friends. Be ready though, when you order a rum and Coke, it gets poured like “ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum – splash of coke”. As they say throughout Nordeast, they pour an “honest” drink.
Dinner or cocktails, either way, you won’t be disappointed.