Editor’s Note: Nye’s Polonaise Room is now closed.
Food writers can be like kittens, constantly chasing bright lights and shiny new toys. We fixate briefly on the latest food trends, hippest new restaurants (or pop-ups), and chefs de jour, then scamper off. While pursuing the next “big thing,” we often neglect established, less trendy (but not necessarily less popular) joints.
Few restaurants in the Twin Cities fit the old-school, “adored institution” mold better than Nye’s Polonaise Room in Northeast. Celebrated as the best bar in the country, Nye’s exudes mid-20th century cool.
The perfect setting for a Rat Pack movie, there are glittery gold booths, a piano bar, vinyl red bar stools with studded backs, floral carpet, bejeweled lampshades, servers in bowling shirts, and martinis as far as the eye can see (and cocktail shaking as far as the ear can hear). And, of course, there’s the World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band. Nye’s is the real-deal, vintage-cool lounge that so many new places try and fail to emulate.
Although best known for its ambiance and live polka, Nye’s serves classy comfort food in generous quantities. We stuffed ourselves silly with the Polish Sampler ($18) and a Queen Cut of Prime Rib ($30). Served on a large platter, the heaping Sampler — cheese and potato pierogi, Polish sausage (from nearby Kramarczuk’s) and sauerkraut, cabbage roll, and potato dumpling — is deeply satisfying.
The pierogi (aka “little packets of love”) are rich, crispy, and flavorful. They’re also addictive, which, with an accompanying ramekin of sour cream, makes them perfect for putting on our winter weight. The sausage and kraut (served with zesty brown mustard) is also a winner — a great combination of tart, sweet, and subtle spice. Although they’re both good, the cabbage roll is a little bland and the potato dumpling a tad too dense (though we loved the spud ball’s subtle ham flavor).
There’s nothing innovative or clever about the prime rib. The Queen Cut (at 16 ounces, it’s the smallest of the three size options) is a large piece of bone-in beef on a plate with a side of au jus. Roasted to a ruby red medium rare, the well-marbled meat is tender and savory, a fine representation of the classic roast (even if we did spike it with some salt). A side of fully loaded garlic mashed potatoes was the perfect companion for the subtly seasoned beef.
After our visit, we can report that Nye’s lives up to its decades-long reputation as a Twin Cities destination: It’s fun, romantic, and one of a kind. And though it may seem expensive — we paid nearly 40 bucks for two dishes — the portions are hearty (the prime rib came with potatoes, a cup of soup, bread and butter, and a small tray of fresh veggies). They’re so hearty, we decided to count the prime rib as dessert, sitting back to soak in the ambiance and bask in caloric bliss.
Nye’s Polonaise Room
Bar and Restaurant in Northeast, Minneapolis
112 E Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55414
Fri-Sat 11am-2am (Kitchen opens at 4pm)
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
OWNER / CHEF: Tony Jacob / Barry Rohrer
ENTREE RANGE: $13-$90