With a name like The Tangiers, one might imagine the North Loop’s newest lounge to feature lush furnishings, sparkling chandeliers, and tasty morsels of Mediterranean and North African cuisine. But only two of the three can be found at the old Hennepin Steam Building, tucked behind Aria on First Avenue — and the food isn’t one of them.
With the exception of a plate of hummus, none of the food or drinks at The Tangiers answers the promise of its Moroccan-inspired name — a disappointment for those of us who love the richly spiced and flavored dishes of the region. But that would be easier to overlook if the items that did make it onto the modest, small-plates-heavy menu were outstanding. Sadly, that’s not the case, either; most of the options settled into the realm of mediocrity.
For example, the components on the charcuterie and cheese plate — a ball of burrata, thin slices of prosciutto, crackers and baguette slices, grapes, apples, and a few olives — are nothing to sniff at, but at $14, one might expect a platter with more meats and cheeses and some in-season accompaniments, like fresh tomatoes. The BBQ chicken and pineapple flatbread ($10) offers a nice kick from the sauce, but the bread itself leans heavily toward the doughy side instead of the crisp crust we were anticipating. The lettuce wraps ($9) could use that kick from the flatbread. The sweet and spicy peanut sauce tastes muddy rather than tongue-tingling, and it’s hard to dismiss the unappetizing gristle among the shreds of chicken.
Ironically, the most successful items on the menu are the salads, which also are the least suited to eat while nestled in a deep-seated sofa. The best part of the bacon and blue salad ($10) is the creamy Gorgonzola dressing that is light enough not to drown the crunchy romaine and sweet tomatoes — we found ourselves dipping everything else on the table in it. Our server mentioned that the quinoa shirazi ($10) is only dressed with lime juice, and she wasn’t kidding — the tartness soaks through the fluffy granules and dominates the dish, though the cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado chunks add crunch, sweetness, and creaminess, respectively, to save the salad.
A killer drink menu can go a long way to compensate for less-than-stellar food, but the inconsistency of the tipples make them hard to recommend. On one visit they tasted extraordinarily sweet; on another, they tasted like they were entirely made from vodka. The signature Tangiers cocktail, for example, lists vodka, St. Germaine, and prosecco as ingredients, but only the flavor of the vodka came through. Inexplicably, the case was the same for the French 75, which isn’t supposed to include vodka, and the Moscow mule, which does, but also should taste like ginger and lime.
If you venture to The Tangiers, go for the scene — the heavy brocade curtains, the luxurious leather couches, the red banquettes — and people-watching. But if you need sustenance, head around the corner and across the street to The Bachelor Farmer or Marvel Bar. If The Tangiers doesn’t offer up the best of the Mediterranean in terms of food and drink, you might as well go Nordic.
Small plates and cocktails in the North Loop, Minneapolis
116 N 1st Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55401
OWNERS: Behnad and Ivy Taheri, Amir and Ali Teymouri
HOURS: Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri 4pm-2am (kitchen closes at 11pm)
Sat 7pm-2am (kitchen closes at 11pm)
Closed Tues and Sun
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Only for parties of eight or more
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $9-12