Bizarro Twin Cities #1: Nye's / Mancini's

[The Twin Cities are non-identical, but they have a lot of shared traits. Sometimes they really rhyme. Here are some examples, like the Bizarro Jerry and his crew, of places that are a little too alike except for one big small difference.]

 It breaks my heart that Nye's Polonaise Room is closing. Nye's Polonaise, the former "best bar in America" offers the kind of irreplaceable history that you cannot manufacture with a million pre-packaged Applebee's displays.

But as Max Fisher once said, glory fades. Eventually Ruth Adams passes on, and you can't play the barking polka song forever.

The great thing about Nye's Polonaise Room is that it offers so much. There's a main-entrance lounge area with old-school piano bar karaoke, a sort of welcome mat to the place. Further along you'll find the amazing glittery yellow booths, all circa 1964, into which great groups or cuddling couples can sink happily as they wait for their plates of pierogies.

There, you're faced with a choice: turn left to find the wood-paneled back dining rooms. They have an almost church basement feel, and are perfect for large informal parties.  Turn right to find the tight little bar, the world's smallest polka stage. The dance floor infamously shares space with the bathroom doorways, so that you can't use the facilities without doing a polka step or two.

Almost without fail, the servers are older women who have seen everything and could tell you a thing or two about Minneapolis. And knowing you’re supporting these staff, dignified in the lost magic of their bowling-esque outfits, proves a palliative for the high prices.

But now that Nye's is on life support, soon to be a developer's footnote, where can you go? Why, to Nye's bizzaro twin in Saint Paul: Mancini's Char House.

Just like Nye's, there are a whole host of different social and spatial environments: an old-school steakhouse supper club to the right, and Saint Paul’s greatest lounge to the left, where you’ll find seas of giant red booths straight out of the Goodfellas opening credits, the CDH Wall of Fame, a comfortable bar, and an array of seating options for any size of party, military homecoming, political fundraiser, or softball team.

The icing on the cake is The Midas Touch, the house band that plays evenings beside a small dance floor in the corner. Their repertoire, executed with cool efficiency by men wearing vests, is an object lesson in wedding music, and the place has the overall feel of a cruise ship that never docks, forever lost in the sea of West 7th Street grit and charm.

These two places, Nye’s and Mancini’s, are the touchstones of an era. They walk the line between sincerity and irony like Philip Petit crossing the twin towers, joined at the hipster and separated at birth.

When and if Nye’s shuts its doors, I fear the Twin Cities will be out of balance. But until then, experience the bizzaro one last time.


[Mounted wall history.]

[The party that never ends.]


Red Strings said...

This is a great place, it’s superb that the people from these lofty spaces recognize that the holiday party is the time to celebrate not only the year’s achievements, but the talent and teamwork that made those achievements possible.

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