The next time I visit Minneapolis, I'm going back to Nochee.
Just a stone's throw from The Guthrie Theater Complex and walking distance from the Metrodome, the restaurant and nightspot resides on the corner of Washington and 5th Avenue. Nochee became a point of interest for my visit to Minneapolis because their webpage boasted a comfortable atmosphere with a diverse upscale crowd. In fact, the site basically claimed that there was something for everyone if you pick the right night. But no one place can deliver all that, right?
I was greeted by a very helpful security guard named Michael, who steered me away from the private birthday party happening in the Trojan Room, and directed to The Lounge where leather sectionals lined the wall and a dinner party bubbled at the tables along the windowed walls. Immediately, I noticed the display case that stretches to the ceiling, packed eight shelves high with wines, lit and showcased like trophies.
I planted myself at the end of the bar that spilled into the lounge and ordered a kamikaze. Jordan the bartender places a magenta drink before me. I had never had a magenta kamikaze before. But I tried it, it was good, sweet, although not what this LA girl was expecting.
It was late night for Nochee, so only the food from the bar menu was available. I ordered the signature Szechwan style baby back ribs and Reuben sandwich with four minutes to spare before the kitchen closed for the night. In the interim, Jordan caught me frowning at my magenta drink and made me a kamikaze from my description of it. My description was bad, but again the drink was good, so I sipped.
The baby back ribs arrived, lightly glazed with a brown sauce and garnished with a small dish of spicy kimchee (pickled cabbage). The kimchee was sour and crunchy without being bitter and the ribs were tender with a light sweet flavor. The menu item is perfect for anyone who loves ribs but does not prefer the pungent assault of barbecue.
And Jordan catches me frowning again. Apparently Jordan was a perfectionist because he replaced my drink yet again. We reach a compromise when I suggested a Midori Sour. That tasted like home, and just as my Reuben and fries arrived. I would later discover the restaurant's lengthy, creative menu of specialty drinks. Next time, I'll save the bartender the trouble and order a Killer Kool-Aide from the word go.
The crowd was light but festive for its size. A group of women begin a chat 'Let's get this party started,' when the Jazz over the house speakers transitions into the thumpa thumpa of DJ Julius Romero spinning House music live from a small corner stage in the back. And the action slowly drifts to the back dining room where tables have been cleared to provide a dance floor.
Clearly, this is not a place where people spill drinks on you while dancing. Nor was it a 'meat market' as clubs can often be. This is a classy spot where 30-something customers, some couples, some singles, could just hanging out in a relaxing environment, or follow the music to the adjacent dining room where they can party a bit harder. Most important to me, it was a great bar where a nice single girl could go alone, and feel safe.
The folks at Nochee truly understand the importance of being versatile. This attention to variety can be seen from the eclectic menu selections to the clever use of the space. And it is probably the principle factor contributing to the diversity of its clientele. The restaurant itself has its own entertainment schedule. Four days a week, they offer some type of event, from live bands to beer tasting. One of their most popular events is Dinner and a Movie. Twice a month, Nochee shows a movie from another country, accompanied by a three-course meal featuring the cuisine from that particular country.
I would have had another drink, but I was driving. I would have danced, but I was wearing the wrong shoes. As I headed for my car, I heard the dance music beaconing me back, then I realized it was the loudspeaker on the outside of the building. I left wanting to stay longer, only hoping I would find my way back to this place.
And I did. Before my flight home to Los Angeles, I made it back for lunch and took advantage of the Stir-Fry Bar. The idea of 'build your own stir fry' was intriguing and new to me. This snowy Monday I designed a chicken-shrimp dish featuring spinach & udon noodles in a sweet and sour orange sauce. There is wide selection of ingredients to choose from in building your unique dish. You could go to lunch at Nochee for days without having the same combination twice. Of course, once you have, you can start the process all over again with the Pasta Bar menu.
I really enjoyed the vibe of this place. It was everything it claimed to be. The portions were great, the food was hot, the price was right and the service was prompt with a smile. Visit the website and find the night designed for you, and then go.
500 Washington Avenue South
(Washington Avenue & 5th Avenue next to The Depot)
Minneapolis, MN 55415