In the restaurant biz, name recognition can go a long way to get patrons in the door. In the state of hockey, Lou Nanne’s moniker will surely draw diners to the Centennial Lakes area restaurant that bears the name of the longtime player for and later coach of the Minnesota North Stars. Open since March, the restaurant, featuring a full bar, serves daily American-style lunch and dinner.
But what will keep people coming back? For starters, the aroma of the culinary possibilities awaiting greets patrons well before they step over the restaurant’s threshold. Classic-meets-modern décor is punctuated with photographs of Nanne throughout his storied career. The big scorer in terms of atmosphere is space, allowing for intimate areas for a personal rendezvous or small business meetings, as well as large round tables that beg for celebratory dinners.
In addition to steakhouse fare from locally sourced beef, the menu welcomes other entrées and side dishes with a contemporary flair. Other locally sourced ingredients are used, for example, in seasonal salads, like roasted beets with goat cheese, burrata and tomato, and Nanne’s spin on a perennial favorite, the chopped salad. Sustainable seafood is flown in daily, and selections can feature diver scallops, wild-caught salmon and cold-water lobster. Burger and sandwich lovers will also find pleasing amped-up selections.
Before moving on to another opportunity, Josh Hill worked as head chef in the beginning months at Lou Nanne’s. (Current executive chef is Mario Rojas.)Hill brought his professional vitae from Goodfellow’s, Cosmos at Le Meridien Hotel, the W Hotel and Manny’s Steakhouse and had a hand in developing Lou Nanne’s menu profile. He says it was important to cater to local residents’ and the business community’s dining predilections while blending approachability and high-end dining expectations. Also in canvasing the needs of the community, Hill says the desire for a solid breakfast venue was universally expressed. According to Hill, Lou Nanne’s has the talent and the staff to pull it off. A full breakfast menu is expected to launch fall/winter of this year.
Loue Nanne’s is also home to head bartender Jon Robinson, who is well-known throughout the Twin Cities’ cocktail crowd by his nickname. “You mention ‘Sunshine’ and people know exactly who you are talking about,” Hill says. Robinson earned his restaurant chops by moving up through the ranks, beginning as a dishwasher at 14 years old. Tending bar at area venues for the last 18 years has afforded Robinson a chance to refine his cocktail repertoire, which he was eager to present to a new, appreciative clientele. Coming to Lou Nanne’s was a natural fit for Robinson.
When the opportunity arose to open with Lou Nanne’s, Robinson knew it was his chance to present his cocktail program to a fresh crowd. Lou Nanne’s cocktail set “hinges on classics and proper technique,” Robinson says, adding a twist of contemporary flair to tried-and-true cocktails. Much to his chagrin, some of the old standards served elsewhere have been spoiled with artificial sweeteners, additives and preservatives. “Toxic on the body,” Robinson says of far too many ill-prepared margaritas or mojitos, for example.
So far, customers are taking a liking to his riff on the classic old fashioned sipper, with Keep Smoking in Fashion, a concoction featuring hand-selected Lou’s Reserve Knob Creek bourbon, coriander syrup, angostura bitters and smoked salt. “That’s just a home-run cocktail,” Robinson says. May we also suggest the sidecar with 1840 cognac, dry curaçao, lemon and simple syrup? (This sidecar lover can now add Lou’s as a go-to spot for the beloved cocktail.) “The most satisfied I get is when you make someone a classic drink with proper technique and you watch their face light up,” Robinson says, who also relishes mixing a daiquiri the way it is meant to be made. “It’s such a gorgeous cocktail,” he says.
Speaking of cocktails, after sampling the margherita flatbread with fresh milk mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil with an Excelsior Brewing Co.’s Bitteschlappe (with a sidecar tossed in prior for research purposes only #wink), it came time to sample Hill’s menu, and it seemed only fitting to order an entrée that gives a nod to his roots. But there was a misstep—an error in judgement occurred in deciding to share with a tablemate the perfectly prepared, 14-ounce Hawaiian ribeye steak with pineapple, soy and ginger marinade. If there was ever a time to avoid splitting an entrée, this was it. The flavorful crust opened the door to the steak’s tender center. While the ribeye took its proper station as the plate’s flavor leader, the accompanying kale and cashew salad supported the effort with texture and clean flavor. It’s just too tasty to share. A generous slice of slightly tart Key lime pie with a buttery pistachio crust capped off our meal. Score one for Lou Nanne’s.