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July 5, 2004 // UPDATED 2:20 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Tammy Sproule Kaplan
Tammy Sproule Kaplan

Nochee: Washington Avenue hotspot

The success of several recent Downtown

additions - Bellanotte, 600 Hennepin Ave. S.;

Bar Lurcat, 1624, Harmon Pl., and Solera, 900

Hennepin Ave. S. - prove that the all-in-one

DJ lounge/restaurant concept is all the rage.

Nochee is the latest to jump on that trend.

Created by the owners of La Bodega, 101 Blu

and Arezzo (all in southwest Minneapolis),

Nochee opened in late June at 500 Washington

Ave. S. The lounge/restaurant offers a little

something for everyone: live music, DJs, daily

happy hours 3-7 p.m., plus 11 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday

through Thursday; and late-night food

from an abbreviated menu until 1 a.m.

The menu is American with European influences,

featuring an array of house-made pasta,

meats, seafood and small plates. Lunch will

also be served daily with a buffet-style brunch

on Sundays.

Chef Walter Buffalo - formerly of St. Paul's

W.A. Frost and the restaurant (since closed) of

the Whitney Hotel, 150 Portland Ave. S. - has

created a dinner menu with an entire page of

small plates, some of which will also be offered

on the abbreviated happy hour menu. There

are Szechwan-style baby back ribs ($9), corn

taco three-ways ($9), a curry-dusted Dungeness

crab and an avocado salad ($11).

Beyond the small plates, there are risottos

- including the spicy Israeli couscous risotto

with lamb, mint and harissa ($9), and entrees

such as grilled beef tenderloin topped with

Gorgonzola ($23) or curry and potato cioppino

($21).

The lunch menu ranges from $7-$10 sandwiches

(including a pan-seared sterling pork

loin with fried onions, tomato and pepper jack

cheese) to $13 entrees, such as a pan-roasted

Alaskan halibut with wilted arugula and an

orange, olive and red onion vinaigrette. For

business luncheons, Nochee also has a hightech

conference room.

Wine lovers have a choice of 270 bottles

stored in a unique climate-controlled tower.

Mixologists (a.k.a. bartenders) prepare a variety

of signature cocktails, including the

Nocheetini, Cocobeantini, sangria and UV martinis.

The dcor is modern, with a dance floor

and lounge with plush couches. The colors are

soothing yellows, greens, purples and reds.

Outdoor seating is available on the sidewalk

caf along Washington Avenue South.

Riverfront cocktails and deals

A 20th birthday celebration happy

hour...hmmm...sounds like an illegal combination,

unless, of course, it is the 20th birthday of

the Downtown riverfront's Sophia, 65 Main St.

Sophia launched as Yvette Restaurant in

1984; the owner changed the name to Sophia

10 years later, but still counts 1984 as the establishment's

birth year. To commemorate,

throughout the summer and with no set enddate,

the restaurant is offering a two-for-one

happy hour, Monday-Friday, 4:30-7 p.m. in the

bar, with complimentary hot and cold hors

d'oeuvres.

Yes, you read that right: free appetizers.

Also, this summer, on Mondays and Tuesdays,

order two entrees and receive a bottle of

wine on the house. Choose from a selection of

whites and reds. Toast to 1994, the year Yvette

became Sophia, with two snifters of Rainha

Santa 1994 vintage port for $19.94.

While these deals should be sufficient incentive

to lure you down to this elegant location,

with outdoor dining in view of the Mississippi

and Downtown's skyline, but there's more.

Sophia welcomes new chef Cory Gerber,

who was a chef at Yvette's Chicago location in

the mid-'90s. He has enhanced the menu of

steaks and grilled fish with colorful new presentations

and the introduction of some new

ingredients, flaunted in such dishes as spicy

Asian barbecue Ahi tuna over wilted greens

and sauted summer vegetables ($21).

Wine drinkers, if you find your tolerance too

low to sample all of the wines your heart

desires, try one of the $10 flights, featuring

such creatively named selections as Thirsty

Lizard Australian Chardonnay and South

African "Out of Africa" Pinotage.

Don't forget, Sophia also has live music and

dancing with no cover charge.

Send food-related tips and Downtown

restaurant news to Tammy Sproule Kaplan

at tammysproule@yahoo.com.