Union takes rooftop dining to another level

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December 3, 2012 // UPDATED 5:45 pm - January 1, 2013
By: Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

HENNEPIN — Downtown Minneapolis is now home to year-round rooftop dining. Union, a new restaurant opening today in the former Shinder’s location at 8th & Hennepin, will feature Minnesota’s first fully-retractable glass rooftop

The 6,000-square-foot rooftop portion of the restaurant displays views of the Minneapolis skyline and Hennepin Avenue. It will seat up to 175 guests and have separate food and drink menus from the slightly smaller main floor dining room.

The retractable glass roof concept first originated in Turkey. Pieces of the rooftop were delivered from Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Canada, and the glass was produced in southern Minnesota.

“The idea of a retractable rooftop is something I’ve had in the back of my mind for years,” said Kam Talebi, owner of Kaskaid Hospitality, which also operates Crave, Figlio and Urban Eatery. “I wanted to be able to maximize the open nature of the rooftop, and to be able to have clear views of the skyline and clear views of the sky, so to have a fully retractable system was something that was high on my radar.”

The ambitious, four-level construction project began in February 2012. It was overseen by Shea Design, which built its new headquarters on the second floor of the building, sandwiched between Union’s dining room and rooftop.

A nightclub named Marquee will take up residence in the basement, with its own separate entrance in the alley. It is fitted with several VIP booths, a large sound system, and has the capacity for 250 people. Marquee will be open from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Critically-acclaimed mixologist Johnny Michaels developed Union and Marquee’s drink menus. Michaels previously created cocktails for La Belle Vie, Cafe Maude, Mashu Sushi and Robata, Barrio and Icehouse.

Executive Chef Jim Christiansen, back from a recent stay at Noma, a world-renowned restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark, described the menu as seasonal, eclectic American cooking. Featured dishes include suckling pig, baby octopus, scallops and beef strip loin.

In addition to opening Union and Marquee in mid-November, in the last year Talebi has re-opened Figlio in St. Louis Park and expanded his Crave restaurant to Coral Gables, Florida and Cincinnati, Ohio.

“I’m going to give it a little bit of time and let things sink in a bit,” said Talebi. “It’s gonna be nice to take a little break.”