There is an underground cocktail lounge on Hennepin Ave that is invisible to the naked eye. Just across the street from the glittering Orpheum Theatre marquee and the crowded rooftops of the restaurant Crave, it’s tucked underneath the entrance to a luxury hotel called Le Meridien.
It’s called …*leans in* … the Library Bar.
The Library Bar is one of three different bars by Marin restaurant and lounge, a subset of the Le Meridien hotel. All three bars have a very different atmosphere. When you first walk into Marin, it feels like a ritzy restaurant. The magic begins when you are ushered towards a staircase leading to the lower level. Did that waiter just wink at me? Do I need to whisper a secret code word?
As you walk down the Alice-In-Wonderland staircase the scenery changes. Suddenly the neon lights and flashing cars of Hennepin fade away, replaced with a warm golden glow. A glimpse through a glass wall reveals shelves upon shelves of red wines. Sturdy wooden wine barrels make up another wall, adjacent to a private dining room. And when you finally walk in, it feels like stepping into a secret.
Every wall is lined with books. The furniture is made up of big, comfy armchairs and leather upholstered couches – the kind you imagine a mustacheod man sitting on while puffing a cigar and muttering, “Quite, quite.” The bartenders are all called librarians, of course, and have the book-knowledge on good drinks to match. All around is an air of importance, as if you are a very special guest, or a celebrity. In fact, a few celebrities have made an appearance there – Jon Hamm, Seth Meyers, Shaun White. But had they been there, you may not have even noticed.
The Library Bar might be filled with people. It might not. It is not, actually, a very well-known place – a rare gem on one of the most popular streets in Minneapolis. No matter how many people are there, it always feels private. The chairs are sequestered in an intimate way that allows you and your guests to converse. Perhaps it’s the books on the walls, or the rich red rugs and armchairs, but the conversation always feels it should turn to thoughtful matters. Philosophy. Happiness. God. Wine.
Glasses clink and there is laughter, sometimes even live music. The ambience is overall warm, classy and entirely unique.
All of this is intentional, of course. Bar manager Mike Rasmussen, who helped launch the Marin bar, spoke about his desire to create three separate atmospheres of the bar in a Minnesota Business article. One part of the Marin Bar is a patio, an area to breathe in the fresh air over a spicy cocktail. Then there is the restaurant section, led by Chef Mike Rakun, which serves up everything from jicama duck tacos to lychee panna cotta. And that’s just the bar menu. Then, as a theoretical “post-dinner” lounge, a place to have a nightcap and unravel the mysteries of the world, there is the Library Bar.
In this way, the full experience of the Marin Bar is three-fold. Jonathan Bates, a fan of the Marin Bar and especially the Library Bar, put it this way in a comment about his experience.
“Marin elegantly offers what I think is the secret to great nightspots: a layout that allows guests to move from outdoor patio and drinks to their dinner seating, and later retire to the Library Bar or side tables – giving you and your companions an array of experiences that fit the mood, and encourage true social interaction with friends and strangers alike.”
It is rare to find a place that can transport you simply through tasteful design. Yet that is what the Library Bar achieves. It is a hidden gem that has mastered the elusive art of excellent atmosphere.