990 Nicollet Mall
March Madness is upon us, and — somewhat driven by a friendly marital bracket challenge (which, of course, I’m currently losing) — we’re catching more of the action that I’d care to admit. So, in an effort to spice up our weekend, we opted to watch Sunday’s afternoon games from somewhere other than our couch.
Ideally, we wanted to find a place close to home that had the atmosphere of a sports bar minus the dreadful food. Out we ventured toward The Newsroom on Nicollet Mall. A favorite happy hour spot because of its hefty specials and reputation as one of the top after-work hangouts downtown, we wanted to give it a try for a late, leisurely weekend lunch.
The theme makes this place one of my favorites in Minneapolis. Old, enlarged newspapers and headlines plaster the walls and hang from The Newsroom’s lofty ceilings. Radio recordings of historic events play near the entrance, and themes of various newspaper sections designate particular seating areas. We were seated in front of a pirate ship, cast as the bar, and below a large wooden airplane model to mark the “Travel” section. The historic concept provides a unique backdrop for the multitude of flat-screen TVs broadcasting current headlines or, depending on the day and season, a host of sporting events.
Score: the food met our expectations. Wanting lunch a step above typical bar food — but with a small helping of seasoned fries (I mean, no one said a little bar food was out of the question) — the Newsroom’s kitchen didn’t let us down. Jim ordered the Rib-eye Panino, and stopped eating several times to tell me how much he loved his choice. The shaved meat was moist, tender, sprinkled with Cajun spices, mixed with caramelized onions and flavored with crumbles of bleu cheese. The menu promised a touch of tomato jam, and though neither of us could see any on the sandwich, its presence was evident in each bite’s sweet aftertaste.
My California Panino nicely fit generous portions of chicken, bacon and avocado between two slices of grilled toast. The hint of mayo and gooey cheddar held it all together, though the avocado tended to slip through my fingers more than once. The Newsroom’s home fries were a fun alternative to traditional fries — small potato wedges spiced with a rosemary and Cajun mixture and crisped along the edges. Plus, neither of our portions were of gargantuan proportion, further separating the spot from the typical sports bar experience.
Enjoying the atmosphere of The Newsroom on the weekend was pleasant. The lounge was more relaxed and calm than a typical weekday evening, but still kept busy with people popping in for a late lunch or a game-time drink. Prices are typical of what you’d pay at any national chain — too high for what you actually get, unless you hit the after-work specials — but the service was friendly and reasonably quick. It may not be a place we frequently visit for lunch, but it will long be my happy-hour preference.
RATING (out of 5 ♠♠♠♠♠)
Menu Selection: ♠♠ 1/2
Food Taste & Presentation: ♠♠♠
COMPLETE EXPERIENCE: ♠♠♠ 1/2
Total bill, including tip: $28