For anyone who has spent time in downtown Minneapolis lately, change is evident.
From the continued construction on Nicollet Mall to the closures of restaurants like Solera, Il Foro and Mason, the landscape is ever-evolving.
And it’s not likely to stop anytime soon as, following the closure of yet another Nicollet Mall restaurant – Ling & Louie’s — a Hennepin Avenue spot is shuttering its doors.
But, this time, hopes are it will reemerge as something familiar.
After just under four years at Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis, Marin has closed.
The third concept to fill the space at the hotel, Marin was co-owned by Chef Mike Rakun and his partner Craig Bentdahl.
The pair, which also owns Mill Valley Kitchen in St. Louis Park, opened the restaurant in 2013 and aimed to bring their healthier style of food downtown.
In 2016, Mike bought out Bentdahl, and, together with his wife Abby, began to form the fourth concept for the space.
Joined by Scott Gardiner, the three will now open Mercy on April 1.
Like Marin, Mercy’s menu will be under the direction of Mike. It will feature a mix of seafood and steak, but has a more approachable vibe.
Named after their youngest daughter, Mercy aims combines the Rakun’s passions: food and family.
Gone are white walls, cream booths and golden columns. In their place sit funky mustard-colored bar stools, farmhouse windows and water-colored walls.
What once felt stiff and proper, now feels casual and inviting.
“We don’t want to have any stigmas of being expensive of exclusive,” Abby Rakun said of the new space. “When you’re going out, you’re going out to socialize. And we wanted Mercy to be more of a social experience.”
This is plainly seen in the bar area. A large, rich, wooded community table sits directly in front of the bar inviting several groups to share their time together, whether they know each other or not.
Punches also make up a part of the beverage program.
“Punch is social, it’s a shared experience,” Abby said.
Even more communal, perhaps, is the porrón. A type of wine decanter, the porrón is, what Abby describes, a “wine-bong.”
If that doesn’t draw guests in, Mike and Abby are sure the menu will.
Described as oysters, meat and drink, the menu combines a little bit of everything.
“We didn’t want to be branded as a seafood and steak house,” Abby said. “We have components of those, but we wanted to make it more approachable.”
For instance, there are oysters in the shell but guests can also enjoy oyster po’boys. There’s a beautiful steak, or there’s the pastrami slider.
As for the other items, Abby said it’s what Mike and Gardiner like to eat.
“That’s the question we always get, ‘What do you eat at home?’,” Abby said. “Well, this is stuff that Mike likes to eat. It’s what he would cook for himself.”
Hummus is sweet onion flavored, fish is served in buffalo rip form, sweet potatoes are whipped and served as a croquette topped with a dollop of marshmallow and dessert includes gourmet ice cream sandwiches.
But while the menu may be more of an approachable style, the quality of food is the same Rakun has brought to each of his venues.
The downstairs bar, The Library, has remained unchanged and the patio will undergo minor tweaks, but whether it’s after a Twins game or for an anniversary celebration, the team welcomes all guests.
“Come as you are,” Abby said.
Keith Werner has also joined the team as the beverage director, after being at Eat Street Social for five years. Learn more about Werner and his signature cocktail, the Dill Caipirinha, from Mike’s Mix.
Mercy opens to the public on April 1. To make a reservation, or to learn more, call 612-252-7000 or visit them online.