Hours: Mon-Thur 11:15-9:30pm; Fri-Sat 11:15-10:30pm; Sun 11:30-8:30pm

BLOOMINGTON (WCCO) — There’s a haven within the massive shopping establishment that is the Mall of America. Located on the first floor, just off the unnaturally bright main hallway, the dark wood walls and low lighting of the Twin City Grill can’t help but be a kind of beacon for those who need to take a load off before continuing on in the grand circuit of stores. Not only is this restaurant designed to temporarily transport visitors away from the mall environment it is designed to take customers back in time, too.

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The pulsing club music that spills out from many of the mall’s shops is rendered silent inside the Twin City Grill, in favor of tunes by Joe Williams, Frank Sinatra, Julie London and the like — it’s a classic soundtrack to match the environment of this steak and seafood restaurant. Large black and white photos of Minnesota’s past, including images of fishermen, lumberjacks and even aerial views of the local lakes hang on the walls. Servers don crisp uniforms, too; their white shirts, black ties, and aprons, definitely add to the ambiance, as does their undivided attention when taking food and drink orders. They take special care when discussing the menu, and are happy to help indecisive customers pick just the right meal — which must happen often. The place has an impressive menu, and customers may find themselves suddenly craving more than what they might have initially been craving. Luckily the Twin City Grill has a pared-down happy hour menu to help make the task of deciding exactly what to order a little bit easier.

The happy hour food menu is split into a $3 section and a $6 section, each of which also includes a drink option: draught beer and house wine for the former, a martini for the latter. Even the most frugal of shoppers wouldn’t hesitate to wet their whistle with a $6 martini!

If those options don’t make the cut, there are plenty of other drinks, too, which are listed on a large chalkboard in the bar area. Many are classics, such as the Sidecar, Mint Julep, Gin Fizz or the Manhattan (only here it’s the Minneapolis Manhattan), and some are unique to the Twin City Grill. The bartenders mix their drinks well here. The Gin Fizz ($6.99) comes in a low-ball glass and looks like the ideal drink to complement a perfect summer day. It arrives ice cold, made with Beefeater gin, fresh lemon and sugar; slices of fresh lemon show through the glass. This drink is more tart than sweet, but pleasantly so — an adult lemonade for sure. Be sure to stir up the pulp sitting on the bottom; it will punch up the flavor quite nicely. Another specialty cocktail from the chalkboard includes a sweet drink called the Up North Crush ($7.99). This drink comes in a considerably larger glass than the Gin Fizz, and its bright pink color is indicative of its very sweet flavor. An orange slice and maraschino cherry top the concoction, which is made with Stoli vodka, chambord, cranberry and orange juice. For anyone who likes sweet cocktails, this is an excellent and tasty option.

(credit: Coco Mault)

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Food on the happy hour menu includes, in the $3 section, French onion soup, Minne-chopped salad, parmesan crusted artichoke dip, fried cheese curds with ranch dipping sauce, beer battered mushrooms with horseradish cream, and city chips with cheddar cheese and bacon. The $6 options include tomato flatbread, spicy shrimp with blue cheese dressing, bbq pork sliders, mini mac with truffled mushroom, fish’n’chips with tartar sauce, parmesan crusted scallops, and bbq chicken smokehouse sliders with applewood bacon.

All of these options appear to be large enough to share with another person. And the prices definitely help solve the problem of having to make any tough decisions. Having to choose between the parmesan scallops and tomato flatbread, for instance, could be a difficult task, but they are both worth trying.

Arriving at the table nestled in a pan hot from the oven, the scallops are hidden under a blanket of browned cheese. A large spoon accompanies the dish and is perfect for scooping out the scallops along with the buttery sauce underneath. The sauce is very soupy, causing the scallops to be a little slippery, but the crisp cheese baked on top provides a nice counterpoint with a light, satisfying crunch. The parmesan flavor is quite strong.

The tomato flatbread is sure to get ooh-ed and aah-ed at upon its arrival. It’s a generous portion of food, requiring a long rectangular plate and more than likely some rearranging of drink glasses and silverware before it is set on the table. Though the thin flatbread is clearly doused in olive oil, it is still crisp and strong enough to support the generous toppings. Sweet sundried tomatoes are piled on top, covered in mozzarella cheese — but not too much — and all of it is sprinkled with basil.

They are not on the happy hour menu by themselves, but the French fries here are worth noting — the Twin City Grill dusts their fries with a delicious combination of jaw-tingling seasonings, the main flavor being vinegar. These are a highly addictive snack.

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Happy hour at the Twin City Grill can be enjoyed in the bar Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.