Ooh ooh That Smell: Loring Pasta Bar Rooftop Patio
On a recent hot summer eve a friend and I decided to take the long way over to the U of M for something to eat. From downtown Minneapolis we followed West River Road, over the Lake St./ Marshall bridge (a sign on the bridge names it the Sri Chimnoy Bridge but, I’ve never heard anyone call it that,) down by the River Flats, and up the hill behind the Wesiman museum. Shouldering our bikes through the orange plastic construction fence behind the new science building we arrived at the top of the hill faced with the question of where to eat in Dinkytown.
The Loring Pasta Bar has a gorgeous small enclosed outdoor patio that is not open very often. I’d eaten there a few years ago with a group of friends and remember a convivial moonlit space where wine, good food, laughter and exceedingly intelligent conversation flowed freely. We followed the hostess (who seemed to be practicing her posture for a trip down the catwalk in heels and a tiny black dress) up to the third floor where we were drawn to a table in dappled sunlight set away from the main seating area.
Within a few minutes, my companion commented on the smell of what appeared to be an industrial dishwasher. I’d been noticing the wafting of the deep fryer from my spot. When our waitress returned we asked to be moved to get away from the strong odors. On the other side of the patio, the deep fryer smell was gone but the industrial detergent smell was stronger. We spied the offending vent tucked into the foliage a few feet away. Feeling slightly sheepish and complainy, we waited until she cleared the table in the corner and when she left, grabbed everything on our table and moved again. In the new spot music from a tango band in the main dining area wafted through the windows and it was fun looking down on the dancers in flowing finery.
The food at the Loring has always been good- both in the old and new locations. Preparations are simple and classic and well executed- following the universal law that if you put enough good olive oil on anything it tastes good. And of course, the artichoke ramekin must be a lot like crack cocaine it’s so addictive. Then again, if you’re inhaling industrial cleaning chemicals at the same time, all the glory is lost. For our meal, the tempura vegetables were a perfect light but filling dinner for a hot evening. And the grilled asparagus was soooo good that I had to cry “wait!” at the last spear so I could get a photo. (I’d love to see them serve this with romesco in the Autumn.)
Still, it’s worth the trip. The patio is secluded, full of lush plants and lit at dusk by tiny white bulbs that engender a romantic setting where everyone’s skin looks nice. Maybe the patio would be the perfect late night spot to sit after the kitchen has closed and the strong smells are gone. Maybe we were there on laundry day. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. It’s a pretty great spot.