“In trying to become everything, you risk becoming nothing.” This is Ro Shirole’s and Ken Sherman’s succinct approach to running Seven, their massive downtown restaurant that, in fairness, seemingly accomplishes as much of everything as any place successfully could. The 28,000 square foot multi-level bar, lounge, restaurant, and rooftop patio dwarfs its surroundings not only with its size but also the scope of what it offers. Seven is everything done well, a thorough and varied offering of dining and entertainment that overlooks no opportunity to add luxury to its guests’ visits.Seven’s size is key to its ability to offer so many unique experiences. Each of its four levels, and indeed the separate areas within them, has a distinct profile defined by what’s presented there. Seven begins, intuitively, at its door on 700 Hennepin Avenue. This portal takes guests fresh from the street to its first floor, an expansive dining room revolving around a bar where steaks are the main feature.
“A steakhouse without the best steaks is nothing short of a tragedy,” said Ro. “For this new season, we studied the finest steak providers in the country. I confess that testing 36 cuts from America’s best farms were one of the more rewarding aspects of running a restaurant. Still, it’s out of that exhaustive research that we’re able to only serve cuts from the top two percent of producers. The best steaks deserve the best sides, of course, and with great devotion to this pairing our entire kitchen cooks everything we serve from scratch.” The dark and delicious Cabernets, Zinfandels, and Bordeaux keeping watch over the dining room from their glass two-story cellar would approve of Ro’s thoroughness, if they could talk for themselves rather than only facilitate conversation among their drinkers.
A quick jaunt up the staircase brings guests to the one and a half level, the mezzanine. This floor offers a bird’s eye view of the main dining room, perfect for reconnaissance when you’ve lost your party. A small performing area is up there, from which a duo fills the room below with live music. A private dining area that can accommodate up to 72 guests or three smaller parties is nearby. This is the best spot for business meetings. “Our VIP guests appreciate this space the most,” explained Ro. “They can slip into it unnoticed by the rest of our patrons, enjoy a quick three-hour dinner, and slip out just as undetected. Not having to sign autographs makes their evenings that much more enjoyable.”
Another short trip up the stairs takes you to Seven’s next plane of pleasure, the Ultra Lounge and sushi bar. Two full bars, a sushi line with its characteristic glass countertop refrigerators, and state of the art speakers surround the dining room there. “We’re giving our highly acclaimed chefs complete control over their menu, letting their creativity thoroughly flourish,” said Ro. “We’re doing things with lobster I hadn’t thought imaginable, and daily fresh seafood deliveries make our Japanese fare as authentic as downtown Tokyo’s itself.” The glass bottles of potions lining the second floor’s walls treat guests to very welcome realities steeped in cocktails, sake, and wine.
Seven’s newly redesigned rooftop is bound to be one of its greatest draws this summer. The entire layout has been reimagined to welcome the public to panoramic views of Minneapolis’ most happening night scene. The rooftop features a green wall made from fragrant Japanese hops. Seven also serves beer made from the same, which imbue their drink with an exotic, lemony flavor perfect for the city’s crisp evening air. Stogie smokers rejoice! Seven’s rooftop cigar lounge offers the best spot in the city to enjoy a fine rope after dinner.
“Running a restaurant like Seven demands the best people in the right roles,” explained Ro. “Our culinary director is a James Beard award winner. He knows more about food than few ever could. Our band leader’s just as qualified. Steve Clark is a Grammy winner and brings a virtuoso’s attention to the music we play here.” The entertainment at Seven lasts late into the night, with top live DJs and dance bands playing all the current hits.
Seven’s music is central to its experience. The aforementioned duo greets newcomers and bathes the main floor in dining music, but it’s hardly the extent of the sound there. Seven’s in-house nine-piece band plays live on Friday and Saturday nights. The Ultra Lounge has a drop stage for live acts performing everything from jazz to classical guitar to bluegrass and additionally features any musician trained in a genre certain to please diners. Seven’s cutting edge sound system ensures these tunes permeate the floor throughout, but thoughtfully so that diners needn’t yell over their plates in order to make conversation. This is music that compliments dining rather than overwhelming it in a raucous din.
“I want Seven to be the premiere dining destination not only in the city, the state, or even the whole country,” desired Ro. “I want Minneapolis to be the shining light of the world’s leisure scene. With so much to offer, Seven is the place for everyone, be they with their family, impressing out-of-town clients with a Mad Men styled dining experience, or partying it up in high fashion during their night on the town. Since we’re right next to Target Field, we open two hours before every Twins home game to cater to the baseball crowd. We’re right in the theater district, and we cater not only to the audiences but many production members as well. I want people who visit Minneapolis for concerts and shows to continue their getaway by coming right here, where we’ll have the greatest musicians we can select play for them as well — without a cover charge, I might add.”
“Guest experience is central to everything we do,” said Ro’s business partner Ken Sherman. “From unparalleled ambiance to food quality exceeding even the highest highest standards, to impeccable service, we take great pride in our guests choosing Seven and strive to continue to earn praise from everyone who walks through our door.”
Seven reminds me of visionary architect Ju-Hyun Kim’s concept for a vertical amusement park. Rather than spread its pleasures over an untraversable horizontal space, Kim thought to stack its pleasures one on top of the other to create an accessible gestalt of joy. It’s a funny notion, enjoying a steak and a glass of Claret with a date in an intimate nook downtown while 600 revelers bounce and laugh and smoke candelas on the rooftop above you. Whether you’re after a quick Strega before your next venture, a privately catered affair for there or elsewhere, or want to rent the entire establishment for a private event with up to 350 people, Seven seeks to be your pleasure downtown. It’s the Swiss army knife of entertainment, the perfect combination of environments, music, and food and drinks, and it will color downtown’s atmosphere for years to come.
By David Scheller