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New York City meets Hennepin Avenue

From the full-length fur coats coming in the door to the sparkly décolletage inside, the grand opening at R. Norman’s was the place to be last night.

The food — and there was a lot of it, all free — was fabulous. Great sushi, pork chops, ribs, shrimp and crab cakes were presented beautifully on buffet tables to feed the throngs. Proceeds from the cash bar — $10 for a martini, $15 for a glass of wine, go figure — went to the Hennepin Theatre Trust community engagement programs.
 
R. Norman’s, at Seventh Street and Hennepin Avenue S. directly across from Block E in downtown Minneapolis, is a very big place. All three levels were packed with a great mix of folks — African American, European American, Asian American, young, old and in between, business people, theater people, sports types and classic Minnesotans all milling about. Wine glasses and plates in hand make it hard to hug, but everyone seemed to manage.

A photographer in a long rain coat and a “press” ID stuck in the band of his fedora snapped pictures of folks as they arrived throughout the evening, then flashed them on the many plasma screen TVs stationed throughout the restaurant. People could see, and be seen, all at the same time. There were even appearances by Veronica Lake and Marilyn Monroe.
 
Of particular note was Paris Bennett, 17-year-old finalist for “American Idol,” who along with her mother, Jamecice, belted out song after song that kept the folks on the third floor sushi bar area wishing for room to dance.

The only false note was the empty and darkened storefronts across Hennepin. Maybe Minneapolis City Councilmember Lisa Goodman, who was clearly having a good time, can do something about that.
 
R. Norman’s is a welcome piece of New York City dropped in the middle of downtown Minneapolis. The hope here is that the place will be as crowded when people are paying.

Check it out. Wear black.

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