Last year, we stopped at The Lexington for drinks after a family Christmas gathering.

I’ll never forget the incarnation several years ago. I had live-tweeted an extreme white elephant gift exchange. Each year our aunts coordinate a game with rules, regulations, props, and, sometimes, even a set. It’s fantastic.

During this particular year’s party, the prizes included white elephant prizes (supplied by hosts and guests )+ real prizes. I forgot the exact details of the game, but were no consolation “good prizes” and one of the rules allowed stealing. It became very competitive. Households divided against households. Children may have cried.

I won a Rubik’s cube that I hid under their couch. Some walked away with gift cards. I laugh every time I think of my cousin who unraveled layer after layer of tissue paper until she uncovered a single balloon.

The games still remain fun, but with a less (but not completely lost) competition.

The Lexington (opened in 1935), located at the corner of Grand Avenue and Lexington Parkway, is permanently etched in my mind. For as long as I can remember, I would gaze at the restaurant in wonder as we drove by on Grand. The structure is fortress-like. Instead of airy windows, the exterior is mostly brick. People in fancy coats were always getting picked up and dropped off.

It wouldn’t be until my 30’s, post renovation in 2017, that I would dine here for the first time. 

Dara Grumdahl Moskowitz’s review on the re-opening in MSP Mag, April of 2017. 

The inside matches the outside. Of course, there’s elegant wood paneling. Portraits of medieval-looking people in grand frames deck the walls. Live music fills the rooms Thursday-Saturday evenings. I’ve had happy hour on the rooftop in the summer and dinner inside.

What I really enjoy the most, though, is sitting at the bar.

When we visited the bar after the Christmas party last year, we ordered the magical combination of dirty martinis and french fries. We didn’t know it was magical, yet.

The fries are the long, skinny kind like you’d find at McDonald’s, except that every single one is crisp. I have no idea if they’re homemade. They’re just really good. And you get a heaping bowl-full. What makes them really special is the salty herb-garlic oil seasoning. Swipe each fry through the creamy garlic aoli. Somehow it’s light as air.

The thing we remember most about that evening is how well we slept. One year later and it was still the best night of sleep we’d experienced.

We tested our theory again this year. This time I also ordered the Caesar celery salad (lovely) while Jake chose their take on french onion soup, the Sweet Onion Bouillon.  It’s not the classic bubbling cauldron of soup; your server pours the umami-packed broth into the bowl, table-side. Don’t worry, there’s still some bread and gooey cheese. When I had first ordered this expecting the messy crock of soup, I felt kind of disappointed. When Jake ordered it again, I loved it.

The martinis are excellently classic, garnished with big, plump olives. You can order blue cheese-filled olives if you’d like.

I don’t want my martinis to surprise me.

As you enjoy your meal at the bar, things will come and go – the bartender smoothly places a cloth napkin at your place, drinks appear and empty glasses are quickly whisked away. It’s like you’re in the midst of an elegant dance that you don’t even know you’re a part of.

Martinis + fries is still a magical combination. Or, maybe it’s only magical following a family holiday gathering with a very competitive game. Either way, it’s worth seeking out. The good night of sleep is an extra boon.