J.R.’s Bar and Restaurant was located in Minneapolis on LaSalle and 10th Street. It was the last eatery in a two-story building that started out as a block of stores in 1904. The building was then converted into a laundry/dry cleaners in the 1930s before eventually being converted again into a bar.
The Scotch Mist Lounge opened in 1967. Even then, it was rumored to be a place where things weren’t always above board. There was live music, cheap drinks, and lingerie shows to entertain the mostly male clientele.
Around 1970, Frank David Yarusso took over and opened a singles club in the space called F. David’s. The club offered live music by popular local and national rock bands and advertised itself as a singles bar. Frank’s parently owned Yarusso Brothers Italian Restaurant in Saint Paul, so the small menu at the club leaned towards Italian favorites. The lingerie shows were still offered during happy hour. F. David’s closed in 1973.
Next up was The Swingers, a seedy place where several underhanded businesses set up shop. Bookies, pimps, and dealers reportedly conducted business at the bar. The lunch and happy hour traffic from the downtown crowd who frequented F. David’s dried up. It stayed in business for around three years before Jerry Joubert and Bill Rieman partnered up and bought it. They operated it for several months before seeing that there wasn’t a way to make money with their current customers; they barely broke even.
So in May 1974, they remodeled the space and opened J.R.’s Bar and Restaurant. The partners wanted a whole new vibe in the space, so they created a 110-seat dining room reminiscent of a private club across the pond. The intentionally dark interior was only lit by frosted Victorian fan lights. Gilded frames holding prints of famous paintings adorned the walls, potted ferns were placed to add privacy, and semi-private dining nooks were created with strategically placed curtains. To keep the former clientele out, they blasted organ music at the bar during the day and implemented a jacket-required dinner policy.
Downtown workers zipped in for lunch specials, including salads, soups, and sandwiches. After work, they enjoyed happy hour at the bar, which featured several signature cocktails, vintage wine, and imported beer.
Jerry and Bill targeted their dinner menu to what they called the Orchestra Hall crowd. The menu included duck a la orange, oysters Rockefeller, prime rib, steak tartare, escargot, and other high-end favorites. Unfortunately, reviewers described the food as mediocre, and the service was reportedly slow.
Jerry bought out Bill’s share of the business in 1979 and continued to operate it with his wife until the late 1980s. After the restaurant closed, the University of St. Thomas acquired the property. They razed the building and others on the block for a new campus building.
Their recipe for Minnesota Wild Rice Soup is much like other wild rice soups with ham. The little difference I found was the addition of the wild rice stock. It gave the soup an earthier flavor than many of the others that I’ve had.
The soup makes great leftovers if eight servings is too much for you. When I reheated it the following day, I added a splash of chicken stock to get the soupy texture back.
Minnesota Wild Rice Soup
- 3 ounces wild rice (by weight)
- 1 teaspool vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 10 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups chicken stock, hot
- 1½ cups reserved rice stock
- 2 cups half and half
- ¾ cup ham, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground rosemary
- fresh parsely, chopped, for garnish
- Saute rice in vegetable oil; add 4 cups water and salt; cook until 75% done. Drain and reserve 1½ cups of the water for later.
- Saute onion in butter in soup pot until onion turns transparent; turn down heat. Mix flour in thoroughly, cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often (do not let brown).
- Using a whisk, blend in hot chicken stock and reserved rice stock. Allow soup to thicken slightly.
- Add half and half, blending in thoroughly. Add rice, ham, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Serve hot. Garnish with parsley.