When Solera first opened under Tim McKee and Josh Thoma it was a breath of smoked paprika and jamon-scented fresh air. The tapas were at the culinary cutting edge and the outdoor spaces were second to none. There was nothing else like it in the downtown area. Theater goers would dip in for a pre or post show nosh and cocktail, guests would gather for special events in the large rooms and summer lovers would gather for the outdoor movies and stunning Minneapolis views.
Looking back at the beginning, an article Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl wrote for City Pages about the impending opening of Solera reads like a who's who of Minneapolis' current dining scene: Jack Riebel (The Lexington and Il Foro), Don Saunders (The Kenwood) went out to run La Belle Vie that was still in Stillwater as McKee and Thoma focused on the new restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. Bill Summerville joined the Solera team as general manager and expand our collective wine wine knowledge (before moving on to the Minneapolis incarnation of La Belle Vie and now Spoon and Stable.) Jason Ross (Le Cordon Bleu), Matt Bickford (Be'wiched Deli, Icehouse) Ian Pierce (Sandcastle) and pastry maven Adrienne Odom were all a part of the opening lineup. That is just a fraction of the talent that would move through that spacious kitchen.
Bon Appetit declared Solera the best place to defrost while Food & Wine ranked them in the top 10 new restaurants of the year world wide. Locally, Rick Nelson of the Star Tribune declared McKee and Thoma Restaurateurs of the Year.
Time doesn't stand still and much has changed since those openings days in 2003. McKee and Thoma departed. In 2010 the ownership changed. The kitchen was then run for several years by Jorge Guzman, who just opened the new Surly Beer Hall.
However, not all the change was good. The seats of the back booths began to sag. Some of the rooms began to wear their age. The public's appetite for small plates grew, but so did their options for dining out.
General Manager Jay Viskocil said in a statement about the closing, "with hundreds of new dining options in town, most offering small plates, the Spanish food and wine niche seems too small for a 220 seat restaurant, two floors of event space and a popular rooftop bar."
Don't expect the address to remain dark for long. Viskocil said, "The building owners are looking for a more accessible concept and have a number of interested parties.