The new city’s center – no riffraff please

A&E lists all the new hotspots downtown – just make sure you have money in your wallet, or, like Fergie says, take your broke ass home

Amber Schadewald

.1 – Aqua

It’s an impressive first step into the entryway of the water “themed” club; the blue and sea green walls glitter and shimmer up to the extremely high ceiling in a watery fashion. But one step farther and you’re simply in a fancy club painted with a palette of blues and purples.

Sure Aqua is classy and decorated with nice white leather furniture, but its theme is a bit diluted. Owners and cousins, Jado Hark and George Hark, say they still plan on putting in fish tanks Ö someday. Until then, clubbers will have to settle for the simulated underwater scenes cast on their abundant collection of flat screens.

Even the Aqua go-go dancers skipped out on the theme. The team of ladies wear blue lingerie and white furry boots while making waves on the catwalks overhead. Where are the flippers and seashell bras?

If you’re going to claim a water theme in the land of a lot of lakes, you better be willing to go off the deep end. In this case, kitsch would’ve been key. Otherwise, you’re not a whole lot different than the red, green or orange painted club down the street.

Aqua is aimed at attracting an upscale crowd, meaning a dress code is strictly enforced and the price of hydration is high; Stoli is their rail vodka.

This club is perfect for spending some extra cash on payday and looking good while doing it, especially if you can afford the view from the VIP bottle service upstairs. (Chex Mix is included.)

Theme issue aside, Aqua’s cool color scheme is aesthetically pleasing and pairs nicely with the elaborate sound and light set-up. And note to the ladies in heels, be prepared to stand in line on the weekend.

– A.S.

2 – Chicken and Waffles

No surprise here: They actually serve chicken and waffles – together. The menu is plump full of comfort food, and if you don’t see something you want listed, all you have to do is ask. Manager Wendy Puckett says the most popular items are the “hot chicks” and “naked chicks,” simply wings with perverted names. For the sugar fiend: waffles stuffed with chocolaty Milky Way chunks.

Beverage wise, Chicken and Waffles has a full bar, along with classic sweet tea and overpriced glasses of Kool-Aid. Basically, Chicken and Waffles is a more glamorous version of the Southern fast food chain Bojangles.

Nice curtains, only a few bird decorations and the tall booths make the place date friendly without being too tacky. The back room, which opens later, is more of an A-bar destination, smothered in mirrors and paper lanterns, with space for a little late-night (chicken) dancing.

– A.S.

3 – Clubhouse Jäger

On the outskirts of the Warehouse District is the newly refaced and resurfaced building of 923 N. Washington Ave., Clubhouse Jäger, a former police-frequented dive bar that celebrated its 101st, and Clubhouse Jäger’s 1st, birthday last Friday.

“Jäger,” taken from co-owner Julius DeRoma’s mother’s maiden name, Jaeger (and we can all agree that the umlaut over the “a” gives it the perfect European touch), carries a motley air of British dandy, ’40s hipster and Germany circa the Weimer Republic.

Its bar and trimming boast custom built dark African mahogany with a coppertop and authentic blue glass from ’40s bars and nightclubs. There’s original turn-of-the-century stained glass, a disco ball from the aforementioned page of German history and the men’s and women’s bathroom doors come from none other than our very own prerenovated Nicholson Hall.

There’s something happening every night the bar’s open (Tuesday through Saturday), including Tasty Tuesdays with L’Etoile Magazine and enough live jazz to teach those new hipsters exactly where their commodified subculture originated.

And with those new hipsters in mind (but with less derision), DJ Jake Rudh, the man behind Transmission (every Wednesday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.) and City Pages’ DJ of the year since 2003, plays four hours of music that’ll make any underling listening to LCD Soundsystem reformat their iPod.

Rudh’s been on the scene for years and describes Transmission as: “Indie, British, French, Bossa Nova, garage, mod, psychedelic, post-punk, new wave, no wave, synth-pop, electro, down-tempo, space-age pop, AM ’70s light-rock, yacht rock and everything in between. It’s basically a night for people who like good music.” Translation: You want Joy Division? The Futureheads? A little New Order? Art Brut? You’ll get it; requests welcomed. You might even hear Steely Dan, if the night needs it, and some nights do.

It’s a bit of a journey for those usually clamped to campus, but when you arrive, sit your dandy britches and shift dresses at a table, order a pint of the house beer (yes, the Jäger Lager) and then get up and dance, because you won’t find a TV to stare at; Jäger doesn’t have them.

– M.G.

4 – Envy (NV)

Sexy and romantic, Envy is a great place to revel in PDA with a lover or a stranger. Tea light candles fill the wall behind the bar, which, itself, changes colors in waves.

Small, cozy and modern, the club’s tall spaces are covered in black, white and grays. Small bursts of orange highlight the VIP section, mostly kept dark and seductive.

Early in the night, Envy is more of a lounge and later turns into a packed dance party. The club is owned by the same crew who ran Fahrenheit, so it’s basically a rendition of the former and a more mature version of Spin. Envy features two rooms, one playing more top-40 hoopla and the other plays trance-house mixes. Another place that fills up fast, lines are expected and standing room might be your only option once inside.

– A.S.

5 – Fogo de Chão

A vegetarian’s nightmare, the new Brazilian steakhouse is a fashion show of meat. Just a glance in the window from the sidewalk, pedestrians can watch monstrous slabs of animal twirling like bloody ballerinas over the fire.

Upon taking a table at Fogo de Chão, everybody gets a coaster; one side is red, the other is green. The wait staff comes around, offering an unlimited tasting menu of meats. When your coaster is on the green side, the roasts keep a comin’. On red, you’re asking for a breather.

A new concept to the Minneapolis scene, it’s option-limited, but service-concentrated. Thank goodness for the salad bar, which offers quite an array of fresh veggies, fruits and fish.

Bustling during opening weekend, Fogo de Chão glowed and glimmered in gold highlights, the walls lined with wine.

Quite a few steps up from Old Country Buffet, this carnivore paradise is spendy. Dress up and bring a bib.

– A.S

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6 – Sneaky Pete’s

Down the street from Drink, the “Original Fun Bar,” the new place in town is calling itself, “The Ultimate Fun Bar and Grill” – talk about cheese. A step inside and it’s actually more classy than one might expect. Wood covers every surface of the rather large space and its front windows look straight at the light rail, which is literally a step out the door.

There are enough gigantic TVs in Pete’s to arouse some excitement in any sports fan, but if not, the typical “Coyote Ugly” pretty girls working behind the bar are guaranteed to catch some attention. On the weekend nights, stripper poles are put on the dance floor for anybody to, uh, check out (an obvious influence by the neighboring Dream Girls). Manager Jesse Lusk said it seems like more guys hop on than women.

Amid the cheap thrills, Pete’s got some great weekly specials and events, including “Kill the Keg” on Wednesday and “Juke Box Hero” on Thursday, giving people a chance to sing their way through an American Idol-type competition.

If not for any of the reasons already mentioned, the

bathroom sink, or magically lack thereof, is worth checking out.

– A.S.

7 – Visage

The former Tropix, Visage is completely different from the trashy 18-plus venue that many have fuzzy memories of. Visage opened last May, but its somewhat awkward location in between all the nude lady bars has kept it secret.

Styled with European inspirations, Visage has two parts: the club itself and The Rosewood Room, a quieter restaurant lounge. Next month, Visage is planning a relaunch, bringing in Cirque du-Soleil type performers, go-go dancers, new VIP services and a patio.

The Rosewood Room is stylishly simple, yet stunning; the warm wood paneling and floor to ceiling alabaster fireplace, complimentary to the white leather sofas.

The main room of Visage is draped with strings of shells and long white fringes tease above you on the dance floor like the dress of a 1920s seductress.

The whole place is filled with textures begging to be stroked, most notably the fur-lined booths with snakeskin leather seats found in one of the many VIP sections.

VIP seems to rule every corner of this place. Where are the comfy chairs for the only somewhat-important people, huh? Cover is a bit steep, too, but if you can scrounge up a couple Lincolns to get in the door, you’ll probably rub elbows with a few fancy folks, or at least be able to look at them from the other side of the rope.

– A.S.