The landmark Burch Pharmacy building at Franklin and Hennepin avenues on Lowry Hill in Minneapolis has just landed a shiny new tenant: A restaurant by Isaac Becker, his wife Nancy St. Pierre and their business partner Ryan Burnet, three of the forces behind the insanely popular Bar La Grassa.
They're calling it Burch, and it's going to be a steakhouse. “But it won’t be your average steakhouse,” said Becker. “It sounds weird when I call it that, but I just that I can’t think of any other way to describe it without using that label.”
There will be beef, yes, all kinds of it. Becker is promising a variety of cuts in a range of sizes and prices.
“And we’ll have prime, grass-fed and grass-fed with a corn finish,” he said. “My goal is to find the best beef in the country. I can’t commit to just locally sourced beef, there isn’t enough variety, and I don’t know that local producers can keep up. But there is a lot of great beef out there, and the goal is, if you want grass-fed, we’ll have it, and if you want prime, we’ll have it. It’s kind of like how you want your eggs done. People are specific. They want what they like. I know I do.”
But he’s also pledging to cater to diners who aren’t interested in a medium-rare porterhouse. “We’re not going to offer a token piece of halibut," said Becker. "We’re going to offer a lot of vegetables. We want it to be a destination for people who don’t like beef.”
Running the show will be chef Danny Del Prado, a Bar La Grassa veteran who has spent the past several years working in Portland, Ore. “Having him coming here and doing this was a big victory for me,” said Becker. “With Danny signed on, I’m not as nervous or as scared about it.”
Julie Snow Architects of Minneapolis is designing the project, which has a vague late-2012/early 2013 opening date. The restaurant will cover most of the drug store’s street-level footprint, with a 100-seat dining room and bar and an open kitchen.
The limestone-lined basement will house a small kitchen equipped with a wood-burning oven (“All of the food that we serve in the basement will come out of that oven) for a casual, neighborhood cafe-style 50-seat bar and dining room.
And yes, the name is Burch, as in the former Burch Pharmacy, which closed in 2010 after an 80-year run. “We’re sticking with Burch, although everyone called it Burch’s,” said Becker. “I called it Burch’s. When people answer the phone, they’ll probably say ‘Burch’s,’ but it doesn’t matter, we’re going to keep it as it is on the sign, and that reads ‘Burch Pharmacy.’”
That busy Franklin-Hennepin intersection has particular significance for Becker, winner of last year’s Best Chef: Midwest accolade from the James Beard Foundation. He once lived in the apartment building across the street from the former drug store (“It’s where I bought my shampoo and toothpaste,” he said) and spent five years cooking next door at the former Lowry's (now Rye Deli).
“I mean, this is my intersection,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve been driving past that place for the last two years thinking, ‘What a great space.’”
Diners interested in a Burch preview need look no further than the 112 Eatery. On the first Tuesday of every month, Becker is offering a four-course dinner for $50, and using each course as a test-drive for possible Burch menu items. Reservations are essential.
As for the future of the building's famous -- or is that infamous? -- street-level billboard (the oft-vandalized one featuring real estate agent Cotty Lowry, which has graced the structure's south facade for years), that's up in the air.
"No one really knows," said Becker with a laugh. "Some people want to keep it, some don't. I don't have a preference. Ryan said that Cotty is a really nice guy, so I wouldn't be surprised if it stayed."