When Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge moved from its original location to flashier riverside digs two years ago, owner Leslie Bock retained ownership of her restaurant/bar’s original location.
Now Bock -- who is also the creative (and ownership) force behind Donny Dirk's Zombie Den -- is proposing to convert that space – a former drive-in at 2519 Marshall Av. NE. – into another thematic property she's calling Betty Danger’s Country Club. "Betty Danger's will be a country club for the other 99 percent," she said.
A mini-golf course is the first of many attractions. “It’s going to look like a 1950s country club,” said project designer Jim Smart of Smart Associates of Minneapolis. Picture a dining room serving what Smart describes as “Minn-Mex” fare, a split-level bar and a covered patio with a taco-and-beer hut.
The real talker is a slow-moving, 60-foot, Italian-made Ferris wheel (“Or a ‘Vertical Revolving Patio,’” said Smart with a laugh), with gondolas designed to accommodate eating, drinking and view-taking.
“You’ll get your beer and your taco, you’ll queue up and then you’ll be able to take in the beautiful new Lowry Avenue Bridge and downtown Minneapolis,” said Smart. “It’s going to be quite spectacular.”
The project was approved by the Minneapolis Planning Commission earlier this week, and goes before the city council later this month. If all goes as planned, the restaurant and bar could be open by the end of the year, with the Ferris wheel debuting next spring.
Further confirmation that Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis is fast becoming a culinary destination is the news that pals Lorin Zinter and Jim Christiansen are converting a former laundromat and breakfast joint into Heyday.
As little as six months ago, the property, on the southwest corner of Lyndale and 27th Street, was being eyed as a location for a Trader Joe’s. That proposal fell through, and now the somewhat down-on-its-fortunes structure is getting a thorough makeover, inside and out.
“It’s essentially going to be a new building when it’s finished,” said Zinter. "It's being gutted down to the studs."
The plan, more or less, is that the laundromat side of the building will house the full-service bar, and the footprint of the former Sunny Side-Up Cafe will house the Heyday dining room. “It’s probably going to be 40 percent bar and 60 percent restaurant,” said Zinter. “It’ll be a spot where you can drop in a few nights a week, or for a special occasion.”
Christiansen and Zinter have been scouting sites for nearly three years for their long-planned collaboration. “Oh god, I can’t even begin to count the number of places we looked at,” said Zinter. “Dozens and dozens.”
The duo met in that great Groveland Avenue talent incubator known as La Belle Vie. Zinter (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo) was in the front of the house and Christiansen (pictured, below, on the rooftop at Union) was in the kitchen when the four-star restaurant made the move from Stillwater to Minneapolis in 2005.
When La Belle Vie chef Tim McKee was tapped to reinvent the Guthrie Theater’s ground-floor restaurant in 2009, creating Sea Change, both Zinter and Christiansen were recruited to play a major role in getting that ambitious venture off the ground.
Zinter is now working as the food and beverage director at the Minneapolis Club, and Christiansen just left his position as executive chef at Union.
No specifics on the food, yet – Heyday isn’t set to open until early December – but Zinter said that the menu will be determined by “what Jim is inspired by at the moment,” he said. “I’m just excited to help Jim showcase what he does so well.”
After a rough and seemingly endless spell of light-rail construction, which pushed dozens of restaurants, markets and other food-related businesses to the economic brink, it's great to see a restaurant opening on University Avenue in St. Paul.
Get ready to say hello to the Daily Diner Frogtown. When the doors open on April 15, the restaurant, which anchors the busy corner of Dale and University in the Frogtown Square project (pictured, above, in an image by Brad Person Photography), will serve breakfast and lunch daily, and dinner Monday through Saturday.
Chef Jason Koehn, a 20-year Champps Americana vet, is promising a menu of all-American favorites, with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and cooking traditions culled from what has to be one of the Twin Cities' most culturally diverse neighborhoods.
But this isn't your garden-variety restaurant-opening story. Along with feeding the neighborhood, the Daily Diner will also serve as an on-the-job-training and career-skills outreach project of the 111-year-old United Gospel Mission.
"To fully address the needs of homeless and struggling people in our community, we must overcome the obstacles that prevent people from being hired and keeping a job," said Mission executive director Ken Peterson in a statement. "The key to permanency in a chaged live is self-sufficiency. The extensive professional career training offered for Mission graduates at the Daily Diner provides that career bedrock."
The Mission hopes to initially train 25 to 30 people a year at the restaurant, preparing them for outside work in the hospitality industry. What a marvelous reason to make a habit of hash browns and eggs Benedict.
It's officially a trend, because another food truck is making the leap into a permanent restaurant.
This time around it’s Sushi Fix. Owner Enkhbileg (“Billy”) Tserenbat just signed a lease on the downtown Wayzata storefront that was most recently home to Black’s Ford (682 E. Lake St.).
“I’m so excited and happy that I don’t know where to begin,” he said.
The restaurant, scheduled for a January opening, will feature a 10-seat sushi bar and table seating for 25.
Tserenbat chose Wayzata because he already has a built-in customer base, created from private catering events in the area.
“I’m there all the time anyway, so now I won’t have to drive back and forth,” he said with a laugh. “And so many people know me in the area, and have given me such exceptionally great support.”
At first glance, Tserenbat’s story might fall under the Overnight Success category: He launched Sushi Fix earlier this summer -- the first in the Midwest -- and it quickly became a major crowd magnet on the Marquette Avenue food truck court in downtown Minneapolis.
But the tale stretches back several decades. He was born in Mongolia, and spent his teenage years in San Francisco. A classmate’s father owned a sushi bar, “and that’s where we hung out, and that’s where I decided that it would be cool to be a sushi chef,” he said. He moved to Minnesota nearly 12 years ago, becoming a familiar face among sushi aficianados at places ranging from Fuji Ya in Minneapolis to Yumi’s Sushi Bar in Excelsior.
Sushi Fix-ers know firsthand that Tserenbat is a stickler for quality and freshness (and not to worry, downtowners: he's keeping the truck). He sources his seafood directly from purveyors and markets in Hawaii and Japan, working his contacts every afternoon over the phone before placing his overnight order. His day starts with a 5:30 a.m. airport run, when he picks up his shipment, heads to his commercial kitchen in the Midtown Global Market, pulls out his knives and starts preparing that day’s menu.
“It has been an amazing journey,” he said. “When I came here, there weren’t very many people eating sushi, and now people are eating sushi out of a truck without hesitation. That’s an incredible thing.”
News from the Northland: Nokomis Restaurant & Bar in Duluth, a bright spot on that city's dining scene and a major culinary destination for Twin Cities tourists, is calling it quits.
“It has been a good run,” said chef/co-owner Sean Lewis (pictured, above). “I think we’ve made the culinary scene a little bit brighter. We had seven great years, and we’ve decided that it’s a good time to finish, and go out while we’re on top.”
Retirement -- for co-owners Sandy Lewis and Rondi Erickson, Lewis’ grandparents -- is the primary reason behind the closing. “They’ve got a personal bucket list that they’ve worked out,” said Sean Lewis. “They want to travel.”
The restaurant, a former supper club, is located on the old Lake Superior-hugging highway between Duluth and Two Harbors.
The dining room's lake views (pictured, above) are ridiculously scenic, and the restaurant’s warmly contemporary look is the work of its fourth partner, Jennifer Lewis, Sean’s spouse and an interior designer.
The closing will definitely have an adverse impact on the Duluth dining scene, at least from this critic's perspective; Lewis' adventurous and imaginative cooking has always been a reason to head north to Duluth.
“When we started, we saw a need for more of an upscale cuisine, with wines and service to match,” he said. “I think we’ve made a pretty good impact with both locals and non-locals.”
Agreed. Fortunately for Duluth diners, the Lewis family is staying put. Sean Lewis has already finalized his next venture, but isn’t ready to release specifics, only to say that it’s a project that’s going to require a major makeover.
"I love the area, and it's a great place to work," he said.
The good news is that Nokomis is going to keep cooking through Oct. 28th, giving Twin Citians an additional opportunity to head north for a fall colors appreciation visit.
“The leaves are at full peak right now,” said Lewis. “It’s gorgeous up here.”
The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner through Oct. 14, and then Wednesday through Sunday through lunch on the 28th. The adjacent wine shop is cutting prices by 20 percent on all bottles of wine, beer and Joia soda.
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