It wasn’t long before J.D. Fratzke found another job.
The popular St. Paul chef, who made his name as executive chef and managing partner of the now departed Strip Club Meat and Fish, announced in November that he was taking a break from his executive role with a rapidly expanding restaurant group (Bar Brigade, Delicata, Spring Cafe, to name a few) to write and spend time with his family.
Not three months later, he’s back. Fratzke is opening a supper club inside Artisan Plaza, a food hall in Cannon Falls, Minn.
Fratzke is taking on the roles of culinary director and executive chef for the entire market, which will eventually consist of five different operations. Artisan Plaza (1223 4th St. S., Cannon Falls, 651-829-1138, artisanplaza.com) is already home to a pizza pub, a sandwich counter and a Friday night fish fry. So, a “rural highway supper club,” seemed like a natural fit, said the native of Winona, Minn.
An antique 1930s bar from a Chicago pub will be the centerpiece of the dining room. “I really liked the idea of tying together this Prohibition Era bar with hunting lodges and fishing camps that are all over the North Country. Lots of well heeled people and politicians and gangsters and people who lived in the city always got away to these places in the woods or on a lake, and just unplugged, but still had a good time,” he said. “I want this place to be a focal point for the Cannon Falls community, but also want people to get that feeling of hopping in the car and taking a drive to someplace special for an evening celebration.”
On the menu, expect to see wild game, freshwater fish and the supper club standby of prime rib. “But it’s not the place everybody’s going to walk into and see the relish tray on the table and get a slice of cherry pie for dessert,” Fratzke said.
The still unnamed restaurant is expected to open in May.
Though he’s commuting from his south Minneapolis home, Fratzke joins a handful of big-name city chefs who have recently taken their talents further afield. Paul Berglund, formerly of Bachelor Farmer, is the new culinary director of Fiddlehead Coffee Co. in Rochester. Former Surly Brewing Co. chef Jorge Guzman is now cooking at the La Crosse Distilling Co. in La Crosse, Wis. And Victory 44 and Upton 43’s Erick Harcey opened Willards in his hometown department store in Cambridge, Minn.
There’s a good reason to take his business outside the city, Fratzke said.
“We’ve been working so close to farmers for so long that to go and play in their backyard rather than them bringing ingredients up here is a really exciting concept for me,” he said. “Plus there’s nothing wrong with being able to look out the window every day and see the natural beauty of the river valley.
“That makes me feel right at home.”