It’s been a busy week in the local restaurant world. Here’s a look at some of the noteworthy changes.
The Chef Shack has found a permanent Minneapolis home.
After a three-year search, owners Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson are taking their popular and influential food truck business into full-service restaurant territory. They’ve leased the former Raja’s Mahal (3025 E. Franklin Av., Mpls.) and are in the process of converting it into Chef Shack Ranch.
“We’re calling it an ‘urban truck stop,’ ” said Summer.
The casual restaurant will initially start with a Thursday-through-Sunday schedule, serving dinner and all-day Sunday brunch. Because they’ve landed in the Seward neighborhood, one of the city’s unofficial vegetarian enclaves — it’s the home of the Seward Cafe, Seward Co-op and Birchwood Cafe — Carlson and Summer plan to make a statement by taking their menu in the opposite direction: pulled pork with hand-cut fries, pork brisket, beef cheeks, beef tongue, a bison burger, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy and more.
“It’s going to be a meat hut,” said Summer. As for dessert, “We’re going to be making mini-doughnuts all the time, baby,” she said with a laugh, a reference to a Chef Shack menu staple. “And we’ll be making pies and ice cream and all those favorites that you can get in a good truck stop.”
A fixed-location Chef Shack doesn’t mean that the trucks are disappearing. The opposite, actually. The Chef Shack Ranch’s surprisingly ample kitchen will also serve as the fleet’s commissary kitchen, replacing the facility that Carlson and Summer had been leasing in south Minneapolis.
“We have to change with the times, and keep showing a new face,” said Summer. “That keeps us fresh, and it keeps our customers engaged. They want new food, and we want to do new food, so it works.”
The new restaurant is coming along just as the outdoor truck season is winding down. Chef Shack trucks made their final regular-season appearances at Minneapolis farmers markets this past weekend — at Mill City Farmers Market and Fulton Farmers Market on Saturday, and Kingfield Farmers Market on Sunday.
The trucks are now moving into private event mode, and gearing up for occasional winter farmers market gigs (the first cold-weather Kingfield-Fulton collaboration is Nov. 10 at Bachman’s, 6010 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls.). “My crew has their Carhartts ready,” said Summer with a laugh.
One change is coming next spring to the Chef Shack truck business: Expect to see fewer sightings in downtown Minneapolis. “There are just so many trucks down there, competing for limited parking spaces, which is why we’ve been avoiding it as much as we can,” said Summer. “We’ve been down there maybe once a week.”
The duo is also continuing their first bricks-and-mortar effort, the year-old, weekend-only Chef Shack Bay City (W6379 Main St., Bay City, Wis., www.chefshack.org).
Meanwhile, the 40-seat Minneapolis restaurant — familiar to anyone who remembers Moti Mahal, Lucy’s Ethiopian Restaurant, an off-campus outpost of the Big Ten and a parade of other tenants — is getting a quick low-budget makeover, with walls covered in repurposed barn wood and salvaged tin ceiling material. A tree-lined patio and walk-up takeout window should materialize next spring.
“I want a rustic, down-home feel,” said Summer. “Something approachable, because that’s what we do, approachable.”
An opening date hasn’t been pinned down. “Right now we’re looking at December, possibly, although we might hold off until January,” said Summer. “We’re really busy in Bay City, so we’re not in a rush to open, we’re just quietly plugging away and working on it. We’ve waited a long time to open in our home city, and we’re super-excited.”
Getting the goods on baked goods
It has been quite the up-and-down year for the neighborhood bakery business. Bread, Coffee and Cake in Mendota Heights, Jack’s Bakery in Brooklyn Park and Jerabek’s New Bohemian in St. Paul have all closed their doors.
But at the same time, newcomers continue to arrive.
Fred’s Bread (6872 Washington Av. S., Eden Prairie, www.fredsbread.com) started earlier this year as a wholesale operation, but co-owners and spouses Fred Mische and Mandy Chowen quickly launched a retail counter in their not-so-retail industrial park location.
The focus is on skillfully crafted breads — usually a half-dozen different choices — but the couple also turns out a small selection of cookies, scones, tarts and cakes. The bakery is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays.
Honey and Rye Bakehouse (4501 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, www.honey-and-rye.com) quietly opened its doors this past weekend. Well, as quietly as any food-and-drink outlet can open in the can’t-keep-a-secret age of social media.
Anne Andrus and pal and co-owner Emily Ackerman have been friends since the sixth grade, where they met in the cafeteria at their Little Falls, Minn., middle school (“Food brought us together,” said Andrus).
After college, the friends went in different directions. Andrus moved to San Francisco and worked in nonprofits, but quickly grew restless with desk life (“I like being active and being on my feet, rather than coming in to a full e-mail box,” she said) and started working in bakeries, which led to study at the artisan bread-focused San Francisco Baking Institute.
She returned to Minnesota and spent two years in the pastry kitchen at Common Roots Cafe in Minneapolis, always with the dream of opening her own place.
Ackerman, a graphic designer working in advertising, was nurturing her own dream: a store of her own. The two connected, and now Ackerman is running the front half of the business, “while I hide in the back,” said Andrus the baker.
To start, Andrus is offering four daily breads: baguette, sourdough, multigrain and focaccia, with a few ever-rotating daily features (pretzels on Thursday, honey challah on Friday, cinnamon brioche on Sunday), with an array of cookies, cakes, pies and that good-old-fashioned breakfast staple, monkey bread.
“Our products are very down-to-earth,” said Andrus. “I have a huge love for the Midwest and for home-style baking and cooking, so I think of our products as ‘homemade,’ in quotes, because we’re obviously not in a home.”
Here’s what you won’t find: bagels. After two years of bagel-making at Common Roots, “I’m bagel-ed out,” Andrus said with a laugh. Honey and Rye is also a cupcake-free zone.
“I worked at a cupcake shop in Oakland, and so I’ve done enough of them to last a lifetime,” Andrus said.
Ackerman’s design chops went a long way in converting a former dry cleaner into their gracious and sunny spot, which serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday and remains open until 6 p.m. weekdays.
“I love the idea of catching commuters on their way home from work, grabbing fresh bread,” said Andrus. “We’re just excited to be a part of the small retail baking scene, making fresh stuff, every day. There’s definitely room for more shops like ours.”
Meanwhile, after several years of plying downtown Minneapolis with their cupcakes, cookies, cakes and other exquisitely crafted sweets from their Gaviidae Common (651 Nicollet Mall, Mpls.) outpost, Cocoa & Fig co-owners and spouses Laurie Pyle and Joe Lin have branched out, adding a second location in Edina (6807 York Av. S., Edina, www.cocoaandfig.com).
Burgers, brats and beer
Not landing a berth on the Food Network’s “Food Court Wars” may prove to have been the best thing to ever happen to the Berset family. And to Excelsior diners.
Father Bob, mother Cindy and daughters Kelsey and Ashley had pitched a Scandinavian bakery and cafe for the show. While they didn’t make the final cut, “It got us super-excited,” said Kelsey Berset. The family had owned a handful of pizza franchises, and after selling them in 2006, they decided to get back into the business.
Specifically, a burger-, hot dog- and pizza-centric sports bar they’re calling the Suburban (342 3rd St., Excelsior, www.thesuburbanmn.com). “We decided to go with our full-on dream of owning a restaurant and bar,” said Kelsey.
The 110-seat restaurant will feature a dozen or so lavishly topped burgers, made with beef from Peterson Limousin Farms, the go-to beef purveyor in Osceola, Wis. Mackenthun’s Meats in St. Bonifacius will be making hot dogs exclusively for the restaurant, including a brat made using beer from neighboring Excelsior Brewing Co. The full bar will showcase locally brewed beers.
Why Excelsior? It’s where the family has its roots; all four Bersets are graduates of nearby Minnetonka High School.
“We don’t leave, so we figure we might as well invest in where we live,” said Kelsey with a laugh.
The restaurant is going into the historic former Lyman Lumber building, and the design aims to capture and preserve some of its warehouse aura, including tables and other furnishings built using reclaimed wood from the building. The Bersets are projecting an early January opening.
Nicollet Avenue newcomer
The Japanese word for “catch” is about to become the name of the Twin Cities’ latest Japanese restaurant.
When it opens in early December, Kyatchi (3758 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.) will focus on sushi prepared with seasonal, sustainably sourced seafood, as well as robata, rice bowls and Japanese-style hot dogs.
Between them, the principal players have what appears to be a century of restaurant and bar experience. Chef Hide Tozawa lists Origami, Nami, Fuji Ya and Restaurant Alma on his résumé. Co-owner Sarah Peterson hails from Gigi’s Cafe, Bar Abilene and Stella’s Fish Cafe and the former Azia, and brother and co-owner Sam Peterson is a longtime veteran of First Avenue. Consultant Kim Bartmann is the creative force behind Bryant-Lake Bowl, Barbette, Red Stag Supperclub and Pat’s Tap, among others.
The late-night (open to 1 a.m.) 40-plus-seat restaurant will also serve sake and a number of locally brewed tap beers.
Speaking of sustainably sourced seafood: Jamie Malone of Sea Change (806 2nd St. S., Mpls., www.seachangempls.com) is the recipient of one of Cooking Light magazine’s 2013 Trailblazing Chef awards, which recognizes chefs who are “contributing to the culinary arts in interesting ways.” The magazine singled Malone out for its Sustainability Award, describing her cooking as “a startling mix of traditional and forward-leaning.”
On Nov. 7, Paul Berglund of the Bachelor Farmer (50 2nd Av. N., Mpls., www.thebachelorfarmer.com) is stepping into the chef-in-residence series at Gather (1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., www.gatherbydamico.com). Drop in from 5 to 9 p.m. for a meet-and-greet, free samples and low-priced drinks and snacks.
An artful Dia de los Muertos
For a different kind of Day of the Dead celebration, book a table at the Modern Cafe (337 13th Av. NE., Mpls.) on Nov. 6 for its Lucky Dougie Modern Muertos dinner. The multicourse meal ($32, with $6 wine pairings) will be held in conjunction with an exhibition of northeast Minneapolis painter Dougie Padilla’s work. Reservations at www.moderncafeminneapolis.com.
Fans of the Sunshine Factory (7600 42nd Av. N., New Hope, www.esunshinefactory.com), take note: The 38-year-old restaurant and bar will be turning out the lights for good on Nov. 17, and then inaugurating its new Plymouth home (4100 Vinewood Lane) on Nov. 21.
Follow Rick Nelson on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib