Restaurateurs and spouses Danielle and Chris Bjorling have a lot on their plate.
In the next few months, the owners of Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen on Minneapolis’ Eat Street are launching two restaurants.
The first, Gray Fox Coffee & Wine Bar, is nearing completion on the first floor of the atrium of the former TCF Tower — now 801 Marquette — in downtown Minneapolis.
“We were approached by the building management to open a coffee shop/wine bar that’s open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.,” said Danielle Bjorling. “We decided, ‘We love Starbucks, so let’s take that concept, and make it better.’”
(Kudos to building owners Franklin Street Properties for tapping local entrepreneurs to activate this long-dormant asset; Hot Indian Foods opened in May on the building’s skyway level).
Breakfast will include sandwiches and colorful smoothie bowls (“packed with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds,” said Danielle Bjorling), plus doughnuts from Cardigan Donuts. Lunch will feature hot and cold sandwiches, salads and the Copper Hen’s exceptional chocolate chip cookies. The plan for happy hour is to offer flatbreads as well as variations on cheese, fruit and chocolate boards for pairing with wines and beers.
“Nice stuff for sipping and munching,” said Danielle Bjorling.
Diners will order at a gleaming, copper-topped counter, and the restaurant's seating area will occupy roughly half of the sunny atrium. But there will also be a dark and cozy bar, its walls lined in charred wood done in the Japanese Shou Sugi Ban style, its seats cushioned in black velvet.
“We’re trying to create this cozy atmosphere in what is otherwise an incredibly bright space,” said Danielle Bjorling. “We’re just a few weeks from opening.”
Meanwhile, construction continues on the Copper Cow (pictured, above), the couple’s transformation of a suburban Dairy Queen into a burgers-and-fries destination. There will also be shakes, both kid-friendly and boozy.
“It’s coming along, slowly but surely,” said Danielle Bjorling. “We’ve totally gutted the interior, raised the roof on one side of the building and turned the basement into a kitchen.”
The Bjorlings (shown above in a 2016 Star Tribune file photo in the dining room at the Copper Hen) are aiming for a late September-early October opening.
They’re also not ignoring the Copper Hen, expanding their 4-year-old flagship restaurant into an adjacent space to create a private dining room — with a bar — that can also double as overflow dining space.
“Why have one restaurant project going on, when you can have three?” said Danielle Bjorling with a laugh.
The new square footage also includes an additional restroom. It's an opportunity for Danielle Bjorling to take on yet another entry in the Twin Cities dining scene’s ever-escalating Cool Restaurant Restrooms competition.
“Our bathrooms at the Copper Hen are wallpapered with pages from a farmers’ almanac," she said. "For this bathroom, I'm covering the walls in 1,100 recipe cards that were handwritten by a sweet old lady. I found them on eBay.”