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Samuelsson hopes for similar raves here. Minneapolis, with its sizable Scandinavian population, seems like a no-brainer for an expansion-minded Swedish restaurant. But Swahn chose the city mainly for another reason.
"So many New York restaurateurs go to Miami's South Beach or Chicago or Los Angeles to expand," he said. "I felt that there was a niche for us here. San Francisco, for example, isn't much larger than Minneapolis, but it has so many more [high-end, fine-dining] restaurants. There are a number of good restaurants in downtown Minneapolis, but I feel that there can be more."
Swahn had planned to sign a lease for the LaSalle Plaza space that is now home to the Capital Grille. During negotiations, however, the building changed ownership and the deal fell through. Swahn's Minneapolis partner, Bob Hibbs, has an office in the IDS Tower and persuaded Swahn to look at the Crystal Court. Swahn fell in love with the space.
"I feel as if we are in the hub of the city," he said.
Both Swahn and Samuelsson plan to spend at least one week a month in Minneapolis. Another Swede, Roger Johnsson, 27, oversees the restaurant's day-to-day operations. The kitchen's staff of 20 includes a half-dozen Swedes, but don't expect to hear a lot of Svenska flying in the kitchen. English is definitely not Aquavit's second language.
"We're in America now," said Samuelsson. "I want our staff to see how we do things in America. That's why they're here."