One of the Twin Cities’ most established chefs is opening a fish market and seafood restaurant in Lowertown this fall.

Tim McKee, the mastermind behind the now-closed La Belle Vie and other local restaurants, will take over part of the former Heartland space this weekend with plans for a major, multi-faceted project that will be his biggest yet.  

Market House Collaborative will be composed of a yet-to-be-named seafood restaurant, a butchery, a bakery and a fish market. McKee said he began looking at the 12,000-square-foot space in the Market House building earlier this year, around the time he jumped on board with the Fish Guys, a seafood supplier to many restaurants in town. Heartland closed after 10 years on Dec. 31 of last year.

There are two separate bi-level spaces, totaling an additional 7,000 square feet, that are still available for lease or sale, said former Heartland chef Lenny Russo, who still owns the building along with his wife Mega Hoehn and partner Kris Marita. 

“Maybe there was some head scratching of why is Tim going to the Fish Guys,” McKee said. “And maybe now there are some answers.”

Predictably, this fish market will be somewhat distinct from other options in the area. McKee will focus on unique and sustainable offerings not easily found in the market otherwise.

“If you’re a consumer in the Twin Cities and you want to buy razor clams, you’re out of luck,” he said. “That’s an opportunity. I think the more quality options we have, the better off we are.”

As for the argument that the Midwest simply can’t get fresh fish?

“That’s craziness,” he said. “We’re at the airport with Fish Guys three times a day and many times we’re getting as fresh if not fresher seafood than you can get on the coasts.

“It all depends on how it’s handled. In the modern age, there’s no difference between the seafood you can get in Boston and the seafood you can get in Denver."

McKee declined to name the butcher and baker he’s working with for roles in the space because the contracts are still being finalized. There is room for the Market House Collaborative to eventually grow to encompass other elements, but McKee is capping it at four for now.

As for the restaurant, McKee said he has a tentative concept but shared only that it will be “seafood-forward” and reflect the options at the market.

“It’s going to be solidly casual,” he said. “It’s not going to be La Belle Vie Fish. It’s going to be accessible.”

The plan is for the market, restaurant, butchery and bakery to open simultaneously, sometime in early October, McKee said.

“The space is beautiful, there’s not a lot we want to do with it,” McKee said. “We need to get some spaces set up for the retail market, make some cosmetic adjustments to the restaurant and we are good to go.”

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