A pack of exciting new restaurants — from casual cafes to high-end eateries to Dunkin’ Donuts — are set to open in the Twin Cities in the next three months.
At the top of the list is the top-to-bottom reinvention of four-star Restaurant Alma (528 University Av. SE., Mpls., 612-379-4909). When chef/owner Alex Roberts purchased the building that houses his 17-year-old restaurant, he took several years to come up with a plan.
And what a plan, one that adds a seven-room inn and a casual all-day cafe while enlarging and refurbishing the restaurant’s kitchens and dining room.
“We’re trying to expose and retain as much original material as possible,” said Roberts, pointing out brick, concrete, structural steel and wood in the 110-year-old building. “It’s simple materials, used in thoughtful ways.”
The cafe, with its long brass-topped bar, gleaming white tiles and alderwood accents, will debut on Nov. 11. Mornings will begin with counter-service coffee and pastries before moving into prepared fare in daytime (“We’re getting away from ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’ menus,” said Roberts) and evening menus. The cafe will offer beer, wine and cocktails, too. The inn will also open for business on Nov. 11, and the restaurant will follow about two weeks later.
The Walker Art Center is returning its entrance to Vineland Place with a glass-walled entry pavilion (designed by the Minneapolis architectural firm HGA) that includes the ultimate in welcome mat salutations: a front-and-center restaurant and bar called Esker Grove (1750 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.).
The museum is backing up sharp design with savvy partnerships. Culinaire, which also operates Sea Change at the Guthrie Theater and Fika at the American Swedish Institute, will operate Esker Grove, and top chef Doug Flicker (Piccolo, Sandcastle) will run the kitchen.
Flicker is promising a “vegetable-forward” menu at dinner, with a soup-salad-sandwich lunch menu, served counter-style, plus weekend brunch. A separate bar menu, too.
“We’ll do different things at different times of the day,” said Flicker. “It’s an amazing venue, and I’m super-excited.”
Also in the mix: a 60-seat patio that will surely develop into an Instagram hot spot, thanks to its spectacular views of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and downtown skyline.
The award for Most Promising Out-of-Town Recruit belongs to Tullibee (300 Washington Av. N., Mpls.), the Nordic restaurant inside the opening-in-November Hewing Hotel.
The new hire is chef Grae Nonas. The native New Englander graced the cover of Food & Wine magazine’s 2015 Best New Chefs issue — recognition from his work at Olamaie in Austin, Texas, which also earned him two James Beard Foundation award nominations. Expect to see Nonas make full use of the restaurant’s open hearth and wood-burning oven at breakfast, lunch and dinner. As for the name, the tullibee (also known as the cisco) is a fish that thrives in chilly Minnesota waters. Look for it on the menu.
Just up the street, another out-of-towner — well, sort of — is hoping to make a major splash. He’s Todd Macdonald. He spent years cooking in kitchens of distinction in Boston and New York City before returning to his hometown to open the short-lived Parella.
Now he’s working for Red Cow magnate Luke Shimp to convert a former auto repair shop into Red Rabbit (201 Washington Av. N., Mpls.), which will serve pizzas, pastas, bruschettas, oysters and a few shareable entrees, in a 125-seat dining room and a 60-seat, greenhouse-like patio.
“The restaurant is definitely going to be neighborhood casual,” said Shimp. “The kind of place where you could go for dinner two or three times a week.” A mid-December opening is planned.
Italian, Mexican and more
Across the river in northeast Minneapolis, Young Joni (165 13th Av. NE., Mpls.) is gearing up for its late November/early December opening.
Co-owners Ann Kim and Conrad Leifur are promising the same superb pizza dough (baked in an identical cooper-clad oven) used at their uber-popular Pizzeria Lola, “but we’ll try other creative, fun and interesting pizzas,” said Kim. “Pizza is my wheelhouse.”
They’ll also deploy a wood-fired grill, cooking a wide assortment of shareable plates with Korean influences. Adam Gorski, who most recently reigned over the La Belle Vie lounge, will be the man behind the cocktail program in a pair of bars; look for four signature cocktails on tap.
The Blue Plate Restaurant Co. (Highland Grill, Freehouse, 3 Squares and more) is having a busy autumn. Co-owners Stephanie Shimp and David Burley are gearing up to launch Mercury (505 Marquette Av. S., Mpls.).
“The stove turns on, the paint is dry, and we’re starting orientation,” said Shimp.
The breakfast-lunch-dinner operation is taking over the 5th-and-Marquette space most recently occupied by Brasserie Zentral.
“It’s going to be a neighborhood place,” said Shimp. “Not a food truck, and not $50. Downtown doesn’t have much in the middle, and that’s what we do, really well.”
Opening date: “The last week of October,” said Shimp. That will be followed, three weeks later, by the opening of Shindig, a private events space that’s adjacent to Mercury, in the former home of Foreign Legion.
Also on the docket: Bottle Rocket (1806 St. Clair Av., St. Paul), replacing Blue Plate’s former Scusi. When it opens in mid-November, the neighborhood restaurant will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week, along with weekend breakfast. The bar has ramped up to a full liquor license that will focus on craft cocktails prepared with locally distilled spirits.
St. Paulites will soon see their own outlet of Revival (525 Selby Av., St. Paul), the fried chicken palace operated by Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone, the duo behind Corner Table. It’s opening in the former Cheeky Monkey space in late October/early November, and will have roughly three times as many seats as its packed-to-the-rafters Minneapolis counterpart.
Fitzgerald’s (173 N. Western Av., St. Paul), the remake of the short-lived Salt Cellar, will relaunch in mid-October, serving gastropub fare at lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
And talented chefs Stephan Hesse (Libertine) and Tyge Nelson (Chino Latino) are removing all traces of German fare from the former Glockenspiel space and replacing it with what they’re billing as a “refined Mexican bistro.” They’re calling it Pajarito (605 W. 7th St.), and it’s set to open in mid-November.
On the subject of Mexican, Sushi Fix chef/owner Enkhbileg “Billy” Tserenbat plans to channel sushi-grade seafood into fish tacos, grilled fish and other delights at Baja Haus (830 E. Lake St., Wayzata), in early January. Lots of tequila, too.
On the concourse
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is undergoing a major transformation driven by an impressive fraternity of local restaurateurs.
October will see the debut of Republic (the Minneapolis gastropub), LoLo American Kitchen (Stillwater’s Main Street gathering spot), Stone Arch (a Minnesota craft beer bar and eatery from Barrio and Eastside restaurateur Ryan Burnet, in conjunction with the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild) and Angel Food Bakery (a downtown Minneapolis maker of doughnuts and other sugar-fueled goodies).
What’s looking as if it might be the Twin Cities’ first Dunkin’ Donuts outlet will materialize in December, along with a few other new-to-town chains, including Roasting Plant (high-end coffee) and Vino Volo (a wine bar). More will come, starting in March 2017.
Day trippers, listen up: Plan to make the two-hour drive to La Crosse, often, when Lovechild (300 3rd St., La Crosse, Wis.) opens in December. It’s the work of longtime D’Amico & Partners honchos Jay Sparks and Joan Ferris.
Meanwhile, Oct. 12 is the day that Field Day by Good Earth (12401 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka, 952-244-0363) launches at Ridgedale. The counter-service operation will borrow from rather than be a carbon copy of its Good Earth siblings, offering salads, sandwiches/wraps and grain bowls, all in the $8 to $10 range, plus beer and wine as well as signature Good Earth teas and apple-sweetened kale/ginger lemonade.
Will other outlets follow? Stay tuned.