A soon-to-open downtown St. Paul restaurant has a name most Minnesotans will recognize and maybe chuckle at:
Gray Duck Tavern.
Yes, that’s an homage to the childhood game Duck, Duck, Gray Duck (which of course in every other state of the union is called Duck, Duck, Goose).
From there, though, the playfulness veers in a decidedly un-Minnesotan direction.
Chef Don Gonzalez, who took a break from the restaurant scene to work in development at Taher, Inc. after seven years at the helm of Forepaugh’s in St. Paul, will run the kitchen at Gray Duck in the historic Lowry Building at 345 Wabasha Street (pictured above, courtesy of Gray Duck's Facebook page).
“I had kids and I was at the point where I wanted to see what having nights and weekends off would be like,” said Gonzalez of the restaurant break. “But I just missed cooking. It’s a beautiful thing. I missed that team environment.”
A California native who has traveled the world, Gonzalez’ vision for the restaurant reflects those wide-ranging experiences, with a globally inspired comfort food menu in the making.
Expect a host of carved meats at dinner time such as prime rib, a Singapore broil and Cuban pork lechon with bitter orange and mojo sauce – which will be repurposed into sandwiches for lunch – as well as a lot of family-style plates and handmade pasta. There might be a coconut curry, Asian noodle bowls and falafel. A preview at Lowertown’s Green Lantern this week also featured samosas, Thai chicken wings and savory-sweet elote corn soup.
“America is a melting pot of flavors, techniques and people,” Gonzalez said. “So it would be a shame to be limited by just a single genre.
“It’s who I am, so it’s hard not to think in those terms,” he added. “I like to eat the world’s food, not just what’s in our neighborhood.”
Look for a late-May debut for the restaurant, which is a project of Madison Restaurant Group.