The French accent is getting the au revoir treatment.
The Gallic remake of the Town Talk Diner — Le Town Talk French Diner & Drinkery — is calling it quits after this Sunday’s brunch service.
But the landmark Lake Street diner won't be dark for long. New owners (and spouses) Kacey White and Charles Stotts plan to reopen the place on July 1st under a new name: Town Talk Diner & Gastropub.
The couple met while working together in the kitchen of an Arizona restaurant. Their goal was to move back to the Twin Cities (Stotts is a Bloomington native) and open a restaurant. As it often does, serendipity intervened. They got to talking to a friend about their plans and that pal also happened to be acquainted with Le Town Talk co-owners Emilie Cellai Johnson and Ben Johnson. One thing led to another: a conversation, then a meeting.
“I thought I was going to be talking to Emilie about helping at the restaurant, and I went prepared for almost a job interview,” said Stotts. “But she was talking about selling the restaurant. Now, a few months later, here we are the finish line.”
The restaurant’s setup will remain: a 15-seat bar in the original diner, an adjacent 90-seat dining room and a 30-seat sidewalk cafe. Rest assured, the Town Talk's fizzy sign, a Lake Street beacon, isn't going anywhere.
“We’re going to take advantage of that big, historic sign,” said Stotts. “It’s going to be a little modern American eatery set in a historic Twin Cities diner. We’re going to keep it clean, refined, and approachable.”
Translation? They'll be changing the seasonal, farm-to-table menu frequently to take advantage of ingredients available at their peak.
“At the restaurant where we met in Arizona, we changed the menu every day, or every other day,” said Stotts. “We fell in love with that freedom, for lack of a better word, to utilize the very best ingredients that we have at that moment.”
White added that the menu might occasionally include classic diner fare.
“But with a modern element,” she said. “You won't see a signature dish, that's not our style. We’ll have a burger on the menu, sure, because it’s a diner. But every day? Probably not."
The bar program will also get an upgrade. “Obviously that location has been known as the spot where a lot of local mixologists came from in the early 2000s,” said White. “So there’s definitely a lot of potential there.”
Both Stotts and White will be cooking. “One our biggest downfalls is that we’re both workaholics,” said Stotts with a laugh. “It’s going to be hard to get us out of the kitchen.”
Service will begin with dinner (and a late-night menu) Monday through Saturday, and brunch Sunday.
Johnson and Cellai Johnson (a native of Marseille, France) revived the Town Talk in September 2014, after it sat, unoccupied, for three dreary years.
“The whole experience has been a blast,” said Cellai Johnson. “I’ve really loved it. I love the neighborhood, I love the customers. I’ve learned a lot, and I don’t regret a thing. I’m happy that we brought this space alive, because it was vacant for so long.”
Cellai Johnson added that the sale will allow them to move on and tackle other projects. Just exactly where they are, she can’t quite say, at least not yet. Well, there is one detail that’s readily apparent: the couple are expecting their second child next month.
The Town Talk’s stainless steel-trimmed space dates to 1946 (that's a 1954 photo, above, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society). It closed in 2002 and remained dark until a trio of restaurateurs — including Tim Niver of the Strip Club — flipped the switch on that iconic marquee in 2006, using the diner as a bar and creating a dining room in an adjacent storefront. The Theros Restaurant Group (St. Clair Broiler, Rudolphs) took over in 2008 and closed it three years later.
“The sale is a happy thing,” said Cellai Johnson. “They’re a really nice couple. It’s good that they’re keeping the dream alive with this beautiful space.”