Brian Ingram, New Bohemia chief operating officer and longtime restaurateur, believes that in 2017, if people can Instagram it, they’ll come.
So when he saw that the sprawling, under-construction space attached to his newest New Bohemia location was up for grabs, he jumped, with the idea of creating a social-media-targeted palace of food and drink.
Seventh Street Truck Park (truckparkusa.com) — a slight tweak from the original name of Seventh Street Truckyard — debuted at 214 W. 7th St. in St. Paul last weekend to standing-room-only crowds, and is already cropping up on iPhone apps across the Twin Cities.
“Everything you can do here is an Instagrammable moment,” said Ingram, who owns all seven New Bohemia locations and, over his career, has opened restaurants in all 50 states. “And we really designed it that way. We wanted it to be a social media check-in.”
These days, that often means finding a flair for the outrageous — a characteristic that Truck Park certainly embraces.
The $1.5 million, 8,000-square-foot space houses a central bar and six trucks: another bar, an ice cream shop, a pizza shop, a taco shop, a stage and a chicken-and-ribs destination. But the offerings get wackier from there. Think Kool-Aid cocktails, 40-ounce beers in paper bags, rattlesnake and rabbit pizza and 20-pound ice cream sandwiches — the latter for a cool $99.
Of course, more traditional-sounding fare, such as pork carnitas tacos, fried chicken and sausage-and-peppers pizza, is available, as are gluten-free pizza crusts.
“It’s a fine line because you don’t want to be too kitschy,” Ingram said. “That’s why, for me, having authentic food trucks [and not food truck cutouts as some other spaces have] was so important.”
Adopting the tagline “the great indoors,” Truck Park boasts State Fair-esque games: a gambling wheel, ring toss and basketball toss, among others. There are plans to host a number of events, including live music and stand-up comedy on the small stage, and celebrity chef pop-ups in the various trucks.
Oh, and Ingram — whose New Bohemia won the Nation’s Restaurant News’ “hottest concept” in the country award for this year — is already eyeing expansion. His bid for the Tin Fish (3000 E. Calhoun Pkwy., Mpls. tinfishmn.com) location at Lake Calhoun, which recently announced that it will close after this season, is one of three finalists. He’s already gotten clearance to enlarge the footprint of the space if he is awarded the lease.
“This [Truck Park] has gotten more PR than any restaurant I’ve ever done,” he said. “And I’ve done hundreds. People want to be somewhere hip and cool, and these days you have to give them that.”