Two restaurants -- Nightingale and the Lynn -- will make homes from fire-ravaged corners in Minneapolis. Plus, the popularity of cupcakes continues, and news and notes around town.
A burned-out superette on Lyndale Avenue at 26th Street in south Minneapolis is on its way to becoming a cocktails-and-small plates venue called Nightingale.
It’s a husband-wife effort: Carrie McCabe-Johnston, who cooked and baked at Restaurant Alma before moving to Brasa as the restaurant’s pastry chef and then front-of-house manager, is the chef, and Jasha Johnston, a familiar face behind the bar at Mortimer’s, is running the cocktail side of things.
“This is something that we’ve wanted to do for a million years,” said McCabe-Johnston. “It’s the right space at the right time, and we decided to go for it.”
In her 75-seat dining room, McCabe-Johnston is promising “sophisticated small plates,” ranging from bar snacks, grilled bruschettas and eight to 10 seasonally minded dishes, along with neighborhood pleasers such as burgers, onion rings, salads, oysters, and a daily meat and cheese plate.
“We’re focusing on the social aspect of going out,” she said. “It will be everything I love to see in a restaurant and wish we had more of here.” As for cocktails — pending liquor license approval — the plan is to focus on classics and a short list of staff-created libations.
Rachel Kate Hunt of the Rachel Kate Design Inc. (and famously a competitor on the most recent iteration of HGTV’s “Design Star”) is driving Nightingale’s look. “We’re starting from scratch,” she said. “It’s a hidden little gem, with awesome bones.” She describes the open-plan dining room and bar as “sophisticated and nighttime-y, with a kind of a private feel. We’re going to let the materials — brushed brass, dark woods and exposed brick — be the design feature.”
The couple are aiming for a September opening. As for the Nightingale name, “I wish that there was some lovely story behind it, but there isn’t,” said McCabe-Johnston with a laugh. “My husband and I were running through words, and I said it, and we both thought that it sounded like our place. My mother-in-law is a nurse, so she thinks it’s an homage to her. I’ll give her that.”
Patina’s new neighbor
The last available berth in the building that has risen from the fire-ravaged corner of 50th Street and Bryant Avenue S. in southwest Minneapolis has been filled. Say hello to the Lynn.
Co-owners Peter Ireland (he’ll be doing the cooking) and Jay Peterson (he’s going to run the front of the house) met while volunteering at the Rock Star Supply Co., which trains tutors and connects them with high school teachers. Their friendship blossomed into a business partnership.
Peterson has spent the past 11 years managing Magers & Quinn, the Uptown bookstore. Ireland, a New England transplant with a restaurant résumé a mile long, has spent the past two years working for Great Ciao, the Minneapolis fancy-foods purveyor.
“The Twin Cities has an amazing and convivial community of cooks and chefs,” he said. “That was my sense when I arrived here, and it was confirmed when I announced that I was leaving Great Ciao, because there was this incredible outpouring of support.”
Ireland has a great affection for neighborhood restaurants. His last venture was a Vermont special-event destination that he transitioned away from its formal, once-a-year roots. “Local restaurants are a much stronger business model,” he said. “But they’re also a much more fulfilling business, because you really get to know people and create relationships.”
So far, feedback from the surrounding Lynnhurst neighborhood has been encouraging, particularly following an open house during a recent block party. “They want us to be open yesterday,” said Peterson. “That enthusiasm is really impressive and heartwarming.”
As for the food, “the casual French bistro encompasses and encapsulates what we’re going to do,” said Ireland. The plan is to move from light breakfast (and weekend brunch) to lunch and dinner, along with a takeaway component. “We’ll offer some variation on ready to eat or reheat meals, every day,” said Ireland. “You’ll be able to order over the phone or online and we’ll get it ready for pickup.”
Beer and wine, too. “One of the first pieces of feedback we got from the neighborhood is that everyone wanted wine and coffee,” said Ireland. But no cocktails. “The neighborhood prefers that we shut down around 9 or 10 at night, so a wine and beer license is just fine,” said Peterson. “I’m certainly not opposed to being home by 11:30 myself.”
The 50-seat restaurant — located next door to Patina and around the corner from the recently opened George & the Dragon pub — is being designed by Peterssen/Keller, the Minneapolis architecture firm. “It’s going to be a bright, crisp space,” said Peterson. “We hope it’s going to have an open, welcoming feeling, particularly in the winter months. Who wants to go into something dark and dreary and cave-like?”