For Fitger's, Minneapolis is out, and Canal Park is in

  • Article by: BY RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 14, 2012 - 12:50 PM

Also: The winners of the second annual Charlie Awards.

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Fitger’s Brewhouse just bought Canal Park’s historic Endion Station, and will open another location in spring.

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A disappointing turn of events for Minneapolis' North Loop neighborhood is offset by encouraging news for Duluth.

Last June, Fitger's Brewhouse co-owners Rod Raymond and Tim Nelson announced their intention to convert the long-shuttered Trocaderos nightclub and restaurant (107 3rd Av. N., Minneapolis) into a brewpub and music venue. Those plans have been scuttled.

"We had a purchase agreement, but in the end we've decided not to exercise it," said Brad Nelson, spokesman for Fitger's parent company, Just Take Action. One reason: the building's enormous footprint. "That made the scope of the project really big," said Nelson. "Being out of town only made the project more difficult for us."

Another reason: The company has added another venue to its growing list of Duluth enterprises (which includes Burrito Union and Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery). It just acquired, in a city-run auction, the historic Endion Station building in Canal Park, Duluth's tourism epicenter.

Plans for the building -- an 1899 Richardsonian Romanesque beauty -- aren't entirely clear, but pending city approval, Nelson said the hope is to reprogram the former train depot into a seasonal destination for beer lovers, catering to the many pedestrians and bikers who pass the building on the popular Lakewalk. A limited food menu is also a possibility. Nelson said the target opening is sometime next spring.

There's a bit of critical mass in play, too: The building is two doors down from the soon-to-open Canal Park Brewing Co., an ambitious craft beer operation and restaurant scheduled to open this month.

The company has big plans for the former automotive showroom that it owns on the ever-improving E. Superior Street, across from the soon-to-be-renovated NorShor Theatre: converting the street level into a production facility. With luck, construction will start in 2013.

"We're out of capacity to expand at Fitger's," said Nelson. "We just can't keep up with supply, beer-wise, and that's a good problem to have."

And the winners are ...

The second Charlie Awards, recognizing excellence in the Twin Cities restaurant industry, were held Sunday at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis.

Congratulations to the winners, including:

Tilia (Outstanding Restaurant), Doug Flicker of Piccolo (Outstanding Chef), Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart (Outstanding Pastry Chef), Birk Gruden and Christina Nguyen of Hola Arepa (Emerging Food Professional) and Johnny Michaels of La Belle Vie (Outstanding Bartender).

Outstanding Achievement went to Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market. Brenda Langton of Spoonriver was named Community Hero, and Randy Stanley of the Uptown Restaurant Taskforce was crowned Local Do-Gooder.

Meritage took the Outstanding Restaurant Service honors, and the Bachelor Farmer won Outstanding Restaurant Design (complete list at www.charliesexceptionale.com).

Winners are selected by voting among participating restaurants. The awards are named in honor of the legendary Charlie's Cafe Exceptionale, which closed in 1982 after a 49-year run.

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