Restaurant news: Changes at Travail, closings

  • Updated: March 27, 2013 - 5:34 PM

Mike Brown pushes the cotton candy carrot soup out to be served in the Travail kitchen. The Travail crew with owners, Bob Gerken, Mike Brown and James Winberg are part a new chef series we are starting in the taste section. [ TOM WALLACE • twallace@startribune.com _ Assignments # 20021974A_ February 15, 2011_ SLUG: Travail0223_ EXTRA INFORMATION:bestmn2012 bestmn2012

Pizza, Travail-style

The original expansion plan at Travail Kitchen and Amusements (4154 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131) is in flux. The previously announced program is proceeding as scheduled, but now chefs/co-owners Mike Brown, James Winberg and Bob Gerken have decided to launch another project.

They’re converting the current Travail real estate into a casual pizza- and charcuterie-focused enterprise they’re calling, yes, Pig Ate My Pizza.

Thanks to this new wrinkle, Travail is set to go on a summer-long hiatus April 6.

Approximately four busy weeks of construction later, Pig Ate My Pizza — which will serve lunch and dinner daily — should open in early May. Travail vets Travis Stanfield and Matt Brown will be running the show at Pig.

So, why pizza? “Because we’re fat, and we love pizza,” said Mike Brown with a laugh. “But think about it. Everyone loves pizza, and I know that that makes me sound silly, but come on, everyone loves pizza.”

Menu-wise, “it’s going to be very heavy charcuterie-driven,” said Brown. Translation: Roughly two-thirds of the menu will be devoted to an ever-changing (this is improvisation-loving Travail, after all) array of pork-driven items (that explains the “Pig” part of Pig Ate My Pizza).

On the pizza side, expect eight or 10 constantly evolving varieties (pan skillet brioche deep-dish, anyone?), most based on the Neapolitan model.

“We’ll have simple pizzas, sure, but we also want to step outside the boundaries in some ways,” said Brown. “We’re going to try and keep it fresh, otherwise you start to lose your mind, making the same pizzas all day, every day.”

Meanwhile, construction is scheduled to begin in May on Travail’s successor. Brown estimates that the new building, located three doors south of the restaurant’s current location, will debut in September. Travail 2.0’s square footage will include a 50-seat restaurant, along with a casual, tapas-style cafe (with $2-$6 small plate items) and cocktail bar that’s to be called the Rookery and will be run by another pair of Travail talents, Kale Thome and Adrian de los Rios.

The downside to all of these positive developments is that Twin Cities diners are going to look back on spring and summer 2013 as the depressing period when they had to cold-turkey on Travail. No envelope-pushing, zillion-course tasting menus between early April and September? Well, maybe not entirely.

“We’ve been seriously talking about doing a little pop-up here and there,” said Brown. Right now the idea is to offer small, sporadic events, at venues to be determined, where Brown, Winberg, Gerken & Co. could test-drive some of the ideas they have planned for their new-and-improved setup.

“I think it would be totally awesome to single out 30 or so people on Facebook and tell them we want to blow their minds with some of the things that we have going through our heads,” said Brown. “You know, sell tickets to a select group of people and ask them what they think of what we’ve got in mind.”

For more on Travail, go to Startribune.com/tabletalk.

 

Closings

Joe’s Garage, the rooftop pioneer on Harmon Place in downtown Minneapolis, has closed.

Meanwhile, after just eight months in business, Primebar quietly pulled the plug on its Calhoun Square location, which was formerly home to Il Gatto and, before that, Figlio.

RICK NELSON

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