Counterintelligence: Travail, Zen Box Izakaya, Butcher & the Boar

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2013 - 3:23 PM
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Fine dining at Travail.

Photo: Tom Wallace, Star Tribune

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Zero to $75K in 6 hours

It may be a crowdfunding record, at least locally.

As a means to close a funding gap on their new, under-construction location, the ownership team at Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale put up a plea on Kickstarter on Tuesday.

They exceeded their $75,000 goal in about the same amount of time it takes to consume one of the restaurant’s over-the-top tasting menus. It’s a startling feat but not entirely surprising, given Travail’s (justifiably) rabid following.

The campaign is titled “Democratizing Fine Dining in Robbinsdale, MN,” and it promises all kinds of bells and whistles for contributors: cooking classes, preview events, a your-name-here spot on a benefactor’s wall.

One of the more inspired rewards is cheekily stepping into St. Paul firefighter territory: Travail’s “2014 Sexy Chef Calendar,” which will be released just before the holidays.

Like Travail itself, the online effort turned out to be wildly creative, wholly impressive and instantly successful.

But one quibble: One of the campaign’s primary bonuses allows contributors at certain levels ($250 and up) to jump to the head of the line at the no-reservations restaurant.

That’s a valuable asset — just ask anyone who has stood for several hours outside the restaurant, waiting for a table. But from this 99 percenter’s vantage point, such a perk seems to run counter to the campaign’s “democratizing” promise.

Co-owners James Winberg, Bob Gerken, Kale Thome and Mike Brown are hoping for a quiet opening in December. Meanwhile, the crew’s temporary Asian restaurant, Umami by Travail (904 W. Broadway, Mpls.), is getting ready to open next week.

 

Hit the street

The summer’s run of fun restaurant-related block parties is showing no sign of abating.

The latest is Ramen Attack! at Zen Box Izakaya (602 Washington Av. S., Mpls., www.zenboxizakaya.com).

From noon to 5 p.m. on Sept. 29, the restaurant is celebrating its second anniversary with a ramen tasting, prepared by guest chefs Mihoko Obunai (he of “Chopped”), Shige Nakamura of sponsor Sun Noodles and the restaurant’s John Ng, preparing ramen Atlanta-style, New York City-style and Minneapolis-style.

Surly Brewing Co. will be tapping a pair of favorites, musicians from Mu Performing Arts will be playing taiko drums, and more.

Then there’s BoarFest. The third-annual shindig at Butcher & the Boar (1121 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., www.butcherandtheboard.com) is scheduled for Oct. 6, from noon to 10 p.m.

The menu will feature sausages (including a maple-bourbon-wild boar version), grilled and chilled oysters, Fulton Brewery beers, live music and more.

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