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Continued: Restaurant year in review

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 26, 2013 - 10:15 AM




Other significant closings include Biella, D’Amico Kitchen, El Mesón, Enjoy!, In Season, Kinsen Noodles & Bar, Joe’s Garage, Mezzanine, Nectar Wine Bar & Bistro, Tiger Sushi (Lyn-Lake), True Thai and Uchu.

These guys never stop. Thank goodness.

It felt as if 2013 was the year that Mike Brown, Bob Gerken and James Winberg, the boundlessly energetic cooking triumvirate behind Travail Kitchen and Amusements, made news every time they turned on the stove. First they announced an ambitious new home for their downtown Robbinsdale hot spot (and, true to their hands-on nature, they’re handling much of the construction themselves). Then the trio closed said hot spot and quickly reconfigured it into Pig Ate My Pizza, showing Twin Citians that there is indeed more life to this familiar genre. Lots more life, in fact. Then, while construction commenced on their new place — which will include a drop-in neighborhood cafe and bar called the Rookery — they started conducting pop-up events in the kitchens of their friends’ restaurants. Their hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show attitude culminated in Umami by Travail, a short-lived (roughly three months) Asian-inspired effort in a hastily converted former fried chicken fast-food outlet. In their spare time, the social media savants also managed to make Kickstarter history, raising $255,669 from 1,090 backers (and exceeding their goal by nearly $181,000). Another fundraiser — the “2014 Sexy Chef Calendar ($20, available at — is sure to be a talker. Travail 2.0 opens in early January.



More on Kickstarter

Travail wasn’t the only one to find success on the crowdsourcing circuit. Birchwood Cafe raised $112,126 from 980 backers. The Rabbit Hole received $15,521 from 176 supporters. Chris and Danielle Bjorling don’t have a site for their Copper Hen Cakery but managed to raise $11,893 from 199 followers. With these kinds of numbers, this brand of fundraising will only increase.



Seeing double, triple, quadruple and more

A sign that the economy has rebounded? The number of restaurateurs who expanded their portfolios.

Pizzeria Lola owner Ann Kim got into the slice shop business with Hello Pizza. Amore Victoria chef/owner Alejandro Victoria turned to favorites from his mother’s Mexican kitchen with Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar. Cafe Ena chef Hector Ruiz closed his El Mesón but opened a tapas bar, RincÓn 38, and is this close to launching a burgers-and-malts comfort food joint called La Fresca.

Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard took their Left Handed Cook to the next level. Earlier this month they closed their must-visit counter at the Midtown Global Market, just a few weeks after opening the Rabbit Hole, their Korean gastropub, in a nearby spot in the MGM, with plans to revive the Left Handed Cook as a lunch-only restaurant-within-a-restaurant.

Raise your black ale stout: The Blue Plate Restaurant Co. (Highland Grill, Scusi, the Lowry, etc.) jumped into the craft beer craze, big time, with the Freehouse, their own breakfast-lunch-dinner-late night brewpub.

The Nova Restaurant Group — the company behind the Hazellewood Grill and Tap Room and several Rochester properties — injected some much-needed life into a tired Eden Prairie strip mall with Tavern 4 & 5.

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