Further confirmation that Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis is fast becoming a culinary destination is the news that pals Lorin Zinter and Jim Christiansen are converting a former laundromat and breakfast joint into Heyday.
As little as six months ago, the property, on the southwest corner of Lyndale and 27th Street, was being eyed as a location for a Trader Joe’s. That proposal fell through, and now the somewhat down-on-its-fortunes structure is getting a thorough makeover, inside and out.
“It’s essentially going to be a new building when it’s finished,” said Zinter. "It's being gutted down to the studs."
The plan, more or less, is that the laundromat side of the building will house the full-service bar, and the footprint of the former Sunny Side-Up Cafe will house the Heyday dining room. “It’s probably going to be 40 percent bar and 60 percent restaurant,” said Zinter. “It’ll be a spot where you can drop in a few nights a week, or for a special occasion.”
Christiansen and Zinter have been scouting sites for nearly three years for their long-planned collaboration. “Oh god, I can’t even begin to count the number of places we looked at,” said Zinter. “Dozens and dozens.”
The duo met in that great Groveland Avenue talent incubator known as La Belle Vie. Zinter (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo) was in the front of the house and Christiansen (pictured, below, on the rooftop at Union) was in the kitchen when the four-star restaurant made the move from Stillwater to Minneapolis in 2005.
When La Belle Vie chef Tim McKee was tapped to reinvent the Guthrie Theater’s ground-floor restaurant in 2009, creating Sea Change, both Zinter and Christiansen were recruited to play a major role in getting that ambitious venture off the ground.
Zinter is now working as the food and beverage director at the Minneapolis Club, and Christiansen just left his position as executive chef at Union.
No specifics on the food, yet – Heyday isn’t set to open until early December – but Zinter said that the menu will be determined by “what Jim is inspired by at the moment,” he said. “I’m just excited to help Jim showcase what he does so well.”
After a rough and seemingly endless spell of light-rail construction, which pushed dozens of restaurants, markets and other food-related businesses to the economic brink, it's great to see a restaurant opening on University Avenue in St. Paul.
Get ready to say hello to the Daily Diner Frogtown. When the doors open on April 15, the restaurant, which anchors the busy corner of Dale and University in the Frogtown Square project (pictured, above, in an image by Brad Person Photography), will serve breakfast and lunch daily, and dinner Monday through Saturday.
Chef Jason Koehn, a 20-year Champps Americana vet, is promising a menu of all-American favorites, with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and cooking traditions culled from what has to be one of the Twin Cities' most culturally diverse neighborhoods.
But this isn't your garden-variety restaurant-opening story. Along with feeding the neighborhood, the Daily Diner will also serve as an on-the-job-training and career-skills outreach project of the 111-year-old United Gospel Mission.
"To fully address the needs of homeless and struggling people in our community, we must overcome the obstacles that prevent people from being hired and keeping a job," said Mission executive director Ken Peterson in a statement. "The key to permanency in a chaged live is self-sufficiency. The extensive professional career training offered for Mission graduates at the Daily Diner provides that career bedrock."
The Mission hopes to initially train 25 to 30 people a year at the restaurant, preparing them for outside work in the hospitality industry. What a marvelous reason to make a habit of hash browns and eggs Benedict.
It's officially a trend, because another food truck is making the leap into a permanent restaurant.
This time around it’s Sushi Fix. Owner Enkhbileg (“Billy”) Tserenbat just signed a lease on the downtown Wayzata storefront that was most recently home to Black’s Ford (682 E. Lake St.).
“I’m so excited and happy that I don’t know where to begin,” he said.
The restaurant, scheduled for a January opening, will feature a 10-seat sushi bar and table seating for 25.
Tserenbat chose Wayzata because he already has a built-in customer base, created from private catering events in the area.
“I’m there all the time anyway, so now I won’t have to drive back and forth,” he said with a laugh. “And so many people know me in the area, and have given me such exceptionally great support.”
At first glance, Tserenbat’s story might fall under the Overnight Success category: He launched Sushi Fix earlier this summer -- the first in the Midwest -- and it quickly became a major crowd magnet on the Marquette Avenue food truck court in downtown Minneapolis.
But the tale stretches back several decades. He was born in Mongolia, and spent his teenage years in San Francisco. A classmate’s father owned a sushi bar, “and that’s where we hung out, and that’s where I decided that it would be cool to be a sushi chef,” he said. He moved to Minnesota nearly 12 years ago, becoming a familiar face among sushi aficianados at places ranging from Fuji Ya in Minneapolis to Yumi’s Sushi Bar in Excelsior.
Sushi Fix-ers know firsthand that Tserenbat is a stickler for quality and freshness (and not to worry, downtowners: he's keeping the truck). He sources his seafood directly from purveyors and markets in Hawaii and Japan, working his contacts every afternoon over the phone before placing his overnight order. His day starts with a 5:30 a.m. airport run, when he picks up his shipment, heads to his commercial kitchen in the Midtown Global Market, pulls out his knives and starts preparing that day’s menu.
“It has been an amazing journey,” he said. “When I came here, there weren’t very many people eating sushi, and now people are eating sushi out of a truck without hesitation. That’s an incredible thing.”
News from the Northland: Nokomis Restaurant & Bar in Duluth, a bright spot on that city's dining scene and a major culinary destination for Twin Cities tourists, is calling it quits.
“It has been a good run,” said chef/co-owner Sean Lewis (pictured, above). “I think we’ve made the culinary scene a little bit brighter. We had seven great years, and we’ve decided that it’s a good time to finish, and go out while we’re on top.”
Retirement -- for co-owners Sandy Lewis and Rondi Erickson, Lewis’ grandparents -- is the primary reason behind the closing. “They’ve got a personal bucket list that they’ve worked out,” said Sean Lewis. “They want to travel.”
The restaurant, a former supper club, is located on the old Lake Superior-hugging highway between Duluth and Two Harbors.
The dining room's lake views (pictured, above) are ridiculously scenic, and the restaurant’s warmly contemporary look is the work of its fourth partner, Jennifer Lewis, Sean’s spouse and an interior designer.
The closing will definitely have an adverse impact on the Duluth dining scene, at least from this critic's perspective; Lewis' adventurous and imaginative cooking has always been a reason to head north to Duluth.
“When we started, we saw a need for more of an upscale cuisine, with wines and service to match,” he said. “I think we’ve made a pretty good impact with both locals and non-locals.”
Agreed. Fortunately for Duluth diners, the Lewis family is staying put. Sean Lewis has already finalized his next venture, but isn’t ready to release specifics, only to say that it’s a project that’s going to require a major makeover.
"I love the area, and it's a great place to work," he said.
The good news is that Nokomis is going to keep cooking through Oct. 28th, giving Twin Citians an additional opportunity to head north for a fall colors appreciation visit.
“The leaves are at full peak right now,” said Lewis. “It’s gorgeous up here.”
The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner through Oct. 14, and then Wednesday through Sunday through lunch on the 28th. The adjacent wine shop is cutting prices by 20 percent on all bottles of wine, beer and Joia soda.
A popular Duluth institution is branching out to downtown Minneapolis.
Rod Raymond and Tim Nelson, co-owners of Duluth's landmark Fitger’s Brewhouse, are purchasing the historic North Loop building that last housed Trocaderos (107 3rd Av. N.) and plan to open a branch of their 19-year-old brewpub. “Our goal is to bring a taste of northern Minnesota to the heart of downtown Minneapolis,” said Raymond.
So far, not a lot of details, in part because the opening won't happen until late fall or early winter. “What we do know for sure is that it’s going to be a neighborhood place, like the Brewhouse,” said Raymond. "We're going to have some fun with it."
Fitger's Brewhouse co-owners Tim Nelson (left) and Rod Raymond.
The basic plan is to feature six to eight house-brewed ales, along with food and live music, in a dramatic setting; the brewery will be built around the former Trocaderos stage, and the roomy music listening room is going to be re-christened the Beer Hall. “We’re going to rock out right in the brewery,” said Raymond. “You’ll be able to hear an eclectic mix of music while you’re sipping one of our blueberry porters or our Starfire pale ale. It’s going to be great.”
One tiny hitch: The brewery won’t be up and running for the first six months of operations, thanks to the high demand -- and subsequent long waiting list -- for brewing equipment. Until then, the bar will import Fitger’s brewmaster Dave Hoops’ top-rated Duluth-made ales. “You can count on Dave Hoops to put out some pretty damned good beers,” said Raymond. “And we’re going to have guest taps of all the locally made beers that we love -- Summit, Fulton, Surly -- so we’ll be a full ale house when you get there.”
(In the Small World Department, Hoops' brother Michael Hoops is head brewer at Town Hall Brewery in Minneapolis).
Brewmaster Dave Hoops.
On the food side, there’s not a lot that has been figured out, although Raymond said they’ll offer many of the beer-friendly classics served in Duluth, including Fitger's famous wild rice burger.
“We’re also going to do pizzas,” said Raymond. “And we’re going to have to have some nice macaroni dishes.”
That’s because the building -- parts of which date to 1892 -- is where James T. Williams developed quick-cooking elbow macaroni, later manufacturing it under the Creamette name.
Why Minneapolis? “Tim and I just think that Minneapolis folks appreciate what we do in Duluth,” said Raymond. “Their message is clear: Let’s get that great beer down here.”
The duo also own Duluth’s popular Burrito Union restaurant and Redstar nightclub. Last year they opened Tycoons Alehouse & Eatery, a few blocks west of Fitger’s Brewhouse in Duluth’s former city hall, a building that also coincidentally dates to the 1890s. “We opened them so that we could sell more beer,” said Raymond.
As for the new Minneapolis outpost, Raymond said to expect to see a "warehouse/industrial" look replace the blandly suburban remnants of Trocaderos (Locus Architecture of Minneapolis is designing the space's reinvention), along with some lively outdoor seating, possibly even a rooftop component. “We have to figure out if that’s practical and doable,” he said. There’s no name yet, either.
“Keep in mind, this is a work in progress,” said Raymond with a laugh. “Who knows? Tomorrow we could be a lutefisk restaurant.”
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