Well, it was fun while it lasted.
That’s what diners will – or at least should be – thinking on Dec. 22nd, when Umami by Travail serves its last meal.
Follow the bouncing shrimp toast: The total blast of a pop-up restaurant, the work of the seemingly bottomless pit of culinary energy and creativity behind Travail Kitchen and Amusements, originally opened for a short run in mid-September in the hastily renovated confines of a former fast-food fried chicken outlet on W. Broadway Avenue in Minneapolis.
After the original concept – Asian comfort food, served Travail-style in a multi-course, single-price format at large communal tables – proved popular, Travail co-owners Bob Gerken, Mike Brown (pictured above, right) and James Winberg decided to keep the place open and reprogrammed the kitchen into a dim sum-inspired operation.
Unfortunately, the demands of what they describe as a "manageable side project" are proving to be too unsustainable. With their new version of Travail – and its casual sibling the Rookery – nearing completion in Robbinsdale, the team has decided to pull the plug on Umami after all.
“Umami is not leaving because the business was unsuccessful, but rather because its success came at a time when the organization was already overextended,” the partnership said in a statement. “The restaurant was busy and buzzworthy and it demanded too much of the Travail team’s resources in terms of chefs, kitchen equipment, time and energy.”
Tickets for the remaining dates at Umami will go on sale here at 10 a.m. Wednesday (Nov. 27). Prices, which include food, tax and tip are $30 on Wednesday and Thursday, $40 on Friday and Saturday and $40 for Sunday brunch. If you haven't been, go, and hurry: space is limited.
Meanwhile, construction continues on the new Travail and the Rookery in downtown Robbinsdale. No opening date has been announced, but the Travail ownership team is currently projecting a soft opening shortly after Jan. 1.
Last week Stewart and Heidi Woodman announced they were closing their six-year-old restaurant Heidi's at the end of December. But last night's sign on their door indicated a change of plans.
Today, via a press release, they announced that the restaurant was closed immediately and gave the reason: the end of their marriage.
The press release:
After 12 years of marriage, Heidi and Stewart Woodman have mutually come to the decision to divorce. With this news, they announce today that Heidi's Minneapolis, the restaurant they created and co-owned for six years, has closed its doors.
In a statement from the Woodmans: “We kindly ask that our privacy be respected. While we’ve made the decision to end our marriage, we share the same love and commitment to our two children. Our focus is on them at this time."
Last night a flurry of tweets indicated that something was amiss given the sign that was posted on their door (see photo above), which hungry participants in Restaurant Week had stumbled upon.
A little history: Heidi's Minneapolis was an instant hit when it opened in 2007 at 50th Street and Bryant Av. in Minneapolis. After its building was destroyed by fire in 2010, the Woodmans moved the restaurant to 2903 Lyndale Av.S., where it earned a four-star review from Star Tribune critic Rick Nelson.
The culinary couple -- she's an accomplished pastry chef -- landed in Minneapolis, Heidi's hometown, in 2003, where Stewart became the first chef at Levain, which earned a four-star review under Stewart's cooking.
The husband-wife team went on to open Five Restaurant & Street Lounge, an ambitious but short-lived effort. Their next venture together was Heidi's. They had also opened Birdhouse on Hennepin Av. S., which closed over the summer.
When Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge moved from its original location to flashier riverside digs two years ago, owner Leslie Bock retained ownership of her restaurant/bar’s original location.
Now Bock -- who is also the creative (and ownership) force behind Donny Dirk's Zombie Den -- is proposing to convert that space – a former drive-in at 2519 Marshall Av. NE. – into another thematic property she's calling Betty Danger’s Country Club. "Betty Danger's will be a country club for the other 99 percent," she said.
A mini-golf course is the first of many attractions. “It’s going to look like a 1950s country club,” said project designer Jim Smart of Smart Associates of Minneapolis. Picture a dining room serving what Smart describes as “Minn-Mex” fare, a split-level bar and a covered patio with a taco-and-beer hut.
The real talker is a slow-moving, 60-foot, Italian-made Ferris wheel (“Or a ‘Vertical Revolving Patio,’” said Smart with a laugh), with gondolas designed to accommodate eating, drinking and view-taking.
“You’ll get your beer and your taco, you’ll queue up and then you’ll be able to take in the beautiful new Lowry Avenue Bridge and downtown Minneapolis,” said Smart. “It’s going to be quite spectacular.”
The project was approved by the Minneapolis Planning Commission earlier this week, and goes before the city council later this month. If all goes as planned, the restaurant and bar could be open by the end of the year, with the Ferris wheel debuting next spring.
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.
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