Solera has closed.
“With hundreds of new dining options in town, most offering small plates, the Spanish food and wine niche seems too small for a 220 seat restaurant, two floors of event space and a popular rooftop bar,” said general manager Jay Viskocil in a statement. “The building owners are looking for a more accessible concept and have a number of interested parties.”
When it opened in 2003, Solera was the influential brainchild of La Belle Vie owners Tim McKee and Josh Thoma. The ambitious project revived the former Backstage at Bravo, sprawling across a building adjacent to the Orpheum Theatre on Hennepin Av. and 9th St. in downtown Minneapolis.
On the food-and-drink side, Solera was a major trendsetter, with a menu that emphasized a huge array of Spanish tapas; the bar stocked dozens of sherries. Solera earned a four-star review from the Star Tribune; later that year, McKee and Thoma were named the Star Tribune’s Restaurateurs of the Year, a precursor to the newspaper’s annual Restaurant of the Year award.
McKee and Thoma parted ways in 2010 and sold Solera to to a subsidiary of the Hennepin Avenue Opportunity Fund, which turned over management of the facility to Graves Hospitality Corp. Longtime chef Jorge Guzman departed earlier this year to create the dining side of Surly Brewing Co.’s just-opened $34 million complex in southeast Minneapolis.
Graves has another Minneapolis project in the works. Its Bradstreet Craftshouse, formerly a first-floor anchor of the Graves 601 Hotel (which the company sold to Loews Hotels & Resorts last summer), is moving into the former Rye Deli and re-christening itself Bradstreet Neighborhood Craftshouse. Construction is underway.
Once again, the North Loop is proving its position as the Twin Cities’ hottest stretch of restaurant real estate.
This time, be on the lookout for Brut, the collaboration between chefs Jamie Malone (pictured, above) and Erik Anderson. Malone’s departure from Sea Change was announced today. “Not everything is all together or in place yet, but it’s something we have been working on for a while,” said Malone.
The couple hasn't nailed down a specific North Loop site just yet, but they’ve definitely targeted the neighborhood.
“It’s where we live, and we want to stay here,” said Malone. “We want this restaurant to be what we do when we retire [Malone is 31, Anderson is 41]. We want to be working in the community where we live, where we are a part of. We don’t want to work at a place that we’re driving to every day.”
As for the food, “We want to keep it classical, French-style cookery,” said Malone. “Right now we’re thinking a shellfish type of thing, but we’re really waiting until we find and secure the space, and that will dictate how we do things.”
Size-wise, they’re aiming at roughly 80 to 100 seats in the dining room, along with an emphasis on a roomy bar. “We want to make the bar very casual, a place you can go a few times a week and have snacks, a glass of wine or maybe a cocktail. Not so expensive that it feels like an occasion.”
The Brut name is a reference to the dry-to-the-taste sparkling wine and chosen, Malone added, “Because we both love drinking it,” she said with a laugh. “We think it goes well with a lot of the food that we want to cook. And there are lot of interesting sparkling wines from around the world, lots of things that aren’t super-accessible — at least right now — in a restaurant setting.”
(And no, it has no connection to the 1960s men’s cologne of the same name, “Although we should work that in somehow,” said Malone with a laugh. “I love that.”)
The couple met in 2008 when they were both cooking at the then-new Porter & Frye — although Malone knew of Anderson when she was a student at the Cordon Bleu and he was an instructor — and they later worked together when Anderson was running Sea Change. When Anderson left for Nashville in 2011 to open Catbird Seat, she replaced him at Sea Change. Both chefs have national profiles, most notably as Food & Wine magazine Best New Chefs, he in 2012, she in 2013.
To give diners a taste of what’s in store, the couple is planning a series of four-course pop-up dinners at the former Lynn on Bryant (5003 Bryant Av. S., Mpls.), on Aug. 8, 9, 15, 16, 29 and 30. The details — price, reservations, etc. —haven’t been hammered out yet, but Malone and Anderson will keep folks posted via their Twitter account, @brutMN.
“We want it to be a fun, summertime, kind of thing,” said Malone. “And we need something to do besides go to the dog park every day.”
More Malone news: Twin Citians Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine, producers of the Perennial Plate, are turning their attention to a remake of PBS’ “Victory Garden,” in collaboration with Edible magazines. Their first of 13 half-hour episodes is going to be filmed in Minnesota and will feature — you got it — Jamie Malone.
Meanwhile, at Sea Change, Malone is being replaced by the restaurant’s longtime sous chef (and former Alaska fisherman), Ryan Cook.
What is it with Minneapolis museum restaurants?
First the Walker Art Center’s Gather drops its lunch service. Now Grain Stack, the newly remade restaurant at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (and a significant improvement from its predecessor) is going on summer vacation.
“Our new food service model is based on being financially sustainable, so when our traffic is slower (such as this summer), we won’t operate the mezzanine-level restaurant, as it would require us to subsidize the operation and that is not the best use of our contributed resources,” reads a memorandum to museum staff and volunteers.
“After the success of the MIA + Stock and Badge’s Grain Stack operation which served thousands of MIA visitors during the Rock the Cradle, Art in Bloom, and Matisse: Masterworks from the Baltimore Museum of Art, the mezzanine-level restaurant will now close for the summer effective Tuesday, June 10,” reads the statement.
Fear not, hungry art lovers: Stock and Badge’s other MIA food-and-drink operations will remain open, including the Dogwood Coffee bar (and its great two-for-one craft beer happy hour) and the family-friendly, grab-and-go Half Pint, both located in the museum’s lobby.
I’m not sure how long the doors had been open, but when I arrived at Bogart’s Doughnut Co. at 7:02 this morning, there were five people in line ahead of me, and six drool-worthy varieties of doughnuts were filling the cases stretching under an elegant white marble counter.
Owner Anne Rucker appeared from around the corner, a tray lined with vanilla bean cream-filled doughnuts in her arms. The woman in front of me recognized her and said what we were all thinking.
“I’ve been driving by every day this week, hoping to see that you were open,” she said with a laugh. She had her Walker residence employee name badge hanging around her neck – it’s located a few blocks to the south – and she told Rucker, “Welcome to the neighborhood. We’ll all be coming over. A lot.”
Shoppers at the Kingfield Farmers Market will recognize Rucker, an attorney who has followed her passion for baking, first with a popular market stand she calls Bogart Loves (from her middle name, and her grandmother’s maiden name) and now this tiny, gleaming white doughnuts-and-coffee shop at 36th and Bryant in south Minneapolis.
Like all great doughnut shops, I smelled the goodness long before I walked in the door. Rucker’s trademark brioche doughnuts, glistening with sugar and the very definition of fried-dough perfection, were filled with Nutella or a vanilla bean cream, or smeared in glazes, either brown butter or vanilla bean. Cake doughnuts were either lavender-scented or done up in rich chocolate. Prices run $2 (for the cake doughnuts and the glazed brioche doughnuts) and $3 (for the filled brioche doughnuts).
Rucker is trying to open quietly – a near-impossibility in today’s social media world – with a grand opening scheduled for Friday. Doors stay open, “until we run out,” she said. That was around noon on Wednesday, her first unofficial day of business.
It seems fitting that a booze mart will be opening in a newspaper building, given the indelible image of hard-drinking journalists with a pint in their desk drawers in such films as “His Girl Friday.”
Except that when Revival Wine Beer and Spirits opens in the classic St. Paul edifice known to many as the Pioneer Building, there will be no journos in the house (the Pioneer Press offices moved a block or so away years ago), and this store will cater to a more upscale crowd than us ink-stained wretches.
The man behind the store, slated to open in mid-May (with a public tasting slated for May 20), is Jeffrey Huff, who started the charming Little Wine Shoppe in St. Anthony Park a few years back. This “shoppe” will not be “little”: 2,200 square feet compared to 300 for his former store. “My walk-in cooler’s almost bigger than the Little Wine Shoppe,” he said with a chuckle.
But it should be just as personal. Huff has been building cabinets to protect his inventory from getting too much light in a space with “massive windows.”
“The space is just amazing,” said Huff. It’s on the second floor of the Pioneer Endicott Building, which dates to 1889 and had been empty for a few years when Richard Pakonen of Pak Properties bought it, largely for residential usage.
Some of the 230 new luxury apartments are already occupied, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art will be taking up the entire first floor. Huff, who will be the first commercial tenant to open, named the store after the building’s architectural style, Romanesque Revival.
Huff said his store will be heavy on craft beers and the emerging artisan distillery world, and that the wine selection will be focused on quality and value. “I know the demographics of who’s down there,” he said. “But I knew the demographic in St. Anthony Park, and that didn’t quantify into selling high-end wines.”
Regardless, he’s excited to be in “an absolutely beautiful space” and has gotten comfortable with its size. “I guess you start small and get bigger. That’s the goal, right?” Huff said. “This is all the bigger I want to be.”
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