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.”
The landmark Burch Pharmacy building at Franklin and Hennepin avenues on Lowry Hill in Minneapolis has just landed a shiny new tenant: A restaurant by Isaac Becker, his wife Nancy St. Pierre and their business partner Ryan Burnet, three of the forces behind the insanely popular Bar La Grassa.
They're calling it Burch, and it's going to be a steakhouse. “But it won’t be your average steakhouse,” said Becker. “It sounds weird when I call it that, but I just that I can’t think of any other way to describe it without using that label.”
There will be beef, yes, all kinds of it. Becker is promising a variety of cuts in a range of sizes and prices.
“And we’ll have prime, grass-fed and grass-fed with a corn finish,” he said. “My goal is to find the best beef in the country. I can’t commit to just locally sourced beef, there isn’t enough variety, and I don’t know that local producers can keep up. But there is a lot of great beef out there, and the goal is, if you want grass-fed, we’ll have it, and if you want prime, we’ll have it. It’s kind of like how you want your eggs done. People are specific. They want what they like. I know I do.”
But he’s also pledging to cater to diners who aren’t interested in a medium-rare porterhouse. “We’re not going to offer a token piece of halibut," said Becker. "We’re going to offer a lot of vegetables. We want it to be a destination for people who don’t like beef.”
Running the show will be chef Danny Del Prado, a Bar La Grassa veteran who has spent the past several years working in Portland, Ore. “Having him coming here and doing this was a big victory for me,” said Becker. “With Danny signed on, I’m not as nervous or as scared about it.”
Julie Snow Architects of Minneapolis is designing the project, which has a vague late-2012/early 2013 opening date. The restaurant will cover most of the drug store’s street-level footprint, with a 100-seat dining room and bar and an open kitchen.
The limestone-lined basement will house a small kitchen equipped with a wood-burning oven (“All of the food that we serve in the basement will come out of that oven) for a casual, neighborhood cafe-style 50-seat bar and dining room.
And yes, the name is Burch, as in the former Burch Pharmacy, which closed in 2010 after an 80-year run. “We’re sticking with Burch, although everyone called it Burch’s,” said Becker. “I called it Burch’s. When people answer the phone, they’ll probably say ‘Burch’s,’ but it doesn’t matter, we’re going to keep it as it is on the sign, and that reads ‘Burch Pharmacy.’”
That busy Franklin-Hennepin intersection has particular significance for Becker, winner of last year’s Best Chef: Midwest accolade from the James Beard Foundation. He once lived in the apartment building across the street from the former drug store (“It’s where I bought my shampoo and toothpaste,” he said) and spent five years cooking next door at the former Lowry's (now Rye Deli).
“I mean, this is my intersection,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve been driving past that place for the last two years thinking, ‘What a great space.’”
Diners interested in a Burch preview need look no further than the 112 Eatery. On the first Tuesday of every month, Becker is offering a four-course dinner for $50, and using each course as a test-drive for possible Burch menu items. Reservations are essential.
As for the future of the building's famous -- or is that infamous? -- street-level billboard (the oft-vandalized one featuring real estate agent Cotty Lowry, which has graced the structure's south facade for years), that's up in the air.
"No one really knows," said Becker with a laugh. "Some people want to keep it, some don't. I don't have a preference. Ryan said that Cotty is a really nice guy, so I wouldn't be surprised if it stayed."
Parasole Restaurant Holdings announced Sunday that, effectively immediately, Il Gatto restaurant in Uptown has closed.
The closing was prompted because "Il Gatto was unable to align the economics of operating the restaurant with the cost of occupying the premises," said Kip Clayton, vice president of marketing and business development for Parasole, in a press release.
Gift cards to Il Gatto will be honored at Parasole's other restaurants. For a complete list of its restaurants, go to www.parasole.com.
"We were very sorry to see it close," said Clayton, who noted that Parasole will try to relocate Il Gatto staff at its other restaurants and bars.
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