Momos move from farmers market to cafe

Although the distance between the Mill City Farmers Market and the corner of 4th Street and 1st Avenue NE. is just over a mile, the journey has been far greater for Rashmi Bhattachan. She's the face behind the market's Cafe Nepal, the fragrant stand that specializes in momos, the vigorously seasoned dumplings she fills with locally sourced meats, poultry and vegetables. It's been her dream to expand from the market into a bricks-and-mortar restaurant, and starting in mid-September she'll be making that jump.

Bhattachan and co-owner Sarala Kattel, a vet of several local Nepalese restaurants, are launching Gorkha Palace in the former Mairin's Table (23 NE. 4th St., Mpls., www.gorkhapalace.com). They'll be serving a seasonal variety of rice, daal, roti and naan preparations, along with their trademark momos, including beef, turkey and yak.

"We'll continue our tradition of using local, sustainable ingredients," said Bhattachan, including cream for their house-made ghee. "That's the philosophy that I learned at the market."

The plan is to offer a buffet-style lunch and a table-service dinner, starting Sept. 14. By the way, the popular momo stand will continue at the Mill City Farmers Market. "I wouldn't want my customers to freak out," Bhattachan said with a laugh.

More at the West End

Now open: Rojo Mexican Grill (1606 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park, www.rojomexican grill.com), brought to you by Jason Merritt and Michael McDermott, son of Marno McDermott, co-founder of the former Chi-Chi's chain. The restaurant, which is serving lunch and dinner daily, is promising unique twists on familiar Mexican fare -- along with more than 75 tequilas -- served in contemporary Mexican-inspired surroundings, complete with several watch-them-cook stations.

Meanwhile, in Edina ...

What happens when 16 bowling lanes and six bocce courts are combined with an Italian-American restaurant? Pinstripes, that's what, a growth-minded, Illinois-based chain opening its third location in the Centennial Shops complex (home of Five Guys Burger and Fries) on France Avenue S. at Gallagher Drive in Edina. Dale Schwartz, the company's founder and CEO, said in a statement that he's looking forward to introducing -- get ready for it -- "strikingly good food and fun." The lunch-and-dinner-daily operation, which features pasta, pizzas and flatbreads, sandwiches and salads, is scheduled to open in November.

End of an era

St. Martin's Table (2001 Riverside Av., Mpls., www.stmartins table.org), a vegetarian-fair-trade-organic draw on the West Bank for 26 years, is calling it quits. The unique gathering place -- it's both a cafe and a bookstore -- opened as a ministry of the ecumenical Community of St. Martin, and over the years its all-volunteer service staff has donated more than $700,000 in lunchtime tips to local and global hunger-relief organizations.

"We came to this collective conclusion that the time feels right to bid it farewell," said manager Kathleen Olsen. No definite closing date has been set, although Olsen thinks it will be a few days before Christmas. Until then, the kitchen will remain faithful to its constantly changing two-soups/three-sandwiches menu, made using the distinctive house-baked honey-whole wheat bread and served in a calm, cell-phone-free dining room.

"I've always held that face-to-face conversation over a bowl of soup just can't be improved upon," said Olsen. "We want to make sure that we don't lose sight of that."

RICK NELSON