The American Swedish Institute nabbed Graves Hospitality’s Blake Meier to replace chef John Krattenmaker at the arts organization’s popular Fika (2600 Park Av. S., Mpls., fikacafe.net).
The transition for Meier, previously executive chef at Bradstreet Neighborhood Craftshouse (1930 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., bradstreetcraftshouse.com), came as a sort of baptism by fire. Last Thursday marked his first official day with Fika. By Friday, Meier was sweating under a tent along with the rest of the cafe’s staff at the institute’s “Cocktails at the Castle” event featuring live performances, cocktails and snacks from their newly ordained chef.
“It was kind of crazy,” said Meier, who opened Bradstreet’s new location in 2015 when it relocated from downtown Minneapolis to Lowry Hill. “But I’m really excited.”
Moving forward, diners can expect the tenets of the menu to remain, with new additions — including a hearty sausage dish — arriving as Meier & Co. transition to a winter menu.
Over at Bradstreet, Meier’s former sous chef, Josh Zellmer, will take over. Zellmer said he plans to pare down the cocktail emporium’s menu to focus on casual fare.
“We’re going to head in a little bit of a different direction,” Zellmer said. “More of a cocktail environment, heavy on the appetizers and sandwiches. I think that’s what people want.”
Another notable chef change is underway at Lucia’s (1432 W. 31st St., Mpls.; lucias.com), where former Salt Cellar chef Alan Bergo took over early this week.
“We were looking for somebody that kind of represents where we want Lucia’s to go in the future,” said owner Jason Jenny. “Alan kind of presents a young, energetic, spirited type of energy.”
Matthew Ellison has been in command at the Uptown staple for the past month, following the decade-long tenure of chef Ryan Lund. Both Ellison and Lund left to be full-time dads.
Jenny — who bought the restaurant in 2014 from Lucia Watson, the original proprietor — said Bergo will collaborate with Watson to make any major menu changes.
Door closes, others open
After 27 years, Brahim Hadj-Moussa is ready to retire and will be closing up shop at his beloved Grand Avenue nook Barbary Fig (720 Grand Av., St. Paul, barbaryfigrestaurant.com) on Monday.
The Mediterranean restaurant became a neighborhood fixture over the decades, with Hadj-Moussa, who served as the primary cook from the start, playing a star role in its popularity.
“People who love me, they don’t even come for the food,” he said. “It’s the whole thing. It’s the food; it’s the ambience; it’s me. I became part of them.”
Saying hello is Market House (345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, damicomarkethouse.com), D’Amico Catering’s latest project, which opened at the Minnesota History Center on Tuesday.
The cafe will serve sandwiches and flatbreads, among other selections, and feature themed items to complement the museum’s exhibits, such as the current “Hall of Fame burger” playing off the exhibit “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” which opens Saturday.
Also opening this week: Wabasha Brewing Company’s new taproom (429 Wabasha St., St. Paul, wabasha brewing.com). Grand opening specials last through the weekend.
Events, events, events
This is the time of year for events, and the next six days feature plenty of them. Over the weekend, options include grazing at St. Paul’s food truck festival (mnfoodtruckassociation.org) at Mears Park and jamming to live music with German-style fare and cold pints at Surly Brewing Company’s SurlyFest (520 Malcolm Av. SE., Mpls. surlybrewing.com). On Monday, if you’re not attending Saint Dinette’s Heritage Dinner (261 E. 5th St. St. Paul, saintdinette.com), head to the latest “Chef-tender” series at Constantine (1115 2nd Av. S., Mpls., constantinempls.com). The cocktail soiree will feature chef Mike DeCamp and Heyday’s Jim Christiansen.