When Tom Forti opened Sunrise Market and Cafe in St. Paul 2½ years ago, his intention was to highlight some of the unique products made by his family’s gourmet foods company in Hibbing, Minn., while making a few cafe staples on the side.

But over time, that ratio flipped. With a Kowalski’s a couple of blocks away, the market side was minimized. Meanwhile, the store’s porketta sandwich was gaining a following.

This spring, Forti decided to shutter Sunrise Market and Cafe, renovate and re-concept — and he’s reopening the space next month exclusively as a restaurant and bar.

Like Sunrise, Iron Ranger (1085 Grand Av., St. Paul) will be an ode to northern Minnesota and the food eaten there.

“I think it’s going to be very welcoming,” Forti said. “It’s going to be a nice, rustic-feeling pub — what you’d expect to see in northern Minnesota in the woods.”

Yes, the porketta sandwich will remain, along with some other hot sandwiches like the Italian beef. And there will be nods to the original Sunrise Bakery — which opened in Hibbing in 1913, making biscotti, potica (an eastern European nut roll) and pasties (meat and vegetable pies) — as well. But there also will be plenty of new stuff.

Forti plans to expand the selection of shared plates and pizzas (including a gluten-free option) and well as wine and beer. He also promises a “completely changed” space with natural hardwoods from Up North, images and maps of the Iron Range and an oak bar that was custom-built in Hibbing. There will be about 48 seats, including 11 bar stools. Forti said he anticipates debuting in the second week of May.

Now open

Tori 44 (2203 44th Av. N., Mpls.), the new Japanese foods restaurant from the owners of Tori Ramen (toriramen.com), has opened its doors in the former Victory 44 space in north Minneapolis — calling it a soft opening.

The new location offers an expanded and more upscale menu than the original, but also features a handful of the popular noodle dishes from the St. Paul location along with wine, beer and kombucha.

The eatery is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday; on Sundays, they’ll be open until 9 p.m. A grand opening is likely to be announced at a later date.

 

Around town

The fifth annual Burger Battle is returning to St. Paul on May 19. Chefs from 25 Twin Cities restaurants — including St. Paul Grill, the Happy Gnome and Ngon Bistro — will gather on Harriet Island and compete for best burger champion. Tickets to the event, which features live music and other activities, are $60 and include unlimited burgers and beer from participating restaurants and breweries. A portion of the proceeds is donated to the Sanneh Foundation, a youth advancement program.