Opening Monday: George & the Dragon.

Co-owners and spouses Fred and Stacy Navarro plan to start out by offering lunch and dinner service, running 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Sunday brunch (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) will come on May 20th. “We don’t want our first brunch to be on Mother’s Day,” said Fred Navarro with a laugh.

I asked Fred Navarro if he could name his favorite dish on the menu, and in true restaurateur fashion, he rattled off not one, but three.

First up: The “Asian Hangover,” a slow-braised pork shoulder rubbed with an Asian five-spice mix, served with jasmine rice, green beans sautéed in garlic and a fried egg. Second: Short ribs braised in Dragon’s Milk, a caramel-tinted, aged-in-oak-barrels ale, from New Holland Brewing Co. in Holland, Mich. Third: Sausages made with ground pork and Irish oats soaked in 2 Gingers whiskey, either served with mashed potatoes, an ale gravy and onion rings; or wrapped in puff pastry and garnished with a mustard cream sauce. “And I also think our burgers are pretty phenomenal,” he said.

The Navarros are longtime vets of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant empire's Mall of America outposts (Tucci Benucch, Twin City Grill and the Magic Pan). One of the reasons why the couple is aiming for an affordable and casual neighborhood hangout is because they live six blocks from their 65-seat restaurant, which is located next door to Patina at 50th St. and Bryant Av. S. in Minneapolis.

It's an easy address to remember; a devastating February 2010 fire destroyed the site's previous building, which was home to Patina as well as Blackbird and Heidi's. Patina re-opened last fall, Blackbird relocated to 38th and Nicollet in late 2010 and Heidi's has been operating at Lyn-Lake for a little more than a year.

The restaurant’s name?  Not only is George the patron saint of England (which explains the public house concept), but “George and the Dragon” is the title of a Kandinsky print that has long been a favorite item in the Navarro household. 

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