Road construction, that insidious killer of restaurants, has claimed another victim.
Well, sort of. Fortunately, in the case of the Rail Station Bar & Grill (3675 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls.), the wound isn’t mortal. The Minnehaha Avenue restaurant closed last weekend, and owner Steve Benowitz and his crew are taking a few frenzied weeks to renovate and rebrand.
When the restaurant reopens in mid-July, there will be a new name on the door: the Howe Daily Kitchen & Bar (howempls.com).
“We have all of this road construction going on in front of us on Minnehaha,” said Luke Derheim, operations manager for Benewitz’s Craft & Crew Hospitality. “So what better time, after being open for 12 years, to do some work of our own?”
The dining room and bar are slated to receive top-to-bottom revamps. So will the menus. But first, the bar.
“We’re going to focus on Minneapolis-based spirits,” Derheim said. “Du Nord — which is just up the street — and Tattersall, and others. We’re bringing in a new mixologist, and he’s going to help us build fresh cocktails from the ground up.”
Chef Carlos Olivar — he also oversees the kitchen at sibling establishments Pub 819 in Hopkins and Stanley’s Northeast Bar Room in Minneapolis — plans to develop new signature dishes, including fried chicken. Also in the works: a boost to the restaurant’s a.m. offerings.
“We did a lot of research in the neighborhood,” Derheim said. “We conducted tons of focus groups and listened to what residents want, and what we kept hearing was ‘more breakfast’ and ‘better breakfast.’ ”
Those responses have translated into longer morning hours, with a projected opening time of 6:30 a.m. (it had been 8 a.m.), plus an increase in the number of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menu options.
For drivers put off by orange barrels and detour signs, fear not. Derheim is hoping that the work inside the building will coincide with the work outside the building.
“We’re timing our mid-July reopening with the road construction out front,” he said. “Our stretch of Minnehaha should be opening at the same time.”
Uptown street scene
More than 50 food trucks are taking part in the Uptown Food Truck Festival, scheduled for 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 26, with trucks lined up on Hennepin and Holmes Avs. between 31st and Lake Sts. in Minneapolis. Expect to encounter live music, locally brewed beer and cider, plenty of people-watching and $5 signature dishes at each truck. Details at uptownfoodtruckfestival.com.
New in the North Loop
By the time Halloween rolls around, Luke Shimp will be the proud owner of his second North Loop restaurant.
The man behind the fast-growing Red Cow chain — which operates its third outlet in the neighborhood — is stepping away from his burger-centric format to launch Red Rabbit.
The site? A 116-year-old building — currently being used as an auto repair shop — at 201 Washington Av. N., on the corner of Washington and 2nd Avs. N. Shimp said that the 5,000 square-foot building is perfectly suited to his needs.
“That’s a Luke-sized restaurant,” he said with a laugh. “That means about 125 seats inside, with 60 to 70 on the patio, and that’s perfect.”
That patio will have a greenhouse-like quality, with retractable enclosures (similar to the system that makes the patio at Patrick McGovern’s Pub & Restaurant in St. Paul so distinctive) that extend the facility’s use over three seasons.
“For this market, that’s a no-brainer of an investment,” said Shimp. “It seems like we have more days that aren’t beautiful vs. days that are beautiful.”
It’ll also be a working greenhouse, with a portion of its real estate dedicated to cultivating herbs for the kitchen and bar. The property has another feature, and it’s a North Loop rarity: on-site parking for about a dozen cars.
Shimp describes chef Todd Macdonald’s menu as “primarily pizzas, with a half-dozen pastas, six or seven salads, oysters and a smattering of bruschettas and other dishes to share,” he said. “We’re debating about a having a handful of entrees — maybe a rib-eye, or a bone-in pork chop, or a daily fish special — but we don’t want to get a too-upscale feeling. The restaurant is definitely going to be neighborhood casual, the kind of place where you could go for dinner two or three times a week.”
Here’s a measure on how bullish Shimp is on the neighborhood: He’s negotiating to purchase a second building for a catering/events center — complete with the requisite rooftop patio — that’s large enough to accommodate groups of up to 150 people. It will also feature a brewpub component.
“We want to make beer for our restaurants,” said Shimp.
Yep, another North Loop taproom. The site — 905 N. 5th St., currently a computer parts warehouse — is roughly two blocks from the just-opened Inbound BrewCo, three blocks from Fulton Brewing and five blocks from Modist Brewing Co. It’s also a short walk to the Freehouse, the brewpub operated by Shimp’s former employer, the Blue Plate Restaurant Co.
Shimp is talking to brewers but hasn’t made a hire. Right now, the plan is that the facility’s taproom will offer a limited menu (“Not a full-on Red Cow experience,” said Shimp), something along the lines of a few burgers, salads and sandwiches.
Target opening date: mid- to late-summer 2017.
Party on the Big Lake
Here’s how “Lake Minnetonka Eats” author Tiffany Winter is celebrating her recent bronze win at the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards: she’s hosting a two-hour Lake Minnetonka Eats Cruise on July 18.
Step on board the Queen of Excelsior (boarding starts at 6:45 p.m. at 2 Water St., Excelsior) and enjoy food from Lord Fletcher’s Old Lake Lodge, Coalition, Joey Nova’s, Bayside Grille and Wuollet, along with specialty cocktails and beverages. Tickets are $39, lakeminnetonkaeatscruise.com or 952-470-8439.