After cooking at top restaurants in Denver and Seattle — as well as the Bachelor Farmer and Tilia — Twin Cities native Erik Skaar is transforming a former barbecue joint with Lake Minnetonka views into Vann (4016 Shoreline Dr., Spring Park, vannrestaurant.com).
“I always envisioned opening a restaurant in my hometown,” he said. “This came together really fast, and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
The word “transforming” is literal. Skaar is doing everything: supervising subcontractors, painting, writing the wine list.
“I’ve always opened restaurants, but this has been shooting from the hip,” he said. “I’m taking it a day at a time. It has been a great learning experience.”
The plan is to focus on what he calls the “lesser-known, but more delicious” sustainable gifts from the sea: abalone, cuttlefish, sea urchin and wolffish, along with seasonal, local ingredients.
“I’ll let fishermen, foragers and farmers dictate what I do,” said Skaar. “I hate to call it a ‘seafood restaurant,’ but I don’t have any other way to describe it.”
On land, Skaar is working with a northeastern Minnesota farmer for organic produce: sumac, black walnuts, heirloom beans, 11 varieties of carrots, wild ginger.
The restaurant’s name is Norwegian for “water.”
“I’m drawing influences from my heritage as well as my previous experience,” he said. “I have my grandmother’s krumkake recipe and her iron. I’ll do them with caviar. You have to have a story to tell.”
Prices will hover in the $8 to $17 range for starters, and $25 to $36 for entrees. The menu will also feature a tasting menu option, and the bar will pour beer and wine.
“Maybe cocktails, eventually,” said Skaar, adding that plans for a patio and a dock will wait until next summer.
The dinner-only format will start with Wednesday-through-Sunday service. The restaurant is slated to open the week of July 17.