Even as he dons a hard hat amid the whir of construction and a flurry of dust rising from the exposed dirt floor, Gavin Kaysen sees his latest dream at completion.
The French bistro on downtown Wayzata’s Lake Street will welcome customers into a sprawling space with exposed rafters, leather banquettes and large paned glass windows. A case of pastries will beckon inside the sun-filled cafe, their scent wafting out open windows and across the street to Steele Fitness. (“My goal is for everyone running on a treadmill to smell my croissants,” Kaysen said.)
A garden room will look out over a picture-perfect patio. (“You know in New York, when people walk past Saks Fifth Avenue and look through the windows? That’s how I want people to look at the patio,” Kaysen said.) A semi-open kitchen will be visible in the rear.
Kaysen, the chef/owner behind Spoon and Stable (211 N. 1st St., Mpls., spoonandstable.com, 612-224-9850), may see those images now, but the rest of us will have to wait until March, when Bellecour (739 Lake St. E., Wayzata) debuts.
“I’ll walk around in here for a half-hour after everyone is gone,” he said recently while walking through the building’s framework, “just to imagine what it will look like, what the guests will see and feel when they walk in.”
Bellecour is named after the central square in Lyon, France, the hometown region of Kaysen’s mentor, Daniel Boulud, and his mentor Paul Bocuse. The restaurant will sit within the blueprint of three buildings stitched together over time.
In 1978, what was originally a candy and toy store, a car dealership and a firetruck garage were blended into Chouette, the original French restaurant footprint that accounted for the still present metal rooster perched atop the roof’s peak. Chouette’s uneven floor still remains — Kaysen’s crew is now leveling it — which was purposefully created to mimic the feel of a French country home.
But the history hardly stops there. About five layers of wallboard were removed to reveal a slightly larger space than Kaysen anticipated. While peeling back the materials, his crew found a hearth oven hidden inside the walls — courtesy of when Muffuletta on the Lake took over the space. In what will be Bellecour’s garden room, an area Kaysen plans to hold for walk-ins or private dining, the construction crew unearthed three arched “murals” displaying a countryside-style wallpaper from the Chouette days. On top of one of those murals? Doodles of the intended design for the Blue Point, the structure’s last inhabitant, which closed in August of 2015.
Kaysen, who reacts to such findings with awe and anxiety — a new issue seems to pop up daily — plans to keep the wallpaper murals and doodles.
“It’s a beautiful thing when you can preserve something like this,” he said. “I thought about tearing it down, but there is a special romance to keeping history around.
“The feeling I get in this space is so awesome. It’s hard to walk away from that,” he said. “We’re not trying to erase that past We’re just trying to create new tradition, new family memories, a new beginning.”