Zumbro Cafe in Linden Hills is expanding into the former florist shop next door. Down the street, the former Bayers Hardware is being turned into another new restaurant.
In the Fulton neighborhood to the south, a former Blockbuster video store is now the Red Cow, a burger and beer spot so popular that nearby residents are up in arms about patrons parking on their streets day and night. Across W. 50th Street, a bead store is being converted to an upscale salad-bar-themed restaurant, adding to parking woes.
The restaurant scene in Minneapolis is booming, driven by a stronger economy, a surge in residential development and increased appetite among young adults for eating out.
For many, the added bustle is welcome, making those areas more lively. But others bristle at the changes such growth brings.
In some parts of the city, the new restaurant scene is creating noise, parking and traffic issues on what used to be quiet residential streets. Adding to the concern: As more restaurants opt for neighborhood locations, they drive out other retailers and alter the fabric of the neighborhood.
“We don’t want it to turn into nothing but food and drink or big-box stores,” said Linda McHale, owner of Corner Store Vintage at Lake Street and Bryant Avenue S. in the Uptown neighborhood. “You need to have some walkability, where people can cruise around and go into shops.”
After residents complained about cars parked in front of their homes, the streets near Red Cow have adopted permit-only parking for certain hours.
Agra Culture Kitchen & Press, opening across the street, had to include eight off-street parking spots after several area residents raised parking concerns, according to Grant Wilson, the city’s manager of licensing and consumer services.
In Linden Hills, Tilia is packed each night but offers no off-street parking, so customers often end up parking along Linden Hills Boulevard, raising the ire of homeowners.
Kristin Tombers, owner of Clancey’s Meats & Fish in Linden Hills, said that the parking situation in the neighborhood is awful but that she still welcomes local restaurants.
What Tombers does not want to see is big corporate development. She was a strong opponent to a new luxury apartment development that is replacing the Famous Dave’s in the heart of Linden Hills.
“It would be unfortunate if this one day became 50th and France,” she said, referring to Edina’s bustling business and restaurant district.
In Uptown, McHale said the influx of restaurants has brought in new customers who browse the store, but she also said she does not want to see more retail shops converted into restaurants.
“I hope that a lot of the small retailers can just stay,” she said.
But there’s no sign of letup. The Ackerberg Group, a commercial real estate company, has been inundated with queries about the yet-unnamed restaurant it’s building in the former Bayers Hardware store.
“There is a tremendous amount of interest to develop in this location. Spring is here and we’re ready to build the next hip restaurant,” said Hugh Byrne of Ackerberg Group.
Growing on success
Few of the new restaurants opening in seemingly every corner of the city are first-time ventures. In most cases, investors or developers are helping bankroll second, third or fourth concepts of established restaurateurs or chefs, said Ed Hanlon, a commercial real estate agent with Edina Realty.
“They see that as a big opportunity,” he said.
Retailers that were once a shoo-in for street-level space are feeling the squeeze. Agra will soon open its doors in a mixed-use development in Uptown where the majority of the commercial space is occupied by restaurants.
Its owner, Aaron Switz, founder of the fast-growing Yogurt Lab, said the developers of the Walkway apartments persuaded him to open Agra on the street level after working out a deal to bring Yogurt Lab into the development.
Switz said Agra is a healthy alternative to Chipotle or other fast food, a concept driven by young adults’ desire to know exactly what goes into their meals. “The younger generation wants healthy, fresh food,” Switz said.
“They are becoming a lot more educated on food and go through every detail to understand what goes into their food.”
Larry D’Amico, who owns 14 restaurants in Minnesota with his brother, Richard, agreed that young adults are putting their money into food.
“That is their form of entertainment,” Larry D’Amico said. “They talk about it. They live it. It’s so much more than food now.”
The brothers say that generally, new restaurants are welcomed in any market, but that some neighborhoods may be a bit resistant.
“On 50th and France, they love it. In Linden Hills, it’s really small and you’re right on top of residential areas. They’re a little more cautious,” said Richard D’Amico.
Drawn from St. Paul
Restaurants are seen as crucial anchor tenants in new residential developments, so much so that developers are aggressively wooing well-known names.
The developers of Village Green, the downtown luxury apartments in the Soo Line Building, enticed St. Paul’s Meritage restaurant to open Brasserie Zentral, an upscale European-style restaurant at street level, even though owner Russell Klein wasn’t actively looking to expand.
“They really wanted us, and even said they were going to make us an offer that would make it impossible for us to turn down,” he said.
With its state-of-the-art kitchen, easy access to the light-rail Blue Line and a 150-seat decadent dining room, Klein said Zentral is more than he could have ever imagined.
“We’ve seen this explosion of apartments and condos, and with that comes restaurants,” Klein said. “Landlords see vibrant restaurants as an amenity for their residents.”
Meanwhile, some retail owners say they do not want to see their entire neighborhoods filled with new restaurants.
“Over half of businesses are coffee shops and restaurants now,” said McHale. “We are the retail store in a sea of food.”