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Lyn-Lake's 4-star Heyday being reinvented as two restaurants

Change is good, right?

That’s Heyday chef/co-owner Jim Christiansen’s belief, because his four-star Lyn-Lake restaurant, which opened in 2014, is about to undergo a significant transformation.

“We’ve seen business decline a bit in this fourth year, and so it’s time for a change,” he said. “Most restaurants change over time, and in hindsight, you need to have a plan, and I didn’t have a plan.”

He does now.

“Over these four years, we’ve learned a lot about the space,” said Christiansen. “It’s too big for one entity. We want to find the space’s potential.”

The solution: splitting the restaurant’s footprint. The too-spacious bar is going to become its own stand-alone restaurant, with its own kitchen, and its own to-be-determined name. Right now, Christiansen is toying with the idea of creating a casual, neighborhood-focused concept, one that’s rotating and perhaps seasonally inspired.

“That way, if it’s boring, or people don’t like it, we’ll change it,” he said.

His current impulse is to dive deep into the world of Spanish tapas and ciders.

“I just miss Solera so much,” he said. “I don’t understand why we don’t have Spanish restaurants in this town, because it’s such a great cuisine. It’s food that I love to eat and I love to cook.”

Meanwhile, Christiansen (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo) hasn’t worked out details on how he’s going forward with Heyday’s dining room, although it will remain a showcase for the boundary-pushing, idiosyncratic cooking that landed him on the cover of Food & Wine in 2015, as a member of the magazine’s rarefied Best New Chefs fraternity.

“We have so many great regulars,” said Christiansen. “We just don’t have enough to sustain 120 seats.”

Which is why he’s toying with the idea of following the model that has been such a success at Tenant in south Minneapolis, where diners reserve a spot for a limited seating, fixed-price dinner.

“I’ve not been to Tenant, but I know that it’s busy all the time, there’s a lot of demand for those seats,” he said. “A business needs to be busy, right? I like the predictability and the control of that model, that’s very intriguing. It’s frustrating, because we can have a million people in here one night, and the next night it’ll be zero, which makes no sense.”

Although he hasn’t decided on whether to retain the Heyday name, this much he does know: the dining room will have an entrance that’s separate from what is currently the Heyday bar, and both spaces will undergo some aesthetic alterations. Heyday’s current iteration will serve its last meal on June 9.

“Then we’re getting our heads together,” said Christiansen. “We don’t have any real dates yet, but we’re toying with a late September opening. Business has always been good then. The kids are back in school, and the State Fair is over.”

Black Sheep Pizza owner's Texas barbecue closes after only 11 months

Well, that didn’t last long.

StormKing BBQ, the exceptional barbecue restaurant created by Black Sheep Pizza owner Jordan Smith, went dark on Saturday, a few weeks shy of its first birthday.

“I’ve loved barbecue my whole life, ever since I was a kid,” said Smith. “I didn’t think we had great barbecue here [in the Twin Cities], so I thought, ‘Maybe it’s time.’ But I guess it wasn’t.”

Smith didn’t pull any punches when he announced the closure on social media.

“Due to unpopular demand, StormKing Barbecue is closed,” he wrote on Twitter. “We laughed, we cried and we smoked our hearts out but sadly, it wasn’t enough to keep the lights on.”

The 26-seat, counter-service spot was located next door to Smith’s Black Sheep outlet on Eat Street, at Nicollet Av. and 26th St. It featured meticulously prepared brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs and chicken (plus a host of appropriate sides, including a glorious potato salad), all done in the Texas-style barbecue that Smith has come to love -- and obsess over -- during countless barbecue-eating trips to the Lone Star State.

“People loved it,” said Smith. “We got great feedback (including this critic’s pick as one the six best new restaurants that opened in the first half of 2017). But, for whatever reason, it didn’t work. Still, I couldn’t not do it, do you know what I mean?”

At this early date, Smith doesn’t have any plans for the space.

“We own it, so that’s a good thing,” he said.

The handwriting was on the wall when Smith saw that, over a four-week period, the North Loop branch of Black Sheep Pizza had accrued 10 times StormKing's sales.About six weeks ago, Smith decided to regroup, dropping the restaurant’s daily dinner service to a once-a-week event, opening on Saturdays only. But sales figures continued their descent. 

“We were killing ourselves, putting all of our resources into StormKing, and that just wasn’t making any sense,” he said. “This isn’t charity work, this is our livelihood. I think I got too romantic about it.”

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