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New restaurant and 'eatertainery' planned for old hardware building in North Loop

Minneapolis’ North Loop is getting another restaurant and another bar – the latest in a continued surge of restaurateurs taking interest in populating the fast-growing neighborhood.

NOLO’s Kitchen and Bar and Basement Bar are expected to open in the historic Gardner Hardware Building at 515 Washington Av. N. this fall. (Gardner occupied the building for 60 years before closing in September.)

The restaurant, located on the ground floor, will serve breakfast/lunch/dinner, seven days a week and focus on “comfort food” and a “casual environment,” according to a release.

Look for dishes like omelets, chicken and waffles and breakfast burritos to be served in the morning, and sandwiches, flatbreads, salads and larger entrees such as ribeyes and pork chops to be served at lunch and dinner.

The basement bar, meanwhile, will follow the “eatertainery” trend that has become popular in Minneapolis and elsewhere recently. A “food truck”-style menu – tacos, burgers, hot dogs and soft serve, among other things – will be complemented by games including shuffleboard and bubble hockey and plenty of sports-geared TVs.

The ownership group, which anticipates September debuts for the concepts, consists of Marty Collins, who also owns McCoy’s Public House in St. Louis Park as well as other restaurants in Kansas City, and Brett Johnson, who owns The Hilltop Restaurant in Edina. Chef Peter Hoff, also a native Minnesotan, most recently cooked in California.

Burger Friday: Warehouse District newcomer whips up a cheesy patty melt

The burger: There’s a reason why Byte owners Mark Lowman and Travis Shaw have a patty melt on the menu at their Warehouse District counter-service newbie, and it can be boiled down to a single word: expediency.

Rather than deal with procuring a proper bun for a burger, they’re maximizing what’s already on hand, namely a Pullman-style loaf of white bread.

Efficiency is also the reason behind the double-patty format. “Faster cooking times,” said Lowman.

Those two patties – juicy, firmly packed Angus, taken to a uniform medium – add up to a hefty dose of beef.

It’s even juicier thanks to the cheese. Instead of slices, Lowman and Shaw liberally bathe each patty in a Bechamel sauce that's enriched with Cheddar (“And we throw in a little bit of nacho cheese,” said Lowman), followed by a layer of thick-cut onions that have been slowly caramelized to tender sweetness. It’s a classic combination: Puritanically simple, tasty and so quick on the assembly side of the equation that this is one sandwich that practically sprints out of the kitchen.

The menu labels the grilled bread as “Texas Toast,” but that’s a bit misleading; it’s not sliced nearly thick enough to own that proud label. However, it’s got the whole butter-the-heck-out-of-it thing going on, a quality that pretty much embodies all that is attractive about the Lone Star State’s namesake bread product.

Here’s another plus: the patty melt is available to midnight, Monday through Saturday, along with the rest of the globally inspired menu, which ranges from Korean- and Indian-themed rice bowls to chicken burritos. I’m guessing that the top-selling item is a pile of crisped-up Tater Tots buried under bacon, jalapenos, caramelized onions and queso. The universal appeal of Tater Tots strikes again.

Price: $9.50, which is the ceiling for this value-focused menu.

Fries: Included. They’re hand-cut, skin-on and fried to a deep golden hue. Nicely done, but for one major quibble: the generous pile that I was served was rapidly approaching "stone cold" status. Three cheers for the bacon-infused house-made ketchup. Not into fries? The kitchen will substitute a lively salad of fresh romaine that’s tossed with quinoa, tomato, cucumbers and a bright, just-right lemon vinaigrette.

Bonus round: The back bar – a self-proclaimed “geek” bar -- pulls a long-ish list of locally produced craft beers. An alley patio is awaiting cooperating weather conditions. Oh, and dessert? Lowman and Shaw wisely partner with baker John Kraus of Rose Street Patisserie and Patisserie 46, offering the bakeries’ butter-laden, brown sugar-packed chocolate chunk cookies. Best in town? A contender, certainly.

Address book: 319 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-354-2533. Open 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. (kitchen to midnight) Monday through Saturday.

Talk to me: Do you have a favorite burger? Share the details at rick.nelson@startribune.com.

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