As the last Embers restaurant shut its doors last month — the first opened on Lake Street in 1956 — we remember these seven locally grown (and long-gone) restaurant chains made their mark on the Twin Cities dining landscape.
What started as a French-inspired setup in an Edina strip mall in the mid-1970s grew to 14 outlets in five states before disappearing in the late 1980s.
This ode to Mexico debuted in Richfield in 1975, the creation of the founder of the Zapata (later Zantigo) fast-food chain. From their Kentucky headquarters, new owners expanded to 200-plus locations nationwide, but a 2003 bankruptcy was the beginning of the end. The concept still exists overseas, and the brand name endures on salsas and other supermarket products.
The Italian restaurant began in downtown Minneapolis in 1982 and ballooned to 11 locations. Most were gone by the late 1990s (one remains, in La Crosse, Wis.), and the final two outlets morphed into Chianti Grill.
After starting in Edina in 1982, this nostalgic nod to the classic American diner grew to six locations, including Detroit and Toronto. The original Galleria outpost was the last to close, in 1995.
Jolly Green Giant Restaurant
The Le Sueur, Minn.-based food processor operated pre-Rainforest Cafe eatertaineries in Brooklyn Center and Bloomington from 1969 to 1973. Lobbies featured a gigantic chair, scaled for you-know-who. "No one can resist climbing up and sitting tinily in it," wrote Minneapolis Star columnist Don Morrison.
Pam Sherman's Bakery & Cafe
In 1980, the gifted New French Cafe co-founder rebranded a Bloomington bakery, launching a well-regarded empire that peaked at six locations but collapsed in 1993 under a pile of debt.
Sidney's Pizza Cafe
Its designer pizza trend began in Uptown Minneapolis in 1991, and within a decade the company was operating six locations. The original owners sold in 2002, and the last apple pie dessert pizza was served about five years later.