Here’s the bad news: MN Slice, the pizza stand from acclaimed baker John Kraus at Keg and Case Market, closed this week, and a new tenant will be moving in soon.
Now the good news (and it’s very good). Kraus and his partner and wife Elizabeth Rose are opening a new cafe across the street. Rose Street Cafe (882 W. 7th St., St. Paul), begins service today with reduced hours, with an official opening Tuesday, July 23.
The baker and owner of south Minneapolis’s Patisserie 46 (4552 Grand Av. S., Mpls., patisserie46.com), two outlets of Rose Street Patisserie (2811 W. 43rd St., Mpls; 171 Snelling Av. N., St. Paul, rosestreet.co), and a confections counter at Keg and Case (928 W. 7th St., St. Paul, kegandcase.com), has taken over the ground floor of the old Schmidt brewery’s rathskeller (beer hall) building. He and Rose have turned it into a flagship production facility and “Bread Lab,” as well as an all-day breakfast and pastry cafe that puts its fresh loaves front and center.
“We wanted to do something bread-centric,” Kraus said. “Because of the Bread Lab, we wanted this to be a bakery but also a learning institution.”
The light-filled cafe offers much of what Kraus’s other bakeries do: Parisian-inflected sandwiches and sweets, including his world-renowned pastries that earned him a place in Relais Desserts, a 100-member French fraternity of the best pastry chefs. There are also some unique additions, such as a laminated brioche French toast (the bread is 30 percent butter) that’s been caramelized and served with seasonal housemade jam; a fiery sandwich inspired by Kraus’s Sicilian ancestry made with sausage from Keg and Case butcher K’nack; and a decadent egg and cheese croissant with a touch of béchamel.
“I can’t live without my béchamel,” he said.
Down the hall and through viewing windows, customers can watch bakers mixing dough, topping croissants with almonds and making the bakeries’ beloved breads.
“I really wanted people to see into it,” said Rose, the company’s CEO. In most restaurants and cafes, “you never really see behind the curtain.”
The 3,200-square-foot commissary kitchen is all new, but housed within old bones. Wood-paneled walls encasing the facility are original. A massive, ornate safe that’s part of the building’s foundation is visible in an office opposite the kitchen. Some of the building’s original copper encircles columns in the space, too.
But the light is most impressive to Kraus. “We’ve never had windows in our kitchens,” he said.
The new production facility will supply all of the bakeries, leaving room in those smaller spaces for cakes and catering.
“Each kitchen now is a little less stressed,” he said.
What won’t be coming out of the new kitchen: those MN Slice pizzas. With the company’s recent expansions, that was one thing they had to let go of, Rose said.
“We’ve been working on this for two years to get going,” she said. “If you think about in the last 10 months, we opened Snelling, we opened Keg and Case, we opened this [the new cafe and Bread Lab], so that’s a total of five different locations. It was that organizational moment to say, what are we doing with this?”
And Kraus couldn’t see himself hauling pizzas across the street. (A breakfast flatbread is the closest thing fans of that pizza can still get, at the Linden Hills cafe.)
In addition to supplying the bakeries, the Bread Lab will also be the home base for a European-style apprenticeship for young bakers interested in the profession.
A Buffalo, New York, native, Kraus was a culinary educator before he opened Patisserie 46 almost a decade ago. At his new Bread Lab, he wants to give burgeoning bakers a chance to experience the job — and its odd hours — before committing to it for life. “It’s really hard to know that you love this [career] if you’ve only seen it on TV,” he said.
Eventually, he and Rose will host instruction for the public, like parent-kid classes, or panettone-making at Christmas.
Kraus hopes to offer apprentices who complete two years with him a grant toward culinary school, so the skills of the trade can carry on to a new generation, without saddling them with debt before they know if it’s their true calling.
“You wouldn’t buy a car unless you test drove it,” he said.
Rose Street Cafe is now open Tues-Sun, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Beginning July 23, hours expand to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.