Birch's opens in July

Ravello is history. Long live Birch's (1935 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake).

Chef/owner Burton Joseph is taking a lifetime of food experience -- Joseph Catering was the family business, and his father Nathan owned a Chicken Delight franchise in northeast Minneapolis -- and pouring it into a new venture.

"It's a contemporary supper club," said Joseph. "People want comfort food -- glamorized but down-to-Earth, a place where families can come after hockey games, or couples can go on dates."

The space is undergoing renovations: a much-enlarged bar, a remade patio. When the restaurant opens in mid-July, it will serve dinner daily as well as a Friday lunch and weekend breakfast.

Joseph is drawing inspiration from a long-gone Lake Minnetonka hangout, the Buckhorn. "It was known for its fried chicken," he said. "People came from all over to eat it. We're going to be using that recipe as the basis for our fried chicken."

By the way, Biella (227 Water St., Excelsior,, Ravello's former sibling, continues to cook across the lake in downtown Excelsior.

Going, going, gone

This weekend marks the final opportunity for Twin Cities daytrippers to drive east and enjoy Native Bay (9504 Hwy. S South, Chippewa Falls, Wis., The three-year-old restaurant, which does an admirable job of sourcing and showcasing Wisconsin-raised ingredients, is calling it quits after Sunday.

Chef/owner Nathan Berg is already making plans for a follow-up enterprise. The decision to shut the doors comes down to that real estate mantra: location, location, location.

"Our next place will be smaller, and more centrally located near human beings," he said with a laugh. It's a reference to Native Bay's lovely but out-of-the-way lakeside location, a former and rather enormous supper club. "The next time around we'll aim for something other than having three months that are crazy busy and nine months where we do nothing but yawn."

When Berg and his crew resurface -- and nothing is set in stone, yet -- they will probably land in nearby Eau Claire. "We're all Chippewa Falls, born and raised, but from a business perspective, Eau Claire is a better option," he said. "We can find investors, but it's harder to find the right location." Berg also plans to narrow his focus, since customers never did determine if Native Bay is a fine-dining destination, or a burgers-and-beer-on-the-dock joint. (My impression is that the restaurant very capably catered to both camps.)

"Yeah, trying to be everything to everyone got to be too stressful," Berg said. "One night some customers from Minneapolis were upset because we weren't offering a six-course tasting menu in the summer, and then a table on the deck got up and walked out when they found out we didn't have ranch dressing. It'll be nice to have a singular focus -- on the dining room -- when we move somewhere new."