When Spoonriver closed in December, the 14-year-old restaurant’s prime address wasn’t supposed to be sitting empty. A collaboration between the Birchwood Cafe and the Minnesota Farmers Union — a continuation of their successful partnership at the Minnesota State Fair — was set to move in, until the coronavirus pandemic intervened.
“But we still have the lease,” said Birchwood owner Tracy Singleton.
That obligation is one of the motivations behind the creation of F + B (750 S. 2nd St., Mpls.) a pop-up operation that will debut on Thursday.
“It’s going to give us a chance to get to know the people in the neighborhood, and let them get to know us,” said Singleton. “We’re just trying to figure out how to make something work, and bring some life to the neighborhood.”
Another reason is to generate income for the 25-year-old Birchwood.
“This pop-up is an opportunity to help keep the Birchwood going, and keep our staff employed,” said Singleton. “If we don’t have the Birchwood, it’s hard to have an offshoot.”
The plan is to emulate the Birchwood’s current curbside pickup model, with a few additions, including a mini-market grab-and-go option, with deli salads, soups, provisions (salsas and sauces) and a handful of farm-to-table grocery items, including eggs, milk, butter and bacon.
F+ B will start with dinner, Thursday through Sunday, along with brunch on Saturday (in conjunction with the adjacent Mill City Farmers Market) and Sunday. Lunch hours and a neighborhood delivery service will follow. A limited number of patio seats will be available.
The counter-service menu will include favorites from the pair’s fairgrounds collaboration: a BLT with a sweet corn sauce on focaccia baked with Minnesota-raised Kernza (a perennial grain), blueberry Key lime pie and lavender lemonade.
“We decided not to present any of the new foods that we’d planned to serve at this year’s fair,” said Singleton. “We’ll save them for next year. Hopefully there will be a next year.”
Baked goods will include the B’wood’s cinnamon rolls, plus the bacon caramel rolls that the restaurant sold at the State Fair a few years ago.
The kitchen will also tap into several Spoonriver classics, including a lamb burger and an udon salad with chicken.
“Brenda shared the recipes,” said Singleton, referring to Brenda Langton, the local foods pioneer and Spoonriver founder. “They’ll be our versions of them, and we’re doing it to honor Brenda and her legacy.”
Singleton is continuing to plan for an eventual full-service restaurant to occupy the space, following a renovation directed by Shea Design of Minneapolis.
“Long term, we still have great hopes for the space,” she said. “For now, we’re going to be nimble, and flexible, and play it by ear. We’ll continue doing this pop-up until we don’t. It’s a nice distraction. It leaves me with less time for worrying, and I’m grateful for that.”