The restaurant industry is gearing up for the Super Bowl, but no one knows exactly what to expect. The bottom line? It’s going to be busy (so call ahead). How busy? It’s hard to say. But this much is true: If they plan in advance, local diners will likely be able to find a place at the table. Here are reactions from industry insiders:
Bar La Grassa and Burch Steak and Pizza Bar
After last year’s Super Bowl in Houston, co-owner Nancy St. Pierre contacted restaurants in that city with similar styles and price points, then made plans accordingly.
“They all said that we should be open for lunch,” she said. As a result, she and her spouse and business partner, Isaac Becker, are serving lunch — for the first time — at Minneapolis spots Bar La Grassa and Burch Steak and Pizza Bar, for a 10-day period.
Another valuable piece of advice that she gleaned from her research?
“They said we’re going to be busy the day after the Super Bowl,” she said. “They all told me, ‘Don’t think you won’t have anything to do on that Monday. Be prepared for the onslaught.’ ”
Mike Rakun, chef/owner of the restaurant in Le Meridien Chambers hotel, said that he didn’t want to turn over the entire restaurant to single-party buyouts.
“I don’t have any real statistics to back this up, but I think it’s more beneficial to keep open to the public,” he said. “I know that it’s put me off when I’ve made the effort to drive downtown, only to see the ‘Closed for a private party’ sign on the door.”
Rakun expects to see a big crowd on Sunday evening, when Jimmy Fallon hosts a live broadcast of “The Tonight Show” across the street at the Orpheum Theatre. Rakun isn’t planning on any big Super Bowl menu changes.
“But we’ll have fun, high-end specials all week long,” he said. “People like to live it up that week.”
901 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-252-7000,
Travail Kitchen & Amusements
Some restaurants have been left to scramble after plans fell through. Such is the case with this four-star Robbinsdale restaurant.
The original plan was that the Travail cooking collective would focus its energies on catering a party for several thousand people in a tent in downtown Minneapolis. But when that abruptly fell through last week, the restaurant’s three chef/owners — Mike Brown, Bob Gerken and James Winberg — jumped to replace some of that lost potential revenue.
“Some things went wrong, logistically, on their end,” said Brown. “This is how crazy this environment is. All this big money is jerking everyone around. So we decided to do our own thing.”
Which means they’re opening up their prepaid reservation system for the week, filling their schedule with tasting-menu dinners and brunches, plus a game day blowout.
“It’s our way of recouping our losses,” said Brown. “We’re in this position because we took a chance, and it didn’t work. We should have been promoting this for a month, to get people to know about it.”
Perhaps they shouldn’t worry. When they decided to throw a party for the championship Vikings-Eagles game, all available tickets sold out in three hours.
4124 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131, travailkitchen.com
Spoon and Stable
Chef/owner Gavin Kaysen has sold a few all-restaurant buyouts, on Thursday and Friday evening before the game. A private party has also bought out Saturday night at Bellecour, his French restaurant in Wayzata.
“They happened a long time ago, and for good reason,” he said. “Everyone was getting their ducks lined up in a row.”
But on the other dates, mere mortals can book a table, including the Saturday brunch that he’s added at Spoon and Stable — it’s usually a Sunday-only occurrence — as well as the regularly scheduled brunch and dinner on Super Bowl Sunday.
“Reservations are filling up,” he said. “I’m really excited. It’s fun to see the town so excited about it, so into it. I lived in New York when the Super Bowl was there, and you didn’t really even notice the impact. I would notice more when the United Nations was in town. But here? I can’t wait to see how the town reacts to it.”
Spoon and Stable, 211 N. 1st St., Mpls.,
612-224-9850, spoonandstable.com and
Bellecour, 739 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-444-5200, bellecourrestaurant.com
Owner Michael Kutscheid has one big booking, a Saturday dinner with Direct TV and AT&T. “We had to turn down Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys; they wanted to book a party of 30, but we’re full,” he said. “And Friday isn’t completely full, but we’ve got another large contingent. Thursday is really picking up, too.”
He noticed a lot of “questionable” inquiries early on.
“Last February I got an e-mail from London saying that they’d like to book the restaurant for a week, and they’d send a $50,000 deposit if we gave them our bank routing number,” he said. “Come on; I didn’t just get off the boat.”
Here’s one certainty: The restaurant will not be open on Super Bowl Sunday. But only by necessity.
“We’re always closed on Sunday for the simple reason that we don’t have any walk-in coolers or freezers,” he said. “And since Sunday is a day of no deliveries, we can’t get food. After we’ve had a big Saturday night, there’s literally nothing left to cook.”
903 Washington Av. S., Mpls., 612-339-5058,
Food trucks and vendors — more than 20 of them — are a major component of Super Bowl Live, the fan festival being held for the 10 days before the Super Bowl on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of it,” said co-owner Carrie Summer. “We were going to skip out of winter and go to Thailand, but we decided to work, because the Super Bowl probably won’t ever come here again.”
She and partner Lisa Carlson will be serving pulled pork sandwiches, bacon brats and smoky beef nachos out of their spot at 7th Street. Operating in cold weather is old hat for the duo, who used to run their mini-doughnut truck on the Mall during Holidazzle parades.
“We’re not sure what to expect in terms of crowds,” she said. “But we know that all we have to do is gear up, and dress warm.”
“We’re navigating as we go,” said owner Brenda Langton. “I don’t know if we’re going to be busy or not, being two blocks away from the stadium. I didn’t do a buyout, but we do have some big parties for brunch.”
She is urging locals to get out and enjoy the event.
“It’s going to be quite a party, and I’m absolutely looking forward to it,” she said. “I think that natives need to know that they shouldn’t be afraid to call a restaurant that they frequent and ask if they can get a reservation. We just don’t know how this is going to play out; just don’t shy away. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, so take advantage. Let’s celebrate.”
750 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-436-2236,
The Lexington and Smack Shack
“At the Lexington [in St. Paul], we have a couple of smaller private parties upstairs, but we’re also open for normal business, and we’ve got the ice bar on the rooftop,” said co-owner Josh Thoma. It’s a slightly different story at Smack Shack, his raucous, all-things-lobster restaurant in Minneapolis’ North Loop.
“We had a lot of people kicking the tires, but we didn’t get anyone to sign a contract,” he said.
“In the end, we decided to be open for regular business. Having those one-night buyouts is great, but it’s just one night, and it’s not going to make or break your business. We’d rather do business with our regular customers.”
His forecast? “I think we’re going to be busy,” he said. “We’ve had holds on our books, but we’ve opened them up for regular reservations. People are under the impression that everything is booked, but I don’t think that’s the case.”
Chef/co-owner Russell Klein is taking cues from last year’s major professional sporting event.
“For us, the Ryder Cup was a really interesting lesson,” he said. “We figured that we wouldn’t see much, because it was all the way out in Chaska. But we got our butts kicked, and we honestly weren’t expecting that.”
Another valuable lesson was gleaned from the Republican National Convention in 2008.
“Before the convention, Desta [Klein’s spouse and business partner] called other cities that had hosted conventions and asked for advice,” said Klein. “Everyone said that it’s up to us to sell our space, to be the place where the party is. All of the people who come to town, they already have events that they’re going to, so if you’re not the event, they’re not coming to you.”
410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670,
“We’re scared to death, but we’ve dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s,” said owner Cythnia Gerdes. “How could you not be excited?”
The restaurant’s one buyout is on Super Bowl Sunday, although there are a number of private parties taking place over the course of the week in three private event spaces. And the restaurant’s sibling establishment, Angel Food Bakery & Coffee Bar, is also staging several private events in an adjacent area.
But for the most part, “we’re open to the public, knock on wood,” Gerdes said.
To that end, the restaurant will be walk-in-only from Thursday through Sunday; no reservations.
“It’s important and cool that people try to stay open to the general public,” she said. “I went down to Houston last year to see what it was like, and there were so many places that were shut down for private events that you end up feeling like you’re playing a game. I want people to discover downtown’s restaurants, and not have them just play to the VIPs.
“Of course, I wouldn’t mind taking care of Pink if she happens to come by.”
80 S. 9th St., Mpls., 612-332-4700,
Bogart’s Doughnut Co.
Owner Anne Rucker is feeling the way a lot of folks in the local food world are feeling right about now.
“I’m freaking out,” she said with a laugh.
It’s a reasonable reaction, given that her popular doughnut kiosk is smack dab in the middle of what might be considered — outside of U.S. Bank Stadium, anyway — the epicenter of Super Bowl LII action, the IDS Crystal Court in downtown Minneapolis. That’s because ESPN will broadcast live from the court, starting Jan. 31.
“There are also going to be a lot of activities on Nicollet Mall, and we think that a lot of those people are going to be coming into the Crystal Court to warm up, and to have something to eat,” she said.
That means adding evening and Sunday hours, another break with the stand’s routine. Her menu will remain relatively unchanged. Other than featuring sprinkles of the colors associated with the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, Rucker isn’t planning on rolling out any Super Bowl-themed doughnuts.
“We’ve had some pretty crazy events in the past where we’ve tried to do all these fun, interesting specials, and it always ends up less than it should be,” she said. “We don’t really know what to expect. Our main goal is going to be keeping up with demand. We’ll go with the flow, and make doughnuts around the clock.”
And when it’s all over? “We’re going to celebrate, something big,” she said. “But first, I have the feeling that we’ll be doing a lot of sleeping.”
80 S. 8th St., Mpls., 612-259-7700,