The dining room at Palomino in downtown Minneapolis. Star Tribune file photo.

Crave, surely the fastest-growing restaurant outfit in Minnesota, just announced a major expansion.

The slick, something-for-everyone mini-chain is opening a downtown Minneapolis outpost next spring, in the gigantic skyway level space in LaSalle Plaza that's currently occupied by Palomino. “We are thrilled to bring the Crave concept to downtown Minneapolis,” said CEO Kam Talebi in a statement.

They're certainly doing it in a big way, snaring a marquee chunk of real estate -- when the neighborhood's theaters are booked, so is the restaurant, and its proximity to Target Field can't hurt, either. Talebi is also adding what has quickly become a requisite urban restaurant element: an enormous rooftop deck.

The company, which opened its first Crave in the Galleria in Edina in 2007, is having a wildly busy year, expanding into Orlando and Omaha, along with adding its third local outlet last spring in the West End development in St. Louis Park, about four miles west of downtown. Its second Twin Cities site, in the Mall of America in Bloomington, opened in 2009. A second Florida location, in Coral Gables, is also in the works.

Crave at the Mall of America. Star Tribune file photo.

The news obviously comes as a bummer to Palomino staffers and customers. The Italian-inspired restaurant has been a pre-theater and business lunch fixture for 19 years. Mike Majestic, director of marketing for the restaurant's parent company, Seattle-based Restaurants Unlimited (which also operates Kincaid’s in Bloomington and St. Paul), said that the building's landlord exercised the 60-day termination clause in its lease.

"The closing date of the restaurant will likely be around Dec. 12," Majestic said. "We'll be looking at doing some events/specials between now and then to say 'thank you' to our guests, and, most importantly, to help support our team members as we head into the traditionally busy holiday season. As you can imagine, the timing on the lease termination isn't really great for them."

As for a new downtown Minneapolis location, it's "definitely on our radar, although I don't have any specifics to share at this point," said Majestic.

“It’s a sad day here,” said general manager Karen Ingram, who has been with the company for 19 years, and in Minneapolis for seven. “The crew here is so fabulous.” She’s right, they are; the skilled service was a major highlight when I revisited the restaurant this past spring.

As for Palomino’s over-the-top decor, my guess is that it will land in a Dumpster, although it almost qualifies for period-room status. Can I call first dibs on that gigantic fake Leger?



The art in question. Star Tribune file photo.