When trying to obtain a coveted reservation at the hyper-popular Demi, the odds aren’t exactly even.
The North Loop restaurant makes room for 20 diners in two seatings, Wednesday through Sunday, enough for 200 people a week.
“That’s about what Spoon does on a Monday night,” said chef/owner Gavin Kaysen, referring to his five-year-old Spoon and Stable, located across the alley from tiny Demi.
A month’s prepaid reservations are released in a single block, starting at noon on the first day of the preceding month. Want a table in February? You’d better be eyeballing the restaurant’s website at 11:55 a.m., sharp, on Jan. 1, ready to grab whatever is available. In this vivid example of demand outstripping supply, Kaysen reports that a month’s worth of tables sell out in a day.
“It’s still remarkable to me that it sells so quickly,” he said. “That’s something special, considering that people have so many choices to make. I’m pretty humbled by it all.”
Requisite prepaid reservations are a fundamental aspect of what appears to be a sustainable business model, since food and labor costs are highly predictable and most revenue is collected in advance.
(That’s a format that the equally successful Travail Collective has polished to an art form.)
Even seemingly modest touches accrue big-time benefits, from conversation-starting dishware to the way general manager Tristan Pitre delves into small-scale producers not frequently seen on Minnesota wine lists. The beverage pairings — wine, or a parade of ingeniously construed nonalcoholic libations — are an integral part of the experience.
The ever-changing tasting menu effortlessly progresses from light to substantial, and it’s served at a quickened — but hardly breakneck — pace.
The confident, technically proficient cooking is frequently electrifying, introducing diners to offbeat and often locally sourced ingredients that are presented in clever ways that avoid tiresome grandstanding.
Working a few feet from diners, the cooking staff doubles as servers, and in this up-close-and-personal experience, nothing comes off perfunctory, or rote. Instead, this well-rehearsed ritual radiates a deep sense of pride, shared wonder and disciplined professionalism.
Dinner, in other words, is a complete joy, a revelatory sensory experience that’s unlike any other in the state.
Kaysen, a Minnesota native who trained and prospered elsewhere before returning to his roots, has elevated the local dining scene, forging three four-star restaurants — Spoon and Stable, Bellecour and Demi — in five years. It’s an unprecedented burst of creative excellence. How fortunate for all of us that he chose to return and invest in his hometown.
“Gavin is one of the most highly trained chefs to have entered our dining scene,” said Alex Roberts, chef/owner of Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis. “Some of his best friends are some of the biggest names in the food world. How do you compete with a person like that? But with Gavin, I don’t see him pushing people down, I see him as a person who is trying to pull people up. He’s empowering people to leave his kitchens and go out and open great restaurants.”
Who knows? The Twin Cities’ next Demi-like gem could be the work of someone currently working at Demi. Here’s hoping.
For 17 years, the Star Tribune’s Restaurant of the Year award has honored a Twin Cities restaurant that debuted — or went through a significant change — during the previous 12 or so months. Past honorees include (other winners have closed):
928 W. 7th St., St. Paul, inbloomstp.com, 2018
165 13th Av. NE., Mpls., youngjoni.com, 2017
Spoon and Stable
211 N. 1st St., Mpls., spoonandstable.com, 2015
1933 Colfax Av. S., Mpls., burchrestaurant.com, 2013
Butcher & the Boar
1121 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., butcherandtheboar.com, 2012
50 2nd Av. N., Mpls., thebachelorfarmer.com, 2011
Bar La Grassa
800 Washington Av. N., Mpls., barlagrassa.com, 2009
825 Marquette Av., Mpls. mannyssteakhouse.com, 2008
600 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls., and 777 Grand Av., St. Paul, brasa.us, 2007
Midtown Global Market
920 E. Lake St., Mpls., midtownglobal- market.org, 2006
112 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 112eatery.com, 2005