First-time restaurateur Carly Gatzlaff is creating Churchill Street in Shoreview because, after 10-plus years of residing in the northeast suburb, she's grown tired of the paucity of dining options in her community.
Gatzlaff has spent the past decade operating a fashion consulting business, and since her restaurant experience is limited to a part time gig at Taco John's when she was a teenager in Mandan, N.D., she's looking to others to help guide the process.
"This project is a compilation of the time that so many people have given to me over the years," she said.
Chief among them: Jonathan Gans and Josh Hoyt, the executive chef and director of operations, respectively, of the former Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis. The duo have recently partnered to form hospitality-focused Northlands Consulting, and Gatzlaff is their first client.
"I basically stalked Jonathan on LinkedIn," she said with a laugh. "He responded right away, and I remember saying to my husband, 'The former chef at the Bachelor Farmer just got back to me.' "
Their plan is to create an all-day counter-service operation, one that's modeled on the success of the Lynhall in Minneapolis and the Grocer's Table in Wayzata.
"I want it to feel comfortable and casual," said Gatzlaff. "Not that people can't feel that way with table service. We'll still have a hands-on experience, but it will be quicker, and more family-friendly."
Gans is designing the menus, and once the restaurant is open, he and Hoyt will hand off the day-to-day operations to a chef and a general manager.
"We'll be making good, real food that tastes like it should taste," said Gatzlaff. "Very approachable, but from a craft standpoint that's the highest level. I'm not going to compete with Restaurant Alma. That's not what we are, and that's not my goal."
At lunch and dinner, expect soups, salads, sandwiches, shareable snacks and handful of entree-scaled plates. In the mornings, there will be breakfast burritos ("Because there isn't a good one in the Twin Cities, and when I go to California, that's all I want to eat," said Gatzlaff), old-fashioned doughnuts ("A beloved thing in our family," she said) and an ode to the way Gans' grandfather cooked huckleberry hot cakes in bacon grease.
"It's the classic Montana cabin breakfast," he said. "And they're about as good as it gets, my friend."
The kitchen will also prepare take-and-bake options as well as pantry staples. The bar will feature coffee, local beers (including a tap or two from Stacked Deck Brewing Co. in St. Paul, where Gatzlaff's husband Michael is an investor), a long list of by-the-glass wines and a small selection of craft cocktails mixed with Minnesota-made spirits.
"We're not trying to create a bar atmosphere, because there are already some great bars in Shoreview," said Gatzlaff. Likewise, the kitchen's emphasis on baked goods will be short and sweet.
"Taste of Scandinavia is nearby, and they do such a great job with pastries, so I don't see a big need," she said. "Could we compete? Sure, but I'm trying to fill a void rather than do what other people already do really well."
A key component to the restaurant's business plan is its commitment to supporting Minnesota Central Kitchen, which prepares free meals for food-insecure Twin Citians.
"That's been a huge piece of it for me," said Gatzlaff. "Especially since I've had kids, I've realized that no one should have to go through food poverty."
Locus Architecture of Minneapolis is converting a former hardware store into a 100-seat restaurant. What was once the store's garden center will become a covered three-season patio. The target opening date is next August or September, with the hope of maximizing late-summer patio time.
"Opening during the peak of harvest season would also be great," said Gans.
When it comes to the restaurant's name, Gatzlaff originally embraced "Good Real Food," "Because that describes what I want it to be," she said. But later discovered that it's the Birchwood Cafe's longtime motto, "so that wouldn't have worked," she said with a laugh. After Gatzlaff, Gans and Hoyt realized that they were constantly referring to the project by its location (4606 Churchill St., Shoreview), they had an "ah-ha" moment.
"We said 'Churchill Street' so many times that we thought, 'Maybe we should just call it that,'" said Gans. "Sometimes the most obvious answer is right in front of you."
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib