"You get the itch, man," he said of this latest project. "My wife was like, 'Just go do it and get it out of your system.'"
Johnson, co-owner of the Strip Club in St. Paul and the co-creator and former co-owner of the Town Talk Diner, is gutting a Timber Lodge Steakhouse outlet near the intersection of Hwy. 5 and Eden Prairie Drive and launching Prairie Ale House (16396 Wagner Way).
"It's going to have a sports bar feel," he said. "People can come and watch the game, but for a change they'll be able to watch the game and eat good food. That's never happened in any sports bar I've ever been to."
Me, neither. Johnson has recruited former Town Talk alum Tommy Begnaud to run the kitchen, and the menu will feature items along the lines of a pressed grilled chicken with sweet potato bread pudding, a fresh daily fish, house-smoked salmon and oysters, house-made sausages, a wide assortment of tweaked-out burgers and a number of vegetarian choices. Two bar-snack items of note: a Scotch egg made using ground house-made brats, and a cored-out pickle filled with cream cheese, jalapeños and dill and then battered and deep-fried. "We're calling it the Sick Pickle," Johnson said with a laugh.
Dessert will focus on basics, starting with pie ("there's no shame in a really great piece of apple pie with ice cream," said Johnson). The bar, overseen by Adam Harness, another Town Talk vet, will live up to the alehouse name and feature 80-plus brews by the bottle and another dozen on tap.
"We're looking forward to coming to Eden Prairie and ripping it up," he said. Look for a mid-October opening.Another opening
Don Saunders is back in business. The chef/owner of the former Fugaise has taken over what was until recently the Armatage Room (the private events space for Cafe Maude, located across the street) and is opening In Season (5416 Penn Av. S., Mpls.). As the name implies, the 40-seat restaurant will focus on seasonal ingredients and will serve dinner Tuesday through Sunday, starting in early November.Around town
Here's a reason, besides brilliant fall foliage, to hit the road and head to the Lake Pepin area this weekend: the delightful Smiling Pelican Bakery (W3556 Hwy. 35, Maiden Rock, Wis., 1-715-448-3807) is back in business after a summer-long construction hiatus. Baker Sandra Thielman, who works harder than the entire Vikings defensive line, now has a roomier kitchen to create her exceptional pies, quiches, breads and trademark lavender-ginger sugar cookies.
During October, the St. Paul Grill (350 Market St., St. Paul, www.stpaulgrill.com) is celebrating 20 years in the business by rolling back prices to their 1990 counterparts on six popular items, including house-smoked salmon with pumpernickel toast points ($6.95), chicken pot pie ($12.95) and apple crisp ($4.25).
And how about this trivia? During the past 20 years, the Grill has served 190,800 shrimp cocktails, 106,320 servings of hash browns, 153,600 martinis and 158,480 cups of wild rice soup. I wasn't surprised to learn that the serving staff's average tenure is 13 years, because that is one well-oiled hospitality machine.
The latest outpost of a chain restaurant isn't always newsworthy. Well, unless it's the first Minneapolis iteration of the fabulous Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which is going into a storefront on SE. 4th Street in Dinkytown, two doors down from McDonald's.
Poor Richard's Commonhouse (8301 Normandale Blvd., Bloomington, www.poor richardscommonhouse.com) is now open in the former home of Majors Sports Cafe.