Revival's eastward expansion into St. Paul finally arrives Monday when the purveyor of the Twin Cities' most celebrated fried chicken opens its glass doors on Selby Avenue.
Initially expected to open in late summer, Revival owners Nick Rancone and Thomas Boemer faced delays because of neighbors' concerns about the hours on the back patio. In warmer times, the 50-seat back patio will be open until 10 p.m. on weeknights and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Rancone said.
The menu's going to be beefed — and porked — up in St. Paul with barbecue ribs and brisket nestling on the menu alongside the celebrated fried chicken. At a media preview dinner Tuesday, Boemer served a sampling of the snout-to-tail offerings with a pig head on a platter, glistening plump cheeks and crisp chewy skin.
A full review will come later, but expect the cornmeal crunchy outside, gooey inside pimento cheese fritter to show Twin Citians how a cheese curd can transcend fair food. The baked sweet potatoes, with whitecaps of homemade marshmallow topping, were a surprise showstopper in the meat palace.
On Wednesday evening, the St. Paul City Council approved the restaurant's license for the former Cheeky Monkey space at 525 Selby (about midway between Dale and Western streets). A full bar will be one of main differences from Revival's Minneapolis restaurant, 4257 Nicollet Av. S., which only serves beer and wine.
Like Minneapolis, the St. Paul spot won't take reservations because Rancone firmly opposes them. He said he likes the communal conviviality of diners waiting for tables rather than rushing to reserved seats. With space for 111 indoors, the place is nearly triple that of the original Minneapolis spot (which is in mid-expansion).
Given the popularity of Boemer's fried chicken, the extra space may not ease the waits, but the bourbon iced tea will sand off the anxious edges. When waiting isn't an option, takeout is. That's another service not available in Minneapolis. Call ahead to have the Tennessee Hot ready or order at the restaurant and go next door to Solo Vino to get a wine pairing.
Rancone said he expects 30 percent of the business to come from takeout.
Leaving the ochre-hued dining room and bar may not be easy. Boemer and Rancone created a space that is airy and elegant without conceding warmth or comfort.
The open dining area, bookended by a fireplace and a wall of windows looking out onto the glittery streetscape of Selby, feels like a Southern hug. Rustic wood floors and tabletops coupled with metal chairs and upholstered corner booths create the same pretense-free space as the Minneapolis restaurant.
Rancone, a St. Paul native and Cretin-Derham Hall graduate, has been justifiably proud of how the first Revival draws an unusual-for-the-Twin Cities mix of customers. He said he expects the same at the new place, which now sits in one of the great crossroads of St. Paul, a short walk or drive from Ramsey Hill, Summit Avenue, the historic Rondo neighborhood and Crocus Hill.