Broadway Pizza's Minneapolis riverfront location has closed. But it's not the end of the line for the restaurant — or its iconic caboose.
The hillside spot overlooking the Mississippi River — with a historic wooden train car on the corner — served its last pizza Sunday night. It was a busy weekend at the restaurant, which was flooded with regulars sharing memories over one last slice.
"A lot of goodbyes," said Broadway Pizza CEO Jim Kruizenga. "A lot of hugs, a lot of pictures, a lot of talking about old times."
The restaurant, built at 2025 West River Road in Minneapolis in 1974, will be replaced by affordable apartments. Developer Schafer Richardson is planning a six-story, 163-unit building with income limits of 30% to 80% of the area's median income on most units, and 34 project-based Section 8 units.
"I'm pretty proud that when I drive by here in a year and a half, it's going to be affordable housing and continue to serve the community here that's been so loyal to us all these years," Kruizenga said.
While the closing is bittersweet, there's good news. The restaurant is relocating to downtown Minneapolis, partnering with Dan Kelly's Pub (212 S. 7th St.), which has been closed since the start of the pandemic. Broadway Pizza will be on the menu at Dan Kelly's beginning in March 2022. "It fits our decor," Kruizenga said. "It's what I would call a cool bar, a dive bar. And Broadway's a pizza joint."
Dan Kelly's owner Erik Forsberg says the partnership with Broadway Pizza is "a real opportunity to strengthen their brand downtown and grow together throughout the metro."
Broadway Pizza's historic train car will be relocated to the Ironhorse Railroad Park in Chisago City, Minn., where it will be restored to its original grandeur and placed on a track for rides.
There are still 13 other locations of Broadway Pizza in Minnesota, and north Minneapolis — where the local chain was launched in 1961 — won't be left without one for long. "I wouldn't be surprised if in the next year or two you see me popping up in the neighborhood within a half-mile or so," Kruizenga said. "I'm definitely interested in staying with some of these customers."
As for Dan Kelly's Pub, Forsberg says the downtown Minneapolis bar and restaurant will reopen this week after a 20-month closure. Before Broadway Pizza moves in, Forsberg will use the kitchen to launch a new "cold water seafood" concept called Castle Coast, which will spin off to its own home by summer 2022. The menu includes fish and chips, a crabcake sandwich, broasted chicken and a crab corn dog.
"We have all learned from breweries that we can have a bar concept separate from our food concepts," similar to the way Smack Shack grew out of the 1029 Bar in northeast Minneapolis, Forsberg said. "COVID really helped us recognize that we can change the way people dine. I think creative fun food in unusual spaces is an ironic expression that creates a unique experience."
Forsberg's other downtown Minneapolis spot, Devil's Advocate (1070 Nicollet Mall), is slated to reopen in January or February, he said. (A Stillwater Devil's Advocate should open before the end of the year.)
With two downtown restaurants finally on the brink of reopening, Forsberg said he is optimistic about the district bouncing back. "Downtown is and continues to be a great place to live and work. It's not going anywhere," he said.
The gluten-free, whole foods restaurant Sassy Spoon closed Nov. 20. It began 10 years ago as a food truck before launching a brick-and-mortar store at 5011 34th Av. S. in Minneapolis. "It is time for Sassy Spoon to say goodbye," owner Tamara Brown wrote on social media. "I am ready to try something new. ... I feel incredibly lucky that our team supported each other through such a challenging year and a half, and that we had this space to share."
The seven-year-old Dragon Wok, which was relocated in March 2020 from Nicollet Avenue to a larger space at 805 E. 38th St. in Minneapolis, is taking a break after a challenging residency at the corner of 38th and Chicago. "As you know, we've been through some unimaginable times at our current location. For the last year and a half, our small team has fought an uphill battle to bring you the best we had to offer. When we took a step back to evaluate our mental and physical health as a family, we realized we are sacrificing too much to continue operating in these conditions," the owners posted on social media. The lease continues and they're planning to "return in a different form."