Spring Cafe, a new year-round restaurant run by the folks who operate Republic in Minneapolis, Bar Brigade in St. Paul and the Red River Kitchen food truck, will be the next full-service restaurant to occupy St. Paul’s Como Lakeside Pavilion, according to a tentative agreement with the city.
The cafe will operate year-round in the historic pavilion space, although winter hours will be limited to weekend brunches. Spring Cafe, whose contract starts April 1 and goes through Dec. 31, 2023, would pay the city a minimum of $100,000 a year and a total of $575,000 over the life of the contract, said Mike Hahm, city Parks and Recreation director. Essentially, the city will receive 10 percent of the restaurant’s monthly gross revenues.
Owner Matty O’Reilly wasn’t ready to say Wednesday what the menu will include or when the restaurant will open, other than that it won’t happen by April 1. But it’s likely to include burgers and food truck-style fare, Hahm said. Beer, wine and, perhaps, cocktails will be available.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said O’Reilly, who hopes to open as the weather warms. “Having smart menus that get more people to eat is critical to success.”
O’Reilly has a track record of partnering with St. Paul. Red River Kitchen serves food during the summer at City House, a restored grain elevator along the Mississippi riverfront near downtown. The menu there includes kimchi Philly nachos, veggie tacos and a Cubano sandwich.
Spring Cafe would be the third food vendor to occupy the picturesque pavilion. It replaces Como Dockside, the New Orleans-themed restaurant that closed abruptly in November after its owners said they could no longer endure wintertime losses. Dockside was chosen in January 2015 to replace Black Bear Crossings, a coffee shop. City officials were looking to cash in on the lakeside setting to generate higher revenues. Black Bear Crossings owner David Glass later sued the city for breach of contract, and won an $800,000 settlement, including a final payment of $137,500 due in July 2018.
During peak season — from early May to just after Labor Day — the restaurant would be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.
The new vendors will be required to invest at least $20,000 in improvements by June 1.
Neighborhood resident Dick Kelly served on an advisory committee that interviewed prospective vendors for the pavilion space. He said he likes everything about O’Reilly and his operations — the food, the prices and the atmosphere. “I think the community is just going to love it,” he said.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled to discuss the agreement Thursday evening and it could go before the City Council for a final vote next week.
The agreement also calls for the owners of the cafe to continue providing entertainment at the Pavilion’s outdoor promenade — a minimum of 100 events per year and up to 20 dates of the city’s 100 Music in the Parks events.