By the time Halloween rolls around, Luke Shimp will be the proud owner of his second North Loop restaurant.
The man behind the fast-growing Red Cow chain — which operates its third outlet in the neighborhood — is stepping away from his burger-centric format to launch Red Rabbit.
The site? A 116-year-old building — currently being used as an auto repair shop — at 201 Washington Av. N., on the corner of Washington and 2nd avenues N. (pictured, above). Shimp said that the 5,000 square-foot building is perfectly suited to his needs.
“That’s a Luke-sized restaurant,” he said with a laugh. “That means about 125 seats inside, with 60 to 70 on the patio, and that’s perfect.”
That patio will have a greenhouse-like quality, with retractable enclosures (similar to the system that makes the patio at Patrick McGovern’s Pub & Restaurant in St. Paul so distinctive) that extend the facility’s use over three seasons.
“For this market, that’s a no-brainer of an investment,” said Shimp. “It seems like we have more days that aren’t beautiful vs. days that are beautiful.”
The bar will also have an indoor-outdoor component.
“It’s going to have a roll-up window, with seats on the outside, facing in,” said Shimp. “Those are going to be the prime seats.”
It’ll also be a working greenhouse, with a portion of its real estate dedicated to cultivating herbs for the kitchen and bar. The property has another feature, and it’s a North Loop rarity: on-site parking, for about a dozen cars. Design work is being handled by Studio M Architects of Minneapolis, which also designed Shimp’s North Loop iteration of Red Cow.
Shimp describes chef Todd Macdonald’s menu as “primarily pizzas, with a half-dozen pastas, six or seven salads, oysters and a smattering of bruschettas and other dishes to share,” he said. “We’re debating about a having a handful of entrees — maybe a rib-eye, or a bone-in pork chop, or a daily fish special — but we don’t want to get a too-upscale feeling. The restaurant is definitely going to be neighborhood casual, the kind of place where you could go for dinner two or three times a week.”
The cocktail program will be managed by bartender Ian Lowther, who is going to be overseeing libations company-wide. His first challenge: designing cocktails for the original Red Cow in southwest Minneapolis. The restaurant just received its full liquor license, and service will begin on July 5.
After a decades-long reign on the prominent corner across the street from the Red Rabbit site, Sex World is currently in the process of taking on a much more diminutive street presence. Did that downsizing have anything to do with Shimp’s decision to move forward?
“Not really,” he said. “I mean, it’s nice that they’re no longer front and center. But Washington Avenue has this great array of businesses, it always has. It’s urban. It’s great to have that mix.”
Here’s a measure on how bullish Shimp is on the neighborhood: He’s negotiating to purchase a second building (pictured, above) for a catering/events center -- complete with the requisite rooftop patio -- that’s large enough to accommodate groups of up to 150 people. It will also feature a brewpub component.
“We want to make beer for our restaurants,” said Shimp.
Yep, another North Loop taproom. The site — 905 N. 5th St., currently a computer parts warehouse — is roughly two blocks from the just-opened Inbound BrewCo, three blocks from Fulton Brewing and five blocks from Modist Brewing Co. It’s also a short walk to the Freehouse, the brewpub operated by Shimp’s former employer, the Blue Plate Restaurant Co.
Shimp is talking to brewers but hasn’t made a hire. Right now, the plan is that the facility’s taproom will offer a limited menu (“Not a full-on Red Cow experience,” said Shimp), something along the lines of a few burgers, salads and sandwiches.
Target opening date: mid- to late-summer 2017.