The proprietor of Andy's Garage, one of Midtown Global Market's original vendors, has been getting calls for years from people looking to get their oil changed. He's had to tell callers over and over that the stall offers only burgers, sandwiches and breakfast — no auto repair.
With an upcoming expansion beyond the East Lake Street food hall, co-owner Frank Chase is making sure the concept of the new location is crystal clear. It's called Andy's Diner, and it's bringing the same retro look and diner menu to a former Bruegger's Bagels space two miles down the road (1500 W. Lake St., Mpls.).
In addition to traditional pancake-and-egg breakfasts and burgers, the new spot will have an expanded menu, with all-day breakfast that includes Southwest-style breakfast tacos, broasted chicken for takeout, and family-friendly meals that could serve four people for $60.
"We're aiming to get into a niche" in the new location near restaurants such as Barbette, Lake & Irving and Chino Latino, Chase said. "We're going to be below those prices but above fast-food prices. We want our customers to be able to eat there a couple times a week, if they so desire."
The bagel oven is already gone, and if construction goes according to plan, Andy's Diner will open by mid-December.
The Midtown Global Market location will remain open as well (920 E. Lake St., Mpls., andysmgm.com).
"We have a great following there," Chase said. "Why leave that behind?"
Pasta on the menu
After a test-run in St. Paul last month at Cooks of Crocus Hill, Paul Berglund has launched a semi-permanent pop-up in Rochester. And it's all about pasta.
The James Beard Award-winning chef who helmed the Bachelor Farmer until 2017 won accolades for his New Nordic and American regional cooking in Minneapolis — including four stars and Restaurant of the Year from the Star Tribune in 2011.
With his new three-day-a-week micro-restaurant, he gets to "explore my culinary roots through the lens of more experience in the craft and more experiences in general in food," he said. Before coming to the Twin Cities, Berglund cooked at the acclaimed Italian restaurant Oliveto in Oakland, Calif. His roots, therefore, are noodles.
Hence the name of the pop-up, Fat Noodle, which is in residence at the counter in Benedict's Thursdays-Saturdays for the foreseeable future. (10 E. Center St., Rochester, exploretock.com/fatnoodle)
Reservations are sparse as the counter seats only 17. "It's an intimate, interactive experience for the diners," Berglund said. Guests can choose from two menus — a traditional four-course meal, or a pasta tasting menu that includes three pastas and a dessert. Both cost $55, with an optional wine pairing for $28, "so it's not a bank-breaker," he said.
To make the pasta, he's using grains milled in northeast Minneapolis at Baker's Field Flour & Bread.
"It's truly night and day, the difference in taste between pasta made with that flour and pasta made with commercially milled flours that have been sitting on the shelf for several months," he said. He's excited to experiment with their non-wheat flours, such as buckwheat for the pizzoccheri noodle popular in northern Italy.
Just what is it about pasta that drew Berglund back to his favorite cuisine?
"Firstly, there's something about a bowl of noodles that translates into so many different regions of the world, that's just so comforting and sort of inherently nourishing," he said. "But I also truly love the craft of making pasta by hand."
Kitchens are fast-paced, he said, but pasta-making puts him in a meditative state. "It's very repetitive and it's very soothing for me," he said. "A chef's life is just go, go, go. But to make a delicious noodle, you have to stop and take the time to make it right."
Brownies and more brownies
The owners of a hockey-themed dessert truck are going brick and mortar, and they promise a rotating menu of more than 30 "designer brownies."
The Warming House by Original Hockey Mom Brownies will open later this month on St. Paul's Grand Avenue, in a former Erbert & Gerbert's (1700 Grand Av., St. Paul, ohmbrownies.com).
The bakery will have seating and a to-go business, and will also serve as the production space for the company's food truck and trailer, catering, and booths at Target Field and Xcel Energy Center (Section 102).
Right off the bat there will be gluten-friendly options, with a vegan recipe coming "down the road," said Andrew Howard, who co-owns the business with his mother, Patti Howard (the hockey mom), and runs it with his sister Victoria and dad, Tony.
The rest of the menu is simple. Coffees, and ice cream to make those brownies à la mode.
Howard expects a lot of to-go orders at the new space.
"People want a convenient place to come pick up your brownies," he said.
Think sweets and beyond
When Macy Lee traveled in Thailand with her daughter in 2017, she fell for the food — especially dessert.
"I love decadence," she said. The cafes, with their locally grown coffees and over-the-top confections, were a highlight of the trip.
One standout among many was the honey toast: thick buttered bread, griddled, topped with ice cream and drizzled with honey.
"There was something about it being toasty and soft and chewy on the inside," Lee said. She realized then, "I have to find a way to bring this back to America."
She went back to Thailand the next year and toured the country's cafes, taking notes.
The result of her research is Thirty-Six Cafe, which opened at 949 Grand Av. in St. Paul last month. That honey toast is on the menu of this cafe with a serious sweet tooth.
So are other "brick toast" creations topped with matcha butter or chocolate candy. (There is a savory section, too, with three different versions of avocado toast.)
But the real star, the dish that has been keeping Lee and co-owner and sister-in-law Soua Vang slammed since they opened, is the soufflé pancakes.
Custardy, fluffy cakes made by separating the egg whites and yolks before putting them back together, can reach up to 2 inches in thickness. They're real lookers, and mouthwatering Instagram photos from some early guests have led to something of a rush on them.
The pancakes take about 15 minutes to make, and Vang, who runs the kitchen, has been churning out plate after plate of them to patient customers. Lee says some have waited up to two hours for their order.
"We went viral overnight," she said.
The decor of the cafe is eye-catching, too. Flowers are everywhere — on the wall, around the mirrors, hanging from the chandelier. And there are splashes and splashes of pink, from the chairs to the rose tea lattes.
"You don't see a floral pink chic cafe that is Instagrammable, in combination with brunch food," Lee said about why hers is taking off.
"We wanted a space that ladies can come hang out," Lee said, "and it's attracted everyone."
Doors close at Rojo downtown
The downtown Minneapolis location of Rojo Mexican Grill closed on Oct. 31.
It's the second closure this year for the Michael McDermott-run chain. The Rojo at Southdale closed earlier this year. A previous incarnation in the North Loop closed in 2016.
The latest closure at 921 Nicollet Mall leaves only one Rojo open, at the West End in St. Louis Park (1602 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-657-5385, rojomexicangrill.com).
But this doesn't necessarily spell the end for the brand. A sign posted on the door on Nicollet Mall says the closure is temporary, while the restaurant moves into a "future location" in spring 2020.
Representatives for McDermott Restaurants did not respond to a request for comment, but McDermott told the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal that the location was to blame.
"I'm in the suburbs, and I don't know anybody who goes downtown," he said.
He tried two previous times to make something work on Nicollet Mall, first with Ling & Louie's and then with Randle's. (McDermott is also a partner in Lucky Cricket at the West End and Tavern 23 in Edina.)
Last week, with the Rojo sign gone, the old sign for Ling & Louie's was still shining.
Read full reviews and other restaurant news at startribune.com/dining.