Beginning in March, D’Amico and Partners is out, and Culinaire International is in at the Walker Art Center.
Culinaire will operate a yet-to-be-named restaurant as part of a new glass-walled entrance pavilion now under construction and scheduled to open in November. The addition is located near the museum’s original entrance on Vineland Place on the building’s north side, opposite the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
The $23.3 million entry pavilion and cafe is part of a larger $75 million remake of the Walker campus, with Minneapolis architectural firm HGA behind the design.
“We are excited about the possibilities with our new partnership with Culinaire including plans for a new cafe/full service restaurant with panoramic views of the renovated Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, featuring a full-on view of ‘Spoonbridge and Cherry’ from both indoor and seasonal outdoor seating,” said David Galligan, Walker deputy director, in a statement.
Culinaire is no stranger to Minneapolis. The 22-year-old Dallas-based company also manages the restaurant and catering operations at the Guthrie Theater (Sea Change) and the American Swedish Institute (Fika), as well as several dozen other venues — concert halls, museums, zoos, convention centers, hotels — in 23 cities.
It’s the third food-and-drink switch-up for the museum since the Walker debuted its $135.6 million expansion in 2005. A Wolfgang Puck-run Asian fusion restaurant, 20.21, ran until April 2011. The D’Amicos — operators of Cafe Lurcat and Bar Lurcat in Minneapolis, Campiello in Eden Prairie, Parma 8200 in Bloomington and the D’Amico & Sons chain — launched Gather in the former second-floor 20.21 space in June 2011.
That restaurant pretty much closed three years later, dropping its lunch service and remaining open Thursday evenings only, leaving D’Amico to focus its dining efforts on the museum’s lobby-level Garden Cafe, as well as the Sculpture Garden’s summer-only Dog House hot dog stand.
The museum will release details about the new restaurant’s menu and chef in the “coming months.”
Beginning in March, Culinaire will operate an interim Garden Cafe-like operation in the current Gather space (there’s no name yet). When the new pavilion-level restaurant opens in November, the former Gather space will be converted to a special events facility.
South of the border on SE. Main
After a long hiatus — remember Guadalaharry’s? – Mexican food is returning to the St. Anthony Main complex.
Aster Cafe (125 SE. Main St., Mpls., astercafe.com) owners and spouses Jeff Arundel and Amy Spartz plan to launch Jefe (219 SE. Main St.) in early May, in the space that has been the longtime home of the St. Anthony Main Event Centre.
The plan: a well-edited menu of what Arundel is calling “authentic Mexican street food. “We’re going to err on the side of simple and fresh,” he said. They’ll also be some items that aren’t Mexican, “because it’s going to be a neighborhood restaurant, and I’m not sure how many people want to eat Mexican food twice or three times a week,” he said.
A chef has yet to be hired. Jefe will be larger than the Aster, with roughly 130 seats, plus another 16 in a lounge (the restaurant will have a full liquor license), along with a 60-seat oak-shaded patio on a deck overlooking Main Street and the Mississippi River.
The space is getting a makeover (“It hasn’t been touched in 30 years,” said Arundel) with what Arundel describes as a “vintage Spanish” look.
“I know, Mexican street food, in vintage Spanish surroundings,” said Arundel. “It’s a hybrid, but we think it’s going to work. We’re staying away from the sombreros-and-Mexican-blanket restaurant design; we don’t want to overdo it.”
As for the name (it’s “boss” in Spanish), it’s not such a stretch to go from Jefe (pronounced Hef-ay) to Jeff, but Arundel says that’s not the case. “Any connotation with my first name is unintentional,” he said with a laugh.
The ninth annual Global Soup Cook-Off takes place Saturday (noon to 2 p.m.) at Midtown Global Market (920 E. Lake St., Mpls., midtowngloblalmarket.org).
Five dollars buys the ability to sample soups from nine market vendors, including the Produce Exchange (creamy tomato soup), Sabbai Cuisine (chicken red curry soup), Fresco’s Italian Pasta Bar (sausage potato kale soup), Taco Cat (chicken and sausage gumbo soup) and more, and then vote for your favorite.
All proceeds benefit Migizi Communications, a nonprofit serving the American Indian community.
Get a glimpse inside the impressive new brewing facility at the new Birch’s on the Lake (1310 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake, birchsonthelake.com), followed by a four-course dinner (with beer pairings, naturally) prepared by chef Jon Boetel on Jan. 26. The tour — led by brewmaster Brennan Greene — starts at 6:30 p.m., dinner begins at 7 p.m. Cost is $65; call 952-474-7373 for reservations.
Saying goodbye to Zentral
As reported Monday in the Star Tribune, Brasserie Zentral (505 Marquette Av. S., Mpls., zentral-mpls.com) is closing, and soon: The Austrian-Hungarian restaurant is serving its last dinner on Saturday.
The four-star restaurant opened in April 2014 in the historic Soo Line Building, an ambitious passion project of Meritage (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, meritage-stp.com) co-owners Russell and Desta Klein that unfortunately never cultivated a large enough audience to remain financially viable. It was the Star Tribune’s 2014 Restaurant of the Year.
The Kleins are keeping their adjacent Foreign Legion (105 S. 5th St., Mpls., foreignlegion-mn.com) open.
The depressing news recalled some sage advice to diners from chef Tim McKee upon the closing of his four-star La Belle Vie in October. It’s probably the 2015 quote of the year:
“If there’s a restaurant that means something to you and you really think is important, it’s your responsibility to keep them busy.”