A Peter's Grill replacement

Behind the brown paper that's covering the windows, the downtown Minneapolis corner once anchored by the venerable Peter's Grill is being transformed into an "urban farmhouse."

That's the phrase that co-owner Barb Gardiner is using to describe the Hen House Eatery, the breakfast-all-day cafe and bakery now under construction at 114 S. 8th St.

Gardiner and business partners Maribel Cuadros-Perrault and Tara Koenig met and became friends while working at Key's Cafe and Bakery, where breakfast is also a specialty of the house.

"We've all been in the breakfast business for quite a long time, so that's going to help," said Gardiner. No kidding. Collectively, the three of them have clocked more than four decades at Key's.

The Hen House kitchen will open for business at 6:30 a.m., concentrating on such items as blueberry pancakes with Greek yogurt, a sweet potato hash, an omelet with quinoa, chèvre and tomatoes and a host of a.m. baked goodies.

Lunch will focus on burgers, sandwiches and soups ("Peter [Atsidakos, owner of Peter's Grill] has all these big soup kettles that we're going to use," said Gardiner), and a limited evening menu (served to 9 p.m.) will devote itself to appetizers.

"We're not going to do dinner," said Gardiner. "The area kind of clears out in the evening."

Fans of Peter's will recognize some aspects of the place. The restaurant's famous walnut booths are at the top of the save list, and one of the distinctive horseshoe-shaped counters is being repurposed for a bar (unlike Peter's, the Hen House is going to have a full liquor license). Two private dining rooms are also being added.

"We'll try to keep the charm that Peter's had, but we're updating it," said Gardiner. "It's going to be more colorful. We've been painting over the Peter's green for weeks now. Many, many weeks."

Historic Peter's, the last of the downtown lunch counters, closed in June, a year shy of its centennial. Gardiner said that she and her partners are aiming for a March opening.

A taste of Germany

In 2009, architect Joachim "Aki" Berndt, out of a job thanks to the Great Recession, started his farmers market bread business with $600 and untold amounts of elbow grease.

His charming German accent quickly became a familiar commodity to shoppers at the Maple Grove, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Golden Valley and Brooklyn Park farmers markets. That success grew into a tiny sublease in downtown Osseo, and now Berndt is about to open his own brick-and-mortar bakery in northeast Minneapolis.

When it opens — next month, it is hoped — Aki's Bread Haus (2506 Central Av. NE., Mpls., will feature Berndt's crusty German breads — he has more than a dozen in his repertoire — along with a small selection of pastries (apple strudel, spelt-cinnamon-walnut rolls and cardamom bread) as well as coffee and granola.

Oh, and pretzels. Lots of pretzels. Pretzel sales are probably about to go through the roof, given a delicious bit of real estate serendipity. Berndt's next-door neighbor is the Fair State Brewing Cooperative, which, when it opens in May, will operate a taproom.

"Beer and pretzels, they fit together," said Berndt.

Both businesses, along with a bike shop, are tenants in the Northeast Investment Cooperative, a collectively owned enterprise that buys, renovates and manages commercial property in northeast Minneapolis.

Say goodbye

Al Baker's, a longtime Eagan dining landmark, has closed.

Restaurants, revisited

Last week's "The Ghosts of Restaurants Past" story encouraged readers to suggest names that I'd stupidly overlooked, including the original Fuji-Ya on the downtown riverfront, Gallery 8 at the Walker Art Center, and Pronto Ristorante and Caffe in the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Thanks for the heads-up.