Brunson's Pub (brunsonspub.com), the reincarnation of the former Schwietz Saloon in St. Paul, opened its doors on Monday, debuting a pub menu with international flavors, and a craft cocktail lineup.
The eatery, at 956 Payne Av., boasts classic bar food and sandwiches with a subtle twist: Owner Thomas LaFleche wants his menu to reflect the multicultural background of the neighborhood that surrounds it.
"This is an incredibly diverse area," he said. "There are Hmong here, Mexican. Historically there were very large populations of people from Sweden, Italy and Germany."
Flashes of those influences are seen in the food that Brunson's chef, Torrance Beavers, serves. There's an Italian sub, a pork belly bánh mì, braised brisket tacos and a burger featuring sauerkraut, ale mustard and a pretzel bun. Sandwiches and burgers make up the majority of the menu — gluten-free buns are also available — with a small variety of appetizers and small plates, such as fish and chips and deviled eggs.
"It's just pub-style food," LaFleche said. "It's not the most gourmet. It's not the craziest food. But it is going to be delicious, it's going to be a little messy, and the No. 1 thing we're pushing is fun."
LaFleche, who most recently worked in management roles at Shamrocks and Saint Dinette, collaborated with Tattersall Distilling's Dan Oskey to create a cocktail menu heavy on classic drinks — such as an Old Fashioned — and Tattersall spirits (tattersalldistilling.com). A Moscow mule variation will be on tap, alongside 19 rotating local beers, and five red wines and five white wines.
"I've been talking about doing this for the last 16, 17 years, so it's time to start putting my money where my mouth is and open the doors," LaFleche said.
Across town, restaurateur Ryan Burnet's latest project, Station Pizzeria (13008 Minnetonka Blvd., stationpizzeria.com), has opened in Minnetonka. The New York-style eatery has made its home in a former gas station that has been transformed into a wood-laden space filled with plants, painted brick and a chandelier.
Station's menu boasts 10 thin-crust pies ranging from pepperoni, sausage and mushroom to a Thai sausage pizza with chiles and a hint of ginger. Gluten-free crust is available. Station also offers four salads — a romaine with miso vinaigrette and carrot ribbons, and Bibb with bacon, grape tomatoes and buttermilk dressing, among them — as well as a handful of sides such as the mac-and-cheese gratin with prosciutto, meatballs and fresh ricotta with toast points.
Coming next week
Baja Haus (830 Lake St. E., Wayzata, bajahaus.com), a California-Mexican eatery specializing in fish tacos, will welcome customers on March 29 just a few doors down from owner Billy Tserenbat's other operation, Sushi Fix.
In a space decked out with surfboards, bicycles, turquoise-colored banquettes and bright yellow-topped stools, Baja Haus will feature fresh seafood and a menu that will boast made-from-scratch masa and tortillas, as well as squid, whole-grilled fish and oysters on the half-shell served with black pepper bitters and tequila. Mezcal — including a mezcal and rum milk punch — will be the highlight of a cocktail program run by Josh Friedt.
Jorge Guzman of Surly Brewing Co. and Steven Brown of Tilia and St. Genevieve each were named finalists for the James Beard Foundation Awards in the Best Chef: Midwest category last week. The winner will be announced in Chicago on May 1.
Erin Rolek, sommelier at the Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, was among eight sommeliers in the country named "the best" by Food & Wine magazine. She is featured in the April issue.
Read full reviews and other restaurant news at startribune.com/dining.