It’s understated but stylish. That was the goal of co-owners (and spouses) Marie Dwyer and Karl Benson when they envisioned a metal awning for the new North Loop outlet of Cooks of Crocus Hill in Minneapolis.

That may well be the best description of the shop itself, which opened last week. Heavy on the stylish, indeed. We’re not even talking about the cast-iron pots and pans that hang above as we step into the latest outpost of the 43-year-old kitchenware store and cooking school that originated on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue.

This is such an over-the-top iron awning — a French pot rack, in essence — that it’s worth a visit just to ooh and ah at the Le Creuset, All-Clad, copper and other cookware dangling from their well-secured positions at the top of the open-air awning. (Will the scrap-metal scavengers find this trove of goodies? Only time will tell.)

The sculpture — which really is what it is — was based on a concept of Dwyer’s and created by artist Joe Gilbertson of Fieldworks in Minneapolis (­ Benson contacted vendors to locate used cookware that couldn’t be resold, and found more on eBay. The result is the colorful, whimsical mélange of pots and pans that delights visitors. (Note that the heaviest pans are nearest the building.)

A new neighborhood demands a new approach, which is what Benson and Dwyer took to heart as they developed this fourth major iteration of their retail shop. (There are locations in St. Paul, Edina and Stillwater, with small outlets in Kowalski’s Markets in Woodbury and White Bear Lake).

The Minneapolis space’s smaller footprint and the area’s food-centric nature influenced their decisions. (If you can’t find a place to eat in the North Loop, you’re not looking very hard.)

"Pantry" and "prepared foods" aren’t dirty words to these folks, who know that their neighbors aren’t hobnobbing at restaurants every night of the week. High-quality packaged goods — hand-rolled pasta, pickled green tomatoes, poached tuna, best-ever barbecue sauce and the like, top sellers at the other stores — are front and center. Tasting those goods is, too.

The new Cooks has tasting displays and plans to highlight many of its products in classes.

Take the lobster oil from France, for example. A small taste may not show off its purpose well — or cost — but a class that explains how to use it in risotto or a shrimp salad or antipasto may. These classes will be shorter than the traditional programs at Cooks — 90 minutes instead of three hours — planned for time-pressed cooking enthusiasts.

“We want to make Cooks more appropriate for the neighborhood,” Dwyer said.

That means cocktails, beer and wine, too, once the shop’s liquor license is approved. Look for classes on food and wine pairings or how to make a cocktail, or even Friday night flights.

Cookware, which is so important in Cooks’ larger stores, has fewer options at the North Loop shop: Where there might be 14 styles of something in St. Paul, there is likely only one in the North Loop, but it will be their bestseller.

That’s not to say there aren’t multiple options of some favorites, including four lines of cast iron, from Lodge to Le Creuset.

The mission is to have both must-have and aspirational items, Dwyer said.

The grand opening is a collaborative effort with neighboring shop Askov Finlayson, which will celebrate with a “pop-down” extravaganza with guest vendors from Duluth (get it, not a pop-up?) on Sept. 24 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

Cooks of Crocus Hill, 208 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-223-8167, Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.