Stewart's, the intimate restaurant on St. Paul's Cleveland Avenue, will close Dec. 22.
After maneuvering through the pandemic, weathering a name change and other daily challenges of restaurant life, chef/owner Max Thompson said he is ready for a break. "I need a new challenge in life," he said. "I've been in this space for eight and a half years. It's time."
Thompson first took the helm of the restaurant then known as 128 Cafe in 2016. He operated 128 with a slightly changed menu for a time, but eventually closed it and reopened it as Stewart's in 2016.
The new approach allowed Thompson, a chef with a fine-dining pedigree, to stretch and have more fun with the inventive menu. It became a beloved neighborhood stop that served everything from a phenomenal fried chicken sandwich and fries to seasonally changing entrees.
Before the pandemic, Thompson also spent some time working with Nighthawks in Minneapolis to hone its menu. That project ended as the dining room closures caused everyone to rethink operations.
"It's a little bit of a Seinfeld exit. We're going out on top," said Thompson, noting that reservations have been full. "The good news is that two lovely people are taking over the business."
The restaurant will be reborn once again early next year under the ownership of chef Kevin Manley and his wife, Anna Morgan, both 112 Eatery alums. Manley worked with Thompson at Stewart's before leaving to help open Isaac Becker's Snack Bar in the North Loop of Minneapolis.
"They will keep this neighborhood gem alive," Thompson said. Most of the Stewart's staff will work with Manley and Morgan at the restaurant's new iteration.
As for Thompson: "I have an open slate. Not really sure what I'm going to do exactly, but take a couple of months to breathe."