The Twin Cities metro area is about to lose another fine-dining restaurant.
Brewer’s Table, Surly Brewing Co.’s high-end, beer-focused restaurant, will close in early August. Chef Jorge Guzman will leave the southeast Minneapolis destination brewery.
“With the Brewer’s Table, we’ve raised the bar with food and beer pairings,” said Surly owner Omar Ansari. “Two years later, it feels like we’ve accomplished those things, and now it feels like it’s time for a change for Surly.”
The impending demise of Brewer’s Table is another stark measure of fine dining’s decline in the Twin Cities, mirroring a national trend that has consumers opting out of formal, special-occasion restaurants in favor of casual, less-expensive dining experiences.
In the past two years, the upper end of the local dining scene has lost La Belle Vie, Vincent, Brasserie Zentral, Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar, Saffron Restaurant & Lounge and Piccolo.
“I’m sorry to hear about Brewer’s Table, because it’s one of the last restaurants where you could go and be challenged, and to experience a certain kind of dining,” said Doug Flicker, who recently closed his four-star Piccolo after an eight-year run in Minneapolis. “People vote with their dollars.”
Guzman currently oversees two restaurants at Surly: the Brewer’s Table, located on the brewery’s second level, and the popular main-floor beer hall. The two operations feed an average of 10,000 people a week, but the majority choose the cavernous, 350-seat beer hall and its populist, barbecue-friendly menu, which will remain after Guzman’s departure.
“We’d have a riot on our hands if we took away some of those dishes that Jorge created,” Ansari said.
In closing the 85-seat Brewer’s Table, Ansari cited financial issues and consumer preferences.
“It’s not easy to run a fine-dining restaurant above a raucous beer hall, and having guests show up to an already jam-packed parking lot,” he said.
Though it serves a small dining demographic, Brewer’s Table — which focuses on a four-course, $70 tasting menu with beer pairings — has been critically acclaimed since it opened in May 2015, about five months after the $30 million brewery’s debut.
Last June, Food & Wine named Brewer’s Table one of the magazine’s 10 best new restaurants of the year. Guzman was the Star Tribune’s chef of the year in 2015, and earlier this month he was a nominee for Best Chef: Midwest at the James Beard Foundation awards, the industry’s highest honors.
The restaurant’s closing date — and Guzman’s last day — is Aug. 5.
“People will have another two months to experience a restaurant that will probably never exist again in this city, or probably anywhere,” said Guzman.
As for the future for the Brewer’s Table’s space, no decisions have been made.
“We’ll be getting together with the events staff and the restaurant staff and take some time to figure out what makes the most sense,” Ansari said.
The two restaurants employ roughly 250 people. Ansari also said that there’s no word yet on any layoffs related to the Brewer’s Table closing.
“We’ll get that picture figured out in the near future,” he said. “We’re confident that there will be spots for a number of people.”
This isn’t the first time Surly has been rocked by a major departure. Last October, co-founding brewmaster Todd Haug abruptly left and was eventually replaced by two protégés, Jerrod Johnson and Ben Smith.
Guzman’s plans? “If anyone wants a James Beard award-nominated line cook, I’m open for interviews,” he said with a laugh. “Omar and I have a good relationship, everything is great there. I might take a month to regroup, and then I’ll be looking for investors to start my own project.”
Guzman said he would like to remain in Minneapolis.
“I’ve had offers to go out of state, and I’ve always declined,” he said. “I like Minneapolis. It would feel unethical to leave, especially because of what Minneapolis has done for my career. Leaving wouldn’t be becoming.”
Ben Peine, chef de cuisine for events at Surly, is in line to oversee all kitchen operations.
“We’re going out with our heads held up high,” said Ansari. “The staff has done amazing things with food and beer, that’s obvious to anyone who has been to the restaurant.”