When fixing up an old restaurant, carpet is usually something that's removed, not added.
That wasn't the case at the forthcoming Creekside Supper Club & Lounge, where the proprietors installed carpet throughout the space that used to house Pepitos Mexican Restaurant and El Burrito. It's one of many visual touches — another is wood paneling — that were brought in to make the place seem a little more retro, a little cozier, a little more Wisconsin.
"It's supposed to feel very familiar and warm and welcoming," said Ward Johnson, who co-owns the south Minneapolis restaurant and the neighboring Parkway Theater with business partner Eddie Landenberger. For the Creekside, the pair teamed up with chef Eli Wollenzien of Coalition and Red Sauce Rebellion to create the kind of restaurant that felt like it had been there all along.
"In Wisconsin, these things are a way of life," Johnson said. "The places where you'd go in and the staff already knows your name and your favorite drink."
The Creekside, at 4820 Chicago Av. S., will open Dec. 29, Johnson said.
Pepitos, a south Minneapolis fixture for 46 years, closed in 2017. El Burrito took over the space in 2018, and closed at the beginning of the pandemic.
As Johnson and his partners were searching for a restaurant concept to fill the vacant space, they noticed certain trends that they were happy to avoid. "In Minneapolis, restaurants are almost like an arms race, and you're trying to outdo each other making the coolest, most modern space possible and going really high-end with the menu," Johnson said. "What we liked about this idea is that it goes in a completely opposite direction."
The menu adheres closely to Upper Midwest supper-club tradition: steaks and chops, relish trays, cheese curds, walleye. (Appetizers run $10-$19, entrees start at $16 for a burger and up to $38 for king cut prime rib.) "Every day there will be a fish fry," Johnson said. Grant Halsne, formerly of Lake & Irving, is helming the kitchen.
"This is the kind of place you want to eat at when you don't feel like going out," Johnson said. "It's a little bit less challenging, from a menu standpoint."
At the bar, all the classics are on the menu, including a Brandy Old Fashioned and a few "dairyland" cocktails. Grasshopper, anyone?
But in an attempt to steer clear of what's trendy, Johnson and his partners seem to have stumbled onto another trend. Mr. Paul's Supper Club recently opened in Edina, blending New Orleans cuisine with the supper-club experience. St. Paul is slated to get the Apostle Supper Club and tiki bar near the Xcel Energy Center, designed to look like one of Wisconsin's A-frame cabins, from restaurateur Brian Ingram.
Old fashioned? Hardly. The supper club is suddenly hot.
"It's a little more inclusive, and I think that's something that resonates with people right now," Johnson said.
For supper club aficionados, Creekside will have even more nods to the tradition. There will be a rock formation with a babbling brook and a lounge in the entryway, where guests can have a cocktail while waiting for tables.
But the supper club touches go beyond the aesthetic, Johnson said.
"It's a little hard to articulate," he said. "A lot of it is a feeling you get when you go there."