As the calendar flips to a new year, a major transition is underway at the restaurant duo Nighthawks and Birdie (3753 Nicollet Av. S., 612-248-8111, nighthawksmpls.com) in south Minneapolis.
Landon Schoenefeld, the chef and public face of the two restaurants, plated his last dishes at the end of the year, making the decision last fall to move in a different direction.
In his departure, chef Chris Dorsey — formerly of HauteDish and W.A. Frost — will take over the kitchen at Nighthawks, a modern-style diner known for its griddled cheeseburger and other comfort fare.
The remaining team at Birdie — a 14-seat, ticket-based venue attached to the kitchen at Nighthawks — includes Jessi Peine, who also sources much of the produce from her farm, pastry chef Tlanezi Guzman and Britt St. Clair.
“Birdie was always a collaborative effort,” said Charles Johnson, who manages public relations for Nighthawks and Birdie. “Every week, [Peine, Guzman and St. Clair] came together with Landon, had recipe ideas and everybody kind of participated on the look and feel of Birdie, and the general direction.”
The trio, who are all veterans of the Twin Cities restaurant scene, plan to emphasize that collective approach even more as they move forward.
In other words, there will be no “head chef” at Birdie.
“The role of ‘leader’ will be passed around somewhat,” Johnson said. “Everyone kind of has their strengths over there. Everyone has to play their role. I hope they all kind of get their due, their spotlight, but the idea of one leader, they’re running from that.”
The format for Birdie — which serves elaborate coursed dinners for a single seating per night a few times a week — will essentially remain the same, Johnson said. There are also plans for a beer dinner showcasing Bang Brewing (2320 Capp Road, St. Paul, 651-243-2264, bangbrewing.com), and on Jan. 13 Birdie is hosting a wine dinner with Small Lot MN (smalllotmn.com, 612-466-0096), curating a variety of Loire Valley wines. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. dinner can be purchased at nighthawksmpls.com/birdie. The Birdie staff is also considering more open-ended ideas about extending the collaboration efforts out to friends in the cooking industry to come for special events.
Although there has been chatter about chef Erik Anderson joining the Nighthawks kitchen, Johnson said that’s not the case, though Anderson may occasionally join the staff for a guest event. (Anderson has been planning to open a restaurant, to be called Brut, with chef Jamie Malone.)
Diners can expect some modest changes at Nighthawks. The restaurant will add a Sunday night dinner service (in the past Nighthawks closed after brunch on Sundays). And expect some tweaks to the menus as Dorsey settles into his new role. The overall identity will remain, however.
“I don’t know about substantial changes, but you’ll definitely see his influence,” Johnson said of Dorsey, who already implemented a “Taco Tuesday” at Nighthawks last month. “But we’re still a diner and we’re still going to stick to diner food.”
Meanwhile, Johnson cleared up the question of HauteDish (119 Washington Av. N., Mpls., haute-dish.com, 612-338-8484) — Schoenefeld’s brainchild before Nighthawks and Birdie. Schoenefeld split ties with business partner Dave Walters shortly after opening Nighthawks in May 2015 and retains no financial stake, according to Johnson.
As for Schoenefeld, Johnson said he heard the chef was on a beach in Mexico.
“I think he’s taking some time just to work on himself,” Johnson said. “We really wish him the best. He set a foundation that I think a lot of us will have the opportunity to grow from.”