The Tap: The Rise and Fall of Crudo

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This week in the Tap: Thoughts on the closing of Il Foro, Scena, and Parella.

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

Monello

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

The (Rapid) Decline and Fall of the Crudo Empire

Parella. Scena. Il Foro. Monello. Of the pack of four high-profile, upscale, Italian-crudo-driven restaurants to open within the past 12 months, only Monello remains.

The reviews of these exciting new places certainly weren’t bad, and it looked momentarily as though these restaurants were going to transform the local dining scene. Dara wrote of Parella “I hate to compare new restaurants to what other places are doing, but I couldn’t help it at Parella, mainly because so often there I felt like exclaiming, ‘Well, this is the right way! They’re doing it the right way!’”; Rick Nelson described Scena’s crudo and pizza menus as “home runs”; and the headline on Mecca’s Il Foro review was “Il Foro has culinary prowess for classic staying power.”

There was no lack of plaudits for these artfully designed eateries, which collectively brought some great food to the local scene. The missing element was a customer base.

Every restaurant opens for particular reasons, and every restaurant closes for particular reasons as well, so we can’t just say “crudo was a bad idea” and bury all three of these restaurants in the same unmarked grave.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Some thoughts, then. Crudo was a bad idea. Not for everyone, everywhere, at all times. But here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where we are drowning in sushi and not lacking for expensive restaurants, the need for another, lesser-known way to purchase small pieces of raw fish for large amounts of money never seemed self evident. The real energy in the cities at the moment seems to be a (sometimes cross-pollinating) mix of farm-to-table fare and mid-Southern food, and in as much as we need a counter to that, cosmopolitan joints like Spoon and Stable, 112 Eatery and Bachelor Farmer seem to do a fine job.

There’s often a gap between a trend and a customer base. Perhaps you know someone (or were someone) who was excited about crudo, or more broadly, about spending a lot of money to eat Italian food of varying degrees of accessibility in the name of sophistication. I know of no such people, and the main thing from this group of four spots that seemed to resonate was that Il Foro made a damn good burger (a burger I now regret never having tried. Gather your rosebuds while ye may …).

This isn’t to say you can’t do well doing thoughtful, upscale Italian — look at Broders’, for example. But Broders’ hasn’t lost touch with the soulful, approachable Calabrian-Sicilian heart of Italian-American food, and the prices have always been reasonable. The gap between ordering a huge (albeit satisfying!) hot dago at DeGidio’s and paying for a 10-course tasting menu at a place like Scena is absolutely enormous, with a lot of fertile ground in between those extremes.

Maybe it’s better to see if a metro area can absorb one novel concept restaurant rather than launching four at once. I am thrilled beyond words that we’re going to see a legit kaiseki place open in downtown Minneapolis. In concert with a more approachable sister restaurant and with the right support from diners and critics, it may do really well. But I would worry if four kaiseki places decided to launch more or less on top of one another.

Finally, amid the carnage, here’s something worth noting: the newly opened and high-profile Mucci’s is roaring along merrily, stacking up hourlong waits. Where this entire pack of now mostly-closed places zigged — high prices, high expectations, an emphasis on novelty and choice ingredients — Mucci’s zagged, with reasonable prices, comforting and familiar Italian-American dishes, and an emphasis on warm hospitality and solid execution.

THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE CRUDOCALYPSE: A TIMELINE

June 1, 2015: Monello opens
June 16, 2015: Il Foro opens
July 13, 2015: Parella opens
December 3, 2015: Scena opens
January 25, 2016: Parella closes
May 16, 2016: Scena closes
May 22, 2016: Il Foro closes

NOW OPEN

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

  • Rose Street Patisserie, 2811 W 43rd St, Minneapolis | The Linden Hills incarnation of Patisserie 46 is a bakery and full-service restaurant with 54 seats.
  • Blue Door Pub, 1514 Como Ave SE, Minneapolis
Dogwood Coffee Pour Over

Kate N.G. Sommers/Heavy Table

CLOSED / CLOSING:

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

Screenshot from Wild Mind Ales website

Screenshot from Wild Mind Artisan Ales website

  • Wild Mind Artisan Ales Taproom, 6031 Pillsbury Ave S, Minneapolis | As per the press release: “Wild Mind will predominantly produce wild, sour, farmhouse, saison, and rustic ales in the traditional European method: through barrel aging and blending, which produces beers with rich, deep, complex flavors.
  • Five Watt (Roastery and Cafe), 2904 Harriet Ave S, Minneapolis | August | Former Uptown Imports location.
  • Bad Waitress (second location), 700 Central Avenue NE | November
  • Red Rabbit, 201 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | Autumn | Red Cow owner Luke Shimp’s new spot will offer “a variety of dishes including handcrafted pizzas, oysters, pasta, fresh salads and more.”
  • Kata Organic, 4279 Sheridan Ave S, Minneapolis | Late spring | Organic cafe, smoothies, and fitness classes.
  • Clockwerks Brewing Company, 25 4th St N, Minneapolis | Late spring.
  • Xavi Restaurant, : 5607 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis (former First Course space) | June 14
  • Up-Down Arcade, 3012 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Mid-summer | Pizza and video games, hard to top that.
  • Trapeze, 1600 W Lake St, Minneapolis | Early Summer 2016 | A new Kim Bartmann “bubbles and toasts” bar opening next door to Barbette.
  • Lu’s Sandwiches, 20 6th St NE, Minneapolis
  • Blackeye Roasting Company, 330 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis (Skyway level) | Spring | An 18-seat cafe located in the skyway with 10 tap lines of non-alcoholic beverages that include nitro cold brew coffee, nitro iced tea, kombucha and draft cocktails.
  • Erik the Red, 600 1st Ave N, Minneapolis | Summer | Nordic-influenced barbecue from the owner of Devil’s Advocate.
  • Kaiseki Furukawa, 30 N 1st St, Minneapolis | October | Classic kaiseki (progressive small courses) dining.
  • Costa Blanca, 2416 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | The latest spot from the opening-restaurants-like-crazy Hector Ruiz.
  • Young Joni, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | Summer 2016 | Anticipation is high for this new wood-fired pizza and Korean spot by Pizzeria Lola / Hello Pizza boss Ann Kim.
  • PinKU, 20 University Ave NE, Minneapolis | June 1 | Ramen, dumplings, other Japanese street food.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Bakers’ Field, The Food Building | 2016 | Bread made from grain milled on site at the Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis. The bakery’s owner is Steve Horton, formerly of Rustica.
  • Shake Shack | 2016 | A local outpost of the cult favorite better-burger chain will open at the Mall of America.
  • Revival, 525 Selby Ave, St. Paul (former Cheeky Monkey space) | Summer 2016 | A second location for the popular fried chicken spin-off of Corner Table. The original location will also be expanding and offering take-out.
  • Project TBD at old Walker Library in Uptown, 2901 Hennepin Ave S | Architectural details available here.
  • Cafe Alma, 530 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | 2016 | Slated to be an all-day cafe with a liquor license and a six-room hotel upstairs, as Alex Roberts explains in this Q and A with Rick Nelson.
  • The Viking Bar, 1829 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis | May 25 | After nearly a decade of closure, this Cedar-Riverside saloon is opening tomorrow.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Brut, 428 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | 2016 | With all the culinary firepower of Erik Anderson (above) and Jamie Malone, Brut promises exciting things. It’s going into the old Sapor space on Washington Avenue.
  • Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis | June 23
  • Bonicelli Kitchen, 1839 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | July 1 | Opening in the former Razaaq space on Central Avenue.
  • Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | 2016
  • DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis | Delayed | DiNoko’s is a local place that can do deep dish pizza seriously well. Their move from Nokomis to downtown Minneapolis didn’t work out; here’s hoping that their return foray to South Minneapolis does.
  • Utepils (formerly Bryn Mawr) Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Late summer 2016

St. Paul

  • Black Coffee and Waffle Bar, Marshall and Cretin Aves, St. Paul | Second location.
  • Parco 400, 400 N Sibley St, St. Paul | Late spring 2016 | A new Italian restaurant opening in the old Trattoria Da Vinci spot in Lowertown, the culinary side to be headed up by Troy Unruh, formerly of New York City’s well-known Del Posto.
  • World of Beer, 356 N Sibley St, St. Paul | 2016 | Part of a chain including locations in Wauwatosa and Appleton, Wis., and Naperville, Ill. Opening seems interminably delayed.
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | 2016 | A restaurant aspect to the space is rumored to be under consideration.
  • The Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | Spring 2016 | It’ll be interesting to see how the ambitious team behind this revamp and relaunch tackles the task. Between its facade, its location, and its glorious but stuffy, old-school feel, we’ll find it tough to sort the baby from the bathwater on this one. Their Facebook page says, “Keep calm. We are opening soon.”

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by the Heavy Table. If you have tips for The Tap, please email James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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