The Tap: The New Equilibrium

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This week in The Tap: Some thoughts on getting to “one in, one out” in terms of restaurants and taproom openings and closings, plus a look ahead at upcoming restaurants in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, notes about spots that have closed, and about those that have recently opened.

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.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The New Equilibrium

The Twin Cities region has seen an unrelenting growth in the number of restaurants over the past 10 years. And the rate of growth of taprooms and cocktail rooms has been almost incalculably greater.

This growth isn’t a mere counting of numbers. It’s also an expansion of culinary horizons. We’ve seen everything from a gourmet bagelry to a $160-a-plate kaiseki restaurant to a brewery/wurstery to an Asian-influenced pizzeria open in recent years, and that just scratches the surface. Food halls are opening left and right. Surly’s massive brewery complex is a destination for food as well as beer, and Fulton has its own food truck at its taproom. Minnesotans are eating more adventurously and more seriously than we have at any time in the state’s history. The shift is part of a nationwide trend. It’s less a question of going out for dinner and a show than going out for a dinner that is the show. Dining is entertainment, and appetites for it have become greater and greater.

That said, the party is going to end, whether through a slow braking of growth or a hard collision with an economic slowdown. We track restaurant openings and closings here on The Tap, and over the past five years, the ratio of openings to closings has swung (roughly speaking) from about 2:1 to 3:2.

There was a boom in taprooms that seemed relentless and permanent, but that’s also beginning to taper off. We’ve seen highly trained and highly passionate brewers swoop into the market to brew prestige beer, and we’ve seen well-leveraged beer entrepreneurs snap up market opportunities (be it in suburbs or neighborhoods lacking taprooms, or in styles and/or price points ready to be populated). A segment of the beverage world that used to be small and collegial is full of new faces and increasingly competitive. There’s always been limited room at the top when it comes to fine dining, but the recent closures of high-profile projects with star chefs (the 510 Lounge and Upton 43, for example) point up the challenges inherent in catering to the upper crust.

As we drift toward a new rule of “one in, one out” (my best guess: an arrival in 2020 or thereabouts), we also approach a glorious condition known as “saturation.” In theory, a competitive market will weed out weak spots quickly, and fussy consumers with lots of choices will reward quality, hospitality, value, and novelty. We’ve seen this work (when we lived in New York City, where great value prospects could be had up and down the price ladder), and from a diner’s perspective, it’s a great place for a metro area to be. Here’s to a glorious 2018 and beyond. — James Norton

NOW OPEN:

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Bull’s Horn, 4563 34th Ave S, Minneapolis | Doug Flicker’s meaty, burger-forward revamp and reinvention of the former Sunrise Inn space. Review here.
  • The Hasty Tasty, 701 W Lake St, Minneapolis | New American with an emphasis on wood-fired food.
  • La Familia Tapatia, 1237 Larpenteur Ave W, St. Paul
  • Book Club, 5411 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis | A Kim Bartmann California fusion eatery, helmed by Asher Miller, in the former Cafe Maude space.
  • Sift Gluten-Free Bakery, 4557 Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Hai Hai, 2121 University Ave NE, Minneapolis | New Southeast Asian restaurant at the former Double Deuce location. By the team behind Hola Arepa.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Lucky Oven Bakery, 5401 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis | Scratch-made baked goods from a former Red Wagon pizza employee. Review here.
  • Loulou Sweet & Savory, 2839 Emerson Ave S, Minneapolis | Yet another rolled ice cream spot; we’ve gone from 0 to 3 in a few months.
  • Martina, 4312 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis | The former Upton 43 space has become an Argentine- and Italian-inspired spot by Daniel del Prado, formerly of Burch. Review here.

CLOSED / CLOSING:

James Norton / Heavy Table

Maverick's roast beef and beef brisket sandwiches

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • Maverick’s (our interview here)
  • Muffuletta
  • Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue (closing Jan. 13)
  • 510 Lounge

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Saguaro (our review here)
  • The Whiskey Junction
  • Northern Waters Restaurant (not the deli/smokehouse in Canal Park)

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

  • Fig + Farro,  3001 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | Jan. 10 | Vegetarian food in the semi-cursed former Figlio’s space.
  • Montreal-Style Deli (name TBD), 901 W Lake St, Minneapolis | Late spring | A smoked fish- and smoked meat-focused project, plus cocktails, by Adam Eaton, Tim Niver, and Saint Dinette GM Laurel Elm.
  • Prime Six, 609 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | Early 2018 | A mishmash of everything upscale from around the world, plus a dance floor. In the old Rosa Mexicano space.
  • Nye’s, 112 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | mid-January | A reboot of the legendary Nye’s Polonaise, in a new space at the Nye’s location, renovated and sans food.
  • Sonder Shaker, 130 E Hennepin, Minneapolis | Early 2018 | A new restaurant and cocktail bar also on the site of the old Nye’s Polonaise.
  • Cafe Limón, 3500 Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis | likely soon | Going into the old La Ceiba space, possibly a reboot of Hector Ruiz’s old Cafe Limón at Lyn-Lake.
  • Popol Vuh and Centro | ??? | A two-restaurants-in-one (a la Birdie and Nighthawks) high-concept/street-food purveyor with a Mexican emphasis. From the team behind the successful Lyn65 in Richfield. UPDATE, 12/12/17: The website has been down for a few weeks, which is never a great sign.
  • Moon Palace Books, 3032 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis | Early 2018 | The bookstore has moved two blocks north of its previous location; the restaurant portion should be open early this year.
  • Diamond BBQ, 5400 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis | Early 2018 | Barbecue, escargot, beef tartare, and more. By Daniel del Prado of the just-opened Martina.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • The Sioux Chef Restaurant at Water Works (on the Mississippi, behind the Mill City Museum) | 2019
  • Minnesota Barbecue Company, 816 Lowry Ave NE, Minneapolis | Early 2018 | A Kansas-City-style barbecue place to be led by Chef Kale Thome of the Travail team (and a Kansas native). Doing pop-ups around town until the official opening.
  • Funky Grits, 805 E 38th St, Minneapolis | Early 2018 | A soul food spot in the home of the short-lived Hell’s Chicken and Fish.
  • Malcolm Yards Market, 501 30th Ave SE, Minneapolis | 2018 | A food market that will capitalize on its proximity to Surly’s massive brewery/restaurant complex.

St. Paul

  • Holman’s Table, 644 Bayfield St, St. Paul | January | A restaurant at the St. Paul Airport.
  • Keg and Case revitalization of the Schmidt Brewery, 928 W 7th St, St. Paul | 2018 | Featuring restaurants by the teams behind Corner Table, and Five Watt, plus Sweet Science ice cream.
  • Parlour Bar, 271 W 7th St, St. Paul | Early 2018 | The popular Minneapolis Warehouse District bar-restaurant is branching out into St. Paul.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

  • Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery, Midway Township | Winter | Brewer Caleb Levar expects to be brewing in a month or two, pending a final inspection.
  • Sound, 132 E Superior St, Duluth | Jan. 2018 | An ambitious new spot by Chef Patrick Moore, formerly of Silos at Pier B.

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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5 Comments

  1. annmartina 01/09/2018

    I’m sad to see Northern Waters closing in Duluth. It was excellent, but maybe not in a great location. Too far up the hill.

    • Author

      It was a real shift for them (deli service to fine-ish dining) and maybe there wasn’t enough of a local appetite. But I agree that it’s a shame, they were doing a great job with it.

  2. Steve D 01/09/2018

    Maverick’s? What? Why?

  3. Max Hailperin 01/10/2018

    As context for the guess of twin-cities restaurant equilibrium around 2020, the Metropolitan Council forecasts continued population growth in the region until at least 2040, albeit with the rate of growth slowing in the later decades (11% in the teens, 9% in the 20s, and 8% in the 30s). Expressed as absolute numbers rather than growth rates, the tapering in their forecast looks even less dramatic from 310,000 extra mouths in the current decade down to 279,000 in the 2030–2040 decade. So, either their forecast is wrong, your forecast is wrong, or the number of restaurants per capita in the twin cities will decline. https://metrocouncil.org/Data-and-Maps/Publications-And-Resources/MetroStats/Land-Use-and-Development/The-Twin-Cities-Regional-Forecast-to-2040-Stea-(1).aspx

    • Author

      That (overall and continued population growth) is an excellent point. My prediction is based on the past 10 years of data plus my gut sense of the market, neither of which are scientifically predictive. Let’s check in about this in 2020 and see where we’re at …