The Tap: Life After La Belle Vie and More

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This week in the Tap: What establishment will pick up the fine-dining torch once La Belle Vie puts it down?

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

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Life After La Belle Vie

There has been considerable hand-wringing over the upcoming closure of the Tim McKee-led, French-inspired La Belle Vie, and why shouldn’t there be? The restaurant’s finale comes after a scene-altering 17-year-reign as one of the state’s leading fine dining restaurants.

But is this the end of fine dining in Minnesota? Everything hinges upon what’s meant by the phrase itself. Are we talking about tablecloths and the colors thereof? Fresh flowers? Imperiously omniscient servers? Entrees that start in the $20 range and drift northward?

Is it an aura of opulence, or a sense of impeccable hospitality, or $1000 wall sconces? Is it high-technique and/or laborious food made with internationally prized ingredients? Is it a head chef with a boldface name? Clearly, it’s none of these things by themselves, but some combination of them that qualifies a restaurant as “fine.”

Keeping in mind the squishy meaning of the phrase, here are four local restaurants that seem perfectly poised to pick up La Belle Vie’s torch before it hits the ground. (Also: Is this list exhaustive? Far from it.)

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Spoon and Stable

PROS: Unite a chef with nationally-known firepower (Gavin Kaysen), a menu that’s up-to-the-minute with its emphasis on precision and beauty, and some of the chicest, sleekest decor in the region and you have a serious contender for heir. The area’s fine dining champion should be a place where people feel as though they’re in the limelight and celebrating something momentous, and Spoon and Stable goes all out.

CONS: As the fresh-faced newcomer at the top of the local dining scene, Spoon and Stable hasn’t had the opportunity to demonstrate how it will weather the years – changes of staff, evolving fashions, and a sometimes-fickle public can all take their toll on a natural-born superstar.

VERDICT: With a few years of graceful aging, Spoon and Stable may well emerge as the natural heir to La Belle Vie. For now, it’s one of the “it” restaurants, and that’s a good start.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Brasserie Zentral

PROS: More than perhaps any restaurant we’ve dined at around here, Brasserie Zentral gets the service aspect right – hospitality, in the truest and oldest sense of the word, is the rule. The menu’s varying perspectives, from Viennese haute cuisine to soulful Hungarian-inspired dishes, offers spin after spin on celebration food, all of it well-executed. That the wine program is thoughtful and incredibly serious is another solid plus.

CONS: The (ironically) isolated nature of Zentral’s particular location in downtown Minneapolis mean that it’ll have a fight on its hand to become a default gathering place. Traffic patterns shift over time, and food can bring people just about anywhere, so this isn’t too deep of a hole to emerge from.

VERDICT: If you’re looking for a sense of opulence and a team that will take care of you, Brasserie Zentral is first-rate, making it an easy choice for diners looking to transition from La Belle Vie.

Becca Dilley Photography

Becca Dilley Photography

The Bachelor Farmer

PROS: In the same way that Brasserie Zentral shifts the spotlight to the east of France, The Bachelor Farmer shifts it north, to Scandinavia, looping in Upper Midwestern food traditions in the process. In many ways, this is a smart update to the fine dining formula – there’s no rule that fine dining has to sport a French accent, and we’ve been living in the cultural shadow of northern Europe for quite some time around here – it’s about time a post-Aquavit restaurant picked up the ball and ran with it. The fact that Noma has been a world-beater for a few years now doesn’t hurt, either.

CONS: Some of the restaurant’s earthy touches – the popovers, the toast racks, the ever-present heart motif – don’t jibe with a prescriptively narrow definition of “fine dining.” This is only arguably a counterargument.

VERDICT: The impeccable food and killer style of The Bachelor Farmer will likely win over any doubters; it’s another solid contender for the title.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Heartland

PROS: The nimbus surrounding chef/owner Lenny Russo makes Heartland a natural destination for people who like to eat well. On top of that, the restaurant’s deep connection to Upper Midwestern game and produce is a thoughtful echo of what most of the best restaurants in Europe (and, well, everywhere) aspire to: taking the land and water of the countryside and serving it up on a plate in the city. The fact that the restaurant’s dining room is imposingly big and understatedly gorgeous doesn’t hurt the cause.

CONS: What cons? In terms of aspirations, formality, decor, and food, Heartland fits the bill neatly.

VERDICT: All told, a solid fit and a likely successor – alongside some (or all) of the other three places we’ve discussed and probably a few others to boot.

James Norton

NOW OPEN

  • Seward Co-op Friendship Store, 317 38th St E, Minneapolis
  • Dark Horse Bar and Eatery, 250 E 7th St , St. Paul | From the same folks who brought us Muddy Waters, as per this story.
  • Eastside at Latitude 45, 301 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis Eastside features Seattle-based chef Nick Dugan as its chef de cuisine working alongside executive chef Remy Pettus.
  • Bad Weather Brewing, 414 7th St W, St. Paul
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Screenshot from seward.coop

Screenshot from seward.coop

CLOSED / CLOSING:

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • Vincent, A Restaurant | Closing Dec. 31, 2015. A triumphant run by a classic restaurant.
  • Surdyk’s Flights | Closing end of 2016. Colossal blunder by the airport.
  • La Belle Vie | Closing Oct. 24, the end of a particular era of fine-dining in this state.
  • Republic (Uptown location) | We’ve heard that Republic’s second location, in Calhoun Square, is closing Oct. 11, which is a shame — always a solid beer selection.
  • Sonora Grill (Midtown Global Market location) | Not good news for MGM, which has been trying to attract more high-concept ethnic eateries like Sonora.
  • Cafe Zentral | One third of the Zentral empire is being sold to employee Rob Whitney, who will reopen it as the World Cafe.
  • Masa | This well-known downtown Minneapolis D’Amico & Partners spot is closing Oct. 24. It had a pretty good run: 10 years.
  • Cow Bella Gelato | Farewell frozen treats, hello Erbert and Gerbert’s. At least the excellent IndoChin is still next door.
  • Fuji-Ya (St. Paul location) | Like so many closings, this happened on the quiet — we heard about it from a reader and confirmed it by checking their website (which now lists only a Minneapolis location). Seemingly bad news for this reliable sushi institution.
  • Nye’s Polonaise Room (closing 2015) | This trolltastic City Pages column nonetheless does a good job of expressing some of the ambiguity about the passing of the nationally known and locally legendary Nye’s.

COMING UP:

Minneapolis

  • Ramen Kazama, 3400 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis | Looking like October 2015; sign’s up.
  • Milkjam Creamery at World Street Kitchen, 2743 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Late 2015 / Early 2016 | A gourmet ice cream shop by Sameh and Saed Wadi, the brothers behind World Street Kitchen and Saffron.
  • Polpo | Late 2015 | In the former La Mac Cleaners space, run by David Hahne, the former chef of the excellent Cave Vin.
  • World Cafe | October 2015 | Replacing the former Cafe Zentral in the skyway.
  • Cafe Alma, 528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | Late 2015 or Early 2016 | Hailed by the Star Tribune as this year’s Best Upcoming Project and a “casual breakfast-to-late night cafe, coffee bar, wine bar and bakery.”
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Blue Door Pub, 1514 Como Ave., Minneapolis | January 2016
  • Inbound Brewco, 701 5th St N | End of 2015 | Appears to be a spin-off of Lucid.
  • The Viking Bar, 1829 Riverside Ave., Minneapolis | End of 2015 / Beginning of 2016 | After nearly a decade of closure, this Cedar-Riverside saloon is on its way to reopening.
  • Savory Bake House, 3008 36th Ave S, Minneapolis | 2015 | Located across the street from Merlin’s Rest, “Savory is a new twist on the old school rustic bakery everyone knows and loves,” or so says their Facebook page. Baker is Sandra Sherva from Merlin’s Rest and formerly of Birchwood.
  • Saint Genevieve, 5003 Bryant Ave, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | Expectations are high for this Steve-Brown-helmed restaurant, which will dish up approachable French fare.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Brut, 428 N Washington Ave, 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 | Fall 2015
  • Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Ave S, Minneapolis | Fall 2015
  • Bonicelli Kitchen, 1901 NE Fillmore St, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | A catering business that raised Kickstarter money to make the jump to bricks-and-mortar and may not be making the jump to bricks and mortar.
  • Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Fall 2015
  • Able Seedhouse and Brewery, 1121 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
  • Lakes and Legends Brewing Company, 1368 Lasalle Ave, Minneapolis | Fall 2015
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

  • Q Fanatic, 6009 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 (second location) | Although the local BBQ scene is mighty weak, we do think Q Fanatic does a good job at serving up serious Q. This new location, along with the recently launched truck Bark and the Bite, suggests that there’s hope for us yet.
  • DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis and 4747 Nicollet Avenue S, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | Apropos of Giordano’s (see above), 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.
  • Bryn Mawr Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
  • The Sheridan Room (replacing the Modern) in Northeast Minneapolis | November 2015 | Some details on MSP365.
James Norton / Heavy Table

James Norton / Heavy Table

  • Hi-Lo Diner (working name), 4020 E Lake St, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | Seward and Longfellow are really jumping onto the breakfast train after years of struggling to get by with nothing more than the overpriced Longfellow Grill and the inedible Denny’s; Mon Petit Chéri seems to be doing well, and the new Co-op Creamery Cafe will be a serious breakfast presence as well. Hi-Lo is getting in as the neighborhoods heat up. Here’s the press release and a photo of a crane lifting the diner into place.
  • Upton43, 4312 Upton Ave, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | This spot, by Victory 44’s Erick Harcey, is a chance for the much lauded chef to bounce back from the bust-up of Stock and Badge and rollup of the ambitious but shaky Parka.
  • Urban Forage Winery and Cider House, 3016 E Lake St, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | We profiled these guys when they were mounting their (successful) Kickstarter campaign, and they have a fascinating take on how to do earthy, grassroots local wine and cider.
  • Lost Falls Distillery, 1915 E 22nd St, Minneapolis | Fall 2015
  • The Herbivorous Butcher, 507 1st Ave NE, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | These guys have gotten serious national press and look poised to become a force in the food scene once their bricks-and-mortar spot is up and running.
  • Pizzeria Lola concept TBD, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | 2015
  • The Bachelor Farmer Cafe project to be named, 200 N 1st St, Minneapolis | 2015

St. Paul

  • The Commodore Bar and Restaurant, 79 Western Ave. N | October 27 | Historic art deco spot linked with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
  • Mucci’s, 786 Randolph Ave., St. Paul | A new old-school Italian-American place from Strip Club Meat and Fish and Saint Dinette owner Tim Niver.
  • Sunrise Creative Gourmet, 1085 Grand Ave, St. Paul | October, 2015 | A big move for the Hibbing-born Italian specialty shop, which will open in the former Chez Arnaud space on Grand Avenue and offer some cafe-type noshes including soups, salads, and pastries. A Kickstarter campaign is underway to ease the move.
  • World of Beer, 356 N Sibley St, St. Paul | 2015 | Part of a chain including locations in Wauwatosa and Appleton, Wis., and Naperville, Ill.
  • Lake Monster Brewing, 550 Vandalia St, St. Paul | Fall or Winter 2015
Courtesy of Lucas Gluesenkamp / lucasgluesenkamp.com/

Courtesy of Lucas Gluesenkamp / lucasgluesenkamp.com/

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

  • 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | Early 2016 | A restaurant aspect to the space is rumored to be under consideration.
  • Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | Mid-November 2015 or later | 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. Jess Fleming sums up the progress or lack thereof here.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

  • Kendall’s Tavern and Chophouse, 12800 Bunker Prairie Road, Coon Rapids | October 2015 | Tavern-style food including steaks and pizza from Morrissey Hospitality Companies, the folks behind the St. Paul Grill, Pazzluna, and more. The spot will have room for 236 guests in the bar and dining room, plus a patio.
  • Oude Oak, Midway Township | Spring 2016 | A new sour beer-only brewery planned for just south of Duluth.
  • The Unofficial Dive Bar and Grill, 3701 Stinson Blvd, St. Anthony | Nov. 2, 2015
  • St. Croix Brewing Company, 114 Chestnut St E, Stillwater | 2015
  • Angry Inch Brewing, 20841 Holyoke Ave, Lakeville | 2015
  • Ruscello, Nordstrom Ridgedale, Minnetonka | October 2015
  • ZZQ Smokehouse, 3390 Coachman Road, Eagan | October 2015
  • 10K Brewing, Bank Block on Second and Main, Anoka | Winter 2015 | Expecting an inspection on Oct. 1, with an opening date to be announced soon after that.
  • Gogi Bros. House, Shady Oak Retail Center, Eden Prairie | Soon | They say “the wait is almost over,” and they’ve started hiring.
  • Wicked Wort Brewing Co., 4165-4175 W Broadway, Robbinsdale | Fall 2015

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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6 Comments

  1. Brett Laidlaw 10/13/2015

    Very well stated, James. It would be a sad, sad statement about the TC restaurant scene if the closing of one establishment spelled its demise, or serious decline. I think Alma and Vincent belong on the list, too. Re Zentral, while I’ve always had excellent service there, I found the food uneven during a couple recent lunches. Cheers~ Brett

  2. Author

    Brett – Alma and Vincent are both excellent contenders. As per usual with these lists, they’re never exhaustive … the scene contains multitudes, something we’re deeply grateful for.

  3. Eric Larsen 10/13/2015

    Was Piccolo part of the discussion, or is it too different of a concept?

  4. DDBHack 10/13/2015

    It’s a shame about LBV but I think the restaurant scene in general, throughout the U.S., has evolved more towards “accessible” and high-quality, chef driven experiences. The impeccable service, consistency in execution and quality of ingredients that generally define “fine dining,” can come off as stuffy and exclusive in some metros outside of NYC, Chicago, LA, and SF. Furthermore, the chasm that had existed between a “fine dining” experience and a chef-driven, casual “brasserie”-style restaurant has closed considerably in the last 10 years. To my knowledge, there isn’t a current restaurant in the TC that can fill the void left by LBV and maybe that’s okay for this town.

  5. Author

    I’m honestly pretty neutral on the subject ultimately, since so much rides on what “fine dining” means, and I think that’s something incredibly subjective in many ways.

    The thought that no restaurant can fill LBV’s void is a totally legit viewpoint, I think, and I’ve heard that argued by other people.

    And the idea the Piccolo might be a great fit is also really reasonable – for me it feels like a different concept, but the qualifier there is important. And for that matter – what about Corner Table? Or Saffron?

    Part of what got me thinking about this is that we all say “fine dining” and we all mean something slightly – or even radically – different.

  6. unfortunate 10/14/2015

    went to alma recently, think it’s lost a step or two compared to the new restaurants you mentioned.