Delta and OTG Preview New Menus at Concourse G

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Sometime next year you’re going to be able to order this as you sit in the airport, waiting for the crew to arrive for your delayed flight to Cleveland: fennel-cured whitefish from Lake Superior, drizzled with a black pepper dressing and served alongside a fresh, crunchy fennel slaw and a hearty brown bread panzanella. It might even take the sting out of going to Cleveland.

That dish was created by Lenny Russo of St. Paul’s Heartland restaurant, but it won’t be cooked by him. He and 10 other noted area chefs have lent their names and expertise to restaurants coming to Concourse G. Restaurant management company OTG Management won the contract to operate the concessions on the concourse in May, beating out the larger and more established HMSHost, which operates most of the other airport restaurants.

Some construction has already begun on Concourse G, as old tenants vacate. OTG takes over concessions at the gate January 1 and will gradually roll out amenities over 12–18 months, according to Rick Blatstein, OTG’s CEO. The first three restaurants are tentatively scheduled to open in July: Mimosa, a brasserie and raw bar created by Meritage’s Russell Klein; Shoyu, a modern Japanese restaurant by Tanpopo’s Koshiki Yonemura; and Minnibar, a sandwich cafe by Andrew Zimmern.

While there will be seating in the restaurants, there will also be “iPad bars” throughout the gate area, loaded with menus that allow customers to order from any of the eateries on the concourse.

Blatstein explained the concept this way: “Travelers have some gate anxiety” — you’ve been there: You want a sandwich, but are afraid to miss an announcement in the gate area — “So let’s bring everything to them at the gate. We’ve rethought everything. We’re not going to act like we’re inside an airport. Anywhere you sit you’ll be able to order food.”

Delta and OTG previewed some of the menu items at an event last night at Heartland.

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Andrew Zimmern showed off the “Sven and Ole,” a mild meatball sandwich (akin to meatloaf) with pickled cabbage, which will be on the menu at Minnibar.

Koshiki Yonemura, chef and owner of Tanpopo, previewed the crunch roll that will be available at Shoyu. Light on the spice, it includes tuna, Dungeness crab, masago, and avocado, with a light touch of yuzu. Yonemura is consulting on Shoyu.

Erick Harcey’s Minnesota Beer Hall will serve crispy croquettes, filled with creamy potatoes, smoked chicken, and cheddar cheese, while his second concept, Custom Burger, will have lamb burgers with feta fondue on the menu. Harcey is chef at Victory 44.

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Lenny Russo’s fennel-cured whitefish was the star of the evening. Russo was clearly not talking down to airport diners and he chose to make a wholly unique dish that is still rooted deeply in Scandinavian flavors and traditions. If Russo can teach OTG chefs to make dishes like this and OTG is committed to maintaining Russo-level quality, Mill City Tavern on Concourse G could become something of a dining destination.

Pizzeria Lola’s Ann Kim is consulting on Vero, which will serve individual pizzas and panini, including one filled with La Quercia prosciutto and fior di latte.

Scott Nelson’s Twin Burger will bring the beloved Matt’s Bar Jucy Lucy to the airport.

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Meritage’s Russell Klein shows that he can do great steak frites anywhere, even at the airport, in his concept, Mimosa.

Doug Flicker of Piccolo created Volante, which will serve traditional Italian pasta and panini.

We’ll find out next year whether Twin Cities names will lure travelers and diners away from McDonald’s and Cinnabon. But, after taking over the hometown airline almost two years ago, Delta seems to have concluded that the way to Minnesotans’ hearts is through our stomachs — and that a good dose of local pride goes a long way here.

Bill Lentsch, Delta’s senior vice president for Minnesota operations, told the preview crowd, “This is one more way we want to demonstrate that Delta is here to stay.”


  1. sd

    Given what other everyday food and drink items cost at the airport, I can only guess what some of these dishes will go for. I realize the airport is not a particularly inexpensive place to do business, but a $10 Sven and Ole or a $14 steak frite would be a non-starter with me no matter whose name is on it.

    If they can keep the prices and profit margin down, they’ll have a shot. Otherwise, they’ve limited their market to travelers with expense accounts who can be convinced this stuff is worth pegging the meter on their per diem — a perhaps unsustainably-small audience.

  2. Kate

    Where in gods name is SD eating steak frite for under $14 anywhere in this city, aside from maybe Applebee’s (where I doubt it is labeled as anything but steak and fries). If the execution of the steak frite at the airport is anywhere what is was at the preview, it would easily be worth a $30 price tag if served with filet.

  3. Russ

    I’m guessing that Michael Ruhlman and Chef Michael Simon would take exception to your reluctance about traveling to Cleveland.

  4. Tricia

    I do feel bad about picking “Cleveland” out of my mental hat. Fill in your least favorite destination of choice.

  5. Eric

    All puns aside there is no way in hell this idea flies. I can just imagine the prices. Next thing you know these clowns will be invading our school systems and charging an arm and a leg for locally sourced, sustainable school lunch food.

  6. Sarah

    OTG took over the Delta terminal out of LaGuardia last year and in my few trips there in the last few months, I would give it an enthusiastic thumbs up. The food court area has lots of options with seemingly local ties, but more importantly in my opinion, tons of relatively fresh and healthy snack options (nuts, yogurts, salad bar, etc.). I also had a very decent panini at the sitdown Bar Brace. It’s priced like any airport food, but is better than anything else out there, save for Surdyk’s.

  7. sd

    @Kate, I don’t eat steak & fries anywhere in town, so I have no real basis for comparison; just picking items out of hat.

    Airport food is exorbitantly expensive. I have a hard time believing that normal travelers who are paying $7 or $8 for essentially the same refrigerated shrink-wrapped sub sandwich they could buy better at Subway for $4-and-change are going to pay airport prices for something that would cost 4=5 times that anyplace else in town. I laud the move to provide more local options and I’m happy to see more fast-food options, but I’d rather see a $4 banh mi than a $30-35 steak frites.

  8. Moc Duk

    Good ol’ Northwest used to feature packaged foods from local businesses. Sonny’s Ice Cream for instance. This was a great idea for promoting the distinctiveness of local foods. Hopefully this new venture will be much the same. In the pay for everything world that we’re increasingly living in, wouldn’t you rather pay for quality, than crap? That said, this not likely to change my strategy of bringing compact, high energy food and an empty water vessel on my 4 flights per year, but I hope it succeeds anyway.

  9. sd

    “wouldn’t you rather pay for quality, than crap?”

    Sure. I’d rather have a new Mercedes-Benz than what I’m driving, too. But the price makes it prohibitive. Plenty of travelers — especially people who don’t care enough about food to read and comment on food blogs — will find the value equation for these dishes too far out of whack.

    I want to see this effort succeed, too. I’m not against it at all. But I don’t think it will happen at normal airline food “markup.”

  10. JME

    I think that my biggest concern with this concept is the time factor. Most travelers do not book their trips with large amounts of time to sit down and eat between flights. So, if you take away most of the fast food options on the G concourse, what are people supposed to grab? No McDonald’s? No Subway? Etc, etc. What fast food options will remain on G? If I had the time and the money, of course I would always pick the gourmet choices… But that’s not always the case for me. I’m a flight attendant, probably rushing to get to that Cleveland flight.

  11. jack

    i love the fact that better, non-coperate food is even considered at a volume of this level and tell “eric” to embrace positivity and stop kicking positive thinking in the face. good luck to all chefs involved

  12. Derek

    @sd — I think that current MSP-based airport outposts like Ike’s Food & Cocktails, French Meadow Bakery, and D’amicos have proven that these upper-scale options can and do work. Of course, you’re still free to load up on carbs, calories, and fat at any of the other fast food joints the airport has to offer.

    @JME — true, for some connecting passengers who book with an hour between flights, this isn’t going to be much of an improvement. But those passengers also likely wouldn’t be waiting in line at McD’s, either. They’ll go straight to the gate…hence the idea of iPads at the gate where they bring the food to you. I’ve seen this in action at LGA and JFK and it actually does work.

    For the rest of the travelers with longer connections (or us locals who arrive an extra hour early), these are going to be great alternatives to the mass produced slop we currently slalom through while walking to our gate. Especially with the much lengthier TSA wait times while they inspect every nook and cranny on you, why not just show up earlier, get through the TSA charade, and go have a nice meal. Board your flight relaxed, full, and content. The alternatives are far less appealing.

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