McKinney Roe Makes a (Big) Splash in East Town

Becca Dilley Photography

This story is sponsored by Boelter Landmark Restaurant Equipment and Design.

McKinney Roe is, on paper, a large restaurant. With seating for 325 indoors and more than 150 additional spots outside, it’s the kind of place that can accommodate a crowd, a useful feature for an eatery located at the base of the Wells Fargo building and under the shadow of the Vikings’ U.S. Bank stadium.

Becca Dilley Photography

But the adjective “big” doesn’t really tell the restaurant’s story. As you walk the floor, you become aware that the restaurant is both grand and welcoming — warmly ensconced spaces have been subtly carved out of the greater whole, and there are comfortable nooks, corners, bar stools, and mezzanine tables that invite lingering conversation and “just one more” drink.

“At full capacity, we can have almost 500 people seated in the place, and yet it feels totally intimate,” says owner Dermot Cowley (below).

Becca Dilley Photography


McKinney Roe looks the way it does in large part due to a collaboration with Boelter Landmark Restaurant Equipment and Design, along with design-build team partners Zeman Construction and Shea Design.

Courtesy of Landmark Boelter

“[Boelter Landmark] is a great company,” says Cowley. “I’ve known Tom Lutz [left] now for 20 years, and he’s such a gentleman. Each restaurant that we’ve done, they’ve always done it. Everything from the bar, to the kitchen, to the refrigeration unit,we sit down and map it out and figure out: ‘What works? What’s the goal here?’ And then we look at the different equipment pieces that will help us achieve what we’re trying to do.”

Boelter Landmark’s major collaboration with McKinney Roe is the kitchen, the beating heart of this more than 7,000-square-foot, large beast of a place. As Cowley says, proper design is critical for keeping food moving and keeping customers happy.

“[The kitchen] was designed to maximize the potential to move fast,” he says. “One of the things we worked with Boelter Landmark on was the big flattop — you can do a lot of things on that. Most restaurants have a little flattop if they have one at all. But it allows you to do multiple things at once.”

In a normal restaurant environment, even a busy one, the kind of culinary firepower provided by the McKinney Roe kitchen setup might be overkill. But the sheer size of the Wells Fargo building can make for a lunch rush that could break a less intelligently designed kitchen.

“We have about 5,000 people working upstairs, and lunches are huge, and you’ve got to be fast,” Cowley says. “I think our average ticket time, when we’re full for lunch, is about 12 minutes to get food out.”

Becca Dilley Photography


The approach to food at McKinney Roe follows the decor on the mezzanine level — it’s eclectic, but feels intentional.

“It’s a contemporary American menu. It’s a little bit of something for everybody,” says Cowley. “We want to keep it fresh, keep it moving, and have a wide variety.

Right now, that means a menu with everything from seared scallops with grapefruit and mandarin orange, to foie gras mousse, to seafood cioppino, to the house signature Big Stag Burger. The latter is two quarter-pound certified Angus beef patties, white American cheese, sliced dill pickles, maple peppered bacon, caramelized onions, and Dijon aioli on a pretzel roll. The burger is big, and it’s popular, too, winning the 2017 Twin Cities Burger Battle.

At lunch, says Cowley, the grilled chicken club rules the roost. It’s a grilled marinated chicken breast, provolone cheese, bacon, Bibb lettuce, sliced tomato, chipotle aioli, and an over-easy egg, all served on grilled garlic naan bread.

Becca Dilley Photography


McKinney Roe’s size, focus, and location gives it a unique opportunity. On Vikings game days, the restaurant could throw its doors open and swarm with crowds, but instead, Cowley and his team have decided to make the restaurant over into a space that functions as a private club, complete with dues and exclusive tickets (that include food and drink).

“It’s high-end tailgating, if you will,” he says. “It’s like coming into a suite. You’ll have tickets, and just like your tickets to the game, you can give your tickets away if you want. And the Vikings are pretty excited about it. We were open for a few games at the end of the season last year, and this space got so crazy, so I think [the private club model] is a better fit.”

Between its big but welcoming space, its powerhouse of a kitchen, its proximity to an increasingly dense part of the Minneapolis core, and its unique embrace of football culture, McKinney Roe is positioned to be a real game-changer of a restaurant.

Becca Dilley Photography