This week in the Tap: Thoughts about the state of casual spinoff restaurants in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and some ideas for others to come.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rise of the Sidecar Restaurant
If there’s one trend over the past five years that merits the twin titles of “Most Lasting” and “Most Welcome,” it’s the proliferation of sidecar restaurants — the more casual, more affordable, more sustainable travel companions of chef-driven prestige eateries. Alma’s Brasa is the classic example, but they’re everywhere now, and are increasingly a baked-in part of the business plan for major restaurant launches. (The “sidecar,” in fact, often reaps the bulk of the profits drummed up by the high-profile but expensive-to-operate bigger sister restaurant.)
Sometimes they’re spun off to new locations (as in Corner Table’s Revival, now opening a second edition in the old Cheeky Monkey space in St. Paul), and sometimes they’re built into the floor plan (as in the pizza cave in Burch Steak or the wine-and-pizza bar Foreign Legion, still standing adjacent to the much lamented former Brasserie Zentral space). Either way, sidecars allow a high-flying franchise a better shot at attracting noncelebration business by selling casual (but still beautifully made) fare at moderate prices. Even the newly opened Mucci’s can be seen as a sidecar for the ambitious Saint Dinette and Strip Club Meat and Fish. Although all three spots offer warm hospitality, Mucci’s also offers instantly accessible Italian-Ameircan fare and a correspondingly smaller check.
On that front, here are our thoughts about four upscale spots that could comfortably spawn spinoffs to make our weeknight (or, hell, special occasion) dining a little bit more delicious.
HEIRLOOM — Everything about Heirloom (from the harmonious presentation to the reliance on fresh produce) lends itself to a Japanese-inspired spinoff. Heirloom East could do a bit of sushi, but the real value would be in earthier, simpler dishes that show off the cuisine’s range, such as pickled, curried, raw, and cooked selections served up in a bento box.
Key Dishes: Market-vegetable-driven bento boxes, tempura, curry pan, maki of the day
PICCOLO — Piccolo’s cachet is doing small, pricey, perfectly manicured bites for boldfaced names, which actually makes it pretty easy to spin something off. There will be a lot of daylight between itself and its sidecar restaurant no matter what, in much the same way that any Alma spinoff was going to be comfortably distinct from its parent.
Case in point: Yes, the Piccolo project Sandcastle qualifies as a sidecar, and yes, it’s a good idea that’s doing well. But there’s enough room between the lakeside hot-dog stand and the fine-dining bistro to allow for another spot, and here’s the concept:
We call it Grande, and it’s a right-on-the-Southwest-border-inspired barbecue spot, with its tacos, burritos, and yes, chimichangas — stuffed with impeccably smoked and seasoned meats the likes of which we’ve never before tasted. If this sounds like it’s out of left field, it’s not entirely. We were inspired by the pulled pork and barbecue served at the restaurant’s family meal featured in the book Come in, We’re Closed.
Key Dishes: Tacos, burritos, and yes, chimichangas
HEARTLAND — The cured meats and locally sourced food of Heartland seem ripe to spill over into a sandwich-shop-of-the-gods concept called Grinder. With a bit of tapas / wine-bar styling, this place could comfortably bridge the transition from lunch to happy hour, serving Upper Midwestern meats and cheeses on great local bread, and then slinging small plates and drinks as the sun goes down.
Key Dishes: A riff on the France 44 “just ham and great cheese” sandwich, a personal-sized meat-and-pickle plate with an accompanying glass of wine or beer, tasting flights of local cheese
MERITAGE — Meritage arguably already has its sidecar restaurant with its more-casual, seafood-forward bar half of the restaurant. But it would be easy enough to finish the thought and spin things off entirely by opening the Lowertown Oyster Bar as a separate spot with Continentally inspired soups, exquisite salads, and oysters a-go-go, preferably in a small space with a ton of foot traffic, so as to move product quickly.
Key Dishes: Oyster po’ boys, (various kinds of) chowder, a spin on Oysters Rockefeller — James Norton
The Soon-to-Open Oude Oak Will Now Be Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery
The sour-beer focused Oude Oak was preparing to open its doors this year when word came down from on high (the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) that its name was in conflict with another brewery. Thus the shift to its new name: Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery. — J.N.
- Blue Door Pub, 1514 Como Ave, Minneapolis
- Dogwood Coffee Company (new location), 825 Carleton St, St. Paul
- Handsome Hog, 225 E 6th St, St. Paul | Former Brasserie Zentral and Meritage chef Justin Sutherland is cooking contemporary Southern food with a high-end twist.
- Hoban Korean Barbecue, 2939 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis
- Hi-Lo Diner, 4020 E Lake St, Minneapolis
- Angry Inch Brewing, 20841 Holyoke Ave, Lakeville
- Q Fanatic, 6009 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | We can’t wait to try this second location of our favorite local BBQ joint.
- Lou Nanne’s, 7651 France Ave S, Edina | Steakcentric menu with a Manny’s vet (Josh Hill) as chef.
- Milkjam Creamery at World Street Kitchen, 2743 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | We reviewed their $56 sundae; Milkjam featured in the Hot Five.
- The Herbivorous Butcher, 507 1st Ave NE, Minneapolis | Our tasting notes on three of their dishes. We like what Pizza Nea did with their product.
- Encore Karaoke and Sushi Lounge, 2111 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis | The former Verdant Tea space on Franklin now boasts private karaoke rooms that’ll set you back $60 (for two hours in the Silver Room) to $800 (for four hours in the Penthouse, which houses 20-30 guests).
- Mucci’s, 786 Randolph Ave, St. Paul | A new old-school Italian-American place from Tim Niver, owner of Strip Club Meat and Fish and Saint Dinette. Serving dinner Tuesday-Sunday — as well as doughnuts and coffee on weekends from “8 a.m. until they’re gone.” We reviewed it here.
CLOSED / CLOSING:
- Bonnie’s Cafe (Closing April 25)
- Maison Darras (Minneapolis skyway location)
- Lee’s and Dee’s Bar-B-Que Express (Some hope remains that it will reopen)
- Scusi | New restaurant concept to be announced in April.
- Parella | Our review
- Cheeky Monkey | A second location of Revival is moving in.
- Nye’s Polonaise Room (closing April 3) | 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.
- 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.”
- Trapeze, 1600 West Lake Street, Minneapolis | Early Summer 2016 | A new Kim Bartmann “bubbles and toasts” bar opening next door to Barbette.
- 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.
- Moroccan Flavors, former Sonora Grill space at Midtown Global Market | March | Tagines and more.
- PinKU, 20 University Ave NE, Minneapolis | June 1 | Ramen, dumplings, other Japanese street food.
- Bakers’ Field, The Food Building | 2016 | Bread made from grain milled on site at the Food Building in Northeast Minneapolis, owned by Steve Horton, formerly of Rustica.
- Shake Shack | Early 2016 | A local outpost of the cult favorite better-burger chain will open at the Mall of America.
- Revival, 525 Selby Ave (former Cheeky Monkey space) | Summer 2016 | A second location for the popular fried chicken spin-off of Corner Table.
- Rose Street Patisserie, 2811 W 43rd St, Minneapolis | 2016 | The Linden Hills outpost of Patisserie 46 will be a bakery and full-service restaurant with 54 seats.
- Project TBD at old Walker Library in Uptown, 2901 Hennepin Ave S | Architectural details available here.
- Modist Brewing Company, 505 N 3rd St, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | Read our extensive preview.
- Cafe Alma, 530 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | Early 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.
- Inbound Brewco, 701 5th St N, Minneapolis | Early 2016
- The Viking Bar, 1829 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | After nearly a decade of closure, this Cedar-Riverside saloon is on its way to reopening. A Feb. 7 Facebook post promises an announcement about an opening date soon.
- 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 | Early 2016
- Bonicelli Kitchen, 1839 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Early Summer 2016 | Opening in the former Razaaq space on Central Avenue.
- Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Early 2016
- DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | 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
- 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.
- 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | Early 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
- 1.2.3. Pasta, 6508 Cahill Ave, Inver Grove Heights | Soon
- Oakhold Farmhouse Brewery (formerly Oude Oak) Midway Township | Spring 2016 | A new sour beer-only brewery planned for just south of Duluth.
- St. Croix Brewing Company, 114 Chestnut St E, Stillwater | 2016
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 email@example.com.