A little more than a week after Subo closed its doors, the bamboo is coming down off the walls. The Asian-inspired paintings are getting crated up and the satin throw pillows are finding a new home.
What’s left behind are brick walls, barnwood accents, a hefty wooden bar, and interior window sashes in a long, dim space that looks an awful lot like an old-school tavern.
And that’s exactly what Tim Niver (above) saw in his mind’s eye when Subo’s owner, New York-based businessman Jim Hays, approached him about taking over the space when the one-year-old Filipino-fusion eatery in downtown Minneapolis wasn’t living up to expectations.
“Envision, back in the day, you walk into an inn and there are other travelers there and you raise a glass and tap it in the air and there’s beer coming down — that’s what I want,” Niver says. “That’s what an inn is. You walk in after getting off your horse and pull open this heavy wooden door and are immediately welcomed.”
Niver, who still tends bar at The Strip Club and plans to remain deeply involved there, knows more than a thing or two about elevating comfort food. This time he says he’s hoping to put a European edge on it, with crocks filled with hearty stews, fish and chips, and steamed English puddings for dessert. (Spotted dick? Maybe.)
When he describes the menu, Niver (pictured above right, with Inn general manager Mark Latz) can clearly already see it in front of him: “What do people eat? Pork, beef, chicken, fish, vegetarian. So I see five types of composed plates,” he says. “I love the simplicity of it. The menu will probably read just ‘beef, potatoes, carrots, gravy.’” He adds with a wink, “But in the kitchen we can still know we’re real culinarians…. Then you get funky with the small plates. Small plates are where the chef gets to show the creative side of things.”
With the menu still in the planning stages, the price point is, too, but Niver says to look for small plates in the $7–11ish range, with entrees in the high teens to low 20s. And if you want a high-end Thousand Hills steak with a side of something hearty and creamy, well, you can get that, too.
Chef Tyge Nelson is leaving St. Paul’s Barrio to take over the kitchen at The Inn. He’s done high-end dining at the old La Belle Vie in Stillwater, small plates at Solera, and crowd-pleasing street food at Barrio, so Niver’s “rustic inn” concept will be something new, but not an enormous stretch.
Veteran front-of-the-house man Mark Latz is already on site. Among his first tasks is planning the beverage service, changing out Subo’s glassware for heavy mugs and chalices — “something you’ve really got to scoop up to lift,” as Niver describes them. Emphasizing that The Inn will be a place to gather with friends, beer will be available in 60-ounce pitchers or paired with a shot. The current craze for vintage cocktails is great, Niver says, but “What about the simplicity of just a shot and a beer? What about actually tasting your liquor?”
Working 16-hour days and splitting his time between a bustling, existing restaurant and a brand-new one clearly hasn’t dampened Niver’s enthusiasm. You can even hear it when he calls and says, “This is Tim Niver of The Inn. The Inn! It feels good just to say that.”
“It’s so much fun to be back on the creative side,” he says.
Rustic tavern-inspired restaurant in downtown Minneapolis
89 S 10th St
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Opening in November