This week in the Tap: Thoughts about the system for tipping restaurant workers — such as it is, signs of life at The Viking Bar and more.
The Tap is a biweekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm. “We raise 100-percent grass-fed lambs & goats traditionally, humanely, and sustainably.”
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 email@example.com.
In Search of a Fair Tipping System
After a dinner at Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis earlier this month, I awoke from the dreamy state induced by a deconstructed lemongrass semifreddo to find a check, which I expected — and this card, which I did not:
Our dinner took place just days after a screed about the life of waiters appeared on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Review. In it we read that waiting tables at an unnamed Michelin three-star restaurant in New York City was a survival game that involved suffering ignorant one-percenters so they would compensate you for the insults they proffered.
And soon after reading about the difficulties of a — perhaps jaundiced — waiter, we were being asked to consider a different issue, pay equity, and whether to shift some of the bounty to the kitchen staff.
I have an acquaintance who waits at another top New York restaurant (one of six to receive four stars from the New York Times). Her employer called a meeting after the article appeared to get a reading of how the staff was feeling. My acquaintance offered that most of the clients were appreciative, and she really liked the opportunity to be a “food geek” and be well paid for it. She also feels, but did not say, that the work is hard and the hours are long.
I was a waitress once (and I mean for one meal, when I filled in for someone at a white-tablecloth benefit dinner, probably a better-than-average situation). I couldn’t believe how fast and incessant the work was or how attuned to detail I became. I normally have a poor memory, but I remembered everything my guests said.
Many people don’t really get how difficult it is to wait tables, but however hard the front-of-house staff works, the job of the kitchen staff is physically harder, hotter, more dangerous, and far more poorly compensated.
Back to the card … What to do? What would the typical diner, one who is not a food editor, choose to do?
Alexander Roberts, the chef / owner of Alma wrote in an email that the card is a vehicle for “a creative fact-finding mission that we hoped might give us some small sense of where customer preferences are with the distribution of gratuities.” He added that he wanted to be ready for the changes that seem to be on the horizon in the restaurant business, and be prepared to increase his commitment “to ideas and systems that support fair, equitable pay and living wages for all staff.”
Should I leave the card blank? Tip the kitchen above what I planned to give the server — not what Roberts was asking. Divide the tip I would have given — but how? I didn’t want to deprive the server.
So the server and I got into a conversation during which he told me that the kitchen staff earns less because they don’t get tips, which I already knew. He said he used to be a cook but switched to waiting because of the quality of the work and the money. He said he gives 20 percent of his tips to the kitchen, but not everyone does.
Roberts is a good person. The weekend I visited Alma, he was involved in a fundraiser for Youth Farm, and he has helped Slow Food Minnesota, (disclaimer: the food justice organization I headed for a few years) raise money for immigrant farmers. I know he is striving for equity (and he is not alone in this among local restaurant owners).
What is fair?
It’s difficult to determine how much servers earn because a portion of cash tips apparently go unreported — perhaps 40 percent, according to the IRS. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the median wage for a server as $9.01 and the median for a cook as $9.88, but there are those unreported tips. A survey of restaurant workers by PayScale found the median hourly income of servers to be from $10.30 for a busser to $20.99 for a banquet captain, with 24 to 62 percent coming from tips, and the median pay of a cook to be from $9.30 for a pizza cook to $13.50 for a head chef, with 3 to 8 percent coming from tips.
There have been several local experiments with rebalancing the pay of cooks and servers. Victory 44 and Travail both have chefs doubling as wait staff. Last winter, Travail added another new idea, an advance ticketing system that includes an 18 percent service charge. In the past, some restaurants pooled tips and distributed them between front- and back-of-house staff, but a 2013 Fair Labor Standards act made it illegal to distribute pooled tips to cooks.
I don’t know where this will go, but I begin to long for the European system, where service charges are included on the bill (although it’s really not that simple; customers do round up, and even leave an extra €10 after a nice meal … and I, for one, don’t know how well European cooks are paid). In any case, something must be working because waiting tables is taken much more seriously as a career in Europe than it is here.
What did I do that day at Alma? I left an extra-generous tip, and following in the footsteps of my server, gave 20 percent of it to the kitchen. And I am looking forward to seeing what transpires. — Jane Rosemarin
Republic’s Uptown Location Set to Close
Oct. 11 is the last day of operations for the noted beer bar Republic‘s location in the Calhoun Square mall. After we tweeted the news, co-owner Matty O’Reilly reached out to us with a lengthy email; excerpts follow.
… We found out last Wednesday via a letter from Calhoun Square that they would be taking back our space. We had been in a yearlong discussion with them about their plans and open-minded on our end as to the ways to remain a viable entity in that space. We made many suggestions from rebranding, to looking at rooftop options, possibly staying the course, even selling and financing that deal to someone who could conceptually give it a better go than ourselves. Ultimately, they felt it was best to move on.
As far as how I feel about the restaurant business at the moment … I’ll pull this quote from this book I read to my daughter last week. It sums it up, me, working for myself:
— James Norton
Signs of Life at The Viking Bar
Since 2006, The Viking Bar at Cedar-Riverside has been shuttered, a (practically iconic) “Gone Fishing” notice stuck on its marquee. A story last October in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal revealed that an entity called August Ventures LLC bought the 109-year-old building for $285,000, and now the bar is heading toward a revival.
“We were knocked out by the history of the place,” says Aaron Britt. Britt is a recent California ex-pat and an of the revived Viking Bar along with his wife Amy Britt and partner Patrick Johnston, with consultation from James Brown of Brownsmith Restoration. “In our case, there is a legacy that comes attached to a lot of memories — some of which aren’t good at all, but a lot of them are great,” Britt says. “The weight that comes with opening a new place is different here.”
Britt cited the bar’s status as a counterculture hub and music venue and the tragic 1996 slaying of owner Scott Nelson as parts of its significance, and says that restoring the venue’s status as a stage for musical acts is a major part of his team’s vision. “Ideally, we’re going to keep it as on its original message as we can,” Britt says. “It was a gathering place; it was a good place to get a clean drink, and [it was] a great joint. It was a blue collar joint, and it’s going to be a blue collar joint. They had music there; we’re going to have music there.”
Britt is keeping specifics about The Viking Bar’s food menu close to the vest for now, and the timeline for opening is loose: The end of 2015 is the current target. — James Norton
- The Alchemist, 2222 4th St, White Bear Lake | A craft cocktail haven run by legendary mixologist Johnny Michaels (above).
- Seward Co-op Creamery Neighborhood Cafe, 2601 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis | See our preview here. We have high hopes for this place between the chef (Lucas Almendinger, formerly of Third Bird) and Seward’s connections to the local food scene. Our review of the Creamery’s lamb Reuben.
- OMNI Brewing Co., 9462 Deerwood Lane N, Maple Grove | Featured in The Toast.
- Eggy’s Diner, LPM Apartments, 120 14th St W, Minneapolis
- Bogart’s Doughnut Company, downtown location, IDS Center, Minneapolis | Bogart’s is up there with Mojo Monkey and YoYo Donuts for quality and creativity, so it’s encouraging to see them grow.
- Bar Luchador, 825 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis | A new Mexican / L.A. street-food place in the old Campus Pizza location. Here’s our positive In Brief review.
- I (Heart) Pho, 850 Maryland Ave E, St. Paul | A short item in the PiPress indicates that this place is owned by the same folks who run iPho by Saigon.
- Green and the Grain, LaSalle Plaza Skyway, 800 LaSalle Ave | The food truck is now a skyway dining spot.
- Parella, Calhoun Square | Along with Monello and Il Foro, this is part of the intoxicating fog of upscale Italian restaurants that has descended upon us. Michael Larson (formerly of Parasole, currently of Digby’s) is behind this venture.
CLOSED / CLOSING:
- 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.
- Masa | This well-known downtown Minneapolis D’Amico & Partners spot is closing Oct. 24. It had a pretty good run: 10 years.
- Paleos | Designed to harness excitement surrounding the Paleo eating trend, this spot survived for less than a year.
- 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.
- Digby’s (both locations) | An unexpected end for the suburban, burger-driven eatery concept by Michael Larson (formerly of Parasole).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Eastside at Latitude 45, 301 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | Eastside will feature Seattle-based chef Nick Dugan as its chef de cuisine working alongside executive chef Remy Pettus.
- Restaurant TBA replacing the Modern in Northeast Minneapolis | Fall 2015
- 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.
- Seward Co-op Friendship Store, 317 38th St E, Minneapolis | Fall 2015
- 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
- Dark Horse Bar and Eatery, 250 E 7th St , St. Paul | 2015 | From the same folks who brought us Muddy Waters, as per this story.
- The Commodore Bar and Restaurant, 79 Western Ave. N | October 27 | Historic art deco spot linked with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
- 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
- Bad Weather Brewing, 414 7th St W, St. Paul | October 9 | The space looks just about ready to go, as per the brewery’s Facebook page.
- Heirloom, 2186 Marshall Ave, St. Paul | Fall 2015 | W.A. Frost chef Wyatt Evans hopes to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors (such as Russell Klein and Lenny Russo) and found a new St. Paul gastronomic institution. “Modern but … approachable … slow food” sounds pretty good to us (quotes from the Pioneer Press preview). Currently raising money on Indiegogo.
- 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | Fall 2015
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.