Friday, October 30, 2009
DiningOut / Review
by Peter Lilienthal, Mpls. St. Paul magazine
Shea, the local design firm cast with making over the former Cue, was trapped with the restaurant's cavernous shell. Nonetheless, Shea has transformed the interior into a pleasant grotto that's reflective of the new seafood theme. Highlights include a green color scheme punctuating the kitchen's commitment to sustainable aquaculture, reclaimed storm-felled redwood incorporated into furniture, coral frond-shaped lamps, and wavy dividers that convert the cavernous interior into small tidal pools of large, solid tables and comfortable banquettes. There's also an inviting raw bar and other high-top seating perfect for a light pre-theater meal. The pre-theater crowds are well dressed and watching the clock. Once they head off, the room is washed with a more convivial vibe.
With four successful restaurants concepts and a James Beard award in his creel, one wonders what bait it took to lure Tim McKee into taking over the bones of the whopper of a flop that was Cue. Nonetheless, the sustainable seafood concept he has fleshed out is a trophy catch. The menu, conceived and executed with French Laundry alum and chef de cuisine Erik Anderson, showcases what I believe to be the hallmarks of a compelling contemporary restaurant: lots of small plate choices, moderate pricing, an emphasis on fresh and organic (there’s a daily fresh board), and a range of both mainstream and whimsical fare. There are numerous dishes I will rush back for: spot prawns paired with avocado, chili and orange arranged with their crunchy, deep fried heads; melting clam croquettes served with a tangy piri-piri sauce; a trio of butter-tender large sautéed sea scallops arranged with sweet corn, chorizo, and jalapeno; and a smoky duck breast bedded on lentils and livened with cherries and burnt orange (one of several “not fish” options on the menu.) Dishes I’d throw back include a rather strongly fishy striped sea bass served with oxtail and dashi broth, a middling bouillabaisse, and watery Bristol Bay king crab. Desserts created by pastry chef Niki Francioli include a great cherry soup and hazelnut semifreddo served with a high-tech Earl Grey tea foam. The service is as professional and competent as any around, but I imagine they’re wincing at having to ask tables whether they’d like a “complimentary bottle of flat water.”
While the growing movement toward “slow,” “sustainable,” “green,” and “organic” is to be applauded, my fear is that when it comes to seafood, it causes an undesirable dimension of diner anxiety. Is it OK this week to eat raw tuna? What kind of sea bass is it that’s overharvested? What kind of fish am I to avoid if it hasn’t been line caught? Which “farm-raised” items are healthy and which aren’t? Sea Change is trying to answer some of those questions in what it offers, but sustainable doesn’t mean local fin fare here; the bulk of the menu is procured in distant oceans and air-freighted in.
Restaurant Rater: 94
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Around the world from the West End
by Rick Nelson
There's more to dining and drinking in the West End -- that sparkly new lifestyle center going up near Interstate 394 and Hwy. 100 in St. Louis Park -- than the much-discussed Crave and Cooper and the opening-next-spring Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill. The neighborhood's up-and-coming big talker is going to be Ringo.
The restaurant, a partnership between retired Cargill executive Jim Ringo and chef Ryan Aberle (formerly of North Coast in Wayzata), will feature dual menus. While the larger of the two will focus on classic comfort fare (a few variations on steak, a tableside Caesar salad), its smaller companion will be continent-bouncing, illuminating flavors and traditions from a different global region each month.
"But you won't find us featuring, say, Provence," said Aberle. "People already know that food. We want to highlight thought-provoking regions where people say, 'I've never had that cuisine,' or 'I've never been to such-and-such place.' "
Sao Paulo, Brazil, for example. "Most of us have been to Fogo de Chao by now and understand what gauchos eat, but Sao Paulo is about so much more than the meat-centric world of the churrascaria," he said. "Everything from great fisherman's stew [moqueca] to pamonha [sweet corn purée steamed in corn husks] and feijoada [Brazil's answer to cassoulet] are all absolutely fantastic and almost completely unknown in these parts."
The common denominator in all this culinary globetrotting will be an attention-grabbing charcoal grill. "We knew we wanted charcoal, because when you talk about the great cuisines of the world, no one cooks on gas or wood -- they cook on charcoal," said Aberle. "It will be a showpiece, the first thing you see when you walk in, and the first thing you smell when you walk in."
The grill will be surrounded by a bar where customers will be able to interact with the kitchen staff. "We're going to train our cooks to communicate with our guests," said Aberle. "We're cognizant that people are looking for fun in their dining experience. Dinner on its own is great, but giving guests something to interact with, something to be entertained by, is going one step better."
Aberle and Ringo have partnered with a travel agency to conduct tours of the regions highlighted in the kitchen. Construction of the 200-seat restaurant should begin in mid-November, with an opening date in late February or early March. In the meantime, remembering the name won't be a problem.
"We're discovering that everyone has a relationship to the name Ringo," said Aberle with a laugh. "Along with Ringo Starr, I hear Western fans asking about Johnny Ringo. It just clicks with people. During my days at North Coast, it was a challenge to get people to remember where I was, because it was such a blah, forgettable name."
Monday, October 26, 2009
La Belle Vie ranks first in Zagat Survey
Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal
The Zagat Restaurant Survey released its top-five ranked restaurants in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area this week, awarding La Belle Vie the No. 1 spot.
Four other high-end Minneapolis restaurants — 112 Eatery, Alma, Lucia’s and Vincent — rounded out the top five.
Zagat’s report also made note of several dining-out trends in Minneapolis and elsewhere around the country. On average, 48 percent of Americans’ meals are eaten out or brought home as take out, according to the survey. Minneapolis/St. Paul matched the average. Twin Cities residents go to restaurants for about 3.2 meals per week, a figure that also matched the national average.
Twin Cities diners leave an average tip of about 19.1 percent. The national average for 2009? Also 19.1 percent.
Minneapolis/St. Paul residents’ favorite cuisines was Italian, with 26 percent of those surveyed reporting it as their top choice category. American cuisines came in second, with 17 percent of the vote. French and Thai rounded out the top four, while Mexican and Japanese tied for fifth.
Hot idea in a cold market: Store for moms bucks trend by expanding
by Scott Carlson Staff Writer, Finance & Commerce
Business News October 24, 2009
In the midst of the cold economy, Hot Mama is gearing up for a business rebound. The Twin Cities-based upscale retailer of trendy clothes and accessories for mothers and expectant moms will add two new stores by mid-November, growing to 13 locations in four states. The new boutiques are in The Plaza at Rosedale Center in Roseville and Algonquin Commons in suburban Chicago.
And this past Thursday, Hot Mama moved into expanded quarters about four doors down the street from its original flagship store in Edina. The new location is at 3914 W. 50th St.; a space with about 4,000 square feet, more than 1,000 square feet bigger than its original location.
Hot Mama CEO and co-founder Megan Tamte said the relocation of her original store has generated a lot of excitement and that the move has gone well.
You could say Hot Mama is trying to heat things up. Currently, Hot Mama’s sales are treading water. The retailer expects to post annual revenue of about $10 million in 2009, about the same as last year, according to Michael Tamte, Megan’s husband and Hot Mama’s co-founder and chief financial officer.
Meanwhile, sales at stores open at least a year are showing a mid-single digit drop from the same period a year ago, said Michael Tamte. (So-called same-store sales are a key indicator of a retailer’s health.)
Still, Hot Mama is in the black and all of its stores are profitable, Tamte said. With Hot Mama debt-free and having about $1 million in cash, the Tamtes believe now is an ideal time for them to add new stores.
“We are being opportunistic,” said Michael Tamte. “We feel this is a good opportunity to expand when no one else is.” Currently, scores of retailers across the nation have either slowed expansion programs or shuttered stores.
Michael Tamte also noted that now is a favorable time to add new stores because building rental rates for long-term leases are very favorable.
“When the economy improves, we will be that much better prepared,” Michael Tamte said. By the end of 2010, Hot Mama expects to have 18 stores and annual sales of $13 million to $15 million, he said. “If the economy turns up, (annual sales) could be even higher.”
All of Hot Mama’s stores are corporately owned; the company has a group of 33 private investors.
Founded in 2004, Hot Mama opened its doors in the chic 50th and France shopping district. The Tamtes began developing their retail concept after the birth of their first-born, Allison, in 1997, according to the company’s website.
Megan’s goal was to operate stores that focused solely on nurturing and supporting moms and expectant moms. She felt frustrated that many boutiques cater only to single women and those in their early 20s. According to Hot Mama’s website, “Megan and her team of buyers search the globe for clothing, jewelry, and accessories that will make women look and feel beautiful. For those who are pregnant, Hot Mama also offers today’s hottest maternity fashions.”
Despite finding success with its niche, Hot Mama has suffered a bit during the recession. The retailer posted a temporary loss earlier in the year and responded by laying off seven of its 30 full-time employees and freezing salaries, Michael Tamte said. Meanwhile, across its stores, Hot Mama lowered prices on merchandise that, in turn, spurred a faster turnover in inventory and buoyed sales, Michael said.
Hot Mama’s Roseville shop will be about 2,500 square feet, situated in Rosedale’s lifestyle center addition, home to such tenants as DS Shoes, Williams-Sonoma and Panera Bread. The Roseville store is Hot Mama’s prototypical footprint and will be its fifth Twin Cities location. Besides the Edina and Roseville stores, Hot Mama also has shops in Maple Grove, St. Paul and Wayzata.
Through the years, the retailer has used Shea Inc., a Minneapolis-based design and marketing firm, for its design services. Shea’s client list includes Macy's, TCF Bank, Morton’s of Chicago, Wells Fargo and Midcontinent Communications.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Hot Mama Opening Two New Stores
Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal - By Katharine Grayson
Hot Mama, an upscale maternity and women’s clothing retailer, will open two new locations in the coming weeks.
The company also will move its flagship store to a nearby, larger Edina site.
Shea Inc., the Minneapolis-based firm that helped Hot Mama design its stores, announced the expansion Wednesday.
Hot Mama already has 11 locations in Minnesota, Colorado and Michigan. Four of its locations are in the Twin Cities. It will open a fifth at The Plaza at Roseville Center on Nov. 4. The second store will open on Nov. 11 in Algonquin, Ill.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Sea Change's Tim McKee brings sustainable seafood to the Guthrie
Award-winning chef presents creative dining options at the "theatery"
by Rachel Hutton
(photo by Alma Guzman)
For the first few weeks after Sea Change opened, every time someone asked me about it, I found myself mentioning three things: The place was run by James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee, the theme was sustainable seafood, and it was located in the Guthrie Theater where, um...the old Guthrie restaurant, uh—what was that place called again?—used to be.
The name of the old place—Cue, that was it!—kept eluding me because after the opening chef, Lenny Russo, moved on, my interest in the restaurant waned. If someone asked me where to dine before a show at the Guthrie, I was more likely to recommend Spoonriver. I'm guessing I wasn't the only one who felt that way, because when the restaurant management's contract was set to expire this spring, the Guthrie decided it was time for a new regime, a Sea Change if you will.
Earlier this summer, the Texas-based food-service management company Culinaire partnered with McKee to rebrand the first-floor restaurant. The cosmetic changes, courtesy of Shea Design (the group that worked on McKee's La Belle Vie, Solera, and Barrio), are minor, but they do soften the formerly cold, hard-edged dining room, notable for its enormous glass windows and midnight-blue color palette. The exhibition kitchen and bar look mostly the same, but the vast seating area is now broken up by wood credenzas, and a small lounge has been added near the host's stand.
Shea also introduced vibrant sea-green accents to the pillars and upholstery, as well as a neighborhood-eatery-style chalkboard menu that lists the origin of each day's catch. A dotted pattern on the booth fabric resembles octopus suckers, and artwork near the ceiling suggests a humpback whale's stripes. When the Muzak ebbs and flows like the tides, the room can feel a little fish tank-like, but fortunately the theme is subtle enough that it won't deter those of us who love to eat fish but don't want to feel "fishy."
The Sea Change menu—a diner's primary communication with the chef—is a bit esoteric. The descriptions read like grocery lists, with few adjectives: albacore/watermelon/jalapeño/mint, for example. Such simplicity can raise more questions than it answers, and the burden of explanation is shifted to the server: How exactly is this dish prepared? Is the watermelon cubed, sliced, pureed, frothed, or dehydrated? (Knowing the creativity that chef de cuisine Erik Anderson demonstrated most recently at Porter & Frye, it could be any—or all—of those.)
I'm the sort of diner who's perfectly happy to just ask the kitchen to send me whatever's good—and by the way, those thin slices of raw albacore and fresh watermelon looked as pretty as salt-flecked stained-glass squares and tasted like a delicious ocean spray. But I had to wonder whether the aging Guthrie's audience might read the Sea Change menu with the same perplexity as they did the instructions for hooking up the digital TV converter box.
Still, however sparsely the dishes were described, there was hardly one I didn't love. Just when I feared the recession would leave local diners with nothing but endless variations on pizzas, burgers, and fries, McKee and Anderson have pulled off the year's most beautiful, ambitious cooking.
But before I get into how delicious things tasted, I'd like to note how happy I was to eat seafood knowing it came from sustainable operations. (If you're not losing sleep about overfishing, bycatch, and degrading marine habitats, you probably should be.) Keeping up with sustainable seafood choices requires tracking all sorts of information—which fish are on what lists, the distinctions between farmed species vs. wild-caught, etc.—which is why it's a relief to have a trustworthy team doing that research. "We take all that guesswork out of the equation," McKee says.
On my first visit to Sea Change, I went straight for fish that's not often seen on local menus. Arctic char, a fatty, cold-water species whose flavor lies somewhere between salmon and trout, was perfectly cooked—soft flesh, steel-gray skin shiny and crackling. Its flavor was accented, though not overwhelmed, by a rich, salty white-bean puree and an artichoke giardiniera—a riff on the Italian condiment that added a bit of heat, pickliness, and crunch.
The sturgeon, too, was an excellent execution of a fish rarely served in these parts. Its stark white flesh has a firm, steak-y texture and a mild flavor that was enhanced by a tight prosciutto gift wrap. A pool of beurre blanc had its richness balanced by the freshness of an English pea emulsion. All the flavors worked together, a symbiotic ecosystem served in a dinner bowl.
Instead of your basic Italian-American shrimp scampi, Sea Change serves rock shrimp with linguini tossed in a creamy but tart sabayon that finished with the faint oceanic brine of sea urchin. Anderson credits sous chef Jim Christiansen for working up the dish, and notes that his collaborative process has also included chef Matt Holmes and the rest of the Guthrie's Level Five staff.
Even the ubiquitous scallop seems novel at Sea Change: A gorgeous platter presented three behemoth creatures with a flamboyant mixture of sweet corn, chorizo, jalapeño, and lime. It was like a deconstructed version of the best fish taco you've ever eaten.
Wisconsin's Star Prairie trout, a longtime favorite of locavore chefs, is served with an unusual combination of curry, fresh watercress, and cauliflower puffs that are a little like homemade Pirate's Booty. Anderson and his crew treat even the smallest details with care—those little puffs involve a multistep process in which cauliflower is pureed, mixed into a dough, steamed, dehydrated, and deep fried.
But Anderson also knows when to leave well enough alone, particularly with the raw-bar items, such as smoked salmon served with fried capers, grated egg, and buttery rye toasts. The Hawaiian-style yellowfin poke (pronounced POH-keh) features ruddy pink tuna cubes on bamboo skewers served on a seaweed-sesame bed. I hope poke replaces cocktail weenies as the party food of the next decade.
I was especially enamored with Anderson's intensely flavorful, well-balanced sauces—some were so good I would have drunk them by the glass. Oddly, the sole dish at Sea Change I didn't love was the one for which broth was most crucial: steamed mussels in a green curry that was dominated by coconut milk and too shy on the bright notes of kaffir lime and the funky pungency of fish sauce.
Even those who skip the seafood dishes will find much to be happy about. I loved a pretty beet salad made with crisp, rainbow-shaped pancetta arcs and a seared duck breast paired with lentils, pistachio, blackened orange segments, a sweet cherry sauce, and pickled cherry. It was the best duck dish I've had all year. Not bad for a seafood restaurant.
I found the service at Sea Change to be fine, though not as impressive as at La Belle Vie. But the restaurant's other elements, including the wine and cocktail lists, and the desserts, were equally first-rate. I discovered a surprising new favorite drink (I know sambuca and fresh basil sounds strange, but trust me, it's a heavenly match) and dessert, an ultra-smooth hazelnut semifreddo that was paired with the musty, floral essences of an Earl Gray foam. Cue's pastry chef Niki Francioli has been given more free reign under the new regime, resulting in more inspired treats, including an intense, blood-red cherry soup pooled around a lovely lemon panna cotta, and a dark-chocolate, ganache-like cake with hints of cherry and caramel.
Both in terms of concept and execution, Sea Change is the best new restaurant I've dined in so far this year. I think theatergoers will be pleased with the place, but I also hope Sea Change can cultivate its lunch and late-night crowds, with diners noshing on such dishes as fish and chips with tartar sauce foam. To make the deep-fried cod taste ultra light, the batter is sprayed on with a whipped-cream siphon. It's not a traditional technique, to be sure, but, like the restaurant, it's a welcome update to seafood cookery.
Loring Kitchen & Bar
Loring Kitchen & Bar has one of the best warm-weather locations in the Twin Cities—close to downtown Minneapolis, but with a bucolic urban park across the street. Look inside, though, and this could be urban anywhere. The stylish Shea design, which offers an array of patio seating options (of waning relevance, alas), could be on Beacon Street in Boston, Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, or Chicago’s Rush Street—it has that generic urban yuppie vibe. The menu is an appealing mélange of upscale comfort food, plus a couple classics from partner Burt Joseph’s Birch’s in Long Lake. And there are the requisite small plates, pizzas, sandwiches, and entrées. Thankfully, there’s no sushi. The crowd is an interesting and urbane mix of youth and elder, with a heavy gay quotient. Managers should reduce the volume of their frequent upbraids of staff—it adds an uncomfortable note. At press time the restaurant serves dinner and weekend breakfast/lunch.
1359 Willow St., Mpls., 612-843-0400, loringkitchen.com
When Gene Suh and his partners were scouting around town for restaurant space, they looked at a dozen locations including downtown and northeast Minneapolis.
But they settled on a space in the Lyn-Lake area of south Minneapolis, around the nexus of the intersection of Lyndale Avenue South and Lake Street.
Suh and company opened the doors of the new Lyndale Tap House at 2937 Lyndale Ave. S. last week.
“It kind of fit the feel that we were going for,” said Suh, the majority owner of the Lyndale Tap House.
Suh sees the area as an up-and-coming urban district.
“The development that’s going on along Lyndale and spreading east from the Hennepin and Lake intersection is something that’s important to us,” Suh said. “Hopefully it will develop into a location like Hennepin and Lake is now.”
Lyn-Lake has been booming in recent years. Two large new apartment projects, Blue and The Murals of LynLake, opened in 2008. And there’s talk of more housing in the pipeline.
As some restaurants in the area have closed, new concepts have been quick to backfill empty spaces. Other new restaurants and bars in the area include the Risotto restaurant and a new club, Sauce Spirits & Soundbar. The Lyndale Tap House space was the former home of jP American Bistro, a fine-dining spot.
A distinct identity
The intersection of Lake and Lyndale is just seven blocks east of the intersection of Lake and Hennepin Avenue, considered the heart of Uptown. But Lyn-Lake clearly has an identity and character distinct from the core of Uptown.
“Lyndale has always been looked upon as being a little bit more edgy,” said Mike Finkelstein, a retail real estate broker with the Minneapolis-based Ackerberg Group.
“One of the primary differences is that Uptown is more for shopping — you’ve got national retailers. You don’t have that at Lyn-Lake,” Finkelstein said. “You’ve got a variety of restaurants, good restaurants … Lyn-Lake has an awful lot of character.”
Andrea Christenson, second vice president with Colliers Turley Martin Tucker, recently inked a 4,500-square-foot deal with The Hair District, a salon in the Blue apartment project. The salon opened in September.
“There’ve been 700 new housing units added to the neighborhood. It’s an entertainment district. (Residents) tend to be highly educated, disposable income, no kids, young people,” Christenson said of the area’s demographics.
“I think it’s a hip, trendy kind of place,” Christenson said of Lyn-Lake. “It’s all locally owned restaurants, all unique concepts. They’re not looking for chain restaurants. It’s easy to get to from downtown; you can get there in less than 10 minutes.”
But there are still some holes in the market. Christenson’s team is also listing the former Lyndale Theater at 2934 Lyndale Ave. S., an iconic 5,000-square-foot space that’s been empty for three years. Christenson said that there’s been interest, but noted that financing can be a challenge in today’s market.
“We’ve got some restaurants who are interested,” Christenson said. “Anybody who wants to go in there has to get private financing.”
A 180-degree change
Minneapolis-based Greco Development developed the 242-unit Blue apartment project in the area. Brent Rogers, Greco’s vice president of development, said that the project has done well and is now approximately 84 percent leased.
But Greco is changing gears on a currently vacant site at 2900 and 2910 Lyndale Ave. S., where it had once pitched a mixed-use project including 40,000 square feet of new Class A office space.
Rogers said that Greco is now looking at a concept called the Lyn-Lake Creative Community, which would feature about 100 affordable, rental units aimed at artists and 16,000 square feet of commercial space.
Greco has not made a formal application for the project, but Rogers said they hope to break ground in the summer or fall or 2010.
“We’ve continued to be successful with Blue. The residential portion of the market is still strong,” Rogers said. “It should be a good project. It fills a need that isn’t being filled currently.”
There’s more activity at the nearby corner of Lyndale and 28th Street West. A new Subway restaurant is under construction at a former gas station site at 2752 Lyndale Ave. S.
Across the street from there, Minneapolis-based Brighton Development is leading an effort to develop a $12 million, 61-unit housing project at the Salem English Lutheran Church site. The project will also include about 8,400 square feet of retail space. Last Friday, the Minneapolis City Council approved the sale of up to $7.5 million in city bonds to help finance the project.
Taking the long view, the Lyn-Lake area has been transformed over several decades. John Meldahl has owned the building at 810-822 West Lake Street, home to the Bryant-Lake Bowl, since 1979.
Meldahl recalls seedier days when the neighborhood had issues with drugs and prostitution.
“It was pretty nasty in those days. It’s been a total 180 [degree change] since then,” Meldahl said. “The Jungle Theater was certainly part of our rebirth.”
Meldahl agrees that the area still favors independent owner-operators.
“I’d say we’re more of a homespun neighborhood,” Meldahl said. “Even the Lyndale Tap House, that’s not an Applebee’s type of thing.”
Monday, October 19, 2009
West End dreams of nightlife surge
By TOM HORGEN, Star Tribune
October 17, 2009
Could a lifestyle center in St. Louis Park really be home to the Twin Cities' next big nightlife district?
Hard to believe, but it looked that way last week when Crave celebrated its debut at the Shops at the West End with multiple grand-opening parties. The suburban chain became the first restaurant to open at the $400 million complex of retail and offices near the intersection of Hwy. 100 and Interstate 394. (It looks like an outdoor mall, but they hate it when you call it that.)
For the West End's ambitions, Crave's successful niche seems like a perfect match.
Call it "suburban chic."
Last week, diners drove up to Crave in Mercedes-Benzes and Audis, opting for valet parking despite the nearby heated ramp. Some waited more than an hour in the packed restaurant just to get a table. Live music by rocker Tim Mahoney filled the room as people ate sushi and drank "crafted cocktails." If you blinked, you might have missed VIP guests such as Vikings wide receiver Bernard Berrian and former all-pro John Randle.
While the rest of the restaurant industry licks its wounds, Crave continues to expand. This is its third location after the original at the Galleria in Edina and the second at Bloomington's Mall of America.
Crave and a half-dozen other restaurants like it will be anchor tenants at the West End, said Mark Fallon, who's in charge of leasing the property for Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate (which is partnered with Duke Realty on the project).
"What we're trying to do is create a destination," Fallon said. "We only want high-volume, high-energy restaurants -- restaurants that do in excess of $5 million to $6 million a year."
About 65 percent of the development is leased, with much of the retail (Anthropologie, Republic of Couture, Love Culture) expected to open by Thanksgiving.
While no one would confuse a suburban lifestyle center with downtown Minneapolis, the West End has all the ingredients for a full-fledged nightlife scene.
Its first three restaurants are safe bets. Crave opened Oct. 5 -- owners Kam and Keyvan Talebi already are thinking about an Orlando location. This week, pub impresario Kieran Folliard unveiled Cooper, his fourth Twin Cities Irish bar, but his first in the suburbs. By springtime, construction should be finished on what will be the Twin Cities' largest country bar -- Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill. Add in the mid-November debut of Kerasotes' 14-screen ShowPlace theater (it'll have a bar, too), and it's party time.
Setting the scene
Everything at Crave is big. An enormous glass wine cellar towers over the room. The soaring ceilings and long bar make the 8,500-square-foot space seem larger than the other Craves.
In fact, this Crave seems like a concept the Talebi brothers have been refining for quite some time. They co-own the View and were minority investors in Bellanotte, both in Minneapolis.
As for Crave, the brand hasn't exactly been a darling of the foodie intelligentsia, but it's always gotten points for being a cut above the usual suburban fare.
"We are clearly a dining destination for the masses," said Kam Talebi.
This is reflected in the something-for-everyone menu, which is nowhere near as expensive as the luxury cars parked out front suggest. Angus beef steaks and wood-fire pizzas are popular. Adventurous suburbanites can also get their chopsticks on a variety of sushi rolls. And when's the last time you cut into a lamb sirloin or ate an ahi tuna steak sandwich at a suburban chain?
But dinner is just the beginning here. While live music has proven to be a bit anemic at the Galleria Crave, entertainment is a part of the recipe at the MOA location and definitely in St. Louis Park.
DJs spin on Thursday and Friday nights, while musicians play on Saturdays. Members of the New Congress will take over as the house band in November.
Talebi compared Crave's own ambitions to Redstone, a once mighty suburban restaurant known for late-night fun.
Or how about Bellanotte? Talebi said to hold your horses. He took caution at any mention of the defunct downtown hot spot known in its later years as a nightspot first, restaurant last.
"This is not a nightclub," he said. "What we want to do is extend an offering to our dining customers so they have a place to stay after dinner."
Talebi called Crave a "comfortable alternative" to downtown Minneapolis. He touted the restaurant's twice-daily weekday happy hours and its upcoming Halloween bash.
"It's all about creating a scene," he said.
Even at a lifestyle center in St. Louis Park.
-Tom Horgen • 612-673-7909 (photo by J. Pinkley)
Friday, October 2, 2009
THE HOT FIVE
Sure things in life: death, taxes and, lucky for us, a never-ending parade of new restaurants.
THE ANCHOR FISH & CHIPS
A classic "chipper" in the making, serving the title dish (cod and hand-cut potatoes) along with shepherd's pie, pasties and burgers, plus wine and beer, all at affordable prices and open until 1 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Weekend breakfast, too.
302 13th Av. NE., Mpls., 612-676-1300, www.theanchorfishandchips.com
The team behind Uptown's Chiang Mai Thai has remade the former Times Bar & Cafe (the distinctive bar is still a looker), focusing on a price-conscious pan-Asian menu.
201 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls., 612-746-0304, www.gingerhop.com
A little bit wine bar, a little bit coffeehouse, a little bit neighborhood cafe, and a whole lot of fun.
4555 Grand Av. S., Mpls., 612-354-7928, www.kingsmpls.com
The up-and-coming Arizona-based chain has landed in Minnesota with its signature sushi bar, multi-culti menu and atmospheric setting.
11997 Singletree Lane, Eden Prairie, 952-941-3262, www.konagrill.com
LYNDALE TAP HOUSE
The lights are back on inside the former jP American Bistro. Owner Gene Suh has gone the gastropub route, specializing in slow-roasted beef. The name? A nod to the bar's 18 tap beers.
2937 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-825-6150, www.thelyndale.com
- RICK NELSON