Minneapolis Comeback!

Steven Brown is back! After the '07 Massacre, Minneapolis is regrouping in other ways, too.

"Shouldn't you be working at the Washington Post or something?" groaned Stewart Woodman, when I interrupted the backgammon game he was playing with his wife to tell them the bad news about my super kick-ass awesome community snitch. "Are you going to write something about this?" Maybe, I lied. "All right. It's 99 percent going to happen. We have the purchase agreement, we negotiated a lease with the new landlord, and God willing, city of Minneapolis willing, we'll be open in September." Yes, you read that right, all that stands between south Minneapolis and the reestablishment of one of the city's greatest cooking talents is approval of the liquor license! If you live in the neighborhood and want this restaurant up and running, now is the time to call your council member!

And you do want this restaurant up and running. "It'll be me in the kitchen, and Heidi in the front of the house," Stewart Woodman told me. "Then we have a front-of-the-house guy—I don't want to jinx it, so I'm not saying anything, I've worked so hard on this for so long." I pestered him with names for a while, but got nothing. So I moved on to annoying him with questions about the food. Finally, something! It won't be Italian, French, or anything like that, but classic "Stewart cuisine," Woodman said. "We're going to be very aggressive pushing the envelope in terms of the cuisine, and also in terms of the price point: The vast majority of appetizers will be under $9, the vast majority of entrees will be under $19. We really want to make sure it's neighborhood-friendly, not a destination restaurant. We're going to stay true to what we do—" "Pheasant?" I interrupted. "Yes, pheasant. We're not going to do burgers—not that there's anything wrong with burgers, but there are a lot of people doing that now, and I don't think my voice added to that would be any great thing."

Once licensing approval is given, Woodman told me, the restaurant will be quick to open. "Ultimately, we're not going to change much about the space. We're hoping to fix the sound," as Pane Vino Dolce was notoriously loud, "but we've loved the location, the space, since we moved here," from New York after 9/11. With that, Woodman lost his game of backgammon and concluded he wasn't going to tell me any more than he had. "I've been working on this menu more than any menu I've worked on in my life," he said. "I hope that doesn't raise expectations too much, but as soon as it's 100 percent dialed in, I'll give you a call."

Too late!

Also, for all you East-Coasters who mourned the closing of the Grand Italian Ice Café, put away your widow's weeds: Italian ices are back! They're not on Grand Avenue anymore, though, they're in the Midtown Global Market, where ices queen Mary Johnson is now sharing space with the Golden Thyme Coffee Café. (The Midtown Global Market is on Chicago and Lake in south Minneapolis; Golden Thyme's phone number is 612.872.2373.)

"Grand Avenue was just too expensive once we hit fall and winter," Johnson told me. "But I kept the equipment, because I had it in my mind to do it again. Then, on June 30, we opened. It's going very well." This new incarnation has all the same flavors as the last place: lemon, mango, orange, strawberry, blue raspberry, three sorts of cherry, and so forth. The only differences are that the sugar-free ices aren't there yet, and the frozen custard, in flavors including chocolate, dulce de leche, strawberry, and, of course, vanilla, is now served hard-packed instead of soft-serve. The ices are available from 7:00 a.m. till 8:00 p.m. most days, though only till 6:00 p.m. Sunday and Monday, and can also be ordered for large parties in catering-sized portions. All in all, it's good news for homesick easterners. "People used to come in here and say one of two things," Johnson told me. "Either it was: I'm from Chicago, I'm from New York, I wondered when someone would finally have Italian ice! Or it was: What is that stuff in there?" Glad to know there's once again somewhere to answer that question.

Finally, it seems silly to write about chefs Brown and Woodman without mentioning the third leg of last winter's troubles—chef Doug Flicker, of long-lamented Auriga. Doug Flicker has been back for a while, working at the Mission American Kitchen, downtown in the IDS Center, for many months now, but I've held off writing about his new gig because I wanted to write about it when it would be most helpful to readers, namely, when the restaurant was out of transition, and in a more or less final form. That hasn't yet happened, so I'm still not reviewing it. Flicker tells me, however, that in mid-September the place should be what it will be. Over the summer he has been hiring various Auriga cooks to replace former Mission staff, such as chef James Folye, who have been decamping to Edina for the August opening of Via, a new ambitious contemporary American bistro that is replacing the old Pizzeria Uno near Southdale and the Galleria. (Via Café and Bar, 6740 France Ave. S., Edina; 952.928.9500; www.viacafebar.com.)

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