Big E's dreams delayed


Austin hoped to convert a home to a restaurant, like Duplex on Hennepin.

Chef Eric Austin (aka Big E) had plans to open his own place, Big E's Restaurant/Literary Café, in a Phillips duplex, but right now he just has a house with a very large kitchen.

A few weeks ago, the Minneapolis City Council denied a petition to rezone E's property from R4 to the C1 Neighborhood Commercial district necessary to use the duplex as a restaurant.

I checked in with one of the city planners who told me that they review each request on a case by case basis, analyzing it within the context of surrounding area. E's property, it seems, was simply too deep in residential territory--if it had been located on a busier street or closer to a commercial node, the petition may have had a better chance of passing.

While I understand why the city needs to keep a consistent policy, I hope we see more in-home restaurants in Minneapolis neighborhoods--particularly underserved areas like Phillips. The addition of duplex and Namaste, for example, has perked up the Hennepin Avenue dining scene, offering a nice--literally homey--feel compared to their chain-restaurant neighbors.