Friday, August 24, 2012 at 8:03 a.m.
Some of the offerings at Brindisi's, including the titular burger.
Photos courtesy Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
Having a restaurant named after him was never on Michael Brindisi's to-do list, but life can go in unusual directions.
The longtime theater director was part of the team that purchased the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres a couple of years ago. In that time, steady improvement has been made on the dinner part of the experience.
This summer, a separate pub, Brindisi's
, was added to the experience, taking over a bar and dining area outside of the main theater and spreading out onto a renovated porch.
"This is part of the big plan from the very beginning. We can't depend on the theater to do all the work for a 90,000-square-foot facility," Brindisi said recently on a breezy evening on that porch. "We've wanted to make it more of an entertainment center than just a theater."
Full renovations are on the drawing board, but the theater business has been slow enough to keep them there. Instead, a smaller renovation was made to "open this little pub. I thought, 'Let's just open it and see if anybody comes before we do any major renovations. It opened on my birthday, June 22, and they came. They were coming in droves."
In the first couple of months, Brindisi's has become a hangout for Chanhassen locals looking for their own neighborhood pub. "We're filling a niche that we didn't know needed to be filled," Brindisi said.
The pub offers a menu aimed at the sweet spot between value and flavor. The biggest seller has been the Brindisi burger: a half-pounder smothered in an Italian-style sauce, provolone cheese, and sautéed onions and peppers. The $5 price point doesn't hurt.
A number of different sandwiches and entrees are available, as are appetizers, such as deep-fried calamari. One of the attractions of the pub is a double happy hour, taking place between 2 and 6 and then 9 to 11.
The original idea was to be open in the afternoons and evenings, but that expanded to lunch --- the pub opens at 11:30 a.m. daily =- and now to a Sunday brunch.
The brunch features items like butter croissant French toast, huevos rancheros, and a breakfast version of the Brindisi Burger, also priced at $5.
The menu was developed by chef David Kirchner and offers a different challenge than the dinner theater, where hundreds need to be served within a couple of hours.
"It all comes from the same kitchen, so we had to retrain specific people to be short-order cooks. We have one or two cooks that are just dedicated to the slips from the pub," he said.
To date, the experience has been a good one for Brindisi, who has found himself spending a lot of his free time, when not working on the day-to-day operations or directing a show, at the pub, meeting the customers who have quickly become regulars and friends.
"I wanted two things for the pub: the best prices in town and the best food in town," Brindisi said.