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Does Brasa St. Paul have to die so Lunds & Byerlys can live?

Pictured: a Brasa St. Paul employee loading meat in for a slow-cooking session. Not pictured (yet): A Lunds & Byerly's/apartment complex underground parking lot.

Pictured: a Brasa St. Paul employee loading meat in for a slow-cooking session. Not pictured (yet): A Lunds & Byerly's/apartment complex underground parking lot.

Anyone hungry around Grand Avenue has a lot to choose from, restaurant-wise.

Seriously: Look at this list. It's... long.

But for our money, you can't go wrong with some sort of rubbed, spiced, stewed, slow-cooked, or flash-fried dish from Brasa Rotisserie's St. Paul location, a go-to eating spot for Hamline Mitchell Law students, Summit Avenue rich people, and "screw traffic, I don't want to drive home yet" state employees since it opened in 2009, following on successes of its East Hennepin sister restaurant in Minneapolis.

That all might be going away for St. Paul. Key word: might.

A new Lunds & Byerlys is set to open right on top of where Brasa currently sits, as part of a five-story apartment complex with a grocery store on its ground floor, as the Pioneer Press reported this week. The restaurant and the grocery chain are in talks, and Brasa's continued existence in that space is a tenuous proposition.

Asked what's next for the neighborhood fixture, both sides were... cagey.

"We're not sure what will happen yet," says chef/owner Alex Roberts, a past James Beard Award winner who also runs the acclaimed Alma cafe in Minneapolis. "We have 10-year renewal rights, so we are working with Lunds to make sure things turn out positively for everyone."

Generally, having access to rotisserie chicken and/or fried plantains would be viewed as something "positive" for "everyone." Lunds doesn't sound so sure. A spokesman for the company says they're "big fans of Alex Roberts," making note of both his "culinary talents" and his "business acumen." 

Translation: This guy's got renewal rights, and drives a hard bargain.

The spokesperson goes on to say Lunds & Byerlys is looking at the situation with an eye on "potential options for [Roberts'] continued success." 

Sure. That's what this is about. Lunds is planning to develop on this site and turn Brasa's restaurant into underground parking not because it's trying to make money off hungry people... but because it's looking out for the "continued success" of a restaurateur who doesn't seem to need anyone's help in that regard.

The neighborhood could probably use a few more produce-laden food aisles, and everywhere in Minneapolis-St. Paul could probably use more (affordable!) housing. 

What they don't need, we're guessing, is backhanded corporate double-talk in the place of some honesty and a resolution. For now, Roberts has at least another 18 to 24 months before anyone comes wheeling his way with drills and earth-movers. 

Eat up, Grand Avenue-rs. Someday soon, you might have to try making food like you get at Brasa for yourself. And good luck with that.