The ever-expanding Crave empire celebrates the grand opening of its most ambitious location yet tomorrow. All traces of former occupant Palomino are long gone, and the space has been given a fresh makeover. Walls have been torn down to create an open floor plan, the decor and furniture are slathered in tawny golds and reds, and hipness is already billowing from the place like smoke. And wait till you see the rooftop patio...
The Hot Dish chatted with Crave CEO Kam Talebi and got a few pics of the new digs. Here's our sneak peek.[jump]
The bar is the heart of the beast in the new space, extending nearly half the length of the restaurant, with seating available around the whole circumference. The open kitchen, visible in the background, features imported Italian copper.
The sushi bar hugs the inner corner of the restaurant, and a floor-to-ceiling wine tower, stocked with wines carefully chosen by sommelier Tim Edmunds, proudly occupies the center of the room.
The star of the show is indisputably the rooftop patio, which, though still under construction, already offers impressive views and a sunny, welcoming perch from which to look out over the downtown cityscape. "There is no doubt," says Talebi, "that this will be a happy hour hangout." The bar is the center point, but the roof will also feature its own kitchen offering the full Crave menu and a few items exclusive to the patio, like grilled shrimp and shish kebabs.
The downtown Crave differs from the other locations in its "more urban look and feel," says Talebi. "It's hipper, chicer, more vibrant." We asked Talebi how he explains Crave's success and continued expansion, even as other restaurants like Palomino, which occupied the space for 19 years, are going the way of the dodo.
"We offer what the customer wants," Talebi says. "The market is moving away from fine dining and toward a more approachable, value-driven quality with a casual flare. Our numbers have grown by double digits throughout this recession because we offer something that looks and feels like fine dining but is more accessible." He cites the happy hour specials as an example, which include an array of beer, wine, cocktail, sushi, and appetizer options available for $4 to $6.
The restaurant's grand opening takes place tomorrow, and the patio is due to be unveiled the first week of June. While we were there, a small army of waitstaff was bedecked in their Crave blacks and gathered in the dining room for their pre-shift meeting, looking eager and ready to throw open the doors of what the owners hope will be one of the hippest Minneapolis restaurant destinations of 2011.
Crave 825 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis 612.332.1133 Crave website