Fall restaurant openings: A season of promise
Most of us associate fall with cooler temperatures, the return of pumpkin spice lattes, and a lineup of mediocre sitcom pilots, and though I'm looking forward to all of those things (plus leather boots and multiple viewings of Hocus Pocus), the slew of new restaurants slated to open this season is what's really allowing me to say so long to summer without any hesitation. There's a seafood-focused concept from a maven of meat, a Mad Hatter's house party serving sake instead of tea, and a restaurant resurrection in Robbinsdale, among others, and almost all of these upcoming eateries are second or third projects from well-respected chefs and restaurant groups. Will that equal risk for owners or reward for diners? We'll have to wait a few months to find out for sure, but here are some juicy tidbits on the fall openings we're looking forward to most.
With his flagship restaurant Cafe Ena still churning out spectacularly refined Latin-fusion food, and the successful transformation of a cozy Kingfield corner into charming tapas restaurant Rincon 38, chef Hector Ruiz decided to tackle another challenge: feeding hungry high-schoolers. His latest concept, La Fresca, is a 36-seat restaurant located near Washburn High School, an intentional move by Ruiz, who hopes to offer students an affordable, attractive alternative to vending machines and fast food. To that end, he'll be cooking up grass-fed beef burgers, making housemade Mexican-style ice cream, and serving other casual fare including sandwiches on bolillo bread — a sort of Mexican baguette. No word yet on what the booze situation will be for the legally aged who want the option of a beer with their burger, but if Ruiz gives these European comfort dishes the same sort of loving treatment he's applied to pulpo and paella in the past, expect Tangletown to have a new favorite hangout come October.
4750 Grand Ave., Minneapolis
The somewhat abrupt closing of Joe's Garage in Loring Park caused major upset in the local food community this spring, but all fretting ceased as soon as we learned that Butcher and the Boar chef Jack Riebel was involved in the new concept taking over the space. As it turns out, the whole team behind the upcoming seafood-focused restaurant, the Triton, shares the quality of impressive pedigree. Chef and partner David Yusefzadeh is a recent alum of Smack Shack, which explains some of the dishes served at the Triton's preview, such as the crunchy and colorful oyster frito misto with pickled turnips, celery, jalapeños, and a sesame-mirin sauce. Early plans revealed a menu full of Southern Chinese flavors, but the final cut may be a little looser in terms of the style of cuisine. Where bourbon is the focal point of Butcher and the Boar's bar (say that five times fast), the Triton's will be centered on a more appropriately clear spirit: vodka. Geoffrey Trelstad, whom you may recognize from his days managing the beloved bar at the now-shuttered King and I Thai, will be overseeing the Triton's bar program. Though the anticipated late fall opening means we will be well past patio weather, the Triton plans to re-open Joe's glorious rooftop patio again come spring. Still think you're going to miss the mashed potato bar? I doubt it.
1610 Harmon Place, Minneapolis
The Rabbit Hole
Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard already own and operate one of last year's most popular newcomers, the Left-Handed Cook, which quickly became my go-to lunch spot and favorite stall in the Midtown Global Market. Now the duo is hard at work on a second concept, the Rabbit Hole, which will also be in the Midtown Global Market. A key difference in the new space, formerly the building site of the stalled-then-scrapped Well Seasoned, is that it's sectioned off and has a separate entrance, thus allowing Kim and Melgaard to apply for a full liquor license. Fingers crossed that they're able to obtain one, because the plan is to do sake, shoju (a clear distilled Korean spirit), and some creative cocktails inspired by a trip to Booker and Dax, a renowned New York City cocktail bar that's a part of David Chang's Momofuku empire. As far as edibles, the Rabbit Hole will take a cue from the same "Korean soul" idea that's worked so well at the Left-Handed Cook but with an emphasis on pub food, particularly burgers, which will be made with a unique combo of house-ground chuck, brisket, and short ribs. Look forward to saam (lettuce wraps with rice and meat), duck fat mochi rice cakes, double-fried chicken, and all manner of items from the Japanese-style charcoal grill sometime in early October.
920 E. Lake St., Ste. 101, Minneapolis
Travail: The Return and the Rookery
At the beginning of April, the much-lauded Travail Kitchen & Amusements shut down and rearranged some bits and pieces in order to open the pie shop Pig Ate My Pizza this summer. Since then, the whole Travail team has been hard at work doing demolition and redesign on two, yes two, joint projects that will open in a space just down the street from PAMP. The first is a smaller but similarly chef-driven version of Travail (still planning to go with their notable no-reservations policy), and the second is the Rookery, a sandwich and small-plate shop that will also serve creative cocktails. PAMP is open now and slinging many a charcuterie-topped pie for lunch and dinner all week long, but Travail and the Rookery are not set to open until Thanksgiving at the earliest. If you just can't wait that long, plan to get tickets for Travail's pop-up restaurant, Umami, in north Minneapolis. The Asian street food-inspired spot will start serving on September 11.
4124 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale
Unlike the aforementioned closing of Joe's Garage, no one blinked an eye when Cowboy Slim's in Uptown closed last fall. But people did sit up and take notice when it was announced that, after about a dozen restaurants vied for the highly valuable space, the new tenant would be a contemporary Mediterranean restaurant from Jester Concepts, a.k.a. Brent Frederick and Jacob Toledo, whose latest claim to fame is the North Loop's Borough & Parlour. The plans for the space are ambitious and include a mezzanine lounge, multilevel dining area, a large bar, outdoor seating, and a pick-up window for late-night eats to go, something area residents and bar-hoppers will be sure to take advantage of often. As at Parlour, the bar program will revolve around sophisticated reworkings of classic cocktails and make use of fresh seasonal ingredients. Since Coup d'état is projected to open in late fall, the team still has a few months to work out the details of the menu, but if the rich, whimsical dishes at Borough are any indication of the caliber of food it'll be putting out, Coup d'état should have no problem filling all of its 300 seats.
The Walkway at 1320
W. Lake St., Minneapolis
The next few months should be busy and belly-filling as it is, but we'd be remiss not to mention a couple of promising new breweries and bars opening this season. Day Block Brewing Company near Gold Medal Park is slated to open sometime this fall, possibly inching into early winter. Sneak peeks of the brewpub revealed an Oktoberfest lager, a black IPA, and the Pilot IPA made with Cascade hops. Toward the end of October the Blue Plate Group (the Lowry, Longfellow Grille, Scusi) will open Loose-Wiles Freehouse in the North Loop serving a selection of their own house beers (which they plan to sell in growlers) as well as guest tipples from other local breweries. Chef Breck Lawrence is creating a wide-ranging menu with breakfast options such as pork belly eggs Benedict, Korean oysters Rockefeller for happy hour, larger plates like Ancho chile-braised short ribs, and bacon-topped brownies for dessert.
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