Heidi's coming to Lyn-Lake, Stewart Woodman shares details
Stewart and Heidi Woodman have finally made their long-awaited announcement: Heidi's will reopen in the former Vera's coffee shop at Lyn-Lake. After learning that reopening in their 50th and Bryant location, which was destroyed by fire last February, was not a viable option, the Woodmans started scouting multiple new locations, including the former home of Cafe Brenda. The Woodmans ended up negotiating with the owners of the Rhymesayers record label, who had recently purchased the former Vera's building, to lease the space. They've tasked the designer Jim Smart, who did Fuji-Ya, Moto-i, and Pop! St. Paul, to remodel the interior.
I just touched base with Stewart Woodman, who was at his parents' vineyard on an island near Vancouver--"I've been elected to do some weeding," he remarked--to get a few more details about the decision.
Finding a new location they're excited about, Woodman says, "takes the sting" out of losing their beloved former home. He detailed a few of the perks of the new space, which, at 55 seats, should be roughly the same size as the old one:
Patio: The entrance to the building will be on the side, via "a gorgeous patio under a canopy of old trees," Woodman says. In warm weather, the patio will seat 28.
Parking: about a dozen stalls behind the restaurant
Open kitchen: Cooking will be visible to diners and bar patrons through glass
Full-liquor license: Heidi's former location only offered beer and wine; the new one will have a full bar with an emphasis on classic cocktails.
The most notable aspect of the Woodmans' decision was the demographic shift from a more moneyed, mature neighborhood with few dining options to one that's home to a more competitive dining market and a denser population of younger folks who are more likely to do tequila shots and eat food out of vending machines. Heidi's old neighbors were Blackbird and the Malt Shop; their new ones will be Lyndale Tap, Galactic Pizza, and the Herkimer.
Would the more staid Southwest neighbors who loved Heidi's 1.0 be willing to brave the traffic and the drunks and the superheroes in search of fine dining? Or had the club kids developed more sophisticated tastes? Was Heidi's confidence in the neighborhood a sign that Uptown was growing up? (Slug is 37 years old, after all.)
"That'll be interesting to discover," Woodman said, when I posed a few such questions. "I think much of the traffic we got at Heidi's 1.0 will find its way to 2.0," he said, and I'm inclined to agree. He and Heidi have cultivated more loyalty with their customers in the intimate, more personal Heidi's than Stewart was able to do at Levain before he opened Five, at Bryant and 29th.
Woodman said they are planning to make Heidi's 2.0 feel more accessible to its neighbors than Five. "What we learned at Five was really that the traffic from the neighborhood wasn't what we thought it would be," he said, but then suggested that the new condo projects in the area had increased the density of a slightly higher income neighbor. Again, I think he's right. Since Five and jP's closed, the neighborhood has gentrified somewhat at the same time that younger people have become more food-savvy. "Hopefully it'll be the case that we'll get local traffic walking over," Woodman said.
As a nod to the neighbors, Woodman said, the new Heidi's will continue to keep its entrees priced less than $20. He plans to offer a larger selection of one or two-bite amuse bouches priced at a couple bucks a pop, so the restaurant can be open to more flexible drinking/snacking options than the multicourse meals commonly eaten at the original Heidi's. Also, due to the proximity to the Jungle Theater, Woodman says he's excited to develop a pre-curtain menu.
Come fall, the Woodmans will be launching not only a new restaurant but Stewart's new cookbook, Shefzilla: Conquering Haute Cuisine at Home. If all goes well, they anticipate both will debut in October. But for now, the Woodmans are roughly halfway through a three-week family vacation. After Vancouver, they plan to head down the Oregon coast and spend five nights in San Francisco--"five nights with babysitting," Woodman clarifies--before coming home in late August. "After I open the restaurant," he said, "I'm not going to get the opportunity to do this for another decade."
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