Meritage owners expanding to downtown Minneapolis with several new ventures

Bringing a taste of the old world into the Minneapple
Bringing a taste of the old world into the Minneapple
Joy Summers

Russell and Desta Klein have their eyes trained on another historic building for their second restaurant's home: the Soo Line building at the corner of Fifth and Marquette for not one new project, but four. The space will become a brasserie, a skyway-level cafe, a wine bar, and a wine and cheese shop. 

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The Soo Line building dates back to the early 1900s, when it opened as First National Bank. It's currently undergoing major renovations, and the office space will become luxury apartments.

The main level restaurant will be Brasserie Zentral and the kitchen will be brimming with Eastern and Central European scents, inspired by Russell's familial heritage. We've already seen and loved what the man can do with a matzo ball soup. The chef talked with the Star Tribune's Rick Nelson about the space located at the base of the building with 150 seats. Design firm Shea, Inc. will be spiffing up the space. 

Menu items will include deceptively humble dishes like a great schnitzel, tafelspitz (Austrian comfort food of boiled beef) with Belgian fries double-dipped in a roiling beef fat bath, and whole roast chicken stuffed with foie gras. As Klein told Nelson, "You can't talk about Hungarian food -- and Jewish food -- without talking about foie gras. We're going to work a lot with foie gras, it's one of my favorite ingredients. We have an amazing local source, of course [Au Bon Canard in Caledonia, Minnesota], but Hungary is the third-largest producer in the world, after France and Israel."

But what to drink? Minneapolis oenophiles will be delighted to know that Meritage sommelier Nicolas Giraud will oversee the wine program and there will be an extensive selection of schnapps.

Beyond a good digestive cocktail or port to sip, guests will want to save room for dessert. The Kleins have hired an as-yet unnamed "all-star" pastry chef to lure customers by the dessert selection alone. 

Another corner of the building will house Foreign Legion, a wine bar with an extensive cheese selection. There will also be a bevvy of cured meats and grilled sandwiches showcasing the gooey goods as well as desserts. They will serve beer, but the focus will be on wine.

If you'd fancy a bottle to bring home, there will also be a liquor store adjacent to the wine bar. Expect a treasure trove of unexpected wines at affordable prices, just the sort of alcoholic discoveries that Giraud is known for. Plus there will be a walk-in beer cooler.

Upstairs and connected to the skyway will be Cafe Zentral, serving breakfast and lunch. There they will sell the sweet and savory crepes that downtown St. Paul workers have been able to enjoy from the seasonal crepe stand at Meritage. There will also be Austrian-style frankfurter sandwiches, pastries, espresso, and fresh orange juice. The cooler will also be stocked with take-and-bake dinner options.

Those luxury apartments they're building upstairs are looking more luxurious by the moment.

Brasserie Zentral will be the first to open, slated for spring 2014, with the other projects to follow.

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