Minneapolis's 5 most jinxed restaurant locations
In honor of Thom Pham's announcement that he'll be opening a new restaurant, Wanderers, at 555 Hennepin Ave.--a space notorious for its quick turnover of restaurant operators--Hot Dish decided to take a look at the Top 5 Jinxed Restaurant Locations.
5. 555 Hennepin Ave. It's already taken down two other Asian eateries, Zake, and, before that, Musashi. Hell, it even killed an Olive Garden. (Did not even know that was possible: Isn't Olive Garden, like, the cockroach of the restaurant world in its ability to withstand any sort of apocalypse or wholesale nuclear meltdown?) The space has 9,000 square feet to fill, at prime downtown real estate prices, but restaurateur Thom Pham isn't daunted. "I love challenges," he says, while noting that the space that now houses Azia was home to seven restaurants between 1997 and 2002.
Despite the Hennepin space's enormous size, it has a *much* better location than Pham's former Temple: It's on a major intersection, very visible, with easy access to other restaurants/clubs if people want to make multiple stops. Now that Pham has a few more years in the business under his belt, and has cultivated a larger following of diners--the guy has 4,994 Facebook friends at last count, and he probably actually knows all of them--he could make this work in the same way that Kieran Folliard launched Kieran's in a smaller, more obscure location and, years later, was able to move the bar to Block E and pack an enormous space.
4. 1201 Harmon Pl. Perhaps Pham will approach Wanderers using what he learned from his troubles at Temple, which was tucked in that invisible zone on the north side of Loring Park, a.k.a. downtown's Bermuda Triangle. The space is a prime case of being so close, yet so far away: It's a freaking block off Hennepin Ave., yet gets basically zero drive-by traffic. It's also enormous and has no parking. 1201 Harmon Place previously took out Tiburon, before Temple, as well. It was such a restaurant-killer that it's now been converted to office space. Whatever happened to the fish tank, anyway?
3. 308 E. Hennepin Ave. The former home of Fugaise, and now Butcher Block, has never been appealing for several reasons: It's blink-and-you'll-miss it mid-block location, crammed between a jumble of Clean Water Action, consignment clothing, and baby gear, etc., and the fact that the place has no windows! For a secret Prohibition-era cocktail den or dungeon-themed nightclub, that could work, but when most people go out to dinner they don't want to feel like they're in a cave.
2. 1221 W. Lake St. How this space--on Lake Street, in the heart of Uptown, near a bunch of spendy condos--managed to close two promising restaurants, Pizza Nea, which has a successful East Hennepin location, and Indio, whose owners already run two other dependable restaurants, is harder to parse. It's not on a corner? Too much competition? Overpriced lease? Generic interior decor? Tum Rup Thai is on the other side of the very same development and has done just fine for years.
1. 4302 Bryant Ave. This teeny-tiny spot is located in the middle of a high-income neighborhood that lacks a ton of restaurant options: no brainer, right? Then why isn't the My-T-Fine Bakery/Cafe still there? Or Cafe Agri? (Okay, that one's rhetorical.) Part of this space's undoing is that it's almost too small--you simply can't get enough volume to make the numbers work. Except--and this is a very big except that Doug Flicker's Piccolo exploits--if you are able to get that limited number of people to run up a fairly hefty check average. With any luck, Flicker's operation has broken the space's curse. Which is good, because his previous venture, Auriga, seems to have left a serious hex on 1930 Hennepin.
* 1930 Hennepin Avenue One more bonus pick we couldn't resist: The former home of Auriga has been empty so long it's starting to look like it'll never get reopened. Sure, the building has its structural issues, and the parking lot is practically nonexistent, but it's within spitting distance of Kenwood (or do Kenwood-ites all have personal chefs? Or are they simply never home?) and several major thoroughfares. The weeds and graffiti are starting to make the place a major eyesore: Will some brave soul please try to make a go of it?
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Minneapolis & St. Paul dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.