Fortunately, the shop's owners, Sarah Schrantz and Danielle DePietto, decided to make the most of the situation and move Muddy's, as well as expand it. The Hot Dish talked to Schrantz to get the scoop.
Schrantz and DePietto are the shop's third set of owners, having acquired the business in April of 2008. The shop was in dire financial shape back then, Schrantz says--"It was so close to bankruptcy when we bought it"--but they improved revenue by adding more food items, which soon surpassed coffee sales.
But DePietto, who has cooked at several iconic Minneapolis restaurants, including the old Loring, New French Cafe, and the Vintage, could only do so much with Muddy's menu. All items needed to be simple enough to be made by one barista, who was also serving coffee, using only a toaster and a microwave.
The two realized they'd have to take on a lot of debt to move the coffee shop, and it would be an uphill battle in a category that had grown much more competitive in the past two decades. "In Uptown there's literally a coffee shop on every corner," Schrantz says.
But the owners had long been interested in opening a restaurant/bar, so they decided that if they were going to take a small risk, they might as well take a big one. And they've already begun the process of converting 2933 Lyndale, the building just north of Lyndale Tap that's owned by Jon English, into Muddy Waters Bar and Eatery.With the help of a third partner, Patrick or "Paddy" Whelan, Schrantz and DePietto are preparing to move into the 3,900-square-foot space, which English was formerly using as storage, and converting the courtyard between it and English's production studio into a patio. ("The patio alone is bigger than our entire customer space," Schrantz says of her current, 950-square-foot digs.)
In case you're concerned about a Minneapolis institution changing its stripes and developing a look as slick and polished as a $75 haircut, Schrantz wants to assure Muddy's fans that the new space will have "the right amount of rough edges and character." In fact, she described the former barn-cum-garage that lacks heat and air conditioning as simply "a hot mess." There's a concrete floor, a timber ceiling, walls made of concrete block that's been "painted and chipped away at 50 times" and "electrical fuses that say 1942 on them."
Needless to say, the project will be a complete build-out. But when it's finished, the owners are planning to have a coffee bar in front, a 35-foot bar, an open kitchen, and a private dining room that will seat about 10 with huge barn windows that will open onto the patio.
Starting at 7 a.m. the coffee bar will serve drinks and breakfast sandwiches, and the rest of the space will be open for lunch, dinner, and late-night snacks. As for the decor, Schrantz says that, like the current Muddy's, it's not going to match. "It's going to look like an amazing party happened there 80 years ago."
Schrantz describes the menu as American bistro, offering everything from beef carpaccio and tenderloin to fried chicken and French fries. Schrantz says she believes the concept will create another option for Lyn-Lake diners without stepping on any of their neighbors' toes. Compared to the sports bar-esque Lyndale Tap and the more upscale, about-to-open Heidi's, "We'll be somewhere right in between," Schrantz says.
If all goes as planned, the shop will reopen in early April. "We're scared and we're elated," she says.