The owners of Muddy Waters are following the Bulldog into Lowertown, as they prepare to open Dark Horse, a new bar and restaurant slated for later this summer.
Sarah Schrantz and Paddy Whelan, two-thirds of the Muddy Waters ownership team, have partnered with Mike Johnson of MP Johnson Construction to restore the former Twin Cities Magic and Costume site near the intersection of E. 7th and Wacouta Street, roughly a block from the new Saints stadium.
"It's about building an establishment we want to hang out in ourselves," Whelan says of the new bar, which he hopes will be open by August 1. "Taking what we've learned from Muddy Waters and adding a little twist in a different direction."
In that spirit, Dark Horse will focus on craft beer, liquor, and drip coffee, while adding European comfort foods in a welcoming Bohemian environment. There will be an off-street patio with fire pits and outdoor bar. Inside, guests will be greeted by an ergonomic bar and view of the kitchen in back. They plan to install a glass block wall, natural lighting, and ample foliage to complement the building's historic brick tones and wood flooring. At present, the site has been stripped to its core in order to emphasizing its historic shell, constructed in 1900.
"It's a fun neighborhood," Whelan says, reflecting on times he's spent with local artists and at Bulldog Lowertown. He says this project is not about hopping on the new stadium bandwagon, but enhancing an already vibrant neighborhood.
"When I lived in the nearby Tilsen Building 15 years ago," says Schrantz, "If you wanted something to eat you had to get in your car and get on the interstate."
She sees a changing market, though, with many similarities between Uptown and Lowertown. 20,000 commuters come into downtown St. Paul each day, and by offering affordable, quality plates, Dark Horse will be another dining option for them.
"The city of St. Paul has been good and it started with the mayor," Whelan says, adding that after battling 60/40 laws and other restrictions in Minneapolis over the years, "I think it's going to be a little more small business friendly [in St. Paul]."
To Whelan, the new bar is more than just business. "It's about what people can do when they're excited about working together," he says. "At 38, all of my dreams have come true," and he credits the resources and experiences he has shared with his friends. Johnson is not only their landlord, he also trained Whelan's hunting dog and is a mean shuffleboard player.
Dark Horse 250 E. Seventh St.
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