Now that everyone can stop obsessing about when The Lexington is going to reopen, people have transferred their angst to the old Rachel’s space in Northeast, shuttered since 2016.
Rachel’s prior to being Rachel’s (owned by John Rimarcik of Monte Carlo fame) was the much-loved Bobino Cafe and Wine Bar. It’s a lovely old space that just needs a tenant to come along and give it the love it deserves.
It’s finally got one.
Remy Pettus is the kind of Minneapolis chef who is not yet a big name like Tim McKee (La Belle Vie) or Steven Brown (Tilia), but he might be, one day, and his new restaurant might be the kind of place that catapults him to that level.
He was chef de cuisine at the once-dazzling Cosmos in the then Graves Hotel. He worked stints at important restaurants around the country, including Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer in Napa Valley and Moto in Chicago. Moto's late chef Homaro Cantu was known for his ingenuity around food, for wanting to solve the problem of world hunger and make food taste good to chemotherapy patients. Cantu is Pettus' greatest mentor, he says.
So Pettus wants to bring something new to the Rachel’s space. Something new that he calls “creative and artistic.”
Right, but doesn’t every restaurant think it’s creative and artistic? Most of the good ones anyway? Yes, but that isn’t exactly what Pettus is talking about.
“There is going to be an emphasis on the guest experience from the time they make the reservation until the time they get home,” he tells me. Because, he says, when you ask a person to recall the greatest meals of their lives, it usually begins with service, with experience, and then moves on to the food. The food is second, and maybe even third, in a truly memorable restaurant experience. If you think even briefly about your own food memories, you will probably agree.
“I want to provide an emotional experience,” he says. “Memories, smells, and aromas, and other things separate from food, things that people wouldn’t expect.”
He was mum on details, as he's still trying to sort out the specifics of the concept, but he did say that this isn’t going to be an avant-garde Alinea (the famous molecular gastronomy restaurant in Chicago) or a Moto type of place, where your “dish” might arrive inside of a balloon, for instance.
He says it will be approachable, and price points will be on par with other local higher-end places. The bar for excellence will be high, “extremely disciplined,” but the place will be warm and welcoming.
He offered no menu sneak-peeks, except that it will be a very seasonal, constantly changing list of 18 to 20 items. Nor does he want it compared to any restaurant he’s worked in previously, but when pressed, he said if you like Fig or Husk, Charleston restaurants known for being folksy, excellent, and extremely dedicated to region, you will probably like this place.
One of the best things about this turn of events is that Pettus always knew he was going to have a restaurant in the old Rachel's space. He’s always loved it, ever since he was a young man growing up on downtown’s edge of the Mississippi River. He’d dine there with his family and it “just felt right.”
He reached out to Rimarcik as soon as he heard of Rachel's closing, and begged him to sell him the place.
“I bought a place that wasn’t for sale,” says Pettus, who endeared himself to Rimarcik enough to be counted as the only person who’s ever purchased a business from the legendary restaurateur.
The restaurant opens this summer, work begins on the space in a couple of weeks, and by, say, June, you can plan on having your mind blown by a service ethic that will surprise you.
What does that mean?
You'll have to go to know.
222 E. Hennepin Ave.