Out of the Inn--where are they now?
Certain restaurants create a mythology that lives on long after the lights have gone out. These restaurants become a symbol of a special place and time, a nostalgia that inspires late-night tales over too many cocktails of "Man, we really killed it." Restaurants like Auriga, Chet's Taverna, and the Town Talk. Hotbeds of talent that shined brightly and then were gone. A more recent entry into the local food lore is the Inn. Opened almost a year ago, serving comforting food with creative cocktails worth swooning over and a front-of-house staff trained to make each diner feel like one of an exclusive gang, it lasted for six months before closing so abruptly that the press knew before some of the staff.
As the year winds down, we caught up with a couple of these talented guys to see how they've been spending their nights.
It surprised no one to see part-owner Tim Niver back to greeting guests, taking reservations, or mixing up his killer drinks at St. Paul's Strip Club. While obviously disappointed and deeply saddened by the closing, he's an industry veteran and knows how to nimbly land on his feet. Ask him how he's doing and you're likely to get a coy smile and the modest shrug of a satisfied man. The restaurant continues to be packed night after night despite its slightly off-the-beaten path location, showing Niver and chef J.D. Fratzke know a thing or two about this hospitality business.
Chef Tyge Nelson took a hiatus this summer. He unplugged and ducked out for a bit only to recently resurface at Chino Latino. Tim McKee, who he's worked with before, lured him back into the fold. Other McKee crew are in the kitchen with him working on elevating the Parasole-owned hot spot beyond the dry-ice-spiked drinks.
Bar steward extraordinaire Jesse Held is chipping ice and continuing to create his brilliant concoctions at Marvel bar, the speakeasy joint at the bottom and back of the Bachelor Farmer. The bar has caused the local liquorati to swoon. When Marvel's bar superstar Pip Hanson steps aside, it's often Held who brings forth the boozy genius. He also has a few cocktails featured in the North Star Bartenders Guild book recently released by Johnny Michaels. The man who made us fall in love with a wintry Scotch cocktail called the Slim Shim has a lot more up his rolled up sleeves. If all goes according to plan, he may have a big announcement to share with us after the end of this year.
As for the Inn's building itself, which once housed Hell's Kitchen, plans are in the works for a new incarnation. Erik Forsberg, owner of the Ugly Mug, has bought the location and plans to turn it into a gastropub with more craft beer lines and flat screen TVs in the back.
As with all change, some will grumble while others sigh, but with all the talent this city holds, the rest of us will likely be well served into the new year.
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