Spring 2014's fresh crop of Twin Cities eateries
Spring has sprung, supposedly, which means that over the next few weeks we'll see signs of life at a handful of new Twin Cities restaurants. Like crocuses peeking out of the dirt, these eateries will be popping up, shaking off the shackles of winter, and promising to brighten our lives with everything from sourdough pizza to raw plates to Southern fried chicken. Continuing arguably the biggest trend from last year, we have a brick-and-mortar version of one of Minneapolis's most beloved food trucks in the works; a second act from the team behind the most innovative steakhouse in St. Paul; and a long-awaited bistro with late-night service hours tailor-made for its Uptown surroundings. Here's a rundown of the spring openings we're most looking forward to.
6439 Lyndale Ave. S., Richfield
Residents of Richfield, are you ready for some ramen? Do whatever it is that you do to prepare for unabashed noodle slurping, because ramen is one of the dishes chef Ben Rients, a Lakeville native and alum of Alex Roberts's award-winning Restaurant Alma, will be pumping out once a week at his upcoming bar and bistro, Lyn 65. Rients says he's drawing inspiration from another notable Minneapolis restaurant, 112 Eatery, in putting together a menu of eclectic flavors with a decidedly modern bent. The dinner lineup will change depending on ingredient availability, but Rients mentioned early test dishes such as French fries cooked in duck fat with crispy duck skin and duck fat hollandaise; sourdough crust pizzas baked Roman-style, i.e. thin and crispy; shisito peppers (did we not say these would be the new Brussels sprouts?) flavored with umami-rich parmesan cheese and miso; steamed mussels; and baby octopus salad. He's also paying homage to more traditionally Midwestern meals by offering things like Friday fish fry, prime rib, pasta dishes, and cast-iron fried chicken for two. Mark your calendars for the first week of April and cross your fingers they'll be ready to mix you up a cocktail.
3501 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
Hola Areapa is consistently named among the top trucks in our vibrant street food scene, so it was only a matter of time before owners Christina Nguyen and Birk Stefan Grudem made the leap to a more permanent location. They've selected a smart spot with seats for about 60 guests inside and definite patio potential in the former home of El Paraiso Mexican restaurant, right across the street from Pat's Tap. Their brick-and-mortar store will, of course, still sell arepas — a sort of soft corn cake sandwich, stuffed with various braised meats and crunchy veggies, almost like the Latin version of a gyro. But Nguyen and Grudem will also take this opportunity to expand the menu a bit, adding small plates like plantain tostadas with braised beef and tamarind sauce, and bacalao (a salted cod spread) with crispy plantain chips; there's a rumor they'll be adding burritos to their repertoire at some point, too. For now, Hola Arepa is expected to open sometime in late April or early May for brunch, happy hour, and dinner and, very happily, will have a full liquor license. Grudem spent time behind the bars of Town Talk Diner and Bradstreet Craftshouse, both known for their complicated, whimsical cocktails, though he's stated that in keeping with the casual nature of Hola Arepa's food, the boozy beverages here will be more from the school of straightforward bartending.
Corner Table 3.0
4537 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
The collective freak-out about Corner Table moving was immediately silenced when we learned they would not only be taking their famed pork belly, classic cassoulet, and sweet potato doughnuts just down the block to the former home of La Chaya Bistro, they would also be undertaking a major community service project: turning their "old" space into a Southern comforts restaurant, serving fried chicken, White Lily biscuits, hush puppies, and Kentucky-style barbecued meats. The Corner Table team, consisting of owners Nick and Cheny Rancone and chef Thomas Boemer, has its sights set on opening at the end of March or the beginning of April in the La Chaya space, which will serve dinner Monday through Saturday and brunch on the weekends. The new Southern comforts concept is slated to open sometime in late summer.
2700 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Chef Jim Christiansen, fresh off his tenure at UNION, has ditched the corporate-owned restaurant world to team up with general manager Lorin Zinter and create a casual concept with super-pro service that they're calling Heyday. From Christiansen's descriptions, there are echoes of the newly opened Coup d'Etat in his vision: a four-sectioned menu with lighter cold and raw plates (Christiansen is an expert with fish, so we're anticipating seeing a great crudo or ceviche here); hot appetizer-style items; larger hot plates; and cheese and dessert courses. As for the exact dishes, they're still in the works, but when pressed to give a name to the style of food he'll be turning out at Heyday, Christiansen says it's "New American, but I believe we are still learning what 'American food' even is, so it's not the best description in that regard — there's just so many variables." What he does know is that when they open, which he hopes will be in late April, they'll make good use of the wood-burning grill that's set up in their separate dining room. "You will definitely see some grilled items on the menu," says Christiansen. Brunch will be added eventually, but for the first several weeks they plan to be open for dinner only. Get the full menu from the bar, grab a seat at one of the communal tables, or go for more private seating in the dining room. You've got options and they all sound like a rollicking good time.
280 E. Fifth St., St. Paul
Now, to be fair, we aren't sure this one will really open in the spring. In fact, co-owner Tim Niver recently flat-out stated that they have "no reasonable opening date for Saint Dinette," the compact new restaurant that's being planned by Niver, consultant Brad Tetzloff, and Strip Club Meat & Fish executive chef J.D. Fratzke. But we can't help it, we're geared up for an intimate, 60-seat mini-diner with European-influenced food, loads of kitchen-to-customer interaction, and a bubbly, boisterous overall feel. Jes Werkmeister of Birdhouse and Heidi's will helm the kitchen and Laurel Elm of La Belle Vie will be in charge of running the front-of-house. We won't speculate on a date just yet, but we will say with the stellar cast of characters backing this project, it's sure to be a welcome addition to Lowertown.
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.