Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard are hard at work on their next project
E. Katie Holm
Thomas Kim speaks haltingly at first, taking sidelong glances at partner Kat Melgaard. She smiles, nods, and occasionally fills in the end of a sentence. The two are a little dazed -- the result of a whirlwind tour through New York and L.A. before returning to their adopted hometown of Minneapolis. There might be a couple of dark circles under their eyes. However, like the expectant parents that they are, the gleam of excitement is luminous as we sit down in their new restaurant space to talk about their next venture.
"This was always supposed to be our first place. This is what we came to Minneapolis to open and the Left Handed [Cook] was supposed to be second, but it just didn't work out that way." The two have been fostering plans for their hybrid concept for years. Take the influence of Korean street food stands with their collective eating under giant orange tents, combined with a dive bar-style camaraderie, smash in a little L.A. punk aesthetic, and twist it through a Lewis Carroll kaleidoscope and you have a taste what we'll find at the Rabbit Hole.
The Rabbit Hole space is under wraps for now
The new restaurant will also be located inside Midtown Global Market, but in its own enclosed space. (The location had been marked for the proposed Well Seasoned restaurant, before unforeseen circumstances put the kibosh on those restaurant plans.) Because of where the space is situated they will have plenty of parking and will qualify for a full liquor license, which they are hopeful to obtain.
The two were inspired by a trip to the Momofuku bar, Booker, and Dax, nationally known for their innovative cocktail program. Expect incredibly creative drinks -- "But not too foo-foo," they insist. There will be a collection of shoju and sake sippers.
The room will include an open bar area with a large communal table and an open kitchen. Their line faces forward, so Kim and his cooking staff will be eye to eye their guests as they prepare their food. Off to the side Kim is building high-backed booths to create private little pockets -- perfect for intimate date nights.
The menu will be stacked with perfect pairs for cold cocktails. Think Korean-style double-fried chicken, duck fat mochi rice cakes, short rib stew, ssäm (Korean wraps), and all sorts of skewers. They have a Japanese charcoal grill on order, a playground Kim can't wait to dive into. There will also be selection of burgers. They'll be grinding the meat themselves, a combination of short rib, brisket, and chuck for a super-moist, unctuous bite. Expect to find them gilded with scratch-made toppings like bacon jam, caramelized onions, hash browns, pork belly, mammoth onion rings, and the ubiquitous egg. Pair that with a cold beer and we might never leave.
"The burgers are all similar to ones I've made before, but we'll be doing things that come from here, too. Like there will be a charcuterie plate and a pickle plate, but with an Asian twist," Kim explained. Twists like a pickle plate of different kinds of kimchee? Yes, please.
Melgaard will be bring not only her keen design eye and DIY know-how to the decor, but she's also in charge of the front of house. The room will look like an Asian punk-rock fairytale. "In my mind, it looks really cool." No doubt. If what she did with the modest stall space inside the market is any indication, this place will definitely be very, very cool.
We can expect to get our first bite this fall -- fingers crossed -- in early October.