Top 10: Restaurant Closings of the Decade
We lost a lot of great restaurants in the last decade--such is the nature of the business--and I thought I'd pay homage to a few of the most-missed.
1. Aquavit Nearly a decade before Jean-Georges and Wolfgang came to town, New York City's preeminent Swedish restaurant, Aquavit, deemed Minneapolis's dining scene important enough to have its own satellite branch. (Admittedly the Swedish thing was a big part of it...) The complex cuisine had its hits and misses and was, in some ways, ahead of its time, though it did help draw more national attention to our local talent. The most truly amazing thing about Aquavit, though, was its elegant $10, multi-course lunch--yes, really, $10, in the early 2000s! It's something Potbelly will never match.
2. Auriga By the time it had closed, most diners still hadn't figured out how to pronounce the name of the place (you say Au-ree-guh, I say Ah-rye-guh), but could still all agree: Doug Flicker was cooking the hell out of the place. While Flicker was a pioneer with experimental cooking techniques such as sous vide, he still managed to cultivate a relaxed, neighborhood vibe with the classiest late-night happy hour in town that hinged on great wine and amazing flatbread pizzas (goat cheese and marcona almonds = delish!). Auriga's funky building has been sitting empty for years (sure, it's awkward and has hardly any parking, but the location!? and the patio!?) and it may stay that way for a while. In the meantime, I'm still on the hunt for a another restaurant that serves Agrumi Italian soda...
3, 4, & 5. Cafe Un Deux Trois, The New French Cafe and The Loring The old-guard of Twin Cities French restaurants, un deux trois and the New French used to battle it out for that "Best of" category year after year. Both had authentic food and personality to boot--longtime restaurant folks like Michael Morse, Andrew Zimmern, and Vincent Francoul, came through un deux trois, for example. The Loring had that chic-yet-laid back bohemian-cosmopolitan thing going for it, too, and was something of a feeder school for chefs, with Steven Brown, Phillip Becht, JP Samuelson, Doug Flicker, Joan Ida, Patrick Atanalian and Lenny Russo among its notable alumni.
6. Emma's You probably don't even remember this place, as its run was so short-lived, but Emily Streeter, then a bright, 24-year-old talent, briefly had her own place in the old 3 Muses space on Lyndale, where she showcased the chops she'd developed at cafe un deux trois and Bakery on Grand. Fortunately, her potential hasn't been snuffed, just shifted, but if you'd like to experience it, you'll have to head out to Richard's in St. Peter.
7. Goodfellows Before ex-chef Kevin Cullen made off with the silverware and all that, Goodfellow's was one of the best dining rooms downtown with its haute American cuisine and gorgeous art deco decor. I am still in love with that space, which remains empty, for now preserving its former glory as a tomb.
8. Cafe Brenda The pioneer of fresh, healthy cooking--for years, Cafe Brenda was the nicest vegetarian-friendly restaurant in the city, where Hollywood-types would dine when they were in town--closed its doors this winter, after being slowly smothered by the surrounding party-scene clubs and bars. Fortunately, Brenda's spirit lives on in the more contemporary riverfront Spoonriver.
9 & 10 Five and Red Two of the most ambitious restaurants of the mid-decade, Five and Red, both aimed for stratospheric heights, then crashed-and-burned as fast as they rose. At Five, Stewart Woodman's NYC-star-kitchen-studded resume encouraged investors to fund a big-buck build-out of the former fifth police precinct building, but his 10-course tasting menus, no matter how lovely, never caught on with the Uptown neighbors. At Red, Marianne Miller's talent was cut short not long after the restaurant's debut, and as much as we like the caramel rolls at Key's, the city feels a lot blander without the Russian influence.
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