Upton 43 and Nighthawks: Two Out-of-the-Box New Restaurants

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Erick Harcey

Along with our ever-maturing local dining scene, we're loving the way chefs are tinkering with the very definition of what the word "restaurant" really means. Sure, it's a place to serve food to the public, but that's where the boundaries end. We can't help but compare Erick Harcey of Victory 44 and the upcoming Upton 43 to Landon Schoenefeld of Haute Dish and the upcoming Nighthawks (and vice versa). They're both guys who are growing up, and with it, so are their ideas of cuisine, concept, and creativity.

A little analysis.

See also: New Linden Hills Restaurant for Erick Harcey of Victory 44

On Thursday MSP Magazine reported some creative changes Upton 43 is undergoing since Harcey first reported he'd be opening a second restaurant in the Linden Hills neighborhood. According to that report, the place is going to be a pinnacle of modern design thanks to an internationally recognized but locally based design company RO/LU.

The chef, long known for his affinity for the pig, says he'll be tinkering a lot with vegetables, because it's a creative challenge, and, well, veggies are awesome. Schoenefeld has said similar things over the years, and his Sunday night vegetarian dinner has given him a place to push meat aside and play.

Speaking of playing, Nighthawks will have a little slip of a place called Birdie, think a 12-or-so-seat counter where the chef will be able to have a no-limits creative outlet aside from the modern diner food served at Nighthawks. Think mind-blowing tasting menus designed to dazzle. Harcey reports that he'll be bringing back such tasting menus to Victory 44 instead of doing so at what he originally thought would be Kitchen Lab. Instead, Upton 43's secondary restaurant will be something of a rotisseria, focusing on family-style roast chicken to go with all the sides. If you like Brasa, you'll probably love this. It's called Dirty Bird. You'll also be able go get take-home stuff like house-made salsas and vinegars. The coffee shop currently adjacent to the Victory 44 space will morph into more of a causal spot for sandwiches, brunch, and lingerers.

It's fun to watch these two chefs, some of the most creative, yet pork-fat-relying, break out of their comfort zones and wake up a little to possibility. It's also fun to know we've got a dining scene that will support four restaurants that within them offer vegetarian, pork-centric, diner fare, rotisserie chicken, casual, ultra-modern, and altogether fabulous.

Upton 43/Dirty Bird is slated to open sometime late summer and will be located at 43rd and Upton, natch. Sneak peek from Harcey: At the beginning of the meal, a bread dough might sit on your table proofing in a box, then get baked as you wait and arrive with entrees and some table-side hand-churned butter.

Nighthawks/Birdie's official opening date is May 6 and will be located at 3753 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis. Sneak peek from Schoenefeld: They'll have a popcorn machine.

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