So much has changed in the dining landscape over the past four-ish months – at a rate sincerely befitting that most verboten word, “unprecedented” – that it’s become increasingly difficult to grasp the significance of restaurant turnovers. Some feel acutely sharp, others feel like a pit opening up inside of you.
Rarely does this have to do with how long the restaurant has been around, or if there’s any sense, or reason, attached to the why of it all.
The past seven days make for an excellent case study in the murkiness of time experienced on a human scale, why we talk about restaurants, how time will – and does – roll on, and what it looks like for that to manifest in institutions…. When really, people are what are most important. That much was (is) never in doubt.
Early last week, the Twin Cities food scene was all atwitter over In Bloom’s closure. St. Paul’s paragon of fine dining first fell quiet when the pandemic descended, then announced on Monday night, July 6, that it wouldn’t be returning from its slumber.
Via statement, owners Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone attributed In Bloom’s decay to the continued decline in fine dining throughout the restaurant industry, before thanking “the Keg and Case team, our fellow merchants in the market and the entire West Seventh, St. Paul community for the opportunity.”
The bold restaurant concept had served as a stunning anchor to the food hall on West Seventh Street. In Bloom offered upscale fare from inside the market, against a stunning backdrop of a 20-foot hearth, which was more than just a jaw-dropping architectural element – though it certainly wowed, too. The hearth’s fires provided In Bloom’s cooking source.
The restaurant’s erstwhile owners continue to helm Revival’s trio of outposts, including Revival Smoked Meats at the market. Keg and Case, meanwhile, has turned itself inside out to adapt to the pandemic, toting seating into the spacious outdoor patio-park in front of the complex to accommodate vendors whose business model doesn't involve cooking with a 20-foot wood stove.
The pandemic – still raging through America not entirely unlike a huge-ass flame – has not deterred chef Brian Ingram, of Hope Breakfast Bar and more recently The [no longer happy] Gnome, and Justin Sutherland from leaping into the void left by In Bloom. Their new project will be called "Elotes."
Ingram, who spent his early career in Southern California, professes he won’t be making many design changes to the former In Bloom space, and will use that massive hearth to churn out “Mexican street food-inspired concepts” like wood-fired meats, fish, and vegetables, in addition to offering wet tacos, "lava rock bowls," tin-can nachos, and ceviche. Guests can expect to be served on a patio Ingram mentions they'll be expanding.
On the opposite side of town, folks who'd been watching one of local food history’s longer arcs bid adieu to a big dream as it quietly died.
Word began circulating late Friday afternoon that Delmonico’s Italian Foods, perched on the edge of Beltrami Park in northeast Minneapolis, wouldn’t be reopening after all. Some watchers had been holding out hope that the neighborhood market (established in 1929) might yet have life left in it, though it had been shuttered for years.
Back in the summer of 2015, the future of the Delmonico’s – beloved for its homemade sausages, cookies, pasta sauces, tuna, and chaotic ambiance – looked bright. After generations of ownership, the market at 1112 Spring St. NE was purchased by Jessica Rivera from third-generation Delmonicos Terry and Bob. With the blessing of the Delmonico duo, Rivera was set on renovating and reopening the emporium as "Jessi's Market at Delmonico's."
Though she'd banked on making upgrades to meet code, when the bill came it far exceeded expectations, and the nature of the repairs prevented the market from operating in the meantime.
When efforts to work with then-city councilman Jacob Frey failed to procure a solution in late 2016, Rivera created a Kickstarter seeking to bridge the fiscal gap. That didn’t meet its goal, which left Delmonico’s frozen in time… until now.
The property was purchased in December 2019 by Coon Rapids-based Value Homes LLC, and its interior and exterior are undergoing a thorough renovation. Though the "Delmonico" sign still appears at the building's peak, the interior has been stripped to studs, and it's possible to see through the front windows and out the rear for likely the first time in a century.
So what do these have in common? One answer could be: In Bloom and Delmonico’s belong to history now, and history never seems to care in the right ways, which is sad.
Another answer is: Though In Bloom and Delmonico’s may have been both goners before we were prepared to admit it, there were big dreams at the core of both, and there’s nothing wrong with holding out for the possibility we could be wrong – eking out a little hope, for just a little longer.
…And we think there’s a heckuva lot of hope propelling Elotes into the future.