39 major restaurant openings and closings of 2017

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The Lex is back! Photo by Tony Nelson

Another year, another round of restaurant openings and closings. We toast the newbies we dig the most, and pour one (or several) out for the departed souls that broke our hearts.

Cheers!

The Lexington
The Grande Dame of St. Paul was reintroduced to society in April, after three years of renovations and plenty of hopeful speculation as to how the 1935 institution would be revived. And the fancy old gal did not disappoint. A few upgrades to the interior brightened up the less savory side of nostalgia (mildew smell, begone) while retaining the class and sophistication of old-school fine dining. The menu was similarly preserved but pepped up by the careful hand of homegrown St. Paulite chef Jack Riebel.
1096 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-289-4990; thelexmn.com

Tenant
What teacher wouldn’t want to see his protégés strike out on their own? When Doug Flicker closed Piccolo in south Minneapolis, his former sous chef and cook—Cameron Cecchini and Grisha Hammes—took up the mantle and kept the kitchen humming as Tenant, a no-name moniker that belies the culinary power here. The space is just as tiny as before, so seats are filled by reservation only, giving it the vibe of a private party. The room comes alive with a killer vinyl soundtrack, while the fixed-price chef’s-choice menu lets you sit back, relax, and accept the bounty of flavor, plate by plate.
4300 Bryant Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-827-8111; tenantmpls.com

Bull’s Horn
Lest you think Doug Flicker had gone into retirement, the longtime Piccolo chef closed one door in south Minneapolis and opened another—this time at the old Sunrise Inn dive bar in the Standish Ericsson neighborhood. With a goal of keeping the dive dream alive, Flicker and his wife/partner Amy Greely did renovations only where necessary (you’ll thank him when you hit the can) and kept the new Bull’s Horn menu appropriately lowbrow (bologna sammy, two kinds of pizza burger, etc.). He also partnered with Heggies for some signature bar pies, brought in a 1971 Wurlitzer Zodiac jukebox, and placed a free popcorn machine right across from the pull-tab booth. We’re in heaven.
4563 S. 34th Ave., Minneapolis, 612-208-1378; bullshornfoodanddrink.com

Grand Cafe
This year saw yet another passing of the torch when the owners of Grand Cafe at 38th and Grand in south Minneapolis gave their beloved neighborhood restaurant over to hotshot chefs Jamie Malone and Erik Anderson. The new Grand Cafe opened with a slightly finer approach, bringing Parisian luxury to the table via gold dinnerware, china plates, and rich delights like a Foie Gras Royale with crème Gitanes. Anderson has since moved on to helm Coi in San Francisco, but Malone’s star shines as bright as ever. “Refined and decidedly indulgent, Grand Cafe is serving food fit for celebration,” writes City Pages reviewer Emily Weiss, “but Malone insists that they want it to remain a casual neighborhood spot.” Luxury within reach is grand indeed.
3804 Grand Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-822-8260; grandcafemn.com

Bellecour
You’d think swooping into Minneapolis and drawing national attention with Spoon and Stable would be enough to keep Gavin Kaysen busy for a while, but you’d be happily mistaken. With one Twin Cities restaurant plugging along in the North Loop, Kaysen set his sights on a second in the ’burbs. Specifically, his hometown of Wayzata, where he opened Bellecour, an “elevated” bistro and bakery, in March of this year. It’s got lakeside cachet, a chef with impeccable technique, and a pain au chocolat that apparently made critic Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl cry.
739 Lake St. E., Wayzata, 952-444-5200; bellecourrestaurant.com

Martina
You fell in love with his cooking at La Belle Vie, Bar La Grassa, and Burch, but to taste the soul of chef Daniel del Prado, you’ll need to head to his new venture in Linden Hills. Martina is an homage to del Prado’s Argentinian father and Italian mother and their respective cuisines, which, as it turns out, are a real power couple in the kitchen. Seafood-heavy pasta dishes, dreamy creamed leek empanadas, and bright crudo plates make a memorable table, and the dulce de leche on the panqueque will haunt your dreams. Did we mention all the cocktails were created by bar wiz Marco Zappia and cost $9 or less?4312 S. Upton Ave., Minneapolis, 612-922-9913; martinarestaurant.com

Bar Brigade
The crowning glory of a neighborhood isn’t its block parties or its elaborately landscaped yards, it’s the presence of a solid neighborhood restaurant. Bar Brigade, the French tavern by JD Fratzke (formerly of Strip Club Meat and Fish) and Matty O’Reilly (of Republic and Red River Kitchen), is just such a place. Located in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, its ambiance is warm and friendly, the dishes are classic, rustic, well-executed French fare, the rosé flows from a tap, and half the place is open to walk-ins. So go ahead: Walk on in.
470 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul, barbrigade.com

Other 2017 openings of note: The Lynhall, Rise Bagel Co., Mercy, Seven Steakhouse (new management), StormKing Barbecue, J. Selby’s, Bardo

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Tony Nelson

Tears

Lucia’s
The earth shivered under our feet when news of Lucia’s closing broke in October. Gone was Minneapolis’ original farm-to-table restaurant, a place that figured so prominently on the culinary scene that we couldn’t imagine life without its little sidewalk tables and bright blue napkins. Local-foods pioneer Lucia Watson founded Lucia’s in 1985 as a shrine to regional, seasonal cooking. In 1993, she opened the city’s first wine bar in an adjacent storefront, and followed it with a popular to-go bakery and cafe in 2006. But once Lucia retired in 2014 and the little restaurant trio lost its coveted Uptown parking lot in 2016, the dining institution’s days were numbered. Lucia’s served its last meal on October 14.

Haute Dish
The wild and talented chef Landon Schoenefeld departed the Twin Cities in late 2016, citing the need to take care of his mental health. His restaurants, Haute Dish in the North Loop and Nighthawks and Birdie in south Minneapolis, were left to carry on without their captain. Birdie shuttered, Nighthawks has since been commandeered by restaurateur Kim Bartmann, and Haute Dish bit the dust in August. Farewell to a killer brunch, one of our favorite happy-hour burgers, and a host of playful takes on Midwestern classics.

Victory 44/Upton 43
Erick Harcey’s sleek north Minneapolis bistro, Victory 44, was a boon for the Victory neighborhood and a magnet for brunch-lovers and “Perfect Burger”-lovers alike. So it was a loss when, after nearly 10 years at 44th and Penn Avenue North, the restaurant and coffee shop quietly shuttered in July. Perhaps even more surprising was Harcey’s decision to close Upton 43, the much ballyhooed Scandinavian kitchen in Linden Hills, and its little sidecar takeout kitchen, the Dirty Bird. Harcey simultaneously announced his plans to reopen the restaurant in the North Loop neighborhood, but no space has been procured as of yet. Meanwhile, Martina opened in its former Linden Hills home.

Dulono’s original location
Sure, Dulono’s has since opened a new spot in downtown Minneapolis with the same regular karaoke nights and square-cut pies we know and love, but by god if we don’t miss the fire-engine-red brick of its original south Minneapolis location. That venue shuttered abruptly in August because of irreconcilable issues with the landlord, taking with it 60 years of pizza, beer, and live bluegrass music in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood.

Surly Brewer’s Table
With the culinary chops of Jorge Guzman, Surly Brewing attempted a new kind of taproom kitchen, not one of burgers and pretzels (though those could be found on the bar menu downstairs), but one of sophistication and ambition. The result, the Brewer’s Table, was a triumph, culminating in Guzman’s nomination for a James Beard Award this year. And then, just like that, the brewery announced it would be closing the concept and moving in a new direction. In August, Guzman left Surly, and we were left wondering if high-concept food and high-quality beer might ever again be paired in such an inspired way.

Triple Rock Social Club
Arguably more rock venue than restaurant, the Triple Rock is nonetheless a loss for vegans in need of a greasy breakfast to sop up the previous night’s sins. Where else could you get a plate called “Beth’s Big-Ass Breakfast Burrito” or the “Mother Biker” with home fries, vegan nacho “cheese,” veggies, tofu scramble, and toast? They even had meat-free pigs in a blanket. If you can’t appreciate the magic of vegan weenies wrapped in vegan batter, just know there were a lot of meat-eschewing folks who did.

Piccolo
Before gastronomy and adventurous plating reached parody levels on the national food scene, Doug Flicker’s Piccolo was a bright spot of creativity in a league of its own. After opening in 2010, the south Minneapolis fine-dining nook stole critics’ hearts and instantly upped Minneapolis’ culinary cred. But after seven years of kitchen tinkering, Flicker decided to call it quits while the gettin’ was still good. Which is to say, he didn’t shut his doors because he couldn’t fill the seats in this very intimate dining room; he shut them because he felt he could make a respectable exit, moving on to new projects and preserving fond memories of his time at Piccolo.

Strip Club Meat & Fish
A beloved St. Paul restaurant run by two of the most charismatic guys on the scene—Tim Niver and JD Fratzke—Strip Club Meat and Fish was a tough loss for many a Twin Cities diner. They did great steaks, killer craft cocktails, and even better hospitality, courtesy of Niver. If you ever had the pleasure of stuffing yourself silly in the cozy confines of this East Side Victorian corner store, you’ll understand why the place was so treasured by its loyal customers—and why Niver and Fratzke announced its closing months in advance, so folks would have plenty of time to say their goodbyes.

Other closings of note: Obento Ya, Muffuletta, St. Clair Broiler, Coup d’Etat, Red’s Savoy, Craftsman Restaurant, Golden’s Deli, Pig & Fiddle, Cafe Maude, Bradstreet Neighborhood Craftshouse, Birdie, Tanpopo, S.W. Craft Bar, Oak Grill, Skyroom, Third Bird, Marin Restaurant & Bar, Parma

Click here to read more stories from our Year in Food 2017 issue


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