Restaurant critic Kathie Jenkins published a list of upcoming restaurant openings in the Twin Cities for 2012 in the Pioneer Press:
- Which Wich (2073 Ford Parkway, St. Paul; 651-328-8044; whichwich.com): This is the second metro location for the Dallas-based fast-casual chain. (The first was Blaine, different franchisee). In addition to 51 types of customizable sandwiches, there are also salads, chips, cookies and thick shakes. Wi-Fi, loyalty cards, a kids’ menu and a free birthday sandwich are also part of the mix. “We’re really committed to the whole customer-service aspect,” says franchisee Patrick Melody. “It’s got to be more than just good food. It’s the only way to keep people coming back.” Opening is Jan. 28. More will likely follow.
- Blood and Chocolate (495 Selby Ave., St. Paul; 651-492-4799): The goal of Kerry D’Amato and Bo Wayne is to hook locals on chocolate. They’ll have chocolates and confections from around the globe as well as chocolate drinks and a line of house-made truffles named for dead rock stars – the Janis (bourbon-based), Elvis (peanut butter and banana) and Jimi (red wine). Eventually, the two want to get a liquor license so they can do chocolate and wine pairings. “We’re a small shop with big ideas,” says D’Amato.
- Sweet Ducky Cupcakery (117 W. Churchill St., Stillwater): Two years ago, Andrea “Ducky” Zimmerman was killed in a car accident at age 20. Now, Andrea’s mom, Nancy Zimmerman, and aunt, Sally Hanks, are honoring her memory by opening a cupcake shop. The former Meister’s South Hill Liquor near Fourth Street is being remodeled, and the goal is to be open before Valentine’s Day. In the meantime, the sisters are inventing cupcake flavors and naming some after Andrea’s closest friends. The chocolate-chocolate will be for Andrea. It was her favorite.
- Butcher & the Boar (1121 Henne-pin Ave., Minneapolis; 612-222-7171): Ex-Dakota chef Jack Riebel is opening this 150-seat restaurant and bar in the historic Harmon District. He’s calling the menu “American craft” and installing a smoker in the basement. Expect plenty of smoked meats and fish and great beer and bourbon lists.
- Osaka Express (108 N. Main St., Stillwater; osaka seafoodsteakhouse.com): Osaka owner Michael Lee is turning the former Savories in downtown Stillwater into a mini clone of his Japanese seafood and steakhouses throughout the metro area. This one will be one-fourth the size of the other Osakas, but expect the same Asian decor, full bar, sushi and hibachi grills.
- Cupcake (949 Grand Ave., St. Paul; cup-cake.com): Remodeling of the former Wonderment Toy Store is under way. Unlike the Minneapolis location, this one will have a wine bar along with a bakery and cafe. The restaurant will seat 35. Owner Kevin VanDeraa hopes to attract a mature crowd that’s looking for a glass of wine or a draft beer after a movie or a show, so expect a setting with low lighting and soft music. “There’ll be no shots whatsoever,” he says. March 1 is the target opening date.
- Bar Louie (1320 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis; barlouieamerica.com): The hip, Glenville, Ill.- based tavern and grill is going into MoZaic development in Uptown. Like the others in the chain, the menu will be burgers, oversized sandwiches, jumbo martinis and microbrews. Gary Perel, a real estate broker for Indianapolis-based UrbanSpace Commercial Properties, which represents Bar Louie in its search for sites, said to expect four or five more in the Twin Cities during the next couple of years. Hopefully, one will be in St. Paul. Two years ago, the company looked to open a Bar Louie in St. Paul’s Lowertown, but “the timing wasn’t right,” says Perel.
- Selma’s Ice Cream Parlor (3419 St. Croix Trail S., Afton): Becky and Paul Nickerson just bought Minnesota’s oldest ice cream shop and plan to be selling cones, malts and sundaes by May 1. An Afton staple since the 1930s, when Selma and Eddie Holbert started the business, the place was shuttered two years ago when the owner filed for bankruptcy. This is the Nickersons’ first foray into the ice cream business. But with six children, they’ve had plenty of practice scooping ice cream. The kids, ranging in age from 6 to 16, will be working behind the counter but under their parents’ supervision. Can’t have them eating up all the profits. “We want to be successful and do well with the ice cream business,” says Becky.
- Postmark Grill (225 Locust St., Hudson, Wis.): Russell Evenson, who owns Village Pizzeria in Amery, Wis., bought the old post office in downtown Hudson. It was built in 1939 and is in need of major renovations – a kitchen, for instance! – before it can open. “We’ll be putting a lot of time and money into that place,” says Evenson’s son Derek, who will manage the restaurant along with his two sisters. “But it’s worth it. We just love the area.” They plan to start the remodel any day now. The menu will be Italian-American.
- Masu Sushi and Robata (S344, Mall of America, Interstate 494 and Cedar Avenue, Bloomington; masusushiand robata.com): The Northeast Minneapolis restaurant offering sushi, robata grilling and noodle soups is branching out to MOA. It has taken over the short-lived Soul Daddy’s and will offer the same Masu mix but with more emphasis on noodle dishes. “People don’t want to come to the mall and spend two hours eating multiple courses,” says Masu corporate chef Stephan Hesse. “They want to be in and out in half an hour.” Finally, someone who understands shopping!
- Smokehouse Brewpub (38th Street and 28th Avenue South, Minneapolis; smoke housebrewpub.com): “Invest $1,000 and drink free beer for the rest of your life.” It was an offer too good to resist. Owner/brewer Jamie Robinson had the space and the idea but not the $175,000 down payment on $800,000 needed to start the business. He put the word out about a lifetime of free beer, and the money started rolling in – $1,000 at a time. “It’s all about social networking and getting other people to talk about it,” says Robinson, a veteran of Town Hall Brewery. “We hit our fundraising goal, and we had a wait list in case we needed it.” When Smokehouse Brewpub opens in late May, it will have an on-site craft brewery and a menu based on house-smoked meats. Plans include a long oak bar, seating for 75 inside plus another 50 on the patio and floor-to-ceiling windows so customers can watch the brewing in action. “Everything looks like it’s coming together,” says Robinson. “We’re working hard keeping things on track.”
- Rooftop restaurant, name to be determined (Cossetta Italian Market and Pizzeria, 211 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-222-3476): Cossetta’s turns 100 this year, and owner Dave Cossetta is celebrating to the tune of $11 million. That’s what it’s costing to substantially expand the existing space at West Seventh and Chestnut streets near downtown St. Paul. Plans include a bakery, meat market, gelateria, basement wine cellar and rooftop restaurant. When everything is completed, the place should change grocery shopping from a chore into an event and elevate Italian dining in this city to a higher level. The rooftop restaurant menu will be authentic Southern Italian. Dishes include fresh, creamy burrata cheese with truffle oil, Sicilian tuna, pappardelle, bucatini, veal saltimbocca and cacciatore-style short ribs. The current deli-style restaurant and pizzeria will double in size, and its menu will expand. Caprese salad, Italian sausage sliders and risotto rice balls will be some of the new dishes.
- Intelligent Nutrients (983 Hennepin Ave. E., Minneapolis; 612-617-2000): Get ready for a little zin with your zen. This one-of-a-kind store/beauty spot, run by organic/chakra guru Horst Rechelbacher, is bringing back its all-organic deli. Details aren’t finalized, but you can expect a new look and a new menu.
- Crooked Pint Ale House (location undetermined; crookedpint.com): Green Mill CEO Paul Dzubar is eager to open another pub, but he’s still looking for the right location. He says it will be the same mix of bar food and beer as at the original House, which opened last year near the Guthrie in Minneapolis.
- Chilango Cantina (location undetermined): Last year at this time, Bin Wine Bar owner Rebecca Illingworth was planning to launch Chilango Cantina around the corner from her Lowertown spot at Sixth and Selby in St. Paul. It didn’t pan out because the space was in a historic building and she ran up against costly rules and regulations. But Illingworth hasn’t given up on the idea of opening a true Mexican cantina with low prices, late hours, tacos wrapped in tin foil and front windows that can be cranked open for walk-ups. All she needs is the right location. “I’d like to stick to St. Paul, but I’m keeping my options open,” says Ilingworth. “The rent has to be right, and I need flexibility.”
ON THE DRAWING BOARD
- A brew pub in Hudson: Pete Foster, owner of San Pedro Cafe and Barker’s Bar & Grill, both in downtown Hudson, wants to add a brew pub nearby. He has even figured out the location. If it happens, it will go on the north or south side of Barker’s.
- A neighborhood grill: Blue Plate Restaurant Co. opened Scusi in St. Paul in 2010 and The Lowry in Minneapolis in 2011. And the partners haven’t finished expanding.”We want to do another neighborhood grill concept like The Lowry, and 2013 would be the year to do it,” says co-owner Stephanie Shimp. “This is the year to work on fine-tuning our operations.”