Brent Frederick is a hospitality biz lifer. Busser, server, bartender and manager - he's done it all. In 2008 he helped open and manage Cowboy Slim's. You know, that now defunct party bar that swapped out Campiello's white tablecloths and pinot noir for daisy dukes and Jägerbombs. Frederick wasn't exactly interested in the party scene and left Cowboy Slim's to open Maple Tavern in 2010. Borough and Parlour followed in 2013. Nearly a year ago, he and his team at Jester Concepts returned to Uptown - in fact, to the exact spot where Cowboy Slim's once stood, and opened Coup d'etat. Frederick explains how Uptown has grown up (and how it hasn't).
"Coup d'etat had been on the docket for three or four years," he says before they actually opened the restaurant. The developer of the building knew that he wanted the property to have a restaurant at the base and he had the Jester Concepts crew in mind. "After we sold our shares in Cowboy Slim's, we always wanted to be back in the neighborhood," Frederick recalls.
We wanted to bring our style of food to Uptown.
Plus, the neighborhood is very different than the trendy North Loop area, where the company had opened the hit duo of Borough and Parlour Bar. "Uptown is challenging," he admitted. The area has historically drawn the young. In recent years, with an explosion of condos being built the demographic has shifted. "There are a lot more professionals. We saw a void. We wanted to bring our style of food to Uptown."
After opening, Coup d'etat didn't appear to ignite the same instant critical acclaim as those sister restaurants had. Although, according to Frederick, the business smashed the numbers Borough and Parlour first pulled in (that duo also opened in the cold, winter months). "For the first eight months, Coup d'etat squashed anything Borough and Parlour had done as far as sales and the amount of guests."
The restaurants in the area change rapidly and few hang on for more than a couple of years. "Some places have tried and failed," Frederick conceded. "We felt like our style of restaurant was completely different."
We pissed a lot of people off.
It first opened in the depths of the polar vortex that was January of 2013. In that time, the restaurant has found a comfortable balance with customers from pouring a few shots alongside the craft cocktails, stocking Red Bull to even putting in a few TV's. "We got so many complaints from people who were there for dinner and wanted to watch the game. At some point you have to adapt."
Which isn't to say there weren't a few bumps along the way. "We pissed a lot of people off," he admits as the restaurant attempted to balance dinner service with the lucrative nighttime crowd. "We had a certain clientele we were trying to speak to. We're never going to be a shot bar." Although, they did acquiesce and add Fire Ball to the liquor lineup. While the bar staff are known for inventive takes on classic drinks, the team is also led by award-winning bartender Jesse Held, whose bartending philosophy has always been to please a customer's palate.
Meanwhile, the expansive restaurant space has changed little since opening their doors. "I've heard people say it's way too big," Frederick concedes. "And yet, it's a very beautiful restaurant. The fun thing about Coup d'etat is that it looks a lot bigger than it is. I think it's because of the high ceiling and the mezzanine. There's a lot of air in that space. But, when it comes down to it, we're only a 200 seat restaurant. It's about the perception."
Whatever the perception, the square footage also allows the restaurant to private dinners and special events.
In the warmer months, the restaurant has also added a walk up window and sports a large patio area, which adds even more seating. The menu has also expanded to include a weekend brunch service. Focusing on the event possibilities wasn't part of the Coup d'etat program when it first opened. "We've only just begun to scratch the surface of that business," he said. Between the ability to seat 80 people in the private dining room and opportunity to section off the mezzanine, "It's a party every day in December." They've even hosted weddings.
Managing all of this is a lot of plates to keep spinning. Frederick hands all of the credit to the staff who he describes as simply "fantastic." While many in the industry have bemoaned the lack of kitchen talent to handle the recent influx of new restaurants, Frederick notes that front-of-house talent can be just as difficult to find and retain. "There is a core group of 10-15 people who are really good at what they do. Finding clones for those people is incredibly tough. We like to train and promote from within as much as we can." He also notes the return of nationally renowned chefs like Gavin Kaysen and Erik Anderson and muses that it would benefit everyone in the Twin Cities if that trend, of drawing talent to Minnesota would continue.
For those who have never been to Coup d'etat Frederick recommends beginning with a couple of his favorites off the ever-changing menu. The Duck, Duck, Grey Duck, a twist on an Old Fashioned that uses Earl Grey tea and a plate of gnocchi to share with friends.
As all of the Jester Concept's restaurants seem to be running smoothly, it seems time for this ambitious crew to make their next move. Frederick refused to confirm anything, but teased, "There might be some news next year."
---by Molly Mogren