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Late and Lamented: The Inn

Fantastic food, known restaurant players and outstanding cocktails: what went wrong at The Inn?

There is talk of cursed restaurant addresses and although Hell's Kitchen lived there - successfully - for several years, 89 South 10th Street has earned that reputation. After Hell's Kitchen it was Subo, then the Inn and now Devil's Advocate. All were delicious restaurants in their own right, but for a few glorious months, while it was The Inn, there was something special brewing inside.

Tim Niver and Aaron Johnson had taken a historic restaurant space, in what was then a tough neighborhood and created a dining and drinking destination with the Town Talk Diner. For a short while, it shone like a diamond, but as Niver recently said, they had many restaurant lessons to learn. The two decided to step away from the restaurant and head to St. Paul to open The Strip Club Meat and Fish. Although Johnson is no longer associated with the restaurant, chef and co-owner J.D. Fratzke continues to draw guests in nightly, as Niver continues to warmly receive them.

As the Strip Club was working on garnering a destination restaurant reputation for the food and the drinks, Niver was approached about an opportunity in downtown Minneapolis. Subo was opened with an investor who was new to the restaurant industry. By all accounts the Filipino menu was delicious and yet, the diners were slow in coming. (The former chef at Subo is now the owner/operator behind Scratch Food truck). Those behind the restaurant made the decision to change directions. That was where Niver came in. He came up with an idea and moments later - the walls were stripped bare, redone and they re-opened.

In the kitchen was Tyge Nelson. He had made his bones at La Belle Vie and his menu was carefully edited. The descriptions were spare. There was "a roll." A delicious, yeasty house-made bun was served with local honey and butter. There was a pork dish, a beef dish, etc.

The cocktails, led by Niver, were also mixed by a fresh-faced fellow who had also worked inside the Town Talk, Jesse Held. His scrappy hair held back by a barrette, he poured sparkling beauties like the Polish Delight a vodka based drink spiked with ginger and an apple scallion simple syrup.

20 Shades of Gray: Tyge Nelson and Tim Niver inside The Inn. Photo by Andy Lien

Recalled Niver, "We created a great culture and had a great staff. We got really nice reviews, but we couldn’t capture the public fast enough."

The investors looked at the business six months in and decided that the rave reviews weren't enough. The plug was abruptly pulled.

Now, with time and space to look back, Niver mused, "People need to get the money part of restaurant success out of their heads. People think that restaurants owe them something and... they do, but there's a relationship that needs to be there. We put up an expensive product for our guests to enjoy for a short amount of time."

Some "times" are shorter than others. It was a brief time between 2010 and 2011, but they were a delicious few months. Tyge Nelson, the wildly talented chef who created the rustic fare with steady elegance now runs the kitchen at Chino Latino. Niver and Fratzke continue to welcome fans to The Strip Club and will soon open Saint Dinette in Lowertown. That bartender, Jesse Held, did alright. He now over-sees the award-winning beverage program for Jester Concepts at Parlour/Borough, Coup d'etat and Marche. (He eventually ditched the barrette.)

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