Location: 528 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis
Key Players: Alex Roberts
Projected Opening: Late October/Early November
The ambitious project surrounding the stellar Restaurant Alma is marching ahead. After a few minor paperwork-type delays, James Beard Award winning chef Alex Robert's restaurant expansion is making visible progress. "Under construction and we are finally on our way," the chef told us when asked for an update. "Now we're finally ready to do all the fun stuff like plumbing above ground and everything." Not exactly our idea of a good time, but to each his own. The project involves a refresher for Restaurant Alma, which has been serving a singular dining experience with gorgeous plates of seasonal food since 1999. Next door to Alma, what used to be a coffee shop is being transformed into a bakery. In the interim, since the room became vacant, there have been a series of successfully bakery pop ups and art projects. Now, the room is getting ready to welcome daytime eaters with a planned bakery and cafe. In the building above the restaurant and cafe, a boutique hotel is being created with unique rooms.
Location: 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis (next to Dangerous Man Brewery)
Key Players: Husband wife team Ann Kim (chef) and Conrad Leifur
Projected Opening: Mid-Summer 2016
The newest pizza restaurant from Ann Kim and Conrad Leifur, the duo who created the perpetually packed Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza is fast taking shape in Northeast. Their most ambitious project to date. The new wood-fire fueled space is named for the couple's mothers. (Young is Ann's mom, Joni is Conrad's.) The restaurant and full bar is inspired by Young's way of cooking and feeding her family: warm, familial with Joni's appreciation of a proper cocktail. Speaking of cocktails, Adam Gorski, former bar lead at La Belle Vie is designing the drink menu.
The food will entirely be cooked on the fire and while there will be pizzas, there will also be so much more. There will be not just one, but two fires, one clad in copper just like at Pizzeria Lola and char those divine pizza pies. The.second oven will burn a little lower and be covered in handmade Japanese tile. Inside Korean inspired meats will be served saam style (with spicy pickled vegetables, lettuce wraps and more) or taco style (tortillas and charred salsas) as well as tons of vegetables.
A handful of seats will be available around the hearth with 140 seats total available. Plus, they are scoring a piano for the back bar. Kim says, "because what's a party in NE Minneapolis without a piano accompanied sing along?" That's not all - the building shares an alley with Dangerous Man, where there will eventually be picnic tables. That means, a pizza and a growler on a warm Minneapolis day is in our near future.
Location: 1096 Grand Avenue, St. Paul
Key Players: Kevin Fitzgerald, Josh Thoma, Jack Riebel
Projected Opening: Fall
This is really, truly, honestly, totally happening. The Lexington in St. Paul now reigns supreme as the longest most anticipated restaurant in the Twin Cities. (A sentence alone that makes my head hurt.) The restaurant was first established back in 1935 and it was April 2014 when the news broke that the Smack Shack's owners and chef Jack Riebel were taking over the shuttered restaurant. Noticeable construction is again happening. A restoration of this magnitude takes time and the time for re-opening is likely later this summer. That collective groan you just heard was all of St. Paul exhaling. Hang in there, fans. We also spoke again to chef Jack Riebel - who is anxious to get cooking. The food, when it does arrive, is going to be exactly what we've been waiting for. Hopes are dimming for that rooftop patio to see the light of summer 2016, though.
Location: 428 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis
Key Players: Jamie Malone, Erik Anderson
Projected Opening: Fall 2016
Keen eyes may have noticed some stirrings inside the former Sapor space in the North Loop as Jamie Malone and Erik Anderson are able to focus fulltime on the restaurant the duo are building together (having finished their time at Paul Dzubnar's Scena Tavern in Uptown.) The powerhouse duo were both Food & Wine Best New Chefs. Both once led the kitchen at Sea Change inside the Guthrie theater. Anderson was also half of the opening chef team behind the lauded Catbird Seat in Nashville. He moved back to Minneapolis with the specific goal of opening a restaurant with Malone. The result is Brut. It will be a French-influenced with an impressive bubbly list. The two live in North Loop and will likely create a neighborhood hang to even further enhance the neighborhood.
Location: Saint Paul
Key Players: Nick Rancone, Thomas Boemer
Projected Opening: Later this summer
The kings of fried chicken have heard the hungry masses and listened. There will be more. And it will be good. Coming later this summer, the Revival team will open its second location inside the former Cheeky Monkey space on Selby Avenue in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood. In addition to the crispy skinned dish they built a reputation upon, barbecue offerings will be expanded, which means brisket. Construction is happening and on track to open later this summer.
Simultaneously, the crew is working on expanding the Minneapolis location into two retail spaces next door. Inside these spots will be room for a bigger bar, way more seats, a smoker for more meats and, finally, a take-out option. That project should be open just after the St. Paul outpost and before the snow flies.
Location: Mall of America
Key Players: Shake Shack
Projected Opening: Thursday
That's right: the chain that swept the nation into a burger frenzy is set to open its first Minnesota outpost. All eyes are trained on the Mall of America's North Culinary Experience as the Thursday opening nears.
Location: Next to Cafe Barbette
Key Players: Kim Bartmann
Projected Opening: Late Summer
Trapeze will be a small (40 seats only) spot dedicated to pouring all things sparking and serving all the foods that go with them. "I mean, everything goes with champagne, right?" said Bartmann. "And why don't the French have a word for tapas?" The wine program will star bubbles, but will include more than just champagne: cava, prosecco and even a view still wines will be poured inside.
The small bites will be prepped in the Barbette kitchen, but the menu will be entirely its own creation. Toasts will lead the charge with toppings like duck, duck fat and caviar. "A little salty, a little sweet, a little fatty: all the good things in one magical bite," Bartmann shared. Other dish ideas that they are toying with include a riff on salt cod, brandade.
Other restaurants we can't wait to try: Bad Waitress, Glam Doll Donuts, Lu's Sandwich Northeast, Tori Ramen, new Blue Plate Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis.