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The Most Anticipated Twin Cities Restaurants, Fall 2016

The spots we can't wait to get into.

Chefs Tyge Nelson and Stephan Hesse at work inside Pajarito
Chefs Tyge Nelson and Stephan Hesse at work inside Pajarito
Pajarito

Pajarito

Location: 605 7th Street West, St. Paul

Key Players: Stephan Hesse and Tyge Nelson

Projected Opening: October

Tyge Nelson and Stephan Hesse have built reputations as the big guns other restaurants pull in to run a great kitchen. Until now, neither had been able to unleash their own, unadulterated culinary creativity on us, the eating public, until now. The chefs have branched out and will open an ever-so-slightly elevated Mexican restaurant inside the former Glockenspiel location in St. Paul's West 7th neighborhood. Think perfectly crisp, chewy handmade tortillas, inventive interpretations of ceviche and cold beverages with friends that stretch on for hours.

Todd Macdonald of the forthcoming Red Rabbit Red Rabbit [Official]

Todd Macdonald of the forthcoming Red Rabbit.

Red Rabbit

Location: The corner of 2nd Avenue and Washington Avenue in Minneapolis

Key Players: Luke Shimp and Todd MacDonald

Projected Opening: Late November

Demo just began on this North Look pizza collaboration from chef Todd MacDonald and Luke Shimp (owner of the Red Cow burger joints.) The woodfire fueld eatery will also sport cocktails from Red Cow's master mixologist Ian Lowther. MacDonald's culinary background is primarily in Italian fare (he led the short-lived Parella's kitchen in Calhoun Square). Drew Yancey (formerly of Borough) has also joined the team as sous chef and Mchael Mihajlov will be the general manager. The team is assembly and next will come menu development as the room takes shape.

Restaurant Alma Facebook page

Cafe Alma/ Restaurant Alma 2.0

Location: 528 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis

Key Players: Alex Roberts

Projected Opening: 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 into the coffee shop next door is making visible progress. "Under construction and we are finally on our way," the chef told us when asked for an update. "We're finally ready to do all the fun stuff like plumbing above ground and everything." The cafe will serve a gorgeous pastry program and fabulous coffee.

The project also involves a refresher for Restaurant Alma, which has been serving a singular dining experience with gorgeous plates of seasonal food since 1999. The flagship restaurant is now closed for remodeling. During the hiatus, the team is taking extra care to introduce its players and mission via their Facebook page. It's a welcome moment of zen during a chaotic day.

YOUNG JONI

Location: ​165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis (next to Dangerous Man Brewery)

Key Players: Husband wife team Ann Kim (chef) and Conrad Leifur

Projected Opening: Early October

The newest pizza restaurant from Ann Kim and Conrad Leifur, the duo who created the perpetually packed Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza is their most ambitious project to date. The restaurant 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.

THE LEXINGTON

Location: 1096 Grand Avenue, St. Paul

Key Players: Kevin Fitzgerald, Josh Thoma, Jack Riebel

Projected Opening: Fall

The owners have heard you and trust us, they feel the pain of our longing for The Lexington in St. Paul. Things are happening. Construction is moving ahead and, really, they cannot wait to welcome us all inside.

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. Unfortunately for everybody, the project has included a few fits and starts. A restoration of this magnitude takes time. 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.

BRUT

Location: 428 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis

Key Players: Jamie Malone, Erik Anderson

Projected Opening: Winter 2016

The former Sapor space in the North Loop is being transformed as Jamie Malone and Erik Anderson, both Food & Wine Best New Chefs, work at creating their dream restaurant. The powerhouse duo both once led the kitchen at Sea Change inside the Guthrie theater at different times. Malone took over when Anderson departed for Nashville to open the critically acclaimed 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.

As they inch toward opening, the chefs have also participated in several pop ups, including a sold out yakitori event with Bittercube at Nighthawks.

A long table inside Revival’s Minneapolis location is set with two towers of fried chicken and a host of sides Katie Cannon

Photo by Katie Cannon

REVIVAL

Location: Saint Paul
Key Players: Nick Rancone, Thomas Boemer
Projected Opening: Early Fall

The kings of fried chicken have heard the hungry masses and are getting ready to deliver. Coming late September (more likely early October), 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, the smoker has been installed and the meat goodness is on its way

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.

(And then after that, they turn their attention to the giant Schmidt Brewery project that will open late next year.)

Esker Grove

Location: Walker Art Center
Key Players: Doug Flicker
Projected Opening: December

Along with a massive remodel, the progressive museum is opening a restaurant along with Culinare. The company which also operates Sea Change in the Guthrie has tapped Doug Flicker (Piccolo, Sandcastle) to operate the eatery.

The new restaurant will seat 94 inside and 60 outside, under a canopy of honey locust trees. Every seat comes with spectacular views of the downtown skyline and the sculpture garden thanks to floor to ceiling windows and mindful design.

During the day, the restaurant be more casual with counter service. By night, the experience transforms into full-service dinner. Parking will be easily accessed through the ramp attached to the Walker and doors that open onto Vineland Place. Hours will be Tuesday through Friday lunch, brunch Saturday and Sunday and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. On the menu will be the de rigeuer locally sourced, ethically raised meats, but taking center stage on the plate will be vegetables and grains. "It's not a vegetarian restaurant," Flicker cautioned. "That said, I think as chefs we've cooked a piece of meat every way imaginable. We're working in a new frontier and treating an onion with the same care and respect as a tenderloin." Plus, there will be a rotisserie, so we can expect those slow, spit roasted meats, but imagine what a rotisseried head of Romanesco could become in Doug Flicker's masterful hands.

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