Earlier this year, Eater Awarded the best restaurant design to Young Joni, which readers also selected. That is just one of a slew of gorgeous restaurants that opened in Minneapolis and Saint Paul this year.
Here is a beautiful tour of the beauties that joined the Twin Cities dining scene this past year.
The former Glockenspiel room is unrecognizable as the modern Mexican restaurant run and owned by chefs Stephen Hesse and Tyge Nelson. A huge mural spans the front wall, the dark wood and black furniture give it an air of comfortable sophistication and the clock on the wall is a little wink and nod to their former boss, chef Tim McKee.
The east town arrival of Minneapolis’ fried chicken mecca was a big deal and the unique room design was the first to drop some custom wallpaper on the scene - a trend that would lead restaurant design for the rest of the year. (See: Book Club, Hai Hai, Grand Cafe.) The Thunder Chicken oversees the bar and in the warmer months, a gorgeous patio opened out back. The roaring fireplace is particularly useful on winter days.
This restaurant could write a book titled “How to Make an Already Pretty Restaurant Gorgeous.” The room at the base of the 510 Groveland building has long been a restaurant, including La Belle Vie for a long time. Don Saunders 510 Lounge make the room slightly more accessible with pops of bright color, like the intense pink in what they call the Jackie O. room.
It’s hard to know which room to love more, the wide-open front room with all the roaring fires cooking delicious things, or the super mellow back bar with the repurposed furniture and crazy-cool black floral wallpaper.
Matty O’Reilly and JD Fratzke transformed a small, dark pasta restaurant into a lush and intimate French bistro. The raw brick walls, stunning tile, church pew seating all complement the beautifully rustic food. Perhaps the best design piece is only seen when heading downstairs to the bathroom - a giant mural of the two pristine-domed owners going on some kind of gonzo road trip.
Gavin Kaysen’s second restaurant in Wayzata transformed a room with a weirdly low ceiling to a light filled, airy French restaurant worthy of flying across the country to dine in. From the lush back patio (now stocked with warm blankets), to the Anthropologie wall hanging to the white and country blue bakery, this restaurant is a stunner.
This intimate French beauty is worthy of a full swoon. The room manages to be timelessly sophisticated and immediately comfortable all at the same time. Notice the small touches like bunny ear coat hooks and the gold edges on the wide pink coup glasses. Details matter here.
This stunning restaurant got a beautiful, but light-handed update, keeping all the historic elements, but adding beautiful new touches. The upside down Hennepin Avenue bridge mural above the bar is a centerpiece to the art deco beauty of the room.
Tim McKee’s transformation of the former Heartland restaurant is an eye popping ode to seafood with a brightly colored mural, huge raw bar and a swimming fish mobile. From the dining room its easy to see into the Almanac Fish Market, where diners can pick out fish that will be cooked for them inside the restaurant.
The former Upton 43 room was opened up and a bar was extended into the dining room to create Martina. The huge booths were taken away in exchange for close seating for smaller groups and a few, well-selected green plants lend a fresh air feeling to Daniel del Prado’s new restaurant in Linden Hills.
It’s bright, it’s fun and it is everywhere we want to be right now. Hai Hai is the second restaurant from Birk Grudem and Christina Nguyen. The signature shade of blue-green from that restaurant is present here, but this restaurant at 22nd Street and University Avenue is even more tropical with towering trees and a sugarcane juicer. Even on the dreariest winter day it feels like a bustling, tropical paradise.