There’s a small new restaurant at 1085 Grand Avenue in St. Paul set to open in April that is inspired by the boldest region of the bold north: Minnesota’s Iron Range.
First, a primer on what it means to be from the Iron Range. For one, there is iron in their blood, literally. That orange run off from the iron-ore rich soil seeps into everything. That means forget about ever owning so much as a white t-shirt. First time it’s washed, it is, at best, a murky cream color and at worst, set to fill in for a blaze orange safety vest for the next trip to deer camp. The upside is that actual rust on a car and the rust-colored dust from backroads is virtually indistinguishable. All vehicles are simultaneously aged and in prime condition.
Also, there are only two seasons: hockey and post/pre-hockey season. There’s hunting and fishing mixed in there, but those are still sub-categories of the previous two seasons.
Third, it means a stubborn determination to do things the “right” way. That why, when Tom Forti’s Sunrise Cafe was doing well-enough, he couldn’t help but feel like there was a better way to serve his Iron Range hometown of Hibbing and his city neighbors. That’s why he decided to shutter the cafe, Sunrise Market and rebuild it as Iron Ranger, set to open next month.
“I want this place to really celebrate where we’re from. That’s why I’m doing everything I can to channel parts of Hibbing here,” said Forti, whose Italian family has deep roots there. That means the bar top is being hewn in Hibbing, walls are covered in a mix of wood, stained to a warm glow and a menu that doesn’t skimp on the authentic Northern Minnesota fare: which means porketta.
In Italy, porchetta is a whole rigamarole, but on Minnesota’s Iron Range, porketta, is a pork shoulder roast, heavily seasoned in dried Italian herbs, and slow cooked into a flavorful, tender, juicy mess.
The pub will have 44 seats inside with more on a back patio when the weather cooperates. Locally brewed beer will be in the coolers and on 9 taps and the wine list will be stacked with interesting, oenophile-worthy bottles at affordable prices.
Iron Ranger will be open for dinner Sunday through Tuesday and for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday.