It’s been a year of major changes with longtime restaurants ending impressive, generation-spanning runs to a few upstarts that closed without ever really finding solid footing. There were train wreck flame-outs (like that food court business at Rosedale) and truly heartbreaking tragedies. These are the restaurants that we’ll miss; the ones that broke our food-loving hearts by locking the doors forever.
It was always the stately mansion waiting for a romantic evening in elegance near St. Paul’s gorgeous Irving Park. Every October, diners and media would share ghost story lore (the home is supposedly haunted by not one, but two ghosts.) In the summer, there were long nights on the rooftop or porch patios. Few were better decked out in elegance during the holidays. There are many occassions to miss a trip to Forepaugh’s. Unfortunately, the restaurant was dealt a massive blow by the sudden death of its young chef Kyle Bell, leading owners to decide it was time to close.
For a brief moment, downtown Duluth had a glorious restaurant that nudged the city’s dining into a new and modern era, but the good times didn’t last for long. Amid multiple hour changes, and reports of uneven service, the chef and owner decided it was was time for a new era in her life. Martha’s Daughter was always all of Nyanyika Banda heart and hard work. The chef decided to move on from the city, but the taco and ramen memories she shared with eaters will always be fondly remembered.
For a brief, shining moment, there was great food and service with family-friendly vibes at the gorgeous pavilion next to Como Lake. Spring Cafe was owned by Matty O’Reilly, of Bar Brigade and Republic. At the time, he was working with notable chef JD Fratzke. The two going casual in the restaurant space meant fantastic finger foods, tart lemonade, with incredibly helpful and knowledgable staff behind the counter. It was brief, but the ability to take the kids to the nearby Como Zoo, or a paddle around the lake and stop in for a pulled pork sandwich, and other food made from quality ingredients was nice. Now, the restaurant is under Lancer catering, who also operate the deplorable food peddling zoo eatery.
Those thin Neapolitan pizzas on Hennepin Avenue were always a favorite of pizza lovers who appreciated an expertly stretched and charred pie. It was a neighborhood spot that seemed timeless, but unfortunately, after 17 years, the fires stopped burning.
Despite and outpouring of high-profile chef love, including pleas from Andrew Zimmern and Gavin Kaysen, Marla’s Caribbean closed this year. The small restaurant was a labor of love for chef/owner Marla Jadoonanan, who built a fiercely loyal following with her unabashedly spiced and wholly comforting foods. Unfortunately, a lease dispute with the landlord led to the shuttering. The upside of the story is that Marla continues to be embraced by the local food community and has been doing pop-ups. The hope is that Marla’s continue in some capacity.
Kelly’s Depot Bar was a neighborhood joint all the way through several eras. From when there was an actual nearby depot, to when Lowertown was a collection of warehouses in various shades of disrepair, to a meteoric neighborhood revitalization and once more - a working train depot nearby. Through it all, the scrappy bar was the kind of place where regulars could count on a quick pour, some actual parking spots, and a tasty little cheeseburger. Kelly’s was just part of a trend where wrecking balls smash historic bars to make way for condos on the sites (see also Nye’s, downtown’s Grumpy’s, and O’Gara’s.)
It its time, Corner Table had been actually been several different restaurants. At first, it was the work of its chef/owner Scott Pampuch. Groundbreaking in its use of local food, spearheading farm-to-table, hosting unforgettable farm dinners, and creating intimate dinner parties in the yellow-light glare of the active kitchen. Then the chef changed course and sold the business to a chef and server. It seemed unlikely that the good times could continue.
Remarkably, Corner Table found a whole audience, direction, and eventually address under Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone. The two went from relative unknowns to appearing on national television and virtually every Best Restaurant list written about Minneapolis dining, lining up accolades along the way. In that success, their company grew to include the fried chicken juggernaut Revival, expand to barbecue, and the all-fire cooking of In Bloom. Boemer’s refined-dining cuisine changed the way this town thinks of pork belly forever. Rancone pulled in obscure and exciting wines, and built a convivial dining experience. As their attentions were pulled away, Corner Table fell into the capable hands of chef Karyn Tomlinson. The food continued to shine and excel with her delicate presentation on Midwestern classic dishes. But uneven service experiences, the call of new restaurants, and nearby road construction took a collective toll. It went out on a high note, with sold out tables, and many toasts to an impressive run.