Amidst the pandemic, the majority of restaurants went dark, at least for some period of time, this year was particularly brutal on the hospitality industry. Institutions that had long stood as a part of the fabric of neighborhoods went dark forever. Some newcomers carried a weight of anticipation and excitement, only to fold under the insurmountable difficulties of trying to operated at dramatically reduced capacity.
All restaurant closures are sad. As much as some armchair enthusiasts love to trumpet cursed locations or perceived mistakes, each of these were someone’s favorite place. They were sources of income, solace, and community. Each closure is the death of a dream, and an end of a chapter.
In a year that generally beat the stuffing out of anyone daring enough to try to make a living serving, it’s hard to look back with much beyond gratitude and hope for better times to come.
Here are just a few of the restaurants we lost, that made a mark on the Twin Cities dining world.
Before the pandemic hit Dulce Monterrubio made the decision to close her small bakery in Minneapolis. Known for phenomenal conchas, the best vegan tamales around, and a fierce commitment to social engagement, she went out on a high note rather. All of her staff secured employment before the bakery fully shut down. Even without the business, Monterrubio maintained the bakery’s social media accounts and remains an active, engaged, and important voice for chance in Minneapolis for immigrants, womxn, BIOPIC people, and other marginalized folx.
For twenty years people gathered through all weather on the sidewalk outside of Izzy’s on Marshall Avenue. For a brief and wonderful heyday the block boasted fabulous ice cream, adorable cupcakes, industry-leading third-wave coffee, and a beloved train store where tykes could play for hours on end. By the time Izzy’s made the decision to close its flagship location, all of those storefronts were dark. While Izzy’s remains available in select grocery stores around the metro area, with flavors made in its Minneapolis production facility, it’s just not the same as rolling up and choosing from wacky flavors like Midnight Snack, Irish Moxie, creme fraiche, and then trying to pick a second flavor for the tiny Izzy scoop on top.
They were an industry leader, serving some of the finest cuisine and cocktails in Minneapolis right up until the end. However, the massive restaurant space, cafe, and speakeasy bar below was no match for the pandemic. The restaurant first opened by Eric and Andrew Dayton in 2011 officially closed forever at the end of April.
What started as a cafe, and haven for those in the recovery community in Uptown, grew into a fantastic restaurant in Lyn/Lake. Muddy Waters was more than a restaurant; more like a community where those that worked there stayed connected years after moving on. Regulars were welcomed as friends, and new diners found much to love amongst its eclectic cuisine. Muddy Waters first opened in 1987, when the Minneapolis sound was just a collective of promising young bands poised on the cusp of national notoriety. It closed on May 3.
May would prove to be the undoing of several longstanding restaurants with Moose & Sadies in the North Loop (which opened back when it was still called the Warehouse District) after almost thirty years. An ode to 90s hipness, and piles of pasta, Pazzaluna in downtown St. Paul closed after more than twenty years as well. Fuji Ya, which was Minneapolis’ introduction to Japanese cuisine 60 years ago quietly faded away.
In Twin Cities dining there’s pre-GK and after-GK, because when Gavin Kaysen came to the Twin Cities he brought more than his impeccable resume from Cafe Boulud in New York and his first James Beard Award. He also brought a determination to raise all boats in the Minneapolis dining world. Bellecour was his second restaurant, opening in the lakeside town of Wayzata. The historic space was transformed into a room that felt both welcoming for fine dining, and a quick burger at the bar after a day on Lake Minnetonka. At the front of the restaurant was also a breathtaking bakery that made great use of the many pastry talents of Diane Moua and her remarkable team. Unfortunately, the precipitous drop in revenue thanks to the pandemic, and the fact that summer was all but canceled, left Kaysen with few options. He made the difficult decision to close in July. The only glimmer of good to come from this, is that much of the Bellecour Bakery operation has since moved to Cooks of Crocus Hill North Loop, across from Spoon and Stable.
As the pandemic dragged on, all we wanted were comfort foods and expansive patios, so it was shocking to hear that Surly: possessing of both heaping piles of tasty foods easily transportable to couch, and the most expansive outside lawn space in Minneapolis would close. All the more suspect was the fact that the announcement came on the heels of its employees announcing their intent to unionize. However, the numbers were undeniable, that business from the landmark beer hall had plummeted to a fraction of what they had been pre-COVID. Ultimately, the vote to unionize fell short of passing by one vote. And the food spaces closed in November. Surly Beer is still manufactured and sold at area outlets. The company has left the door open to the possibility of returning some day in the after times.
This one is bittersweet because although it isn’t completely gone, Grand Cafe will not be returning to its original location, the restaurant space that’s operated as Grand Cafe for years. Jamie Malone, Nikki Klocker, and a wave of incredible talent floated through these doors and conjured magnificent meals in an ethereal atmosphere that was so different than anything that had come before it. The mix of room, food, wine, and elegant French touches like table side vermouth service, or all those little tiny serving implements made it a delight to behold. The good news is that much of the Grand Cafe experience is still attainable at home, with take and make boxes full of fun food and those flairs that make a Jamie Malone restaurant so special.