After hitting the 10-year mark earlier this year, the team behind The Happy Gnome—the nationally recognized craft beer bar in St. Paul—is looking beyond the walls of their 498 Selby Avenue location. It’s not a second Happy Gnome, but an altogether new project from owner Tony Andersen, Gnome pastry chef Hollis Roads, and another silent partner.
Sometime this fall, Augustine’s Bar and Bakery will open at 1668 Selby Avenue in a former laundromat building two-and-a-half miles west of their popular beer bar. The new business is a bakery-bar fusion that will feature a Mediterranean-inspired menu in a pub-meets-coffeehouse atmosphere.
The building’s layout was part of the inspiration for the double concept. Two separate entrances lead into distinct spaces for the bar and bakery. During morning hours, the Pierce doorway will open to a self-serve bakery and sandwich shop, where customers can then bring their purchase to a seating area near the bar. The bar side is along Selby Avenue with full window exposure coming from the street. Inside, original fixtures like exposed firebrick, a tin ceiling, and wood pillars add character that pairs with reclaimed materials, such as a wrought iron gate that will arch over the bar back and encase 40 draft lines. The bar itself will open around midday when activity shifts toward a lunch-dinner menu.
The bakery will feature scones, croissants, cookies, and breads, leaning toward staples more than sweets, says Roads. It will be a place for a quick bite and to buy fresh products, baked in a traditional Italian bread oven. On the other side of the house, the menu will lean lighter and healthier than the flavors at The Happy Gnome.
“It will be more kid friendly and more vegetarian dishes,” he adds. Like The Happy Gnome, Andersen hopes to build a reputation as a place where area residents will feel comfortable. The concept is neighborhood and casual, Roads summarizes. “A place you can go every day.”
Noting the apartments above their restaurant and the walkability of the surrounding neighborhood, Roads is excited to open a restaurant in such a diverse and developing area, just a few blocks from Snelling Avenue. It’s the third restaurant he’s helped open, but his first time as an owner.
Starting a second business, however, was never part of Andersen’s plan.
“If you would have asked me a year ago about opening a second restaurant, I would have said you’re crazy,” he says over a Diet Coke. “I had a health scare and had to quit drinking. Since then I’ve been more clear and full of energy.”
While he’s happy to connect The Happy Gnome and Augustine’s, each is a distinct brand. “I don’t want to keep the identities too separate because I think it’s to our advantage. The Happy Gnome has such a good reputation,” he proudly admits. Augustine’s will be “the little hippie brother of The Gnome,” located near the Macalester campus, he jokes.
The beer selection will be managed by Emily Brink, general manager at The Happy Gnome, and will be all craft beer with zero domestic macros. Andersen estimates the selection will be half Minnesota and half regional and national breweries.
The name Augustine’s also ties to beer, referencing St. Augustine of Hippo, one of many patron saints of brewing. A fan of simple names, Andersen feels the “adjective and a figure” convention of The Happy Gnome, Red Cow, Muddy Pig, and others in town is overplayed. While the concept at Augustine’s is different, at its core he’s using the same familiar model: comfort, quality, and providing a neighborhood feel.
Now, when Andersen is asked about opening a third restaurant, he doesn’t think it sounds so crazy.
“I’ve already been entertaining other ideas,” he chuckles. “We’ll see.”