The restaurant business is famously volatile, and 2018 in Minnesota was par for the course—dozens of high-profile spots opened or closed their doors in an environment rife with change. But the continued shift of entertainment dollars into dining is still paying dividends for the industry, and openings outnumbered closings as an already lively scene gathered still more momentum.
The timeline that follows isn’t exhaustive, but it represents a densely detailed snapshot capturing many of the most noteworthy openings and closings of the year.
The Year In Restaurants 2018
510 Lounge Closes
The high-end but short-lived 510 Lounge, located in the former site of La Belle Vie, closes its doors.
Saguaro, home of one of the few legit chimichangas in Minneapolis, closes its doors for good.
Nye’s Piano Bar Opens
The rebirth of the nationally famous Nye’s Polonaise Room came in the form of a smaller, cocktail-focused establishment at the same address, now also home to a number of newly built apartments.
Smalley’s Caribbean Barbecue and Pirate Bar Closes
Smalley’s, an institution in Stillwater for its party-in-the-Caribbean atmosphere, shuts its doors.
Saint Agnes Bakery Company
The storied Saint Agnes Bakery Company, tripped up by immigration-related problems, shuts its doors after 15 years in business.
Fig + Farro Opens
The local rise of plant-based cuisine arrived in Uptown with the opening of Fig + Farro at Calhoun Square. We tried and liked their falafel appetizer.
Model Citizen Opens
Chef Mateo Mackbee founds a restaurant serving earthy-but-upscale farm-to-table American fare in New London, MN. Read more about it in our December 2018 story about the state of Minnesota soul food.
There aren’t too many local Italian sandwich shops dedicated to high-quality ingredients; Geno’s, one of the few, shuts its doors.
Sweet Chow Opens
The North Loop saw the addition in 2018 of a chic new Asian fusion spot in the form of Sweet Chow, and its next door ice cream parlor. We thought the hot fudge sundae at the latter was totally killer.
La Mesa Opens
The closure of the Sparks pizza eatery in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood opened the door for the debut of La Mesa, a neighborhood restaurant with a focus on wood-fired Latin fare.
Surly Pizza Upstairs Opens
The closure of the much celebrated Brewer’s Table left a void at Surly Brewing that was ably filled by the opening of its New Haven pizza-inspired restaurant, Surly Pizza Upstairs.
Kings Wine Bar Closes
Neighborhood spot Kings Wine Bar, known as much for its pho as its wine, shuts its doors and segues into a pour-your-own-beer spot.
Wild Onion Closes
A Grand Avenue institution for 20 years, Wild Onion finally shuts its doors to be reborn as a Red Rabbit.
Spring Cafe Opens
Although restaurateur Matty O’Reilly and culinary director J.D. Fratzke amicably parted ways later in the year, their opening of Sping Cafe at Como Lake in spring represents a high point of the 2018 dining scene in St. Paul.
Grand Catch Opens
The Wadi Brothers (World Street Kitchen, Milkjam) team up with Thien Ly of Cajun Deli to open this seafood boil-focused spot in a high profile Grand Avenue location in St. Paul. In our review, we liked aspects of the food and service and found other aspects lacking.
Maverick’s Real Roast Beef Reopens
Maverick’s, the Roseville restaurant with a cult following for its roast beef sandwiches, reopened after a brief closure.
The Bungalow Club Opens
The fabled Craftsman space on East Lake Street went through a number of declining iterations before finally closing; the opening of The Bungalow Club, serving fresh pastas, cocktails, and clever small plates, represents a return to form.
Parlour Bar (St. Paul) Opens
With its strong reputation for cocktails and burgers and dedicated North Loop fans, Parlour Bar was a natural candidate to open a second location and jump into the increasingly hot St. Paul market.
The Hideaway Opens
The constantly churning restaurant presence at St. Anthony Main got a new jolt of action this year with the opening of The Hideaway, described by its owners as a “North Woods burger bar.”
Fish Bowl Poke Opens
Drawing on Chef Matthew Kazama’s Hawaiian roots, Fish Bowl Poke starts slinging poke around the corner from Kazama’s original Eat Street spot, Ramen Kazama. We thought their Rock-n-Roll Bowl was dynamite.
L’etoile du Nord Cafe Closes
L’etoile du Nord Cafe—a Bayport-based farm-to-table restaurant known for its colorful Belgian proprietor, Olivier Vrambout—closes its doors.
Tori 44 Opens
A second restaurant for Jason Dorweiler, the owner of Tori Ramen in St. Paul, Tori 44 brings top-shelf noodlecraft to North Minneapolis. We reviewed the shop, located in the old Victory 44 space, and found “care and precision” to be the watchwords.
Iron Ranger Opens
We don’t always think of Minnesota’s Iron Range as having its own distinct cuisine, but the food there is unique thanks to the influence of immigrants from Italy, Slovenia, Finland, and other parts of Europe. St. Paul’s Iron Ranger captures the best of the Range on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, explained owner Tom Forti in an interview with the Growler.
StormKing BBQ Closes
After dramatically cutting back hours in April, the Black Sheep Pizza-adjacent StormKing BBQ, known for great Texas brisket, closes its doors.
Be’Wiched Deli Closes
A popular counter-service deli for 10 years and a pioneering North Loop restaurant, Be’Wiched shuts its doors.
Pearl and the Thief Opens
Stillwater’s Pearl and the Thief represents an ambitious expansion of St. Paul chef and restaurateur Justin Sutherland into new territory, bringing his trademark Southern comfort fare along for the ride.
Sushi Train Opens
Gimmick or no, we found Sushi Train’s conveyor-based sushi concept to be charming and well-executed. This downtown Minneapolis spot could be a local gamechanger.
Ward 6 Closes
Ward 6, one of the pillars of the restaurant revival taking place on Payne Avenue in St. Paul, closes.
Muddy Pig Closes
The Muddy Pig, a foundational craft beer bar in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, shuts its doors after 16 years.
The much-celebrated Uptown staple Heyday closes its doors.
Corktown Deli and Brews
The highlight of our hits-packed Duluth whirlwind tour was Corktown Deli and Brews, a new restaurant that throws a spotlight on classic deli food. Its veteran ownership team also runs the Duluth Grill and OMC Smokehouse.
Mi Casa Su Casa Opens
Mi Casa Su Casa may well be the state’s only Pinoy / Mexican spot, offering tastes of the Philippines and Mexico on University Avenue in St. Paul.
The Rabbit Hole Closes
One of the most singularly interesting restaurants in the state, the modern Asian fusion shop Rabbit Hole, closes its doors for good in the Midtown Global Market.
Part of a restaurant-in-a-restaurant duo along with the smaller, more upscale Popol Vuh, Centro brings a delicate touch to Latin fare in Northeast Minneapolis.
Opening on the heels of Corktown Deli, Meyvn represents another entry on the short-but-growing list of high concept, ambitious deli spots to open in recent years. Meyvn is a Tim Niver / Adam Eaton project, and our review found that the duo brings all the energy they offer at Saint Dinette to this new space.
Rudolph’s BBQ Closes
The nigh-legendary Lyndale Avenue late-night hangout Rudolph’s closes after more than 40 years in business.
Heirloom, a farm-to-table restaurant on Marshall Avenue in St. Paul that picked up where the old Craftsman left off, closes after a relatively short but high-profile run.
Funky Grits Opens
South Minneapolis soul food destination Funky Grits took a while to open, but it landed with a bang. We interviewed chef/owner Jared Brewington for our December, 2018 issue’s special story about the state of soul food in Minnesota.
High-end Italian concepts are enjoying a real run in the metro area, and among the most prominent new arrivals is Hyacinth on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Our review found it to be “crisp, collected, and charming.”
Birch’s Lowertown Opens
The Lowertown St. Paul branch of Birch’s on the Lake brings a mix of supper club food and house-brewed beer to its patrons at the Market House Collaborative.
Moderna Kouzina Opens
Moderna Kouzina opens, bringing modern French cuisine with a Mediterranean influence to Edina.
All Square Opens
Longfellow gains a grilled cheese concept restaurant that serves a higher mission: All Square works to employ and rehabilitate former prisoners as well as sling sandwiches. We thought their Hawaiian Grilled Cheese was scrumptious.
Keg and Case Opens
The ambitious Keg and Case Market brings a collection of upscale food- and drink-focused businesses to a food hall on West Seventh, located in the former Schmidt’s brewery keg house. We thought the spot’s debut was a triumph – and a gamble.
Along with Mi Casa Su Casa, Apoy on Eat Street represents a rare surfacing of Filipino food in the metro.
Stylish and ambitious, Lat14 opens in Golden Valley, bringing a variety of Southeast Asian fare that we reviewed and enjoyed.
Seed Cafe Opens
Seed Cafe opens, bringing plant-based dining to the shores of Bde Maka Ska.
Tavola Italian Kitchen + Bar Opens
Tavola Italian Kitchen + Bar opens in the Elliot Park Hotel, bringing another high-end Italian option to downtown Minneapolis.
Dulceria Bakery Opens
Dulceria, a new Mexican sweets-focused bakery, opens in the former Colossal Cafe space on 42nd Street.
Xavi, an ambitious little restaurant in the former First Course space in South Minneapolis, closes.
Fhima’s brings the well-known French-influence cuisine of restaurateur David Fhima to the stunning location at the base of the City Center in Minneapolis.
Pie Plate and Coffee Opens
The cult favorite Stockholm Pie Company of Wisconsin jumps across the river to open a cafe in Red Wing called the Pie Plate and Coffee.
Grumpy’s Downtown Closes
After 19 years, an apartment development shuts the doors on the downtown Minneapolis location of Grumpy’s.
Trio Plant-Based Opens
The plant-based food stampede, set off in large part by Herbivorous Butcher in Minneapolis and J. Selby’s in St. Paul, continues with the opening Trio Plant-Based in LynLake.
Colossal Cafe Minneapolis Closes
The Minneapolis location of Colossal Cafe shuts its doors and makes way for a similarly breakfast-facing restaurant (the Standish Cafe).
Vegan East Opens
Vegan East, a vegan bakery in White Bear Lake, expands into the Ecopolitan building on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis.
The local branch of the mega-popular South Korean fried chicken restaurant Bonchon opens in Uptown.
Dipped and Debris Opens
Sen Yai Sen Lek diversifies its portfolio by changing half of its real estate into a frozen custard and sandwich shop called Dipped and Debris.
Pho Lodge Opens
The slightly unusual North Woods-themed pho shop called Pho Lodge opens in Maplewood.
Hot on the heels of the successful opening of Martina, Daniel del Prado opens the Latin and barbecued-inspired Colita on Penn Avenue.
Boludo Empanadas Opens
Eat Street gains an empanada and pizza shop thanks to Facundo De Fraia, the empanada maestro of Martina.
Lucky Cricket Opens
TV personality and chef Andrew Zimmern’s mega-hyped Chinese-inspired restaurant, Lucky Cricket, opens in St. Louis Park. Read our full review.
Guavas Cuban Cafe Opens
A state without too many Cuban restaurants sports a new one after Guavas opens its doors in South Minneapolis.
Pizza Karma Opens
Pizza Karma presents tandoori naan-based pizza created by James Beard winner Chef Raghavan Iyer.
PRIME 6 Closes
PRIME 6 went big in its City Center location in downtown, offering sushi, steak, pasta, and burgers. But its high gloss, high overhead formula proved unworkable, and it shut its doors on Dec. 18.
Draft Horse Closes
The Food Building’s farm-to-table pub and eatery shuts its doors at the end of December, 2018.
Bus Stop Burgers and Brewhouse Opens
Bus Stop Burgers and Brewhouse brings blended burgers and craft beer from the team behind Target Center’s Cargo Food Authority.
Dalton and Wade Closes
North Loop-based Dalton and Wade quickly established a reputation as one of the most ambitious purveyors of craft whiskies in the state, but that wasn’t enough to tide the place over – it shut its doors after about a year-and-a-half of operation.