Order Up! Rustica is expanding and Steve Horton is back at the helm

Rustica Bakery opened a new location in Edina // Photo via Rustica's Instagram

Rustica Bakery opened a new location in Edina // Photo via Rustica’s Instagram

Updated July 2, 2020

Order Up! is the Growler’s ongoing weekly account of noteworthy Minnesota restaurant openings, closings, and future openings. Due to the impact of COVID-19, much of this column documents restaurants altering, ceasing, or resuming service based on current pandemic conditions. Please send any tips to [email protected].

All dates are approximate based on best information available; opening dates, in particular, tend to shift around a lot.

THIS WEEK’S GIST: Closures—both temporary and permanent—are the order of the day as COVID-19 continues to limit capacity to host diners—and diners’ interest in visiting restaurants. For years, we’ve watched the Minnesota restaurant opening:closing ratio bounce between about 2.5:1 and 3:1; those proportions are roughly reversed now.

As we wrote in a recent essay (“Dinner and the Plague”), it’s difficult if not impossible to enjoy the restorative ambiance of a restaurant with a clean conscience, and to pivot an entire industry’s business model with limited aid from the state and federal government is proving as difficult as it sounds. The destruction that followed in the wake of George Floyd’s killing has taken a toll also, with the venerable Town Talk Diner and El Nuevo Rodeo among the affected restaurants.

Bright spots this week include a surge in patio dining that’s taking advantage of the mostly lovely (if warm) weather, and a continued focus on takeaway food including carefully composed box meals.

STATE OF THE MINNESOTA DINING ROOM

March 17, 2020: All restaurant dining rooms and patios in Minnesota closed; restaurants shift to takeout-only model or close down entirely

June 1, 2020: The State of Minnesota allows restaurants to reopen for patio service with six-foot social distancing and a 50 patron limit

June 10, 2020: The State of Minnesota allows restaurants to reopen at 50% capacity for indoor dining room seating, with six-foot distancing

Before dining, check restaurant websites and make a phone call—there is some flux between restaurants doing curbside only, patio dining, and dining room seating. Reservations or online ordering are generally a must.

NOW OPEN (Up to 3 Months–March 16)

It's Greek to Me has been resurrected // Photo via It's Greek to Me's Facebook

It’s Greek to Me has been resurrected // Photo via It’s Greek to Me’s Facebook

Rustica (new location), 200 Southdale Center, Suite A, Edina ■ The coffee-and-bakery chain Rustica is expanding and founder Steve Horton (recently of Baker’s Field) is returning to lead the company as CEO. Opened June 29.

Handsome Hog, 173 Western Ave. N., St. Paul ■ This Lowertown staple has moved into the former Fitz space just off Selby. Opened June 24.

Pho Mai, 319 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis ■ A new pho-focused eatery in a former Dinkytown Tim Horton’s, from the owner of the popular MT Noodles in Brooklyn Park. Opened for takeout on May 21.

Billy Sushi, 116 1st Ave. North, Minneapolis ■ The newest spot from Billy Tserenbat, best-known for Sushi Fix (which he has since sold) and Baha Haus in Wayzata. Opened May 12 in the former Sweet Chow space.

Pyramid Pizza and Grill, 2329 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis ■ A brand-new pizza spot in the old Red’s Savoy location on Hennepin featuring jerk chicken with rice and Philly-style cheesesteak sandwiches. Opened May 11.

It’s Greek to Me Taverna e Parea, 626 W. Lake St., Minneapolis ■ A reboot of the popular (and seemingly immortal) It’s Greek to Me at the corner of Lyndale and Lake. Opened May 5.

RECENTLY CLOSED (Up to 3 Months)

Keegan's Irish Pub // Photo via Keegan's Irish Pub's Facebook

Keegan’s Irish Pub // Photo via Keegan’s Irish Pub’s Facebook

Keegan’s Irish Pub ■ After 18 years of operation in Northeast Minneapolis, the Irish pub is calling it quits, citing COVID-19. Closed July 1.

The Fitz, Public Kitchen + Bar, Pearl and the Thief ■ The pandemic has been particularly hard on the Justin Sutherland / Madison Restaurant Group, with several high-profile closures. The former Fitz space is reopening as the Handsome Hog, which has moved out of its downtown St. Paul location. Public Kitchen + Bar has closed permanently, and Pearl and the Thief (which had been slated to move from Stillwater to Minneapolis) will not reopen.

Mucci’s (both locations) and Saint Dinette (temporary from June 28 until sometime in July) ■ Tim Niver’s restaurants will be taking a much-needed temporary break until July; he (see our profile) noted in a tweet: “Now it’s time for us to pack ourselves up in the same love we pour out to you.”

LUSH (possible plans to reopen with new concept) ■ The popular brunch service, cabaret, and drag nights that drove business at this Northeast bar and restaurant weren’t enough to sustain it through the pandemic. The Facebook page that announced its closing suggests that a new iteration of the space, with new ownership, may be in the cards. Closed June 26.

Cowboy Jack’s and Cowboy Slim’s (closed until further notice) ■ The two bro bars closed late June amid controversy; their closure notice cited violence (including a shooting in Uptown that injured 11) that was unabated by the City of Minneapolis but the company failed to mention the COVID-19 cluster linked to Cowboy Jack’s. Closed June 26.

El Norteño (closed until further notice) ■ Amid the destruction and boarded-up storefronts on Lake Street, this old-school neighborhood Mexican spot has closed its doors on a temporary basis, as per a recent message left on their answering machine. Closed June 26.

The Herkimer ■ The well-loved Herkimer brewpub has closed its doors after 20 years of serving Lyn-Lake. Closed June 24.

Savory Bakehouse (temporary through summer’s end) ■ A note on the bakery’s website notes: “During this time we are closed for regular business. The summer months at the bake house are unusually hot, even too hot to safely work. Usually we get through it the best we can and look forward to fall. This year we have decided to focus on other summer projects and wait out as much of the summer heat as possible.”

Fuji-Ya ■ Minnesota’s oldest Japanese restaurant is calling it quits. With its shoji-screened booths, serious sushi program, and lively bar scene, Fuji-Ya was a standard-bearer for Japanese-inspired cuisine in the state. Closed June 17 (or earlier) as per City Pages.

Holy Land Deli at Midtown Global Market ■ After the surfacing of racist social media statements from Lianne Wadi (daughter of Holy Land owner Majdi Wadi) Midtown Global Market terminated the lease of Holy Land Deli, an anchor tenant, on June 4.

Cleveland Wok ■ This Highland Park Chinese-American institution closed for renovation in February but announced in late May that the closure would become permanent.

Gandhi Mahal (appears temporary) ■ The burning of Gandhi Mahal during protests after the death of George Floyd prompted an empathetic statement from owner Ruhel Islam that resonated from coast-to-coast; the New York Times wrote about his “let my building burn” commentary at length. Closed May 28, reopening plans uncertain. A GoFundMe campaign for the restaurant has raised nearly $120,000 as of June 16.

Town Talk Diner ■ It’s truly the end of an era for the once iconic, many-lived Town Talk Diner, whose photogenic sign and restaurant space were among the many casualties of the arson of late May. Closed May 28.

Midori’s Floating World (appears temporary) ■ Ravaged but spared from the fire damage that closed nearby neighbors Town Talk Diner, El Nuevo Rodeo, and Gandhi Mahal, Midori’s remains closed after the rioting on East Lake Street. There is a GoFundMe to help reopen the restaurant, currently at $50K out of a $75K goal. Closed May 28.

El Nuevo Rodeo ■ The popular nightclub and Mexican restaurant El Nuevo Rodeo burned during the George Floyd protests. Both Floyd and the police officer who killed him (while being recorded) worked security at the nightclub, as per press reports. Closed May 28, reopening uncertain.

Fig + Farro ■ As part of the recent plant-based wave of restaurants (including J. Selby’s and Trio), Fig + Farro was in the center of the food conversation in Minneapolis, noting on its Facebook page: “With uncertainty of when we can reopen our dining room safely, we have decided to turn our mission of food and climate into a foundation.” Closed May 28.

Foxtrot Burger Spot and Bar Brigade ■ Two of Matty O’Reilly’s spots announced closure after confusion over reopening conditions (a state announcement allowing patio dining only) sidelined their timelines. Closed May 21.

Moose and Sadie’s ■ After nearly 30 years of operation that built it a passionate following, the popular North Loop cafe shut its doors for good May 20.

Burger Jones (Calhoun Village) ■ The popular Calhoun Village burger spot has shut its doors after 11 years of operation. Its Burnsville location will remain open. Closed May 19.

The Bad Waitress Northeast ■ The second location of the popular Nicollet Ave. breakfast-all-day has closed after a three-year run. Closed May 4.

4 Bells ■ A bastion of high-end Southern-inspired food in a city that has very little of the stuff called it quits May 1.

Bachelor Farmer/Marvel Bar ■ One of the highest-profile departures in a year full of them is the Bachelor Farmer and Marvel Bar complex in the North Loop. The former helped pioneer and define the food of the “New North”; the latter gained a national reputation for its boundary-pushing mixology. See our review of the final incarnation of Bachelor Farmer, “Bold New Farmer.” Closed April 30.

El Burrito Minneapolis ■ The second location of St. Paul’s famous El Burrito Mercado (opened mid-2018) has shut down after struggling with pandemic-related closures and existing loans (for more on this story, see our upcoming July edition.) Closed April 28.

Anelace ■ One of the best coffee shops in the state (according to fans, and, well, us) closed April 21 after an apartment fire spread and destroyed the shop.

UPCOMING (Most Imminent to Furthest Out)

Tlacoyos. From the Nahuatl necatlaoyo, nixtamal thick tortilla on a torpedo or oval shape stuffed with beans, favas, or chicharrón // Photo via Nixta's Instagram

Tlacoyos. From the Nahuatl necatlaoyo, nixtamal thick tortilla on a torpedo or oval shape stuffed with beans, favas, or chicharrón // Photo via Nixta’s Instagram

Nixta, 1222 Second St. Northeast, Minneapolis ■ Gustavo Romero, whose work with Travail has been noteworthy and fantastic, is opening a tortilleria in Northeast Minneapolis. We’ve tried one of their meals to go and it was stunning, so set the expectations high for this one. Summer 2020.

Okome House, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis ■ Hide Tozawa, a well-regarded chef formerly of Kyatchi on Nicollet Ave., is opening a new spot in the former Parkway Pizza / DiNoko’s building on 42nd Ave. Offerings, as per the website, focus on Japanese classics such as donburi and onigiri plus “cherished Japanese flavors alongside seasonal locally sourced ingredients.” Summer 2020.

Sooki and Mimi, 1432 W. 31st St., Minneapolis ■ A new spot from Ann Kim’s restaurant group focused on tacos wrapped in handmade, traditional tortillas plus a basement bar. Opening delayed; no information available.

Malcolm Yards Market, 501 30th Ave. SE, Minneapolis ■  A food hall that will capitalize on its proximity to Surly’s massive brewery/restaurant complex. Opening delayed; no information available.

The Gnome Craft Pub, 498 Selby Ave, St. Paul ■ A Justin Sutherland / Brian Ingram (Hope Breakfast Bar) collaboration in the former Happy Gnome space on Selby Avenue. The menu includes roasted and shaved meats, build-your-own charcuterie boards, and table-side raclette. Late July 2020.

Bebe Zito Ice Cream, 704 W. 22nd St, Minneapolis ■ An upscale ice cream shop by Ben Spangler, who created the opening slate of flavors for Milkjam. Summer 2020.

Breaking Bread (re-opening), 1210 W Broadway Ave, Minneapolis ■ The beloved modern soul food spot in North Minneapolis will be reopening later this year after a hiatus. Opening delayed; currently serving 1,000 meals to neighbors and healthcare workers.

Surdyk’s Sidebar, 303 E. Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis ■ A new 60-seat bar and brasserie co-located with Surdyk’s cheese and liquor shops on Hennepin Avenue. Opening Summer 2020.

Cajun Twist, 3761 Bloomington Ave, Minneapolis ■ This Cajun-inspired restaurant will be moving from its current location at the trailhead at Theodore Wirth Park to the former Marla’s location in South Minneapolis. Opening delayed; no information available.

Petit León, 3800 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis ■ As per their press release, this new Jorge Guzmán place will be: “A neighborhood restaurant that reimagines the classic café as a sexy, dimly lit den of classic cocktails; approachable, delicious food, and adventurous creativity.” Featuring a menu that incorporates elements of cuisines including Mexican, Spanish, French, and American, with Travis Serbus (formerly of Meteor Bar) as co-owner and bar manager. Opening Fall 2020.

Vinai Hmong Kitchen, Location TBA ■ The Kickstarter-backed bricks-and-mortar Hmong cuisine-focused restaurant by Chef Yia Vang is due to pop this year, after more than a year of planning. 2020.

Birchwood-Minnesota Farmers Union Project TBA, 750 S 2nd St, Minneapolis ■ A new farm-to-table focused project led by Birchwood chef Marshall Paulsen will replace the former Spoonriver near the Guthrie Theater. Opening delayed; no information available.

Erik the Red (relocating), 4621 Snelling Ave, Minneapolis at the Lowa46 development, Minneapolis ■ The US Bank Stadium-adjacent “viking bar” is packing up and bringing its smoked meats, cocktails, and craft beer taps to South Minneapolis. Opening Summer 2020.

Dayton’s Food Hall & Market, 700 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis ■ Major new 40,000-square-foot food hall curated by Andrew Zimmern. 2020.

The Sioux Chef Restaurant at Water Works, On the Mississippi River, behind the Mill City Museum ■ A restaurant focused on American Indian cuisine as imagined by Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef. Currently delayed; as per Dana Thompson (co-owner / COO of Sioux Chef), “We are at the mercy of the Park Board project and we keep getting notified that Waterworks has encountered a series of delays. As you know, this project is an archeological dig, so add that on to what it takes to open a restaurant, and there are a few challenges.” 2021.