Trailblazers 2016: Alex Roberts of Alma: Cafe, Hotel, and Restaurant


Alex Roberts // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

It’s one thing to own a restaurant. It’s one thing to own a restaurant that aspires to the highest levels of plating, flavor, design, and customer service. It’s one thing to own said restaurant while trying to discover new ideas and techniques from the rich food traditions of the region and continent. It’s one thing to own said restaurant, win a James Beard Award for it, and continue to innovate in the world of fine dining, all while diners in town are throwing off the shackles of white tableclothed niceties in favor of casual neighborhood joints serving fried chicken, ramen, and tacos, and remain as relevant as ever.

That all is one thing, and Alex Roberts is doing it at Restaurant Alma. As if that weren’t enough, in 2016 he completed a project even more ambitious.

The bar and seating area at the new Cafe Alma // Before photo by Aaron Davidson, after photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

The opening of Alma’s next-door hotel and cafe this November marks the culmination of a multi-year expansion plan that began in earnest with Roberts petitioning the Minneapolis City Council to change the zoning rules for hotels (before 2015, Minneapolis didn’t allow hotels with fewer than 50 rooms outside of downtown).

Related Post – Grand Designs: Alma is expanding to make you feel more at home

Now that the construction dust has settled, we’ve been given a look at what the full-day immersive Alma experience entails. Gorgeous breads, pastries, and coffee in the morning. Elegant tartines and soups during the day. Whimsical and approachable Bittercube cocktails after work. After that, composed cafe entrees that speak to the provenance and heritage of the Upper Midwest and beyond. And at day’s end, a bespoke, comfortable seven-room hotel positively dripping with Nordic charm, filled with a woodsy, lemony scent created from essential oils by Roberts’ wife Margo.

It’s one thing to run a celebrated restaurant. It’s quite another to distill the essence of that restaurant and expand it to an entirely new, 24/7 enterprise. Alex Roberts has completed something truly different this year—but something tells us his trailblazing work has only just begun.

Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.

About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.

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