Shops at West End lands Punch Bowl Social bar and restaurant (Photos) – Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

via Shops at West End lands Punch Bowl Social bar and restaurant (Photos) – Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal.

Apparently the old West End Toby Keith’s location is going to become a Punch Bowl Social.

On one hand I’m glad that something is going in the space and the bowling and games will likely draw a good crowd. On the other hand, this place looks a bit like a hipster version of Dave and Buster’s. Something about this irks me, but I also think it’s probably a great idea and fit for the shopping area.



Taste Test: Bar Luchador

Before we headed down to Stub and Herb’s for Darkness Eve, we were warned that there was a hockey game that might make things a bit crowded (on an already busy night) and they suggested stopping by Bar Luchador for food on the way to the bar. Having just mentioned that we should check out the new taco joint, we took Stub and Herb’s advice. The advice wasn’t entirely selfless, the same team owns both bars. But since we like the team behind Stub and Herb’s, this was promising news.

Bar Luchador was also busy but we were able to get seats at the bar and order a couple of things – the chilaquilas nachos fill up a quarter sheet tray with mounds of thick corn chips, shredded chicken, and “crumbly cheese” (which I assume is their name for queso fresco). The quesadilla was stuffed full of pulled pork and caramelized onions, topped with a smoky/tangy red sauce with just the right level of heat. My date also got to try a fish taco that didn’t make it to its destination in time – he thought the fish was perfectly done and the batter stayed crisp even if it was a bit cooler than intended (hence why it got passed along to us and the paying customer got a fresh one).

LuchadorThe small (and busy!) bar was also producing some simple but fabulous drinks. It was a damp and rainy evening so I tried the cinnamon whiskey cider, hoping to warm up a bit before we wandered back to the dark beer event. Rather than using one of the many (and vaguely terrifying) cinnamon whiskies on the market, this appeared to be a housemade cinnamon syrup added to Cabin Still bourbon and then topped with a dry Loon Juice cider. This deceptively simple drink was surprisingly delicious. I think a homemade cinnamon syrup is going on my to-do list ASAP. We also got to try the Rum Horchata on the rocks which was good, but I don’t think Horchata is my thing.

We witnessed a few service mistakes but given how busy they were, I think they recovered from them very well. Even the over-worked bartender managed to check in with us and kept her cool as drink orders kept pouring in.

We’ll definitely be back to try some more of the taco and drink options – and to eat that quesadilla again. Great concept, simple but nice space, and a perfect fit for the area.

Coming soon to Lowertown-Handsome Hog

Given that I recently tried a new salon based almost solely on it’s name of “Bourbon and Bows,” you have to believe I’m pretty excited about a new restaurant coming to St. Paul with the tagline “Bourbon & Smoke!” Handsome Hog may be a newcomer, but it’s backed by the successful team behind Brasserie Zentral, Foreign Legion, and Meritage. Lowertown St. Paul just keeps getting better – and being able to hop on a train to one of the best new dining neighborhoods in the city has become both dangerous and awesome!

Coming Soon: The Sheridan Room

I was on my way to a much needed haircut at Bourbon and Bows, above the 331 Club, when we noticed paint and construction happening in the former Modern Cafe space. It turns out the restaurant space was purchased by Jon Oulman, who is very familiar with and in the neighborhood as owner of the 331 Club, along with his son Jarret and their business partner Joshua Mandelman. The trio also own Amsterdam Bar & Hall and Como Dockside.

The retro guts of the Modern Cafe appear to be staying intact but the Oulmans have been rearranging booths and preparing the space for reopening as the Sheridan Room, serving Midwestern Americana seven days a week. There will also be a full-service cocktail bar.

The official word is “opening by the end of the year.” The unofficial gossip is November 15th.


To those dismissing the grief over La Belle Vie as silly…

You’re right, of course. There are bigger problems in the world than a restaurant closing. The world is full of injustice, and here we are crying about a restaurant most people couldn’t afford. How trite of us.

It’s just a restaurant, after all.

Except to the people working there, for them it’s a job or a career. It’s a family.

Except to the people who used to work there, for them it was an education and an inspiration. They took that inspiration and made the rest of our city better whether by opening their own restaurant or applying their skills and work ethic to someplace else where they are needed.

Except to the chef who spent 17 years of his life putting Minnesota on the culinary map, showcasing our home and all it has to offer from local vegetables to white tablecloths.

Except to the people who celebrated there, who loved there, who have memories of people long since departed there.

Except to the people who perhaps only dined there once, dollars saved up for a unique experience they will never forget.

And even if you don’t think any of that matters, then take heart in the knowledge that the human heart and brain are capable of unending joy, sadness, anger and hope all at once. We can grieve a restaurant without forgetting about the rest of the world. We should be thankful that some people are this passionate about “just a restaurant,” because passion is valuable. Passion is what gets things done, whether it’s finding jobs for those who are losing them soon or speaking out against injustice.

May we never dismiss people for being passionate about what matters to them, no matter how small.

La Belle Vie closing October 24th

I am damn near speechless right now. On one hand, I’m not as surprised as I’d like to be – fine dining is an expensive and challenging niche. I was able to eat the full tasting menu twice and enjoyed the lounge a couple of times as well, they weren’t cheap meals but they are some of my most memorable and worth every penny.

The local restaurant and bar scene owes damn near everything to La Belle Vie. The chefs who worked their way through Tim McKee’s kitchen have gone on to be a who’s who of the MSP dining scene.

Jim Christiansen, of Heyday, and Erik Anderson and Jamie Malone of forthcoming Brut. But the list would also include Sameh Wadi of Saffron and World Street Kitchen, Jack Riebel of Il Foro, Mike DeCamp of Monello, Don Saunders of The Kenwood, Matthew Bickford of Icehouse, Lucas Almendinger of Co-op Creamery, Sean Smalley of Smalley’s Barbeque (which McKee still partly owns), pastry chef Diane Yang of Spoon and Stable, Adam Eaton of Saint Dinette, and many, many more.

Then there’s the cocktail scene. At the first week of Iron Bartender, I remember that LBV was going up against Saint Dinette. I *love* Saint Dinette’s bar program but I still thought it was a bit mean to put the newest restaurant up against an icon like LBV. But then…when the Saint Dinette team did their introductions, both of them said their name, and followed it with “Of Saint Dinette, formally of La Belle Vie.” The four competitors, two from a 17-year-old icon and two from a months-old rising star, had all worked together at the La Belle Vie bar.

La Belle Vie was also enormously influential in crafting Minnesota’s beverage landscape. Longtime La Belle Vie sommelier Bill Summerville, now an independent wine consultant, was responsible through his list at La Belle Vie for some significant part of Minneapolis’ focus on wines from small European vineyards. The restaurant also started the local craft cocktail revolution with longtime maverick bartender Johnny Michaels; just last week La Belle Vie’s current bartending team, led by Adam Gorski, won the city’s top bartending competition, Iron Bartender.

Much of my current passion for cocktails exists because of the scene that Johnny Michaels started out of LBV.

I didn’t eat or drink at La Belle Vie as often as I would have like, and I know that makes me part of the problem. As McKee stated, “The simple math of it is: I know a ton of people are going to let us know how much La Belle Vie meant to them. If all of those people would have come in twice more a year, we’d still be open. It’s so important that if there’s a restaurant or business in your community that you feel is important, you’ve got to make it your mission to support them. Otherwise they will close.”

Get out there, support our amazing local bars and restaurants, vote with your feet and your wallet. The reward is so much greater than a little red sticker, it’s more great places, innovative food, and amazing cocktails.