Biz buzz // Now open: Union at 8th and Hennepin

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November 19, 2012 // UPDATED 5:48 pm - December 27, 2012
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss

HENNEPIN — Union, the new restaurant from Crave parent company Kaskaid Hospitality and executive chef Jim Christiansen, was scheduled to open at 8th and Hennepin on Nov. 19. 

The restaurant features a signature retractable glass enclosure over the rooftop dining area, allowing it to be used year-round.

The glass enclosure consists of several large sections set onto tracks. When open, Kaskaid Hospitality CEO Kam Talebi said the rooftop will accommodate around 250 people. When closed, it should seat around 170 people. The unique space is the only one like it in the state and will be available to rent.

“I think we’ll do a fair amount of weddings here on Sundays,” said Talebi. “We just booked the Oscar party here.”

Executive chef Jim Christiansen has created a menu of eclectic American offerings that includes snacks, appetizers, shared plates and entrees. Talebi described the menu as approachable with some adventurous elements. The rooftop dining room will feature a slightly different menu than the main floor dining area.

“Upstairs we’ll be a little bit more creative and fun,” said Talebi. “In the summer it’ll certainly be a little outdoorish. It’ll be a little on the casual side.”

Union was designed by Shea Inc., the firm behind several high-profile restaurants. After over 20 years in Butler Square, Shea has moved its offices to the second floor of the building, between Union’s main floor dining room and the rooftop. The basement also houses a separate bar called the Marquee Lounge. 

Shea Inc. founder David Shea said the company settled into its new office in early November. The space combines an open floorplan with exposed brick walls, modern furniture and high-efficiency LED lighting for a feeling that is both modern and classic. 

“It’s new but it’s old,” said Shea. “It’s got history, but it’s current.”

Sandwich and breakfast shop Nuff now open

AUDUBON PARK — Nuff, the sandwich, soup and breakfast restaurant at 2851 Johnson St. NE, opened its doors on Nov. 1. Owner Gary Carlson said he originally planned to open during the last week of October, but last-minute delays pushed the opening back to Oct. 31 at the earliest. Rather than open on Halloween, Carlson decided to wait until Nov. 1.

Nuff is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The breakfast menu includes a variety of omelets, French toast and several breakfast sandwiches. The lunch and dinner menu is all about sandwiches, soups and salads. Most sandwiches are available in whole or half servings, with whole sandwiches averaging $8.50 and half sandwiches at $4.50.

Nuff also offers homemade soups and chili by the bowl or cup, homemade desserts and a selection of wines and local beers.

Two late arrivals to the food truck scene

Despite the onset of winter, several food trucks continue to serve downtown crowds, including two late arrivals, Greek Stop Food Truck and Café Racer. Both businesses plan to stay out on the streets as long as there are customers willing to brave the cold. 

Greek Stop offers gyros, falafel and burgers with a Mediterranean flair. The entire serving side of the truck is visible through large windows, which owner Ahmed Makaraan is to help people who might not be familiar with all of this menu items. By making the prep area visible, customers can point to entrees or toppings they want through the glass.

Makaraan said the first few weeks have been good and that the truck is his first step in what he hopes is a long food service career.

“My dream was always to have my own restaurant,” he said. “I’ve got a food truck now and I’ll open a restaurant in the future.”

Café Racer owners Luis and Christine Patino said their new Columbian food truck is allowing Luis to live his dream. Luis Patino worked his way though college with food service jobs and still has a full-time job as a paralegal. But the corporate world didn’t click with him and he wanted work that he found more meaningful. 

“The concept of being able to do your own thing and to serve another human being, that is why I do this in the first place,” said Patino. “It’s tough, it’s not glamorous. But it’s absolutely, 100 percent what I asked for and I couldn’t be happier right now.”

Café Racer’s offerings include pulled pork and pulled chicken, available as a sandwich, entrée or salad. Sides include Columbian carrot soufflés, rice, roasted vegetables and sweet potato pomme frites. The truck also includes several vegetarian and gluten-free options, as well as hot dogs served Columbian style with crumbled potato chips, queso fresco, pico verde, pink sauce, sweet peppers and pickled red onions.

Both Greek Stop and Café Racer announce their daily locations on social media. Find Greek Stop at Facebook.com/greekstop.foodtruck or @greekstopfoodtr. Find Café Racer at caferacermn.com or @caferacerMN. 

One Two Three Sushi opens in January

DOWNTOWN CORE — Sushi Avenue, parent company of the popular Japanese restaurant Masu, has confirmed its new “fast casual” sushi restaurant One Two Three Sushi will open in early January. The first One Two Three Sushi restaurant is located on the second floor of the IDS Crystal Court in the former Godiva chocolate store.

Sushi Avenue director of operations Brent Sokup said the quick service One Two Three Sushi is not an extension of the Masu brand, but an all-new restaurant concept. 

“We are doing our best to keep them separate,” said Sokup. “They are not in anyway the same concept.”

One Two Three Sushi will serve sushi, noodles and steamed buns, all made to order from high quality ingredients. Sokup said Sushi Avenue has developed techniques to keep service fast and while still allowing for made-to-order hand-rolled sushi. 

Sokup said exact price points are still being discussed, but everything on the menu should be less than $10. 

The 700-square-foot One Two Three Sushi restaurant will likely be the smallest location in what Sushi Avenue envisions as the start of a new restaurant chain. 

“Once we get it up and running, we plan to open more of them,” said Sokup. He said future One Two Three Sushi restaurants will range from 800 to 1,500 square feet. 

Restaurant and music venue The Belmore now open

WAREHOUSE DISTRICT — Neighborhood café and music venue The Belmore/The New Skyway Lounge is now open at 25 4th St. N., the former home of City Billiards.

Owner Ben Hill officially opened the doors at The Belmore on Nov. 12. Prior to opening, he held several soft open events, including a reading from punk rock authorities Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, as well as a performance by Richard Lloyd of the influential 1970s band Television. As a venue, The Belmore/The New Skyway lounge will allow for around 300 people. 

The Belmore’s musical acts are booked by Doug Anderson, former owner of Nick and Eddie. Anderson also serves as The Belmore’s cook and pastry chef. 

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The initial lunch and dinner menu includes several salads, sandwiches, pastas and pizzas. The menu will likely expand further in the future, said Hill. Any new items added will stick with the core concept of high-quality, scratch-made food. 

“Everything is premium ingredients,” he said. “Everything is made in the back from scratch.” 

Warehouse District restaurants say railgating is bad for business

At the start of the football season, Mayor R.T. Rybak proposed a plan to bring life to the area around the Metrodome by allowing food trucks to set up near the light rail tracks before games. “Railgating” has been a hit with fans, who have embraced the opportunity to sample fare from over a dozen popular Minneapolis food trucks. 

However, the program is far less popular on the west side of Downtown. Railgating is pulling customers away from the Warehouse District and hurting businesses that depend on strong game day traffic, said Warehouse District Business Association (WDBA) executive director Joanne Kaufman. 

“We have bars that are down by as much as 55 percent,” said Kaufman. “And this is coming off of a summer that has been challenging at best.”

During the summer, the Warehouse District was plagued by stories of late-night fights and criminal activity that led the City of Minneapolis to draft new guidelines on how to deal with problem venues. A set of voluntary guidelines for such venues helped bring crime back down, but many businesses in the area are still feeling shaky. Game day revenue is built into the business plans for these bars to help them get through tough times. Kaufman said that revenue has been on the decline since the start of railgating.

Tim Mahoney, president of the WDBA and owner of The Loon Café, said his business has seen a decline, but not as dramatic as some of the other businesses in the area. He said he supports the idea of railgating, but believes the idea was developed too quickly. The WDBA proposed game day block parties in the Warehouse District to encourage fans to start on the west side and travel east along the light rail line, but those plans ran afoul of state law. 

“The idea is a good idea, but it needs to be looked at and done property,” said Mahoney. “It has had an effect on our businesses in the Warehouse District. And the West Bank is more affected than we are.”

Noted

The former Wellman’s Pub at 26 N. 5th St. has reopened with the same management and a new name. The nightclub is now Uncle Buck’s Party Bar. The ownership originally planned to open as Uncle Buck’s in 2011, but instead opted for a new Wellman’s Pub, a chain based in Iowa. Wellman’s Pub opened in April and reopened as Uncle Buck’s in mid-October.