Biz buzz: Crave opening

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May 9, 2011
By: Jeremy Zoss
Jeremy Zoss
Crave location prepares for opening

HENNEPIN AVENUE — One of the summer’s hottest restaurant openings is right around the corner. Crave’s new Minneapolis location is scheduled to open on May 19 in the former Palomino space in LaSalle Plaza. However, one of the restaurant’s main attractions, the rooftop patio, won’t open until June 4.

The Downtown location is the sixth restaurant in the Crave chain, which opened its first location at Edina’s Galleria in 2007. Since then, locations have been opened at The Mall of America and the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park, as well as locations in Omaha and Coral Gables, Florida.

“We weren’t looking for a space downtown, but we got a call from the landlord looking for a tenant,” says Crave Founder and CEO Kam Talebi. “But once we saw the space, I felt this location was poised well for the Crave concept, especially given the vibrancy of what’s happening Downtown.”

The LaSalle Plaza location features two private dining rooms that bring the interior space to around 13,000 square feet. The rooftop patio will add 7,000 square feet of outside dining and feature its own kitchen, bar and menu items.

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The Bullfrog opens on Hennepin

HENNEPIN AVENUE — The Bullfrog, a new venture from Bulldog Lowertown owners Matt Lokowich and Jeff Kaster, opened April 28.  

The bar focuses on Cajun-style food and pilsners and lagers from around the world.

While the space maintains some of the elements of the previous tenant, such as polished concrete floors, Lokowich and Kaster have worked to restore some of the building’s dormant historic features, including a set of windows on the north side from which much of Downtown is visible. Additional vintage touches have been imported from other historic Minneapolis buildings, such as vintage art deco-style lights salvaged from the Foshay Tower.

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Republic coming to Seven Corners in May

WEST BANK — The Seven Corners neighborhood by the University of Minnesota has a somewhat rowdy, fraternity-centric reputation, but one longstanding bar is about to get a civilized makeover.

The owners of Preston’s Urban Pub have sold the business to Matty O’Reilly of the Aster Café and 318 Café. O’Reilly and his business partner Rick Guntzel are relaunching the bar as Republic, which will replace Preston’s infamous giant fishbowl drinks with locally-sourced food and a selection of craft beers. Republic will feature 32 taps but won’t offer macro-brews like Budweiser or Miller, instead focusing on local breweries and national microbrews.

“Some people are mad at me for getting rid of the fishbowls,” said O’Reilly. “But we’re not trying to chase the college kids away. Kids today are smart and hip to things like local food and craft beer. They deserve options beyond what the major chains offer.”

He’s insistent that Preston’s customers will feel right at home in Republic once it opens its doors in mid-May. “The place was in really good shape. It really only needs a coat of paint.”

While the new menu will offer up locally sourced food and organic ingredients, O’Reilly says that diners don’t need to worry about a price hike. “This isn’t a fine dining place. It’s burgers and fries. Ninety percent of the menu is under $10 dollars. The way people are eating is changing, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.”

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Deal for former Burger King site falls through


CENTRAL AVENUE NE — A deal to buy the old Burger King site at 1717 Central Ave. has fallen through, according to the company marketing the property.

“It was due to a contingency clause in the contract,” said Brian Bruggeman, an associate with NAI Welsh. “The purchasing company didn’t approve their internal inspection.”

He said a handful of purchasers are interested in the property, however, including parties that were attracted to the original listing last winter.

This time around, Bruggeman said, Welsh is promoting the site as ideal for redevelopment, rather than a second-generation restaurant.

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Panchero’s Mexican Grill closes in Block E

HENNEPIN — At the rate that Block E is losing tenants, news that another one has shut down is hardly surprising.

But the latest Block E casualty may not have closed simply because of slow sales. According to the social media manager at the Panchero’s Mexican Grill chain, the Block E location shut its doors because it did not fit with the development plans for the complex. Block E owner Alatus is pushing plans for an upscale casino in the retail complex. They unveiled plans for the project at the state Capitol May 4.

The news of the Panchero’s closure broke via Twitter: “The Block E area has some new development plans coming, so we could not stay. Hope to be back downtown in the future!”

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Wuollet Bakery opens skyway location

Wuollet Bakery, Inc. has built quite a local following for itself over 65 years, and judging by the crowd outside the new skyway location on its opening day, Downtown is eager to gobble up the company’s signature baked goods. The new location opened at 200 S. 6th St. on April 27 to a seemingly endless line of customers.

“It’s been fantastic,” said Wuollet’s Linda Pobuda. “We opened at 7, but we had customers lined up 20 minutes before. And they’ve been coming in steadily all day since then.”

Wuollet’s skyway location offers up donuts and pastries, cookies and more, including cakes that can be ordered same day for office parties. The decorating area of the bakery is visible through its big glass windows, through which passersby can see Wuollet staffers work on artistic cupcakes, cakes and other treats.

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Walmart may be looking to open Downtown location

Minneapolis may be the home of Target, but that may not stop Walmart. According to the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal, the retail giant is talking to landlords about potential spaces for a Downtown store.

Despite an expansion in Minnesota in recent years, Walmart has denied any immediate move into Target’s home turf.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to create jobs and improve access to affordable groceries, but don’t have any new projects to announce in Minneapolis at this time,” Walmart representative Tiffany Moffatt said in an e-mail.

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ALM Corner Café replaces Lily’s


CENTRAL AVENUE — Lily’s didn’t stay empty for long at 33rd & Central. A new café with influences from Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico — the owners’ home countries — opened May 1, serving coffee, sandwiches and pastries.

ALM Corner Café takes its name from three of the shop’s founders — Ana Pinto, Lilliana Feliciano and Martha Garces. They’re excited about the fresh Queso Palmita cheese they’re using in sandwiches and dishes like cachapas, which are traditional Venezuelan corn pancakes filled with de mano cheese.

“It’s totally different,” Feliciano said of the cheese, which is made and shipped here from Texas over the course of a single day. “It’s not here in Minnesota.”

Other unique dishes include a puff pastry filled with flower squash, zucchini, corn and poblano peppers; and molletes, a french bread topped with fried beans, pico de gallo and cheese.

The shop’s coffee comes from Roastery 7, a wholesale roaster based in Brooklyn Center, and the tea is from the local supplier Tea Source. The staff suggest that customers sample the Mexican hot chocolate, which is made from real cocoa and a touch of cinnamon.

The store is a bit smaller than the former Lily’s footprint. An adjacent room and patio is now subdivided to become an antique store, Feliciano said.

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Forum Restaurant closes

HENNEPIN — Just shy of its one-year anniversary, the Forum restaurant has closed its doors. Named after the space’s original tenant, the Forum Cafeteria, Forum is just the latest in a long line of restaurants that have inhabited the space.

The original Forum restaurant closed in 1975 and briefly became Scottie’s on Seventh. The interior of the space was dismantled and relocated in 1979 to its current location inside City Center, roughly 100 feet away from its original home. Since then, the space has been home to multiple restaurants including Goodfellow’s, which survived for nearly a decade before closing its doors in 2005.

First-time restaurateur Jim Ringo took over the space last spring, around the same time he and his wife opened Ringo in St. Louis Park. That restaurant has also since closed.

Michelle Bruch contributed to this report. Reach Jeremy Zoss at jzoss@mnpubs.com. Follow him on Twitter @JzossTheJournal.