Au Bon Pain is now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner in City Center, 7th & Nicollet Mall, on the skyway level. The caf, which relocated from IDS Center, 80 S. 8th St., opened last week but will celebrate with grand opening events July 11-15. Activities include prize drawings, free samples and demos by Executive Chef Thomas John, one of Food and Wine magazine's best new chefs of 2002 for his work at Mantra in Boston.
The IDS Au Bon Pain closed in January; the City Center caf joins several other recent restaurants recently opened in the currently remodeling City Center.
Golden Valley-based Border Foods operates two other Au Bon Pain cafs Downtown - in the Baker Center at 109 S. 7th St. and in the 225 South 6th Street office tower.
Au Bon Pain, which means "the place of good bread" in French, features artisan breads, pastries, sandwiches, wraps and soups.
A Downtown version of the popular Uptown Diner will anchor the Sexton Lofts at South 8th Street & Portland Avenue.
Owner John McCarty said he "could not be more excited to be in Elliot Park," which he added "feels like the most exciting part of Downtown."
The 3,500-square-foot restaurant will be "the exact same thing" as McCarty's Uptown Diner, 2548 Hennepin Ave S., a longtime area breakfast and lunch favorite. McCarty's St. Paul-based Landmark Corp. also owns and operates the Calhoun Grill in Southwest Minneapolis' Calhoun Village, and St. Paul's Louisiana Caf and Grandview Grill.
The restaurant will anchor the parking structure, to be built next to the Sexton building, which Swervo Development is renovating as condo and commercial space. Retail and "live/work" units wrap the first floor of the ramp, which is set back 15 feet from the street. McCarty said he plans to include sidewalk seating.
"The Downtowner" is in the running for possible names, he said. Swervo could break ground on the parking structure as early as August; McCarty expects the restaurant to be open early next year, with likely hours
6 a.m.-3 p.m.
McCarty has also purchased the 1,200-1,500-square-foot "live/work" unit adjacent to the restaurant on South 8th Street for his offices.
Tonic of Downtown opened June 10 at 323 1st Ave. N., formerly the home of Tabu and South Beach nightclubs. Tonic had closed its Uptown location April 2, after running afoul of city rules requiring 60 percent of sales be for food.
The Downtown move puts Tonic's nightclub atmosphere in a place without such requirements. Tonic will serve food, however; General Manager David Soos said customers might order from Pizza Luc - down the street at 119 N. 4th St. - until Tonic's menu is available.
Tonic is open this week Thursday-Sunday 9 p.m.-2 a.m. and will add Wednesdays next week with the grand opening of "Vision," a weekly R&B and hip-hop night. Thursdays are "18-plus," when, as always, you must be 21 years old to drink.
Those "summer hours" will stick, said Soos, unless a salsa or international night is added.
Tonic's private patio is open for smoking (or not) and food.
What's bad news for Stillwater diners is welcome for Downtown: Tim McKee and Josh Thoma will bring their restaurant La Belle Vie to Loring Park and 510 Groveland this fall.
La Belle Vie, which serves French-Mediterranean cuisine, will move to 510 Groveland, currently home to 510 Restaurant, which will remain open until La Belle Vie arrives, said 510's Brad Schutte. Schutte said the his restaurant will likely relocate, but where or when has not yet been determined.
The move to Downtown is "something our guests have been asking of us almost from the first day we opened," said managing partner Thoma. He and Executive Chef McKee also own Solera, 900 Hennepin Ave. S.