HENNEPIN — Has Bullfrog Cajun Bar croaked? Not exactly, but it will get an inter-species makeover later this month.
On Dec. 17, the bar and restaurant at 1111 Hennepin Ave. will get a new name, beer list and menu when it becomes The Bulldog Downtown, the third outpost of a mini-chain that includes The Bulldog Uptown in the Whittier neighborhood and The Bulldog Lowertown in St. Paul. A fourth Bulldog restaurant, The Bulldog Northeast, has different ownership and a slightly different menu.
Co-owner Jeff Kaster said Bullfrog was “fine financially,” and that the coming changes were more of “a branding issue.”
Kaster said he and business partner Matt Lokowich set a goal to open a certain number of Bulldogs, and have decided to bring the Bullfrog in line with their other restaurants. He anticipated the Bulldog’s beer-and-burger menu would also have a broader appeal than frog legs and po’ boys.
“The Cajun food, it was great, but authentic Southern people come in and it’s not Southern enough because we kind of dumbed it down for Minnesota palates,” Kaster said.
The Bullfrog paired its Cajun cuisine with a tap beer list that featured mainly pilsners and lagers — clean-tasting, classic beer styles, but nothing like the hop-heavy palate-blasters that many of today’s more adventurous beer drinkers crave. All but maybe two of the bar’s 24 taps will be replaced with the “high-powered Belgians” and “crafty craft beers” found at The Bulldog, Kaster said.
“Lagers and pilsners are great beers, but it’s just not where the scene is at,” Kaster acknowledged.
Nonetheless, he said Bullfrog has done well in a “tricky little area” where parking can be difficult, drawing a steady crowd of neighborhood residents and food-industry workers.
The bar was scheduled to close Dec. 16, a Sunday, for light remodeling before reopening as The Bulldog on Dec. 17.