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Minnesota's First Vermouth
By: Andrew Zimmern | Posted: 04/11/2006
OK, the wait is over . . . . Last week I suggested a slew of concepts that would work here in this market that currently aren’t being executed. Now here’s why I think there’s a better chance of Steve Marsh and I opening an antiques shop in Kuala Lumpur than any of these happening in our lifetimes.
The Concept: A real full-service scratch delicatessen that makes everything on premises, using high-quality ingredients, just like the great delis around the rest of the country.
The Reality: Minnesotans will never pay more than ten bucks for a sandwich, which is a shame, and won’t pay for quality or for the “experience” in certain eatery categories, like this one.
The Concept: A real food emporium featuring prepared foods and specialty goods, like a Dean & Deluca—a place where imported prosciutto di Parma sits side by side with terrines, Taleggio, and truffles.
The Reality: Minnesotans are somehow less willing than residents of a city like Kansas City (which has a D & D!) to shop for foods when it means breaking out of the convenience box that the modern-day supermarkets offer. Our lack of street culture doesn’t help, but the first grocery store that can offer real high-quality cold cuts, prepared foods, and gourmet items—all at the same time—will hit a major league home run.
The Concept: A great Chinese restaurant serving high-end authentic foods; think Shun Lee Palace or Mr. Chow’s. 20.21, one of my fave eateries, doesn’t count because it does its own version of Cal-Asian food. It rocks, but it’s not the same.
The Reality: Price value again, Dad! Everyone I know will visit Chinese gastronomic temples when they travel, but back home all they want is LeeAnn Chin or the local chow mein joint. Is it just me, or would any of you be grateful to pay for great authentic straight-up Chinese food that doesn’t involve guesswork when it comes to the origins of some of the meat proteins?
The Concept: Indian food that isn’t based on a cookie-cutter menu or offers only a watered-down version of the real thing . . .think Devi or Dawat.
The Reality: Same as the Chinese issue. I am guessing that for the all the Minnesotans that email me about their transcendent experiences eating sophisticated Indian fare in other cities, there are not enough of us here to create a critical mass sufficient to support one at home. Sad, because Indian regional cuisine is hot right now, and the modern upscale take on this kind of food makes for a wondrously great restaurant experience.
The Concept: A Japanese yakitori bar, Robata grill, or shabu-shabu hot-pot restaurant.
The Reality: Please, someone, be brave. This one I would bankroll. Any of these concepts would slay 'em, even in Shakopee! The prices in concepts like these are very friendly, the fare is recognizable, and the wow factor is high.
The Concept: A South American–style steakhouse like Fogo de Chao.
The Reality: After the passing of Mojito, which was re-imagined more times than Annie and Les Mis put together, I am sure that any restaurateur, not just the nattering nabobs of negativity, are thinking twice about the efficacy of a rodizio-style restaurant here in the Twin Cities. But if an authentic one opened, with a menu and service style that stayed constant from the get-go, it would be a touchdown. Minnesotans love their steakhouses, and one that serves unlimited portions of quality food, served tableside, is a can’t-miss proposition. Fogo will open here sooner or later and prove me right. I hope a local restaurateur gets there first.
Locally owned and operated independent restaurants are the lifeblood of a vibrant local culture and economy. New concepts, “firsts” if you will, are not easy for local diners to embrace, and tougher for most restaurateurs to execute. Local restaurateurs have an unfair disadvantage when it comes to competing against chains, we know that, but if local independent restaurateurs keep opening the same old same old, they shouldn’t expect to win the hearts and minds of the dining public. In some cases, if you build it, they will come!
Andrew Zimmern is a columnist for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and the host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.See bio
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