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News: Il Foro Closes
By: Stephanie March | Posted: 04/14/2014
There has been more than a year’s worth of rumoring and while there’s a press conference to announce the details of new ownership for St. Paul’s The Lexington on Thursday, we can confirm, from the actual people we’re talking about, that the new ownership team will be Josh Thoma and Kevin Fitzgerald, who also own Smack Shack, and Jack Riebel, formerly of Butcher and the Boar. This is not a shocking revelation to those in the inner food circles, there have been mutterings and unconfirmed confirmations for the last few weeks.
Thoma and Riebel, who worked together at the La Belle Vie when it was out in Stillwater, have indeed partnered up to save the Grand Dame of Grand Ave.
“Josh, Kevin, and I are all St. Paul guys, I grew up right down the block from The Lex,” Riebel told me. “We are excited to be bringing the iconic space back to life and hopefully giving it a place in the future of this area.”
They’re not really going to do much with the space, other than a light updating. Which is great because it has such great bones. One of the things they are most excited for is the neglected ballroom on the second floor. They hope to renovate it a bit to make it into a great private dining option, one with access to the roof. So yes, the team plans to move ahead with the approved rooftop patio dining.
The menu is still in the works, this deal is so fresh that they’re still in the middle of signing everything, but they know they want to focus on Midwest supper club food that is updated and revitalized, but kept accessible and made great with the highest quality ingredients. They’ll source locally, and make it all in house, but the message is “This is The Lex,” it’s about old-school cool and not getting too fancy or over complicated with the food.
The bar area will remain mostly unchanged, with minor updates, but the menu will still have some timeless Lex items. The cocktails will be less about mixology and more about classic mixers and good ol’ barkeeps.
Thoma added, “We weren’t really seeking this kind of project, but this is an historic, classic St. Paul restaurant . . . this is one of those once-in-a-lifetime legacy deals. Kevin and I were totally excited to bring Jack into the mix, he’s one of the best, hardest working chefs in town.”
The team takes over the space this week, with a hopeful opening late 2014.
Stephanie March is Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s food and dining editor. See bio
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