Architecture + Design

Stripped Down

The familiar brick building at the northwest corner of Hennepin and Franklin was established in 1913.

Stripped Down
Photo by Steve Henke

Where: Burch Steakhouse
Designer: Matt Kreilich and Julie Snow, Julie Snow Architects

The familiar brick building at the northwest corner of Hennepin and Franklin was established in 1913. Most locals remember its former resident, Burch Pharmacy, an 80-year-old institution that at one time allowed regulars to keep a house account. Or at least that’s the kind of anecdote people are sharing when they come in to check out chef Isaac Becker’s Burch Steakhouse and Pizza Bar, which now occupies the two-level space.

“We’ve loved this spot all our life,” says Nancy St. Pierre, Becker’s wife and co-owner of their new digs. “At one point Isaac lived about a block away; he’d walk to the drugstore to buy his laundry detergent.” The character of the location was a big selling point when the couple and their third partner, Ryan Burnet, decided to take it on. They agreed that they wanted to highlight the original features of the building as much as possible, and they hired Julie Snow Architects (JSA) to help them peel back the layers and make it feel new.

“We tried to find the qualities of the space that existed and reveal them in a fresh way,” says design principal Matt Kreilich. They lucked out when they uncovered beautiful brick and limestone walls behind the Sheetrock—both were left in their natural state. Then two weeks before opening, layers of linoleum came up to reveal vintage white and brown tile. Slate was chosen to cover the rest of the new walls and encase the shiny stainless-steel open kitchen with a contrasting matte surface.

To amp up the cavernous basement, JSA installed track lighting around the perimeter, neon tubes on the ceiling, and white subway tile on the pizza bar. Next to it, a black-and-white photo of the late rapper Eazy-E stands watch over dinner. Meanwhile, upstairs, wooden tables stained to just shy of black have a view of the kitchen, an L-shaped cocktail bar, and traffic lights on the street. “We wanted it to feel open and dynamic and to reflect the activity on Hennepin,” says Kreilich, who hung custom horizontal mirrors above banks of blue booths to help achieve that effect. The booths provide the one zip of color in the almost entirely neutral restaurant. “I think they call it ‘ink,’” says Nancy. “We wanted a color that didn’t say ‘steakhouse.’”