Photo by Caitlin Abrams
Isaac Becker (left) and Daniel del Prado (right)
If you don’t know the name, Daniel del Prado has long been chef Isaac Becker’s right hand man. Becker, as one of our James Beard award winners, is chef and co-owner with wife Nancy St. Pierre of three of Minneapolis’ best restaurants—112 Eatery, Bar la Grassa, and Burch Steak and Pizza. Del Prado helped Becker open Bar la Grassa, then went to Portland for a few years of cooking and returned to Minneapolis to open Burch, which he has been running ever since. “This is a bittersweet move for me,” del Prado told me. “I’m excited—but I love working with Isaac. We go to yoga together every morning, he is my mentor, and I love Nancy too. So, I am happy because it is time to do my own thing, but sad to leave.”
His own thing is big, really big—in fact, it’s two things. Del Prado has teamed up with business partners John Gross and Ben Hertz, and the three are first opening a small barbecue spot on the northern fringes of the North Loop this spring or summer, and after that will come an Argentinian fish house in the farther reaches of Southwestern Minneapolis by late summer or fall.
The barbecue spot will be small, says Del Prado, who asked me not to make a big fuss about it. Okay, no fuss—just 60 seats, simple craft cocktails $9 and under, a small menu of Texas barbecue, and some sparkling wines and beers that tend towards the lager side of life. “I really believe in affordable food,” del Prado told me, “That’s why I want a $9 cocktail instead of $13, and a very small menu, with a very classic Texas focus.” Like how focused? Maybe just brisket, pork ribs, turkey, and six sides. Del Prado told me he’s got a mac and cheese finished with Roquefort that’s quite the thing.
Then will come the restaurant I can make a fuss about. It will be an Argentinian-focused fish house near the corner of 54th and Penn, in far southwest Minneapolis. “It’s going to be a seafood restaurant,” says del Prado. “People think you can’t get very fresh seafood here, but I can get fish that is swimming today by tomorrow morning—from the east coast or the west coast. I don’t want to say 'sustainable' because I think everything must be. It’s like saying we cook everything in house—yes, everything must always be sustainable and cooked in house.” If Argentinian fish seems at first a head-scratcher, the key is to think about hardwood fires, fish, and then bold sauces. “I want to use the same idea Isaac used to open 112,” del Prado told me. “Honest food—elegant but approachable. I am very strong-minded, I know what I like, and I like fire and char ... seafood with that rustic ‘we’re on the beach’ style of cooking. That’s how I like to eat.” Del Prado says he has some good seafood sandwiches at approachable prices too—look for a fried calamari sandwich with a giardiniera mayo on a brioche bun, he says. So, would you have expected this, Minneapolis? A live fire Argentinian fish house? One last shocker: del Prado, who has been studying wine for years, says this food goes beautifully with Rhone wines—so expect a wine list that’s focused on the Southern Rhone region, while including South American elements.
I didn’t see it coming, but I couldn’t be more thrilled, it feels great when someone who has put in years in the Minneapolis scene makes a big move. Who knows, 2017 just might go down in history as the year of del Prado.