However you feel about Dean Vlahos, you can't deny that the guy has had a knack for winning the upper-middle class suburban eater. Champps was the ticket that made him rich, and Redstone was on its way when Petters and that nasty business boiled up.
But he swore he'd rise again, and so he has with the opening of BLVD Kitchen & Bar. Is it funny that the new restaurant sits within spitting distance of the Minnetonka Champps and Redstone? I think it is. Funnier still was the pre-opening party, which was jacked and stacked with the tanned and botoxed lake-dwelling elite. Where were my gay mafia friends? Where were the bloggers and the tweeters that were at the also-suburban Rojo opening?
The space is a slick redo of an old Don Pablos, and it reads quite urban/modern with white subway tile, a huge zinc bar, and a wide-open kitchen. The outside lounge is well appointed with comfy furniture; it looks good.
I was surprised to see Tobie Nidetz in the kitchen. Tobie is a chef-about-town who has consulted on lots of projects including Ike's, Jimmy's, Stone's, Major's, and Cara Irish Pubs. His food tends to be comfortable and accessible yet still interesting, and BLVD seems to be following that trend.
The menu isn't sprawling, but includes an insert with changing entrees, nice for a suburban location. It runs the American gamut from seared tuna to sliders, with ribs and chops and wings in between. There's a carving station that allows you to order freshly carved meats and build your own sandwich. The kitchen has a wood-fired grill and the ribs I tried were just the right kind of chewy with a nice smokiness that didn't come from sauce. I will say that both the turkey burger slider and pulled pork slider on a pretzel bun were pretty tasty.
I stopped by last night on my way back from the neighboring Dick's Sporting Goods, and they were on an hour wait at 6:30 p.m.