If you think it's weird that I base my holiday shopping around where I can have a nip afterward, at least all the brewery-based craft markets are feeling me. Also, one of the country's largest retailers, apparently. Tomorrow, Tuesday 11/29, Barnes & Noble is launching their new prototype store on the lower level of the Galleria, and quite notably, it contains a Barnes & Noble Kitchen.
Revamping the old Edina store that had stood for 25 years, the company decided it would be a good testing ground for this new prototype, a book store with a full-service bar and restaurant (there's only one other in New York). For more on the store and all it offers, check out Ali Shops for our tag-team effort. My one thing on the store: well done on the manga and vinyl section, Jake approved.
As for the restaurant, it's a beautiful and warmly designed space that is intended to balance the frenetic grab-n-go world, by offering a soft space to sit-n-stay. It blends well with the open space and brings a woodsy, warm yin to the clear and bright yang of the retail area. The design feels modern but comfortable, with plenty of wood and natural accents. I love that there are various places a solo diner/drinker/laptoper can plug in (and in the dining room, not just at the front bar), but also comfortable spots you might choose to relax with a glass of wine as you dig in to the bestseller you just nabbed. Or, for instance, if you go to hear Nora McInerney Purmort on Dec. 6, you might grab your girls and head to the big round table in the back with a bottle to discuss.
The menu is an all-day offering, with some breakfast plates such as lemon ricotta pancakes and avocado toast with scrambled egg served until 11 a.m. The rest of the menu is meant to be approachable and friendly, with shareable snacks such as hummus or guacamole, plus salads, soups, and bigger plates like a brisket burger, brick chicken with potato puree, short ribs, or planked salmon with tabbouleh. There's also wine and local beer, plus a kids' menu with grilled cheese, spaghetti & meatballs, and the like.
I didn't try any food, but I have to say I am impressed with their lack of hubris. They fully admit that they are new to the restaurant game and that they've endeavored to surround themselves with experts, but they are very open to listening and understanding what people want. The menu here is like the one in NY, designed by the Branstetter Group, but it's a smaller version they'll open with. As the restaurant finds its legs, and they find the local talent they want to bring into the fold, they'll expand it and make it more locally influenced. Instead of coming in and telling us who they think we are, they wanted to find out. That's a good sign. Now they have to prove that they understand that hospitality is different from a retail transaction.
The whole idea behind a restaurant in a book store is obviously aimed at giving buyers an experience that they can't get from online shopping. Give me a nice glass of wine, some worthy tomato soup, and a stack of mags and I'm in.