Photo by Caitlin Abrams
So, we’ve all been to Surly's new taproom (that would probably be more aptly called a megaplex, or Googledome, or landlocked-Atlantis-risen-from-the-black-Earth), right? We’ve walked past the fire pit and entered the museum-like soaring cathedral of beer, gawked at the gleaming steel beer-making apparatus, drank from one of the 20 Surly beer lines, and had some of chef Jorge Guzman’s food, like especially the barbecued brisket, which might be the best in Minnesota? Right?
Well, now get ready for phase two . . . which is gonna be a doozy.
85-Seat Elevated Restaurant
We have always known that Surly planned to have a more formal restaurant in the mix, but now that the beer hall is up and running, Jorge Guzman is turning his attention to what exactly that restaurant will be. He tells me that the restaurant will have a separate name, though they don’t have a name yet, or even a menu. Here's what is certain: it will have more refined food, that food will come out of a separate smaller kitchen dedicated to that menu, and the experience will be calibrated to a pace that’s more for a date night or other sit-and-stay-for-a-while leisurely celebration organized around tasting food and beer together.
Guzman will be designing the menu with the restaurant’s chef de cuisine Brian Hauke, well known around town for his tenure at Red Stag, the briefly brilliant Jack’s, and a few other spots.
“It’s not going to be fine dining,” Guzman tells me. “That’s one misconception I want to get out of the way. When I hear fine dining I think Le Bernardin, Eleven Madison Park, and La Belle Vie. Yes, our food will be nicely composed, but fine dining is so much more than that, and that is not what we’re doing.”
Guzman says he honestly doesn’t yet know what exactly they will be doing, that the process for the Surly beer hall involved cooking some 20 menus and tasting their way to what felt like “Surly” food, and that the process for the 85-seat elevated restaurant—which is my term for it, as it’s upstairs, as well as elevated in cuisine—will likely be the same. But that process starts now, and will culiminate in an actual restaurant maybe as early as April.
1.5-Acre Beer Garden & Possible “One Cuisine” Standalone Restaurant
Surly's plot of land is a full eight acres, mainly in Minneapolis but stretching into St. Paul and coming this spring a 1.5-acre outdoor beer garden will occupy a piece of it. It will have six or seven fire pits, at least two outdoor areas to get beer, and that’s not all! The Surly folks are right now, as we speak, exploring the possibility of live music out there, and the possibility of a standalone restaurant not unlike the park-pavilion restaurants of Sea Salt and Sandcastle. What will that possible restaurant serve? Guzman wouldn’t say, except that it’s “one cuisine.” That’s a hint, folks! Not many cuisines, like inside. "So, Jorgé’s Bouillabaisse Hut?" I asked. "Omar’s Robata Skewer Shack?" Uh, no, Guzman said. He would not confirm, but I psychically intuited: barbecue. A Surly barbecue restaurant? Now THAT would be perfect in a beer garden. Or maybe it’s going to be a Chowder Emporium? Because that would be perfect in a . . . Nah. Still thinking barbecue. Also, target capacity: 800 people.
This spring will also see the debut of Surly’s event center, so you can book an at-Surly and Surly-catered wedding, groom’s dinner, corporate planning session, Christening, Quinceanera, Bat Mitzvah, cotillion, Virginia Reel challenge, retirement party, and so on.
Oh! One more thing. When it gets nice out the Surly folks will expand the beer hall into another 120 outdoor seats.
So, picture yourself in, say, June. You wake up some sunny day, and decide it’s a day for hanging out at Surly. You head over. Will you find 400 people in the beer hall and patio, another 800 in the beer garden, 85 upstairs eating elevated food, and another 100 off somewhere at a wedding? That’s some taproom.