Photo by Eliesa Johnson, Styling by Liz Gardner
That’s the name folks, the Erick Harcey Linden Hills project that we first broke news about in November will be known as Upton 43. Well, at least part of it.
no As the build-out has been progressing the concept has undergone some evolution. That happens with creative types, you know. So here’s where we stand with what’s to come:
Part 1: Upton 43
The restaurant that will comprise the largest part of the project is nearing completion. The interior design work is being done by RO/LU, which is kind of a big deal. The internationally-hot-right-now-but-still-local design duo is creating the entire design environment, meaning they’re building the custom tables and chairs (there will be a specific Upton43 chair), they’re creating the bar and shelves, putting things on the wall that aren’t barnwood, to make a functional, yet totally original, space. Booths and tables will be on casters so that the floor plan can be changed to fit different needs. It will be minimalist, and push some boundaries, but still aim to be comfortable with herbs and greens delivering some pop.
Speaking of greens, here’s something: This eatery will have a serious and real focus on vegetables, which may seem shocking from the chef with all the “Praise The Lard” signs in his pig-laden Victory 44.
“Not to diminish my whole career thus far, but how hard is it really to cook meat?” said Harcey with a shrug. “I’ve always wanted to focus more on vegetables, maybe I’ve been afraid to since I’ve been the pork guy. They’re so much more exciting, I’m more engaged by veg right now. It’s more fun to take a beet and figure out how you can brine it, pickle it, shave it, puree it, all on one plate and have a ton of depth of flavor with one ingredient. We’ll put down a plate of roasted carrots, and they’ll look beautiful and simple, but when you taste them you’ll be aware of the full effort of the technique that may have taken two days to make them sing.”
Not that this place will be meat free, think of it more as flexitarian. There will be plenty of the highest quality proteins, in fact he’s locked in a local Mangalitsa pork producer. But protein might not just mean meat either, it could be in the form of a noodle that is completely constructed out of egg. Sky’s the limit here. And wait until you hear about the bread program: it might not be part of the start of the meal. What about if at the beginning of the meal, the bread dough sits on your table proofing in a box, then it’s whisked away and baked so that it can come back with your entrees and some tableside hand-churned butter? That would be something. More than anything, Harcey says he’s just excited to think and cook differently at Upton 43.
Part 2: Dirty Bird
The rotisserie chicken shop on the side is still a GO and will be called Dirty Bird. But also be prepared for the grab-n-go to be stocked with house fermented vinegars, hand-churned butters, next-level hot sauce and other condiments that will be created for both the restaurant kitchen and public purchase.
Part 3: Under Development
The kitchen lab idea has been scrapped and the back area of the building will be a used as something else. That is currently TBD.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch ….
Because money is for burning, Harcey is making some tweaks to V44 so that the whole enterprise works well together. Victory 44 Restaurant & Café will be more defined. The front will be less about coffee, but more like an all-day casual café with a menu of sandwiches and lighter plates, possibly brunch all day, a gathering space for neighbors or laptoppers. The main room and bar area will be more dining focused. The tasting menus are back with about 10 courses running $75 for two people, one of the best deals in town.
“I just really want people to come to the new spot and try something different, but I also want them to be able to come back to Victory and tuck into a big long meal if that’s what they want that night.”
Linden Hills is on track to be completed by end of summer, the V44 change-over should happen later this spring. Who needs sleep, right?