What a strange weekend. Happy 4th by the way, belated is better than not at all. Anyone been to Hans Bakery in Anoka on 5th Avenue South? It is a delight, old school in the extreme, with homemade donuts that are to die for, incredible coffee cakes like Granny used to make, insane apple fritters, and, best of all, something called a Beehive—two yeasty spongy bready layers of an Eastern European variety stuffed three inches deep with fresh pastry cream. A three-pound 12-inch behemoth that serves 10 or more is 12 bucks. You have to try one! They even make individual mini-Beehives but why bother, go big or don’t go at all.
One of my fave restaurants closed the other day, RIP Mortons. And one of my least favorites is about to close as well. I have it on good authority that it is not a matter of if but a matter of when. Bellanotte has been running on fumes, and like many other businesses around town it is pretty much dead, they just don't know it yet. So what moves into those spaces downtown? Bellanotte is humongous, and will be yet another vacant spot in the cavernous hole that is the Block E behemoth on Hennepin. Last I checked, the restaurant had 453 friends on MySpace, so maybe they will all want to check out the new restaurant that might take its place. Perhaps a NASCAR themed restaurant? Bellanotte honcho Dave Koch has moved his GM from Bellanotte over to 7 Steak house/Sushi/Ultralounge, another sign that the end is near for the Big B.
7, by the way, is also supposed to get a new chef at some point, but in today’s market that might not make a difference at all in whether that restaurant stays open. Steak houses are not exactly the niche business du jour, and 7 has a lousy rep for food. I'm not sure anyone can save this place. A very highly placed person who does business with the company told me the other day that 7 can indeed make it if they get some more distance from the Denny Hecker relationship and get a realistic business plan in place for each revenue center. I am less optimistic because resuscitation jobs are the hardest trick in this trade, but if 7 did indeed bow out before 2009 ends it would be a black mark on the downtown Minneapolis restaurant scene as a whole this has been a really sad year.
And who will want to lease the Morton’s space, a room that was one of the worst in town? As much as I loved eating there, the room was depressing, all the way down in the bowels of a basement of a dungeon of a room. Very sad. And lots of hardworking folks in both restaurants are now out of work. To get even more strange, I also read yesterday that Oceanaire filed for Chapter 11. According to MSP Business Journal the company closed four of its restaurants and (Charlotte, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Seattle) will “pay its vendors for all post-petition purchases, and it anticipates no changes to employees work schedules, pay, or benefits, except at the closed locations.” The restaurant owes Coastal Seafoods more than 20K. And that’s not post petition dough either.
I wonder how much other restaurants around town owe purveyors like Coastal, local companies that essentially help bankroll restaurants by lending them food product to sell, getting paid for product weeks later. Or never, in some cases. How much did Bellanotte owe, or Morton’s? Companies who sell product to restaurants go into their business with their eyes wide open, and employees can see writing on the wall as well, but the whole thing seems sad in the extreme to me.
On a brighter note, Sea Change, Tim McKee’s new restaurant in the Guthrie will formally be open sometime after July 20th. I am also happy to note that I ate again at the Brasa in St Paul and the food there is just as deliciously awesome as you would hope, service was hip and efficient, and the large family meal table complete with Lazy Susan is as nice a touch as I have seen in a casual spot this year.