Anyone driving by the high-profile corner of Franklin and Hennepin, on the busy trail connecting Uptown and Downtown will have noticed that the paper came off the windows this week at Burch, the highly anticipated new mega-project by James Beard award winning chef Isaac Becker, of you-still-can’t-get-in-there 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa. But what does the paper coming off the windows mean?
It means Becker is in there training cooks, right now. Training a lot of cooks. Upstairs, 150 seats for people who want steak and/or dumplings. Yes, I said dumplings. Becker told me the new spot will have a whole section of menu sides exploring the hitherto locally unexplored territory of northern European dumplings—pretzel dumplings, handmade spaetzel, semolina dumplings, and khinkali, Georgian stuffed dumplings. What’s with all the dumplings? Becker says they’re delicious—and will serve as a pasta-lover’s destination, not unlike Bar La Grassa, for non-meat lovers. (Yes, there will be lots of straight up vegetables too.)
On a diet? Fear not! Becker says there will also be an extensive raw section, of both fish and meat—oyster raw bar, crudo, tartare, the works. Paleos are not being left out. And speaking of meat: Lots of it. Most, Becker tells me, will be available in different portions, small or large, and different grades (Prime and Choice, that is, fatty and lush or lean), and different methods of animal husbandry, namely grass-fed or corn-fed.
“Personally I love Prime,” Becker told me. “But a lot of people love grass-fed. With the different sizes, you don’t have to overeat or spend too much money.” This will be a new sort of steakhouse, one for people who like to nibble and graze, too. All the steak will come from the sustainable cooperative Niman Ranch, which gets much of its meat from Iowa and Minnesota—and, oddly, has a profound connection to the corner of Hennepin and Franklin.
Really. I talked to Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch, years ago, and he told me he grew up in Minneapolis, not too far from where Burch is, in a family that owned a grocery store, which became Kenny’s Market, which became the Patina on Franklin. It was in this little, community grocery store that Bill Niman began thinking about the importance of knowing where your food came from. It was from this very grocery store that the young Bill Niman heard his relatives talking about what a pity it was that local meat production was vanishing. Lo, it may have been right by the hand-letter-pressed thank-you-notes section at Patina that the very seeds for a California-branded, Midwest-supplied, sustainable, family-farm-based empire was born! Or maybe by the sage tea tree candles. Or by the buttercup rhinestone earrings. Somewhere. No matter.
What does matter is that Burch is opening soon! This week, Becker tells me, the cooks train. That would be the upstairs cooks, making dumplings and veggies and steak, and the downstairs cooks, working in the separate pizza restaurant, where everything hot will come from a central pizza oven, and there also will be salads, cold apps, wine, beer, and cocktails. Name? For now: Burch Pizza Bar. After the cooks get settled, in comes Nancy St. Pierre, Becker’s wife and the front of the house force who has made the Becker-cheffed restaurants a national presence. St. Pierre will then start training her staff of servers, hosts, and so forth, who will be eating what the cooks are testing, breaking in computer systems, troubleshooting ice machines, and doing all the things you do to get a restaurant open. As Becker puts it, “Lots of things we’ve been working on for the past year, to make a couple plates of something doesn’t really tell you anything. You have to make a lot, that’s how you learn. So that’s what we’re doing.”
And doing with time pressure—If everything goes well, target opening date: Feb. 19. Right after key restaurant staff at 112 and Bar La Grassa recover from the tsunami that is Valentine’s week. Till then: Break a leg, Burch! All Minneapolis is now peering in your windows, wishing you the best.
Burch, 1934 Hennepin Ave. Mpls. Target opening date Feb. 19, 2013.
Can’t wait? Visit a sister property.
112 Eatery, 112 N. 3rd St. , Mpls., 612-343-7696, 112eatery.com
Bar La Grassa, 800 Washington Ave. N. Mpls., 612-333-3837, barlagrassa.com