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Restaurant Levain ended 2006 by closing it's doors. Restaurant 5 lost Chef Woodman a bit before that, and is now finished. What is happening to the state of fine dining in the Twin cities and who will be next??

Edited by A Soldier in the Trenches (log)

"Go ahead, play with your food....we do!" -Tommy Head

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Restaurants come and restaurants go, and it is not always the mediocre places that close down. In spite of this, the fine dining scene continues to improve steadily in every major city I've been in, with many more excellent venues than ten or even five years ago. I can only guess that this trend will continue, as more and more people become more knowledgeable and seek out new fine dining options.

Disclaimer: I am not a resident of the Twin Cities, and it's been some years since I spent time in that area, but I would be shocked - SHOCKED! - if the above description didn't apply there as well.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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Restaurant Levain ended 2006 by closing it's doors.

What???!!! My one meal there three years ago was very memorable! How sad! Is the bread company also folding? :shock:

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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Restaurant Levain ended 2006 by closing it's doors.

What???!!! My one meal there three years ago was very memorable! How sad! Is the bread company also folding? :shock:

The complete story is that Levain closed down on December 31. The reason given was lack of diners during the week. Weekends did well, but couldn't support the lighter turnouts during weeknights. This is a typical problem, and gets compounded a bit more during the winter months.

Turtle Bread Company is still in business. The space formerly occupied by Levain will reopen as a more casual neighborhood restaurant. Perhaps not the level of cuisine as Levain, but not the prices of Levain either, which supposedly contributed to lack of weeknight diners.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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That probably makes senes - the restaurant is tucked away behind a bread shop and the front door to the restaurant was on a side-street to a neighborhood side-street... I'll be interested to know what opens in its stead. I'm assuming that space (and the new venture) is owned by the Turtle Bread Co.?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Part of the problem (but by no means the whole problem) seems to be how spread out the Twin Cities are and how many people live in the suburbs. People seem to be unwilling to come into Minneapolis or St. Paul during the week for dinner, especially for fine dining, when they can just go to the Big Bowl or the Chili's at the local mall.

The problem can be seen even with not-so-fine dining, such as the woes recently faced by the Midtown Global Market. Many suburban folks (and I'm not trying to insult everyone who lives in the suburbs) have heard stories about how dangerous East Lake Street is and aren't about to drive all the way there and try to find parking, for first-rate tamales and free range chicken when they can get third-rate tamales at Don Pablo's and regular chicken at Cub Foods or Byerly's without having to brave the city. While I have no problem with MGM's location and even applaud the planners for trying to revitalize that part of town, I do think it was a mistake to put the market on East Lake. Similar markets such as Pike Place in Seattle are much better located, just off downtown so that they're convenient for people who happen to be downtown for something else to drop by and shop.

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It really is all about location. Midtown Global Market will eventually die just as Riverplace did. Nice building to remodel but just in the wrong location. Too many developers get enticed by remodeling historic or unique buildings without understanding the dynamics. The East Lake neighborhood is to buried in poverty with little enducement to redevelop considering the energy is all near downtown in Elliot Park, the warehouse district and around the new Guthrie. Even those areas are starting to wane a bit. There are some inner city successes such as Uptown, 50th & France and Grand Avenue.

Levain had an uphill battle in being located practically alone in a moderate priced neighborhood charging upscale prices. Most people wouldn't even know how to find it let alone find a place to park.

It seems most discussion centers on the urban core as a necessity to have a restaurant. The population of the Twin Cities is a 5 to 1 ratio of suburbs to Minneapolis/St. Paul combined. There are some fine establishments in the suburbs. It is not all Chilies, Big Bowl, Don Pablos and Applebees. Excelsior has two very first rate restaurants in Biella and Jake O'Connor's that maybe the city folk ought to give a try. They have moderate independent choices in Hazellwood Grill and Big Buck Roadhouse near Excelsior and there are several others. They don't have to come to the city. Best BBQ? Bet you all didn't know it could probably be Baker's Ribs in Eden Prairie.

I ventured downtown last night but I did not spend a lot of money. I went to Grumpy's Bar Downtown on Washington Avenue and a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. I drove 25 miles one way for it. As for Levain, we checked it out last year and then opted for Adrian's Bar down the street.

Davydd

It is just an Anglicized Welsh spelling for David to celebrate my English/Welsh ancestry. The Welsh have no "v" in their alphabet or it would be spelled Dafydd.

I must warn you. My passion is the Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich

Now blogging: Pork Tenderloin Sandwich Blog

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As for Levain, we checked it out last year and then opted for Adrian's Bar down the street.

Now that's some good bar food that often gets overshadowed by Matt's Bar, the 5 and 8, and the Cardinal Bar (all sort of nearby). I also like the Cedar Inn.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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Part of the problem (but by no means the whole problem) seems to be how spread out the Twin Cities are and how many people live in the suburbs.  People seem to be unwilling to come into Minneapolis or St. Paul during the week for dinner, especially for fine dining, when they can just go to the Big Bowl or the Chili's at the local mall.

It does seem to me that there are two demographics. The neighborhood diners during the week and the Friday/Saturday crowd that is more likely to include people who drive in from the suburbs.

But it leaves me wondering what how to appeal to each group. Would prix fixe menus work for the Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday crowd?

Anyone who says I'm hard to shop for doesn't know where to buy beer.

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For us, it's not that we don't love fine dining and would love to support on a regular basis these places.

But, for many people, it a matter of choices we are forced to make. In our case, it is three children, a husband who doesn't get home on a weeknight until about 6:00 pm (and we live in a northern suburb, but that is not the most important factor). The kids need to eat. There's homework. There's the Teen who is rapidly approaching college! And, speaking to the latter point, preparing for college tuition and triple digit dollar meals just don't seem like the right thing as often as they used to. And, we have made the choice for me to stay home, to be here to get the kids off and home safely and without the potential problems of an unsupervised household. Fine dining? We'll be back at it, just as soon as the youngest is a bit older! I don't think I'm alone here, and I know that when Paul and I get get away for a bit, we're more likely to go for an appetizer (or two or three!) and a glass of wine than a meal, given monetary and time constraints on a weekday.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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We had a wedding in Minneapolis in November and had reservations for two nights at the Sheraton, right next to the Midtown Global Market. We were unaware that this was a "dangerous" area and had a great time. The Global Market was great.

We had dinner at Victor's Cafe 79, quiet on a Thursday night, and at Quang, packed on a Friday night. Both dinners were very good.

We also went to Al's Breakfast.

We liked the city very much.

Every city has problems.

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - Virginia Woolf

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Busy jobs, a 6 month baby, and a love to cook at home keeps us away from restaurants.

Last time we were at Auriga was probably a year ago. The food was great. Actually, I think it was the best restaurant I have experienced in Minneapolis. Yes, I have not been to that many... There are a couple out there that we need to make it... La Bella Vie and Heartland come to mind.

It is sad that they are closing, but I guess I am part of the problem. Last time we went to dinner at a "fine dining" restaurant was 5 months ago. Al Vento, close to our house. And although the food is great, it is in a different league compared to Auriga.

We went to Levian as well. I was intrigued and wanted to come back, however the short ribs cooked "sous vide" were a disappointment. How can they be dry? I cook them at home that way and are almost impossible to dry them... Nonetheless, it was in our list of places to revisit sometime. Auriga as well...

A dinner for my wife and I in these restaurants is going to be around $125. A visit to Solo Vino, Coastal Seafoods, Trader Joes, and Lunds and I can cook a few great dishes at home for the same price. Yes, I have gone to all those places in the same day a few times... Unfortunately for restaurants, I rather cook.

I guess, I do not have the answers to why great places close. Anyway, I wish the owners and employees of Auriga luck in their future.

Alex

Edited by AlexP (log)
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From the piece linked above by Brad:

Chef-driven. Food-forward. Whatever the words, January was a bleak month for the category, with three such Minneapolis restaurants closing in nearly as many weeks. First was Levain, which opened at 48th Street and Chicago Avenue S. in Minneapolis in 2003. For chef Steven Brown and his crew, the party was over on New Year's Eve. Then came Five Restaurant & Street Lounge, which opened at 29th Street and Bryant Avenue S. in September 2005 as a high-profile platform for chef Stewart Woodman's talents; it sputtered to a halt barely two months after the restaurant's ownership gave Woodman his walking papers.

A bleak month for restaurants by Rick Nelson

=R=

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And here's Dara Moskowitz take on the matter in City Pages.

I know woefully little about fine dining in the Twin Cities, but the situation with the downtown bar and club scene is quite similar. I suspect there is an underlying problem having to do with property values?

SB :hmmm:

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And here's Dara Moskowitz take on the matter in City Pages.

I know woefully little about fine dining in the Twin Cities, but the situation with the downtown bar and club scene is quite similar.  I suspect there is an underlying problem having to do with property values?

SB  :hmmm:

From the Dara Moskowitz piece:

I went through all the stages of grief when chef Doug Flicker called to tell me that Auriga was closing. Denial: You can't be serious, you made it this far—you outlasted Five Restaurant & Street Lounge, you outlasted Restaurant Levain, both of which closed in the last few weeks; the customers will come back, they have nowhere else to go—just hold on!

Then, anger: What the hell is wrong with people that the Cheesecake Factory is packed and Auriga can't make it! And: What the hell is wrong with me, why didn't I write about how great Auriga is more recently, and stop this? Truth be told, I had Auriga on deck for a re-review rave next month, but I spent the last year putting it off, waiting for the pastry person to stabilize, waiting for the new front-of-the-house guy to get settled, and now it turns out that all that waiting was waiting exactly too long, and how I hate, hate, hate myself.

Then There Were None by Dara Moskowitz

=R=

"Hey, hey, careful man! There's a beverage here!" --The Dude, The Big Lebowski

LTHForum.com -- The definitive Chicago-based culinary chat site

ronnie_suburban 'at' yahoo.com

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