It has been a rough year for restaurants, both here and across the country. Close to a dozen have closed in the neighborhoods served by the Villager since the outbreak of COVID-19 began. Almost 100 have closed across the Twin Cities. Those that have managed to survive the statewide lockdown of last spring and summer and the partial shutdown since November are anxiously awaiting Governor Tim Walz’s announcement on January 11 on whether he will end or extend the prohibition on indoor dining and drinking at restaurants.

In the meantime, several local organizations are attempting to come to their aid with a two-week promotion, Taste of Ward 3: Save Our Restaurants. Those who order takeout meals from participating restaurants between January 9 and 23 and submit their receipts will be entered in a drawing for restaurant gift cards. Every two receipts are good for one entry in the drawing.

The promotion is sponsored by the Highland District Council, Macalester-Groveland Community Council, Highland Business Association, Grand Avenue Business Association and the High Winds Fund of Macalester College. More information and a list of participating restaurants is available at tasteofward3.com.

“Restaurants contribute so much to our community,” said Michelle Doyle of the Highland District Council. “They make our neighborhood more interesting and vibrant. They’re there for us at community events and fundraisers. We want to ensure that they’re here post-pandemic.”

   
restaurant
Atzín Rayas, manager of La Cocina de Ana, 2559 W. Seventh St., boxed up take-and-bake orders for patrons' New Year’s Eve celebrations. Photo by Brad Stauffer

“Restaurants are a key component of our neighborhoods,” said Brian Wagner, the Macalester-Groveland Community Council’s business liaison. “Knowing our names when we walk in is integral, and the walkability factor is amazing.”

The promotion comes too late for several restaurants in Ward 3, including Bar Brigade, Cleveland Wok, Rah’Mn, Grandview Grill, and Sweet Pea’s Public House, all of which have closed over the past nine months.

“Things have been tough with the continual shutdowns,” said Stephanie Shimp of Blue Plate Restaurant Company, which operates the Highland Grill at 771 S. Cleveland Ave., the Groveland Tap at 1834 Saint Clair Ave. and the Longfellow Grill at 2990 W. River Pkwy. in Minneapolis. “Doing takeout alone is not sustainable.”

 

house ad

 

“Things have been tough with the continual shutdowns,” said Stephanie Shimp of Blue Plate Restaurant Company, which operates the Highland Grill at 771 S. Cleveland Ave., the Groveland Tap at 1834 Saint Clair Ave. and the Longfellow Grill at 2990 W. River Pkwy. in Minneapolis. “Doing takeout alone is not sustainable.”

Shimp is hopeful that the January promotion will bring in additional business. “We want everyone to know we need their support,” she said. “It’s vital that communities continue to support small businesses.”

Cecil’s Delicatessen at 651 S. Cleveland Ave. took its takeout business for granted in the past, but that is what has sustained the 71-year-old restaurant over the past year. Still, business overall is just half of what it was when the 80-seat dining room was open, according to Cecil’s general manager Brad Hall. Delivery service has also become a big part of the deli’s retail business.

Another business model that has been working pretty well during the pandemic is the “take and bake” format at La Cocina de Ana, 2559 W. Seventh St. The year-old eatery has been packaging fully cooked dishes and displaying them in glass-enclosed refrigerators. Heating instructions are printed on the packages.

“We got lucky in terms of the pandemic,” said La Cocina co-owner Atzin Rayas. “We haven’t had to close.” Rayas is hopeful that the January promotion will increase the restaurant’s visibility.

restaurant
Kate Mayer and Brian Tiemann place their takeout order with server Scott Flynn at Grand Avenue’s Shish. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Restaurants designed primarily for takeout have been doing OK through the current shutdown. The new Tono Pizzeria + Cheese­steak at 1580 Saint Clair Ave., for instance, has found its early support from the surrounding neighborhoods encouraging, according to manager Sean Grimes. “We hope to see more students when the colleges (return from winter break),” he said.

Several restaurants introduced new takeout specials during the holidays. Highland Grill offered special family meals for Christmas and New Year’s takeout. Estelle, 1806 Saint Clair Ave., sold out its prime rib Christmas dinners for four.

Colossal Cafe, 1340 Grand Ave., is packaging “take and bake” breakfasts of omelets, ham, cheesy potatoes and cinnamon rolls. Agra Culture, 721 S. Cleveland Ave., has added whole pies from Buttered Tin Bakery to its menu. Grand Catch, 1612 Grand Ave., is offering Louisiana seafood “boil kits” that customers can cook at home.

Almost all full-service restaurants have had to lay off employees. Some are encouraged by the aid packages recently approved by the federal and state governments, including a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and an extension of unemployment benefits.

The government funding “is a bit of a Band-Aid,” said Tony Chesak, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association. “It will help, but not to the extent of what these folks have lost.”

— Carolyn Walkup

COMMENTS TERMS OF SERVICE

The Villager welcomes comments from readers. Please include your full name and the neighborhood in which you live. Be respectful of others and stay on topic. We reserve the right to remove any comment we deem to be profane, rude, insulting or hateful. Comments will be reviewed before being published.

Leave a Reply