From Grand Avenue to downtown Saint Paul to the far reaches of West Seventh Street, four new dining establishments have opened or will open in the coming weeks in the capital city. While all of the establishments are or will be serving food, beverages are clearly their top attractions. They include the following:

Bar + Cart

Craft cocktails are the specialty of this cozy newcomer at 1571 Grand Ave. in the space formerly occupied by Khyber Pass restaurant. The name Bar + Cart pays homage to the portable bar carts that cocktail fans often had in their homes in the 1940s and ’50s.

Brian Riess and partner Ralena Young are veterans of the hospitality trade, but this is their first foray into restaurant ownership. The pair did the buildout themselves, from the floor-to-ceiling back bar to the individual tabletops.

Bar + Cart co-owner Brian Riess poses in the dining room on a recent weeknight. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Bar + Cart’s extensive cocktail menu features Riess’s signature Mont Blanc, a combination of gin, blanc vermouth, genepy, absinthe rinse and lemon spray; the classic Sazerac with rye, cognac, sugar, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe and Angostura bitters; and the vintage Mary Pickford with rum, pineapple, maraschino, grenadine and lime.

The establishment’s food menu changes often. Many items are meant to be shared. Examples include a footlong lobster roll; loaded hummus with flatbread; smoked salmon spread with crostini; tuna poke bowl; lamb chops; a cheeseburger with caramelized onion, red chili bacon and kettle chips; and Chilean sea bass.

“We’re still tweaking the food menu,” Riess said. “If something is too cumbersome to get out (of the kitchen), we remove it. We have no fryer or freezer, so everything is fresh.”

There are just 55 seats in Bar + Cart. That includes the lounge in the foyer. Riess likes how the relatively small space allows him to interact with his patrons. “We want this to be a comfortable neighborhood spot,” he said. “We hope patrons come back for the hospitality. Our staff is our most important asset.”


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Bar + Cart adds a 20 percent service charge to all bills. That amount is divided equally among the waitstaff, so no additional tipping is necessary. Hours are 3-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 3 p.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.

Gambit Brewing Company

Josh Secaur, former brewmaster at Bobtown in Roberts, Wisconsin, has opened a new brewery on the garden level of the Pioneer Endicott Building at 141 E. Fourth St., in the space formerly occupied by 12welve Eyes Brewing.

Gambit Brewing has a total of 94 seats at the bar, around tables and in the lounge. It serves a wide variety of beers and hard seltzers that partner Mike Christianson flavors in-house with fresh syrups. With low lighting and recorded jazz, Secaur and Christianson are striving for a nightclub atmosphere.

Due to the historic status of the Pioneer Endicott, Secaur said he is unable to add a kitchen. However, he plans to expand his menu of do-it-yourself charcuterie boards with cheeses and cured meats produced in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Hours are 3 p.m.-close Monday through Thursday and noon-close Friday through Sunday.

Wildflyer Coffee

Wildflyer Coffee is planning to open in March in the former Fresh Grounds coffee shop at 1362 W. Seventh St. The nonprofit venture is dedicated to hiring teenagers and young adults who have experienced homelessness or other housing instability. It works closely with RS EDEN, a social service agency that will be providing single-occupancy apartments on the building’s second floor.

Wildflyer tested its business model at its first coffee house on Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood. Program manager Kenzie Diessner is a licensed social worker who works with employment counselors to oversee the progress made by current and past Wildflyer employees in securing and keeping stable jobs.

Wildflyer’s plans include a full espresso bar, brewed coffee and tea and various caffeine-free beverages. It will have between 30 and 40 seats. Initially, it will serve pastries, bagels and other goods made at local bakeries. However, the building has a full kitchen, and Wildflyer plans to develop its own food service at a future date, according to Diessner.

Wandering Leaf Brewing, Soul Lao Restaurant

A new brewery and Laotian restaurant are slated to open this spring in the former Family Dollar store at Sibley Plaza, 2402 W. Seventh St.

Sibley PLaza
Wandering Leaf, the new taproom that is scheduled to open this spring in Sibley Plaza, is planning to have a 50-seat patio outside of the establishment at 2402 W. Seventh St.

Matthew Holton, co-owner of Wandering Leaf, has a degree in horticulture. He plans to create a “living green space” in the tap room with planters filled with ornamentals and a “living wall” of other plant species.

Holton used to manage a vineyard in Minnesota. He already has all of the equipment he needs for the brewery, since he ordered everything a year ago, even before his plans received city approval. “We took a gamble and it paid off,” he said.

Wandering Leaf will have about 100 seats in all at the bar and at tables. However, Sibley Plaza landlord Paster Properties is planning to build a patio next to the building, and that should increase the tap room’s seating by about 50.

Soul Lao Restaurant will provide the food for Wandering Leaf. The first brick-and-mortar venture for food truck owners Eric Phothisanh and Sabrina Boualaphanh, Soul Lao will serve such traditional Laotian dishes as spicy red curry, rotisserie chicken marinated in lemongrass, oyster sauce, fish sauce and such exotic meats as chicken feet and ox tail.

— Carolyn Walkup


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