Minneapolis vs. the Region, in restaurant terms


I’ve been in a dialogue via comment on TC Daily Planet. In the Free Speech Zone was an article of 2012 restaurant openings. What caught my eye was the exclusive focus on Minneapolis. I posted a comment that Minneapolis was not some foodie island surrounded by wasteland. The author challenged me to present a list. I listed a whole bunch of restaurants outside Fortress Minneapolis. But I was reminded this was about NEW OPENINGS, and so sad that was restricted to Minneapolis where openings are a monopoly (OK, I’m setting up a straw man here, but the drift of the argument was that Minneapolis was the sole legitimate object of the article.

So, that got me to thinking and wanting to step away with the comments on comments responded to in further comments. I don’t scan the media for new restaurant openings. It just isn’t my thing. I happen to think, after a solid 40 years on the Twin Cities scene, that anything “new” has to be in the area of nuance (or is it newance?). From the time I arrived in town, we’ve always had a full range of good eating at all price points. I think new proprietors are less filling yawning gaps, more fulfilling their personal dream by opening a food place with the hope of getting enough customers to survive.

Over the years, some legendary places have closed, but the food scene marched on. Most of us haven’t fretted about “something is missing”. However, as the concept of “foodie” has arisen, I perceive other things have arisen in course. One is a race to crown the best NEW eating place. The second is the keen desire by many to be able to say they’ve kept up with the latest. It isn’t so much foodie as faddie. Maybe its that same state of mind that panics when the threat of losing the Twins or Vikings is raised. We might become a minor league town. To prevent that, we need to innovate nonstop.

That leads me to speculate about the contrast between a place like St. Paul where someone opens a restaurant like Sawatdee or Muffuletta, and it survives for decades. Meanwhile, cross the river and you have churn, places opening and closing. I can think of all kinds of spaces in Uptown that have had many names. It makes me think of mayflies. I also know restaurants like Harry Singh’s Caribbean Restaurant that have popped around from space to space. Almost like an itinerant peddler. Why does this phenomenon occur?

I have only hypotheses. One is that the profit margin could be skinny in Minneapolis spaces so that only a few names can stand the ups and downs of business. The second one is that Minneapolis has never been a neighborhood city like St. Paul. Foodies/faddies in Minneapolis care less about the proximity of an eatery than the buzz about it. Well, that’s hard for a business to live on. It is possible that expense and flighty customers are a double whammy. The very fact of age and familiarity could count against a restaurant. I once lived in Uptown. There is not a single eating place left from my years of residence. 100 percent turnover. And many addresses having gone through five different owners. Young and single people live on novelty. Truth is I did go to Bridgeman’s and Embers to eat because they were right there. Long replaced.

So, I think there’s a back story to the many new openings in Minneapolis. I can’t believe that any proprietor, knowing the history, can hope to keep foodie attention for very long.