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DeRushaEats: What is Travail Up To?


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Jason DeRusha

Nothing like making some huge food announcements during the Minnesota State Fair to make sure they get underplayed… but while many of us wait for the new Travail to open, the guys are staying busy doing not just one but two projects.

FIRST: Umami by Travail. It’ll be at 904 W. Broadway and opens in two weeks: Wednesday, September 11th. It’s kind of a pop-up restaurant, so it will only be around through October (unless there are delays with the new Travail space in Robbinsdale).

Beer, wine, and an Asian street food/dim sum vibe. Owner Mike Brown tells me they’re doing it with online tickets: “These tickets will consist of purchasing a timeslot/food experience specifically for Fridays and Saturdays and some for Wednesdays and Thursdays to allow walk-ins as well. The price range is still up in the air but will be reasonable for sure.”

We’ve never had a ticketed restaurant, and if anyone can pull it off, I think these guys are the ones with the kind of loyal following that could pull it off.

SECOND: Travail is jumping on board the Kickstarter wagon to help construct their new space in Robbinsdale. If you’ve picked up the August Minnesota Monthly, you know how I feel about Kickstarters for restaurants.

But it is a brilliant marketing technique: people who back your business by spending their own money on it tend to support your business by coming in and buying food. The incentives are going to be entertaining–for as little as $35 or as high as $10,000. “The point of this entire thing is to allow our support group of people to become involved with making this restaurant the best it can be,” said Brown.

The packages will include a “sexy calendar” with beefy chefs (many from Travail, some from other restaurants—I presume most have beards), and the ability to have a reservation in a no-reservation restaurant. I could see people paying for that.

Mike tells me the goal is to raise $120,000. "It's not to put up walls or hang a sign on the building. It's to make Travail one of the best restaurants in the country," he said. Essentially it's to get equipment that would make Travail competitive with the top tier restaurants.

Yeah. They don't want to be seen as a Twin Cities top restaurant; they want to be considered top tier in the country.

I’m not sure there’s a group of Twin Cities chefs and restaurant owners more inventive than Travail. I’ll be honest: I've had incredible food at Travail and food that didn’t always hit the mark. I think they paint in incredibly clever and exciting broad strokes and sometimes fall short on details (wine glasses that aren't shiny/clean, one ingredient that fails in a soup that soars). Also I don't know if you can be a top national restaurant without top service, and the chef-servers ranged from awesome to awful.

But the ride is a lot of fun. The spirit and creativity is an amazing thing for the Twin Cities food community. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

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