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Chefs on the Move


Travail's chef plating tortellini

Photo by Joy Summers

Darlings of the national food scene Mike Brown, James Winberg, Bob Gerken and Kale Thome, the men behind Travail have finally returned to the Robbinsdale restaurant scene. I was able to get a sneak peek before their first service this week and the room is impressive. Inside one building they house two concepts. Travail Kitchen and Amusements abuts the street with long, reclaimed wood tables and an elevated booth covered in carpet. It’s wide open, but attention was paid to the acoustics. It’s boisterous inside without being so loud you can’t carry on a conversation.

There’s a bar and then the more casual concept The Rookery occupies the back. Both spaces are served by a roving clan of chefs with their wicked sense of humor and serious culinary skills. Although I only sampled a couple of plates, the food I had was impressive. Three little tortellini were stuffed with cheese and tossed in a vanilla sauce that tasted of melted vanilla ice cream in the very best possible way.

Neither side will be taking reservations, but on their opening night, guests had no problem waltzing right in and selecting a seat wherever they chose. They open every evening at 5 p.m. Expect the national media to be salivating all over this one shortly. 

The other big story of the week is that Corner Table, an divine little neighborhood spot at the edge of the Kingfield neighborhood will taking a little hop down the block. Owners Chenny Rancone, Nick Rancone and Thomas Boemer have purchased the building that once housed La Chaya Bistro. They’re taking down some fixtures and setting the tables for guests very soon. Expect to see them re-open in March.

Meanwhile, the former location will undergo a more dramatic transformation. A more casual spot will take its place. Except some Southern-style flavor—like a killer fried chicken, hush puppies, and a killer burger. Guests can dine in or carry out their dishes. We should be able to order some picnic baskets to take out in the world before the 4th of July fireworks go off.

Back out to the suburbs for some news from Chef JP Samuelson. He was the one time chef/owner of the late, lamented jP’s American Bistro who was last seen cooking at the new incarnation of Figlio. He has now teamed with Randy Stanley, one-time manager at Manny’s Steakhouse. They will be opening 6 Smith in the former NorthCoast spot at the edge of Wayzata. Expect a beefy menu and expansive water views. The outdoor seating is sure to be a hit in the summer. All goes well, they’ll be open before June.

One last move, is the closing of Nami’s doors in the Warehouse District. The sushi spot had been located on the corner of 3rd Street and First Avenue has said goodbye after thirteen years in business. I wish them the best of luck.

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Minnesota Monthly's Taste Blog answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally brings the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Learn more about the Taste bloggers.

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