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Friday, November 12, 2010

Travail More Popular Than Justin Bieber at Prom—So They’re Closing. Sort of. Also, Support Some Nuns Tonight!

This is true: Travail, the Robbinsdale gastropub, has gotten so popular that people are lining up before dinner—and the line is 70 people long!

“We had to start closing down in the afternoons,” chef and co-owner Mike Brown told me, so they’re now closed from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every afternoon to prep for dinner service. “On a Friday night now we’ll have 70 people wrapped around the building waiting to get it. It’s like First Avenue, it’s crazy. People are just standing on the other side of the glass watching us prep, and then we open the doors and everybody just—bam!—piles in. The last 20 people don’t even get to sit down. Sorry guys—wait two hours. We give them some drinks and they wait. People have been comparing it to a rock show.” So Brown is toying with the idea of getting a big velvet curtain in front of the chef’s prep area; after everyone piles into their seats they’d serve drinks and then as food was about to be served, raise the curtains. (In its ‘up’ position the curtain would block the glare-inducing florescent light that pierces the dining room so uncomfortably.)

What do you think? Fun bit of winking theater, or taking the chef as rock star thing too far? Post your thoughts in the comments. But do it before Christmas; the kitchen staff is so pooped from the 16-hour days they’ve been putting in that they’re going to close for a week for the holidays. From December 24th to January 1st, the restaurant will be shut down completely and the staff is going to disperse to their mom’s and dad’s houses around the country. Then in July, they’re planning to close the entire restaurant for a month. “We don’t want to conquer the world and lose our minds,” Brown told me. “We want to keep our little family tight.”

Bravo that, I say. I’m all about work-life balance. All you chefs out there, never succeed so much you end up an alcoholic having a nervous breakdown. That’s too high a price for dinner!

In other news...

Chef Shack, Nuns, and Wine at Cretin-Durham High; Sisters of St. Joseph Dinner Tonight!
I have an event for you—if you’re free tonight, and you want to taste wine inside Cretin-Durham High while supping on food from Chef Shack and many other great local chefs, and raise funds for nuns. Which nuns? The good Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who provide free health care for the uninsured through the St. Mary’s Health Clinics and do lots of other good work. The event, Taste of Thanksgiving, is tonight, Friday, November 12th, and I got a note from one of the organizers earlier this week asking for some last-minute publicity, so here it is. Food is being provided by The Cake Diva, Casa Guadalupana, The Chef Shack, Common Roots Café Cork & Barrel Wine & Spirits, Flamingo Restaurant, Glaciers Café, Gourmet made Simple Luci Ancora & Ristorante Luci, Lunds, Highland Village, Peace Coffee, Supatra’s Thai Cuisine Toast Wine Bar & Café, Trotter’s Café and Bakery, and Turtle Bread Company. There will also be a wine tasting, and beer, provided by Cork & Barrel Wine & Spirits, in Oakdale. Tickets are $50 at the door, which opens at 6:30, and it looks to be a great time for a great cause. Dara & Co.’s own Marie Flanagan will be attending—if you see her, say hi.

Come on, this is the best invitation you’re going to get to drink in a high school with nuns this year!

Happy snowstorm everyone. Looks to be a good weekend to stay warm inside with something good to eat.

Posted on Friday, November 12, 2010 in Permalink

Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Old to new | New to old
Nov 12, 2010 01:43 pm
 Posted by  debra_rose

It seems a bit drastic to close the restaurant down for a week, and even more so for an entire month, rather than various chefs taking a little time off now and then. I've never heard of a restaurant doing this, with the exception of a remodel. In this time of restaurants closing the doors due to lack of business, it seems like a risk.

Nov 12, 2010 02:12 pm
 Posted by  Kevin S.

I remember being the only person in V-44, listening to those guys plan the dinner menu, chatting them up, watching them accidentally burn stuff. Two weeks ago, I had to grab the last seat at the bar for Thursday lunch.

I feel like the guy whose best friend won homecoming queen. Like, Karl and Cindy wouldn't even talk to her junior year, and now she's invited to their lake cabin? They don't even like Arcade Fire. I happen to know she still sleeps with the stuffed animal I bought her for her eighth birthday.

Wow, that was cathartic... I say no on the curtain, at least until they've got everything running smoothly. And they'd better have a killer amuse ready to go.

Also, two hours? Come on people. Victory 44 is right down the street. They have beets, too.

Nov 12, 2010 03:47 pm
 Posted by  Oslo

Travail is moving into some fun new realms and I love it!

If the curtain works, bring it on. If it doesn't, take it back down. If you need July off, we'll see you in August. Mike Brown and the gang have hit on something special here. I'd like to see them stay personally healthy so they can keep it fresh and fun for a good long time.

Nov 12, 2010 03:58 pm
 Posted by  C.Summer

A restauranteur who is proactive about taking breaks during the year, stands a greater chance of overcoming burnout. The restaurant industry is one of the most stressful business to be in. So I applaud
the chefs for seeking balance.

Nov 29, 2010 03:37 pm
 Posted by  Jenny B.

France takes most of August off, so why not July here in MN?

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TC Taste answers your restaurant and dining questions, dishes on latest discoveries, reflects on breaking news, and generally bring the plate to the page with a skilled crew of experts: Minnesota Monthly Senior Editor Rachel Hutton, Sustainable Food Correspondent Marie Flanagan, Chef Jason Ross, Food Writer Joy Summers, and Drinks & Real Food Senior Editor Mary Subialka. Learn more about the TC Taste bloggers.

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