Ann Kim is opening her no-reservations restaurant Kim’s in Uptown Minneapolis today, and it’s one of the first restaurants to answer the question, “Are we ready to be a restaurant town again?” Will we show up on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and fill a room without having a reminder text from Resy or Tock or Open Table? Will we go out and if the wait is too long just go somewhere else? Essentially, are we ready to do things closer to like we used to.
We’ve changed. There are many reasons: COVID-19, inflation, global insecurity, crime, fear, work from home, increased costs in restaurants, service charges. All of it plays a part. So many restaurants have gone from being 30% reservations and 70% walk-ins, to 70% reservations and 30% walk-ins. Tim Niver (Mucci’s/St. Dinette) just went off in his podcast about the challenges of the canceled reservations but not just the no-shows who don’t cancel, but the people who cancel 20 minutes before they had a table of eight saved. Sure, things come up, but according to Niver, it’s happening so often it’s not just people getting sick.
Even James Beard Award winners and Netflix celebrity chefs aren’t immune from the no-show issue. I confess: I’ve gone to almost always having a reservation instead of my old habits of being willing to take a shot and try to get a seat.
Kim’s Uptown is in the old Sooki & Mimi space, and I was there on Saturday night. It was jam packed, boisterous, energetic, fun. And it felt like the old days. More and more restaurant owners are telling me that they’re on the edge with late nights that are mostly dead, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays that are uneven at best. With the decline of the after-work happy hour, you have fewer people rolling from the office, to the bar, to going out to dinner. Places may look packed when you’re there on Friday or Saturday, but two or three busy nights doesn’t pay the rent.
I usually rebel against the idea that you as a diner have an obligation to support a restaurant: It’s the business’ job to incentivize you to show up. And yet, I do think if we want to be a lively restaurant town, we have a part in this. It’s people who make a city – it’s not this sort of amorphous, mysterious, thing. So go out on a weeknight. Go support a local restaurant. If you’re from Minneapolis, go to St. Paul, and vice versa. Instead of visiting your favorite once a month, pick a random date and just go for it (tag me on X or Instagram when you do it!). I’m so excited for what Ann Kim is trying to do: be an anchor to a neighborhood that’s been in transition. Kim’s in Uptown will have to stand on the quality of its food and service, but we stand with Ann in her desire to help restore life to our city.