Doug Flicker Restaurant Replacing Agri!

It’s shocking, delightful, and now official: Doug Flicker, ultra-talented chef of late-lamented Auriga, has signed a lease for the Agri space on the corner of 43rd and Bryant in South Minneapolis.

Hooray! Hip, hip, hooray! I think Flicker is one of the most talented chefs we’ve ever had in Minneapolis, and while I had years of quibbles with the quality of the restaurant experience at Auriga, I never had anything but delight in the food. (For those of you who never got to try Auriga, here’s my nutshell review: Exquisite, original food in a drafty, crumbling room.)

Here’s everything I know about the coming restaurant: It will be called Piccolo, and will offer something we’ve never exactly seen before, a large tasting menu, all offered a la carte. So, it will be small plates—but not tapas. Think of it like one of the tasting menus at La Belle Vie, but instead of ordering all five or nine courses together, you pick and choose which you want. Jim Andrus, Auriga’s last money partner, will be co-owner with Flicker, and will be in charge of the restaurant’s wine program (which is excellent news because he ran a wonderful beverage program at Auriga). Piccolo will, just like Agri, be tiny, 24 to 35 seats, and Flicker tells me he has a radical plan on how to staff it and make the strange economics of restaurants—where chefs often earn half or a quarter of what their servers do—work out more equitably. To wit, there may be only one full-time server, or even just a full-time manager who waits tables, and cooks will work as servers, perhaps as often as one out of four shifts. (The dirty secret of fine-dining restaurants: Cooks at the highest-profile white tablecloth restaurants in town often earn as little as $9 or $11 an hour, usually with no benefits, while servers at the same restaurant take home a minimum wage of $6.15 an hour, plus a couple of hundred dollars in tips. Resentments bubble.) As much as I like equality, I find the idea of cooks waiting on tables a little alarming, but I’ll hold judgment on that and just look forward to the prospect of more Flicker food. Now, without further adieu, some food porn I can get behind: Behold these likely Piccolo menu items!

Oh wait, I suppose I should say something about Agri closing. But I can’t say I care much. That place seemed to have good intentions and no actual ability to deliver on them. They reminded me of a band that forms in college, better-remembered by the members when they go on to better things than it ever was in the actual moment. Goodbye, Agri! We all knew your true calling wasn’t in restaurants. You have a lot to give, but probably not on plates. God speed.

Oh, speaking of Agri, Flicker tells me his purchase agreement calls for the Agri people to be out December 1; he and Andrus will then embark on painting, cleaning, and working on getting their wine-and-beer license. They’ll open the doors as soon as possible—best-case scenario by Christmas, worst-case sometime in early 2010. Now, really, rejoice and behold these likely Piccolo menu dishes!

Egg sautéed in Parmesan oil with truffle sea salt, $3
Octopus Ceviche with sautéed parsley, $8
Lamb oin with liquid olives and chard, $9
Diver scallop with Meyer lemon and Marcona almond, $9
Chestnut-stuffed chicken with brioche, $8
Veal breast with black walnuts and artichokes, $11
Grilled cheese sandwich with peas and truffle, $8
Shad roe with caper butter and cauliflower, $8
Ricotta pana cotta with grapefruit and chervil, $6
Bitter almond cake with yogurt and milk 6