Fugaise Rises! Plus: Other Restaurants Opening This Fall

Don Saunders fans, lend me your ears: His new restaurant arrives in November! When I got an email from Don Saunders sketching the outline of his new restaurant, In Season, I scrambled for my telephone in pursuit of details. So, tell me everything, I said. “No, no, no!” he shouted, and the next thing I heard was the phone clattering to the ground. “Sorry,” he said, picking up the phone. “Dog got my sandwich.” Well, judging from the Don Saunders dishes I’ve had in my life, that’s one lucky pooch. Saunders made his name cooking unfussy, haute French food at Au Rebours (still missed by some) and then at the unfortunately located Fugaise (still missed by many). I’ll never forget some of Saunders’ dishes, like a simple filleted skate wing in lemony brown butter with a pale tangle of enoki mushrooms, or veal sweetbreads with onion marmelade. But Fugaise closed, and Saunders’ many fans have been eagerly awaiting his next project. And it is here!

Almost. It will be here in November. Saunders tells me it is more or less exactly opposite to Fugaise in every respect. So where Fugaise had a foreign and odd—though unforgettable—name, the new place will be called In Season. (Sounds like a new line of Progresso soup to me, but, what the hey, I like Saunders so I’m eager to try it.) More opposites: It’s not in Northeast Minneapolis, it’s in Southwest, across from Café Maude on Penn Avenue, in the former Armatage Room space. (Oh, so I guess in related news: Armatage Room is kaput!) Where Fugaise was French, In Season will be American—burgers, duck with chestnuts, Ahi tuna with summer squash. It will not, however, be by-the-rulebook locovore; expect Ahi tuna, skate, Ruby Red Texas grapefruit, and whatever else Saunders is inspired by.

Saunders and I had a spirited discussion about whether Ahi tuna is ever ‘in season’; he maintains it is, not just in the usual terms we mean, such as fresh figs being at their peak for a few weeks and then vanishing, but also in terms of appropriateness to the season. “I think things like Ahi tuna or other seafood, while you can get them year-round, the quality is better at certain times,” said Saunders. “Some of it too, as far as the In Season concept, is going to be: Is it appropriate? To me, duck with chestnuts and cranberries is just fall.”

More opposites: While the Fugaise wine list was expensive and resolutely French, Saunders assures me the new In Season wine list will be global, and thriftier. Whereas Fugaise was more about a multi-course splurge, In Season will be welcoming to those who just want to have a glass of wine and a cheese plate. “I’m doing everything opposite of Fugaise, except my cooking style,” Saunders concluded.

Exciting! The 40-seat restaurant has plans to open in mid November. (5416 Penn Ave. South, Mpls. 612-926-0105)

What else will open in November? Okay, here’s my racing-form breakdown on fall restaurant openings: I’m saying In Season has a realistic shot at a mid-November opening, because Saunders is moving into an intact, functioning, once-cleared-by-the-city-and-subsequently-unaltered kitchen, bathroom, and so on. But what about Heidi’s, the new Stewart Woodman restaurant said to open in Lynlake in mid October? I’m saying: Maybe not October. I peeked into the space earlier this week and it was a concrete box without a single finished surface. Next up: Steven Brown’s still-unnamed Linden Hills restaurant in the former Rice Paper space. I also peeked in there this week, and it looks… rough. (Rice Paper, however, officially opens this weekend in its new 50th and France location. Exciting news in the haute southeast Asian world!) Finally, Mozza Mia, the new Parasole Italian spot going into the former Tejas space might hit their October opening. When I talked to Phil Roberts about Il Gatto’s big changes, he told me things were moving right along. Whoops! Just looked at the website and they’ve changed it to November. And what of Blackbird? Snooping on their blog reveals: Tables are assembled! Chairs are in! Maybe October, maybe…

Here’s my suggestion for this fall’s hot foodie game: Gather all your friends, each put $5 in a pot, and then start picking opening dates for all of them—or just Heidi’s and Steven Brown’s TBD. Whoever gets them right gets the pot and you all go to dinner to celebrate!