Mason’s Restaurant owner Lucas Miller invited some media and other guests to tour through the restaurant at a loosely organized happy hour last Thursday night. (After a bit of strenuous head clearing and awkward resume reciting, he and I realized we had worked together at other restaurants.) Mason’s is run by Miller and Chef Andrew Ernst, and has been open since early May.
Located in The Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, and across the street from the hulking shell of Block E, Mason’s is a large undertaking for an owner-operator, serving early breakfast from 7 a.m. to a late night happy hour until 2 a.m. on the weekends, and running concessions for The Cowles Center. Part café, with soft seating, tall windows, and brilliant sunshine, Mason’s serves a full line of coffee, treats, and breakfast items as well as grab-and-go lunches for the morning crowd. The rest of Mason’s is dedicated to a full bar, restaurant, and street side patio. A tour of the basement revealed the potential for a late night dance club or music venue. When asked what types of acts he might see filling the spot, Miller admitted to plans for a burlesque show, something he’s had experience booking at other venues in the Twin Cities—racy!
Chef Ernst’s menu features straight forward American fare with a large variety of sandwiches, sausages, and burgers, and a smaller selection of affordable entrees. After spending time in some of Kim Bartman’s restaurants, Ernst plans to keep the focus on Minnesota-grown produce and meats and stressed the importance of his contacts with local farms.
Talking to Miller, he described the difficulty of attracting theatre crowds and simultaneously grabbing customers on their way to Twins or Timberwolves games. Covering every angle can be challenging for small owner-operated venues, not to mention exhausting. Hopefully, an owner presence will play to Mason’s advantage. It’s nice to see a little local attention in an area of Minneapolis dominated by big restaurants and seemingly too-big-to-fail failures, like Block E and the Hard Rock Café. Maybe something as simple as an owner greeting customers at the door will be the key to their success.
Mason’s Restaurant | Barre
528 Hennepin Avenue S., Mpls.