I did not have the Pajarito team buying Lucky’s 13 Pub on my January 2021 bingo card, but here we are. What started as a small St. Paul spot grew to an Edina location that never fully opened because of the pandemic, and now includes 11 more restaurants in Minnesota and North Dakota.
“It’s crazy, I don’t know if it’s insane or really smart,” Pajarito co-owner Stephen Hesse says. Hesse, co-owner Tyge Nelson, and their main St. Paul Pajarito investor Charlie Burrows are teaming up. There’s some history: Burrows opened the first Lucky’s 13 Pub in 2007, built a bunch of spots around the area, and sold it to a Florida group in 2019.
“My wife worked for Charlie for 13 years, she worked at the Lucky’s in Mendota,” says Hesse with a laugh. “When she heard there was a chance to buy them back, she said, ‘Please! Would you guys do this?'” The idea was to return Lucky’s to a family-owned operation instead of a bigger out-of-state company.
Hesse, Nelson, and Burrows’ Eclectic Culinary Concepts now owns seven Lucky’s 13 Pubs locations: Bloomington, Burnsville, Mendota, Plymouth, and Roseville in Minnesota; and Bismarck and Fargo in North Dakota.
“I think there’s opportunity for us in the suburbs,” Hesse says. “Lucky’s was known for certain things, we’re not going to change that. But people in the suburbs love good food and good service and good atmosphere.”
Hesse says Lucky’s 13 has been doing as well or as poorly as anyone else during the pandemic. But he sees no end in sight to people wanting to spend more time closer to their homes. We’ve seen an improvement in the Twin Cities of more locally owned spots with better cocktail programs and wine selections at neighborhood restaurants. These are places where you can go with the kids after soccer or hockey, or for a nice drink after an event.
The Eclectic Culinary Concepts team gave the restaurants a once-over, fixing tiles, painting chairs, making sure the TVs and sound work well. They’ll probably tighten up the menus too, “to try to focus on quality over quantity,” says Hesse. “The main goal was to make the staff as happy as possible, that we were going forward with everything they’ve put their heart and soul into over the past 13 years.”
Four other restaurants are involved, and some of those spots will see bigger changes. Eclectic now also owns Yankee Tavern in Eagan and Me & Julio in Hastings. The group has plans to update Tru Blu Social Flub in Fargo with a new name and concept. Also, Rudy’s Redeye Grill in Rosemount will become the Clover in the early spring: “It’s not an Irish bar, but a very approachable bar with a focus on house-smoked roast beef sandwiches.”
So what does this mean for Pajarito? Hesse said he hopes it’s not much. “Me and Tyge split our time around the two Pajaritos, now we’ll be splitting our time around eight different spots in the metro,” he says. “I think we have good chefs in place at our two Pajaritos and we have good general managers and people to be able to help this get going.”
Learn more at luckys13pub.com