Spring Restaurant Preview

It’s spring! Or, so the odd, wonderful week of spring-like weather has led me to conclude. And in the spring a restaurant-head’s thoughts turn to signs of new life in the restaurant scene. Here’s a short list of the things I’m most excited about right now:

Ever hear of Lisa Hanson? Methinks that’s about to change if not—she’s opening a new downtown restaurant with serious ambition. It’s going in on the wildly underserved southern side of downtown Minneapolis, in the former Black Bamboo space in the Accenture Tower (this might be the news of your year if you work in the Accenture building, at the Hennepin County Government Center, in the Campbell Mithun Tower, or in the Ameriprise Center, newly joined to Accenture by the city’s first new skyway in a decade). This is such big news because Lisa Hanson has some serious cooking chops: She cooked for a year at the ultra-fine-dining L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in New York City, before returning to her native Minnesota to work as Scott Pampuch’s chef de cuisine at the Corner Table. She left there to find her own spot—and it’s opening this spring. Expect small plates, priced $5 to $15, a full bar, an open kitchen with counter seating (in the style of L’Atelier), and dishes like herb-braised rabbit with a rhubarb and foie-gras bread pudding, or a half globe artichoke poached and served with a broken egg and caper vinaigrette. 333 South 7th St., Mpls.

If you were busy with your holiday preparations, you might have missed the news that Kevin Kathman, formerly of Café Barbette and longtime cook at the French Laundry (yes, that one, the oft’ named best-restaurant-in-America), is taking over Jack’s, the founding Minneapolis coffee shop which turned into a (boring) restaurant last year. They’re closed this week, but reopen Tuesday, and if the presence of Chef Kathman wasn’t enough to thrill you (and it should be) please know that he’s joined by one of Minneapolis’ most admired Generation-Y young chefs, Brian Hauke, former top-toque at Red Stag. 818 West 46th St., Mpls., 612-825-2183, jacksmpls.com

Butcher and the Boar
Remember when we thought Butcher and the Boar might open in 2011? Now it looks like the hotly anticipated beer, bourbon, and all American good stuff restaurant will open around February 12th. Chef Jack Riebel tells me they’ve been hard at work on their boar hams (brined and cured using blackstrap molasses), and have perfected a beer-battered French fry. 1121 Hennepin Ave, Mpls., butcherandtheboar.com

Eat Street Social
I’ve been pressing my nose against the glass at Eat Street Social and have observed a whole lot of construction still going on—so I’m guessing we wait until at least Valentine’s Day to try an avant-garde soda-fountain treat. 18 West 26th Street, Mpls., 612-767-6850, eatstreetsocial.com

Dr. Chocolate’s Chocolate Chateau
Will an avant-garde chocolate store and event space be the magical tenant that can make a go of it at that gorgeous mansion on Selby, formerly home of the Vintage and of Il Vesco Vino? Let’s hope. Restaurant owners have repeatedly told me the beautiful, though awkwardly laid out, space doesn’t work for restaurant service—but it just might work for super-fancy hot chocolates and bridal showers. Plan is that the first floor will be chocolate and chocolate-related merchandise (chocolate thermometers, chocolate forms); the second will be the place to order wedding cakes, and the top floors will hold the restaurant, wine bar, and event spaces. No, they’re not putting in an elevator—I guess the fourth-floor walk-up is what permits you to indulge in chocolates guilt-free. 579 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-379-3676, chocolatechateau.wordpress.com

Blood and Chocolates
How many avant-garde chocolate shops can Selby Avenue hold in the three blocks east of Dale? Let’s hope at least two: Blood and Chocolates will open this winter selling ultra-fancy chocolates, and Heavy Table has a good preview. 495 Selby Ave, St. Paul, 651-492-4799, facebook.com/blood.and.chocolates