Tim McKee Takes Over The World! (And by that I mean: Cue!)

All the world’s money managers have no idea where to put their money these days—so they flock to gold. And so it is in restaurants. Twin Cities Restaurateurs are flocking to their version of gold: Tim McKee. Last week it was announced that a second Barrio was going into downtown St. Paul. It was not a surprise, given that a second Barrio is as close to a sure-thing as you’ve got in restaurants today—the low price-point on food with high-end booze is very much now.

However, I was quite surprised to read Rick Nelson’s scoop in the Star Tribune that McKee was taking over the Guthrie.

How can he possibly take over the Guthrie without taking customers from his high-end flagship La Belle Vie, and his mid-price flagship Solera? I dialed my phone.

As I waited for Tim McKee to call me back, I played guessing games with myself—games that ran a little like this: The logical thing that downtown is missing is high-end burgers and American comfort foods (what Harry’s could have been if their execution was stronger.) However, that’s out: steaks, burgers, and pot-roast aren’t McKee’s interests. What are McKee’s interests? Mediterranean, especially north and central. But nobody but a fool would put in a 300 seat Moroccan restaurant here, and McKee’s no fool; French is tried here again and again—and never quite works. So: Italian. It’s got to be Italian.

A little later, Tim McKee called me back. I congratulated him, and immediately pounced: “It’s Italian, right?”

“Why do you say that?” he asked, laughing.

“Because you’re not going to put Moroccan in there,” I explained.

“It’s so funny you say that,” said McKee. Turns out that when the building was being constructed, he and Thoma actually bid to make their version of Cue—you guessed it!—Moroccan.

“But, no, it’s not Moroccan,” McKee told me.

So (drum roll please)… the focus of the new Tim McKee restaurant at the Guthrie will be: sustainable seafood!

“It’s going to be predominantly a seafood-driven restaurant,” explained McKee. “We’ll be concentrating on sustainable seafood, and we’re trying to be the first restaurant in the area certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. So, seafood-forward, but with plenty of options for all types of diners. It’s not going to be like Oceanaire or McCormick and Schmick. But the kind of seafood dishes that I do. I can’t tell you how excited I am about it.”

I am too: I know a thing or two about sustainable seafood, from a big piece I did for this magazine last spring.

A lot of what I know is that it’s a nest of contradiction, with one agency’s “safe-and-green” being another agency’s “avoid.” A restaurant that does all the work for me and serves seafood I don’t have to worry about is a dream come true.

Sound like a dream to you too? Forecast opening, sometime this spring, maybe April? Till then, keep your money in gold and your appetites whetted.

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