Tim McKee Taking Over Cafeteria?!

Take a deep breath and find a comfortable chair—Tim McKee is working on Cafeteria now.

Cafeteria, of course, being the Uptown super-bar with a mish-mash menu and a killer view, and Tim McKee of course being the James Beard Award-winning white-tablecloth, fine-dining chef at La Belle Vie. (McKee was also named a 1997 Food & Wine Best New American Chef for his cooking at D’Amico Cucina, and he’s the top toque at the Twin Cities’ leading sustainable seafood restaurant, Sea Change.)

Food-scene watchers will recall that McKee recently made news by his surprising partnership with local super-restaurant-group Parasole (Manny’s, Chino Latino, Burger Jones, and many more); he took over the kitchen at Il Gatto—the former Figlio—making the restaurant relevant again by installing Sea Change’s former sous chef Jim Christiansen, and completely revamping and improving the menu. Looks like Parasole liked the results so much that they’ve brought McKee in to make some magic next door at Cafeteria.

What next? Tim McKee takes over the foodservice at the Susan B. Anthony Middle School?

The details: No chef changes, just a menu reboot—the results of which will be slowly rolled out all month. If you want the full flavor of the change, plan on going in late February or early March. If you want southern shrimp and grits, plan on going tonight. That’s one of the new dishes with “really, really good grits,” says McKee, with barbecue-accented shrimp and a spicy butter sauce. Another new dish: House-cured and fully cooked (as opposed to the usual seared rare) ahi tuna turned into a tuna salad for a tuna melt. And handmade jalapeños poppers filled with aged cheddar.

Are you as surprised as I am? Tim McKee jalapeños poppers? It’s happening.

And yes, McKee has a Japanese restaurant opening in March as well. Masu Sushi and Robata.

As I wrapped up my interview with McKee, I asked: I assume you’ll have a German restaurant by August?

“You know, no one enjoys the humor of that more than me,” McKee laughed.