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Can Uptown only support bro bars?

There was a time when serious restaurants gave serious thought to taking on serious rent to locate in Uptown. Those times are no more. The neighborhood that gave local birth to modern Italian dining at Figlio, pan-Asian cuisine at Chino Latino and farm-to-table fare at Lucia’s has become the place where food-focused restaurants go to die.

The latest victims were upscale Italian Parella in January and chef-driven Scena Tavern, which gave up the ghost in May. Scena’s operator, Paul Dzubnar, who controls the Green Mill restaurant group as well as a number of one-off local restaurants, did not return phone calls, but is said to be reconcepting the restaurant at the corner of Lake and Girard to appeal to the hordes of heavy-drinking 20-somethings who now dominate the ’hood.

Michael Larson opened Parella at Calhoun Square not long after his time with Parasole Restaurant Holdings, where he managed four Uptown restaurants — Figlio, Chino Latino, Il Gatto and Cafeteria. “My 25-year-old daughter lives in the neighborhood,” he says. “She came into Parella and said ‘Dad, if you don’t cater to the douchebags, you’ll never make it here.’”

Twin Cities BusinessLarson remembers closing Parella at 11 p.m. on a lively weekend while lines were forming to get into Stella’s (the concept for which was birthed by Parasole and Larson). “It’s young adults wearing sunglasses at night looking for two-for-one drink specials,” says Larson. “That is Uptown right now — a neighborhood that feels like a nightclub.”

If he had it to do over again, Larson says he’d open Parella in the North Loop, the current address for serious dining. Or perhaps at West End in St. Louis Park, where parking is free but the clientele is very adult. “I thought Uptown was ready for its comeback,” Larson says. “But it was probably wishful thinking.”

This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Janice Gepner on 07/11/2016 - 05:24 pm.

    Don’t make generalizations based on Parella

    After I had brunch with my friends at Parella, I didn’t expect it to last long and not for the reasons in this article. I can’t recall exactly why I came to this conclusion, but I seem to remember that the menu options seemed unappealing. Also, the restaurant was virtually empty and service was slow and inept. I don’t remember the food being particularly worth the price. We went there to support a new local restaurant, and were disappointed to find the restaurant so disappointing.

  2. Submitted by Jim Million on 07/12/2016 - 11:28 am.

    “reconcepting”?

    An old story of restaurant failure: installing motif and menu the owner likes, wants to sell and get patrons to like. Successful enterprises tend to employ sophisticated market studies and demographic targeting campaigns. Even done well, those devices ultimately rely on word-of-mouth for success. Young adults ultimately think in terms of value for money, as many of us geezers do. Quality must always justify price points. I’ll give a new spot at least six months to shake down its kitchen operation, then two chances to make me happy. If they can’t do it by then, I figure they’re not going to do it on a third try.

  3. Submitted by Elsa Mack on 07/12/2016 - 04:48 pm.

    The 2015 Crudo Implosion

    I remember when Parella announced they were opening, right around the time that Il Foro and Monello also announced they were open; Scena came a bit later, IIRC. All four had similar concepts: upscale Italian, small plates, crudo. And three of the four are gone, including Il Foro, located on 7th Street near Hennepin, downtown. Monello persists, but it’s a hotel restaurant. My impression is that upscale Italian restaurants specializing in crudo might be a hard sell in Minneapolis, especially in winter, when one tends to want hot food in comforting quantities.

    The other thing about Parella’s location is, well, Calhoun Square. It’s a mall, and a depressingly empty one at that. Something about dining in a mall just doesn’t appeal. I bet something like Mucci’s or Revival would do great in Uptown… as long as they didn’t install themselves in a half-empty mall.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 07/13/2016 - 11:12 am.

      Excellent Mall Point

      Calhoun Square has been pretty much a “bomb” since opening way back when. Some enterprises with street visibility have succeeded, pretty much not those without. Businesses with individual identity, especially restaurants, seem to do better than those clustered within a complex. Signage is a very big part of promotion.

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