Originally, a local grocer was to rent the space the wine and cheese bar now occupies in the Soo Line building. But when the grocery proprietors backed away, the Kleins stepped in to develop a wine bar that also features cheese and cured meats. It contains a 50-seat main dining room, the 10-seat Hirsch Room, the 40-seat Moon Room and Sky Park (a rooftop party room and deck).
The space for food production contains undercounter refrigeration, a combi oven, work counters, a refrigerated prep table, antique scale, refrigerated display case, a high-speed grill and a manual prosciutto slicer. "The slicer is my indulgence," Klein says. "One of my colleagues who has one said I didn't need it and warned me that I'd have challenges training and cleaning it. I went ahead and brought it in anyway. I don't regret the decision, but he was right."
Café Zentral, located on the floor above Brasserie Zentral, is a much more casual environment featuring a granite countertop with a curved, stainless steel radius. The menu has its roots in European street food. "Though the service here is quick and less expensive than the brasserie, we bring the same sense of quality and pride to the ingredients we select," Klein says. "We serve real food made by real people or, in other words, don't use prepared, processed foods. Many ingredients are also locally sourced."
To hold the ingredients, one end of the café contains a two-section, reach-in refrigerator and refrigerated rail for sandwiches and salads. Local ordinance prohibits the installation of hoods in this relatively small space, which presents a great challenge for menu development and kitchen designers. Equipment here includes two high-speed panini grills, each with a catalytic converter that extracts the grease. To top off the equipment package, a ventless griddle allows staff to make dishes such as paprika chicken served with roasted red peppers, pecorino cheese, pumpkin seeds, arugula and watercress. Savory and sweet crepes and galettes are prepared on a crepe machine.
Another piece of equipment found here that is rarely seen in a café environment is a hot dog spike, which is used for toasting pretzel buns that staff then fill with house-made sausage. The "München Dog," a name Russell conjured, has become the café's signature menu item.
In the back, a small prep area contains a hand sink, prep sink and a code-required three-compartment sink for warewashing, very limited though it may be.
Unique to this area of Minneapolis and staffed by renowned culinarians, the restaurant serves up food that continues to generate positive reviews and complimentary online buzz. Opportunities to watch the preparation is a strong attraction, and guests find they are not only entertained but educated as well.
Brian D. Cepek, CFSP
Brian Cepek started in the foodservice industry waiting tables in the late 1980s while attending the University of Minnesota. After graduating from the university with a degree in economics in 1990, he worked at Palm Brothers, a local foodservice equipment dealer and then joined Premier Restaurant Equipment in 2007. Cepek has designed and outfitted many of the local restaurants that make up the dynamic Twin Cities dining scene including six of the last seven Minneapolis Star Tribune "Restaurants of the Year." In addition, he designed and equipped the restaurants for the Twin Cities' three James Beard Award–winning chefs.
Amanda Iverson joined the Shea Inc. team in 2013, bringing experience in design across several industries including retail, corporate office, healthcare and fitness. She has been involved with clients in the areas of space planning, facilities management, furniture and finish selections, lighting design, drafting and construction administration. Iverson's other notable projects include Macy's Oak Grill remodel, Infield's remodel, Macy's State Street Signature Kitchen and Big Bowl Chinese Express at the Lunds and Byerly's locations.
Russell Klein's restaurant industry experience spans 25 years. A native New Yorker, he attended the French Culinary Institute and trained in the south of France and in Italy. After returning from Europe he worked in New York City's La Caravelle, David Bouley's Danube, Picholine, Judson Grill and Fleur de Sel. He moved to Minnesota in 2002 and took the position of executive chef at W.A. Frost and Company in St. Paul. In 2005 he met Desta, his wife and co-owner of their current restaurant ventures. Klein has received many honors and awards and was nominated for the James Beard Award in 2011 and 2012.