Thanks to Amore Coffee for their support.
In 2010, Robert and Ann Ulrich opened Mendoberri Cafe & Wine Bar in Mendota Heights. Now they’re taking the same chef-driven approach and creating buzz with a neighborhood bistro pub in West St. Paul known as FoodSmith.
“We’re really excited about the vibe in West St. Paul… we love the synergy we’re already feeling!”Ann Ulrich
Located on Smith Avenue near the Dodd Road intersection in the old Cici Events space next to Chin Chin and Smith Liquors, FoodSmith will open on March 9. They’ll be open seven days a week starting at 11 a.m.
“West St. Paul sits just across the river from downtown St. Paul where there are so many great restaurant options,” says Chef Robert Ulrich. “But we saw an opportunity to provide a more neighborhood-friendly place where locals can enjoy a craft beer or cocktail, and a slightly elevated pub menu where items are made from scratch.”
Interview With Co-Owner Ann Ulrich
We talked with FoodSmith co-owner Ann Ulrich about the buzz the new West St. Paul restaurant is generating.
You’ve got a successful restaurant down the road in Mendota Heights. What prompted you to open this new restaurant? What brought you to West St. Paul?
We were on the lookout to start a new restaurant, and more specifically, one where we could own the real estate instead of leasing the space, yet still have it be in a quaint neighborhood where residents are looking for chef-driven, made-from-scratch food. Finding that kind of real estate in the Twin Cities took us awhile, but when we started looking at the building, it really nailed all those criteria.
Looking down Smith Avenue toward the Capitol building is an amazing view! Driving through the streets with all the cute/quaint homes and visiting other local businesses, we immediately got a sense of the community and the history—the Cherokee neighborhood of West St. Paul is a hidden gem!
We’re also really proud and excited that this project aligns with the City of West St. Paul’s strategic vision to revitalize the Smith Avenue corridor. We’re completely rehabbing a building that was in need of some attention, and in the process we’re getting to know the history, neighbors, business community, and council members who help make this a great place to live and do business.
What kind of food can we expect?
We’re a gastro-pub, meaning we’re a pub that places special emphasis on the food, ingredients, and culinary experience. Making everything from scratch, but more of a pub feel than Mendoberri. Fourteen craft beers on tap with an assortment of domestic favorites in bottle/can, full liquor license, and private event space for up to 60 guests.
What’s going to be the must-try item on the menu?
Here’s what I think a few of the favorites might be:
- Dutch bitterballen (appetizer), which is basically a melt-in-your mouth meatball that’s crunchy on the outside and gooey on the inside, and served with aronia berry and stone-ground mustard.
- Mojo pork pita sandwich served with chipotle honey mayonnaise, lager-brined red cabbage and apple slaw.
- Pub veggie burger (that can be made gluten free), served with organic quinoa, bean and farm veggies, smoked gouda cheese and lemon basil aioli.
- Warm house-made apple fritters with vanilla bean anglaise.
Opening a new restaurant is hard—what will set FoodSmith apart?
It sure is! Thankfully we have a lot of experience and known what we’re doing. That’s not to say we won’t make any mis-steps or mistakes. But we try really hard to listen to our customers and seek input about what they want and what makes them want to come back.
We’ve enjoyed building loyalty and relationships with our community at Mendoberri by integrating our guests into our process and making it our number one goal to respond and please them. Nothing would work without them and we’re really excited about the vibe in West St. Paul—it feels like people are warm, down-to-earth, smart, diverse. We love the synergy we’re already feeling!
What do you say to people who raise concerns about a lack of parking?
We will have dedicated handicap parking that meets code. And a short-term parking stall for customers picking up take-out orders. For people who are used to dining out at independent restaurants or visiting retailers in Minneapolis or St. Paul, parking will be similar in that it’s very typical to park for free on the city streets around the establishment and maybe walk a half block or so. We understand that some people may not be able or willing to park on the street and walk. We wish we had the luxury of a larger parking lot, but it’s simply not logistically possible.
For larger groups/private parties that book a party in the private event space at FoodSmith, valet parking can be arranged.
Thanks to Ann Ulrich for taking time away from busy launch prep to answer our questions. Best of luck with the opening!
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