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Jul 25, 2007 10:38 AM

[MSP] Blackbird Cafe?

Driving down 50th Street in Minneapolis yesterday, I came to the Bryant Ave section and noticed a change. A new awning announced "Blackbird Cafe" and a chalk sandwichboard sign appeared to say they were now open.

One door down, the windows are still papered over and what might be construction permits are posted on the door. (Sorry, at 25 mph, that's the best I can do.)

Last night's impression was, "hey, Pano Vino Dolce has been replaced!" Dara's column today described Heidi & Stewart Woodman's tentative plans for the site -- but it omitted an imminent timeline and the name.

Perhaps the former PVD is the still-papered-over storefront. Anybody have details about the new spot?

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  1. I had the same initial impression as you last winter when the paper went up. PVD is a sentimental favorite for my wife and me. The papered space used to be a Caribou Coffee and it's two doors down from PVD.

    I did a quick google of the Blackbird Cafe and came across Jeremy Igger's mention of the place in his blog ( Sounds like the place is open and itching for a report on Chowhound.

    Blackbird Cafe
    3800 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55409

    8 Replies
    1. re: bob s

      I drove by yesterday also and noticed the Open sign. Which shop/restaurant is which on that block has always confused me. So PVD is still open in addition to Blackbird?

      1. re: katebauer

        No. These are two separate spaces. Blackbird is open. Their menu is posted in the window.

        The PVD space is papered over, and there's a notice in the window regarding Heidi Woodman's request for a parking variance for her restaurant.

        1. re: Jordan

          Huh, so there are 3 spaces - old Carabou, Blackbird and PVD? I don't know why this is so confusing to me. I know I saw people eating in PVD a week or two ago, it's now closed? I should just get out of my car tonight and figure this out.

          1. re: katebauer

            Take a digital camera with you and post photos of all the signs for us! (Please.)


            1. re: katebauer

              No, I think the old Caribou became Blackbird.

              1. re: Jordan

                Jordan, not to confuse matters, is that the same Caribou we were wondering might become a Grand Ole Creamery? Or is that a completely other Caribou?


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Oh boy. We were actually trying to figure out whether a former Dairy Queen was going to become a new Caribou or a Grand Ole Creamery. And it was a bit further east than this location.

                  Here's that discussion:

      2. Alright, I swung by but my camera was low on batteries and wouldn't take any pictures.

        Jordan's right - there seem to be 3 spaces (at least 3 doorways) from east to west it's Blackbird, empty space with unmarked door which is papered over, and old PDV which is papered over. Both the empty looking space and PDV have the parking requests from Heidi Woodman posted.

        The Blackbird space looked extremely small - I don't know if there's more space in back or if they're taking over the buildings next door (I just Googled and someone made a comment in a blog that the Woodmans are taking over the PDV space - a little strange to renovate it while Blackbird is open). The menu is really interesting and in light of our Ngon Bistro discussion - Blackbird has a Banh Mi on the menu! I also saw fried liver - I love liver. Great looking sandwiches for lunch too.

        5 Replies
        1. re: katebauer

          Thank you, Kate. In Small Bites (today's Pioneer Press) Kathie Jenkins says Blackbird is "flapping its wings in a former Caribou." It's run by Gail Mollner and Chri Stevens from the late Table of Contents in St. Paul. She recommends the Longhorn, a baguette with lean brisket, carmelized onions, provolone and horshradsish. And the fried liver salad!

          And, if you look at their website, they call themselves...wait for it...a bistro.


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            We went to Blackbird for dinner during their first week, and yeah, I ordered the Longhorn. I think it was around $10.95, more than their other sandwiches by a few dollars, but the description sounded too good to pass up. The brisket was nicely done, very lean, and fell apart in the sandwich with every bite. I think the bread was from New French Bakery. I couldn't taste too much of the horseradish, but next time I might ask for more.

            The rest of the menu was eclectic. Sandwiches and entrees, ranging from Texas (the Longhorn) to Vietnam (Bahn Mi). (Sandwiches are available for dinner as well as lunch, Kate.) Prices seemed reasonable.

            When we went, it was a Wednesday, but the place was packed with locals from the neighborhood who probably had been watching expectantly as the place was constructed. I do think there was some confusion about this possibly being the new Woodman restaurant.

            I seem to remember a good wine list, but only one beer on tap (Bell's Oberon that week) plus some bottled selections. Our service was surprisingly good, especially for the first few days of being open. Smoother than our first week experience at Maude and Levain.

            The interior space is... interesting. The most striking characteristic is the abundance of antlers on the walls. Lots of them. Really bizarre and unexpected, not my favorite decorating technique. Doesn't seem to go with the rest of the decor, which is kind of bistro-y. Tables seemed pretty tightly packed together -- Kate was right in that the space feels a little small, but yes, it does curve around the back a bit. (We didn't go back there to see how far.)

            My dining cohorts pointed out that there were limited vegetarian main dish options. This, combined with the antler theme, would seem to make Blackbird not the most veggie-friendly place.

            Blackbird is slated to serve pastries and coffee in the morning, which might draw some foot traffic away from Rustica/Java Jack's, previously the closest option for many. We haven't tried them yet, but they will have a hard time beating Rustica in the pastry department. Their small bar in the front of the restaurant looks like it would be a nice place to stop in for a coffee, though.

            It will be interesting to see what happens with Cafe Levain, Blackbird, Cafe Maude, and (in theory) the new Woodman restaurant all opening up within a few months of each other in overlapping neighborhoods. Clearly someone perceived a need for this kind of place down here -- but four of them? I find it especially interesting that two of these places (BB & Maude) have opened up with the same sort of model -- open all the time as a coffee shop / bar, but also serving food at meal time. Both outwardly encourage "lingering" and "casual leisure." Kind of European... I like it, I just hope the traffic can sustain that kind of thing.

            We'll be back; we can walk there pretty easily. I can see myself stopping in for coffee or pastries in the morning (especially in the winter when the Rustica walk just seems a little too far) and for casual dinners occasionally. The first week experience seemed like a pretty good start -- but I really hope they lose the antlers.

            1. re: Chris Mitra

              I actually do think the neighborhood can handle it. I used to live on the other side of the creek over there and was among the throng who packed into Primo when it first opened. Heck, a place other than The Malt Shop... in our neighborhood. It felt like such a leap forward.

              The huge downside will be parking and they will have to hire distance runners as valets to see success beyond first blush.

              1. re: MplsM ary

                very generally speaking, thats' a reasonably densely populated neighborhood with an abundance of disposable income and a fierce pro-indie locally owned streak. great place for these places to thrive in.

          2. littlefoodie and I went to Blackbird last night and very much enjoyed it. It was very busy and there were some service problems. We had to send up a flare to get water after being seated for 10 minutes, for example. That said, the food was excellent. I had the wonderful fried chicken livers salad and the chef kindly indulged my irrational dislike of frisee and gave me different greens. Also, the frites with Bearnaise were equally fabulous, the best I've had in a long while. littlefoodie had the special, which was braised short ribs with an apple salad and glorious au gratin potatoes. Even the decaf coffee was excellent. The pricing is deceptively low, since one has to buy vegetables and other sides ala carte, which can add up quickly.

            Overall, we were quite pleased with Blackbird and only wish we could afford to live in the neighborhood so that we could walk there ;-)

            1. We went today for lunch. When we arrived, at about 1:00, it was busy, but we were seated almost immediately.

              I ordered the Bahn Mi with the soup of the day and my husband got the Longhorn Sandwich with fries. The soup of the day was a plum and ginger soup.

              The Bahn Mi was good. It is a barbeque pork and liverworst sandwich with jalepenos, cucumbers and mayo. The pork was great, but a tiny bit dry. The liverworst couldn't be tasted, it was overwhelmed by the bread. The bread was very good. I liked the sandwich, but I will continue to get my Bahn Mi at Vietnamese places.

              The cold plum and ginger soup was amazing. Spicy, sweet, and rich, it was an outstanding balance, perfect in a cup size. it was so rich, I could not have eaten a whole bowl.

              My husband's sandwich was great in my opinion, he thought it was pretty good. It needed more horseradish, as stated above, but it is a beef brisket sandwich that is tender and juicy.

              He was very disappointed in the fries. He says the grease was at too low of a temperature, so they were soggy and greasy. They tasted too much like potatoes for him. I liked them, but they were not my favorite.

              The atmosphere is great and the service was very good. Overall,it was a good lunch and we will go back, but it is not on top of our list.

              1. We went to both Blackbird and Heidi's this week. Seeing them back to back tells me that they should be able to thrive next to each other.

                Blackbird hit my comfort spot (which was good because I had really wanted the tagliarini di Locanda del Lupo at Broders but it would have been forever to get in). They had this lovely boar risotto with baked apples on top. It just hit that fall comfort food spot. It wasn't overly refined or conceptually challenging but it heavens it was tasty.

                The crispy duck rolls with the five spice dipping sauce were prefectly crisp and well executed. I liked them a lot. So did my DH who had gotten the curried lamb balls and found them somewhat heavy handed. They were like little curry bombs and seemed to really need something to balance them out.

                I know that there are enough familiar things on the menu that I could take my astoundingly midwestern inlaws to Blackbird and not have to much trouble. If I were to take them to Heidi's they would freak out when the waiter asked them how well they wanted their pork loin done.