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Mar 20, 2013 07:48 AM

Robbinsdale and Travail. Updates.

Glad to see Robbinsdale get the love of other small and charming neighborhoods that are developing in the cities.

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  1. Do not understand them making 2.0 SMALLER than Travail. I know there will be 2 other new businesses, but wasn't the problem that Travail was too small to begin with?

    15 Replies
    1. re: american_idle

      That is a good point idle...maybe they feel if they go too big they lose the chef interaction or charm of the little things they do well. What confuses me is I thought the new location was stand alone and larger (near Walgreens).

      1. re: brlattim

        I thought a good part of the reason was to increase size a bit and start taking reservations. The #1 complaint is the wait. Eliminate wait, more people will come / comeback, more money will be made.

        The going too big worry doesn't hold water when opening up two more places. That is what might make the mothership fail.

        1. re: american_idle

          There is big and there is too big though sometimes with chef run least in my experience. I like the idea of it being easier for people to get in (even if I never have issues with calling ahead and timing it and I go once a month minimum) but when it becomes easy and available for everyone...that might cost the mothership as well....or at least hurt their egos. I dont know why people expect to randomly show up at a restaurant on a Friday night and not expect a wait of at least an hour or more in a major city. You can get that at Applebees in the burbs. The buzz is the reason many people went there....then they are like...why is everyone here...odd to me.

          Personally, I would rather have two with seperate and unique focus (hoping thats the case) than one big showroom. Different strokes though. If they are the same they definitely will fail to your point...and rightfully so.

          1. re: brlattim

            "I dont know why people expect to randomly show up at a restaurant on a Friday night and not expect a wait of at least an hour or more in a major city."

            Because there's such a thing as reservations. I don't expect to walk into Bar La Grassa on Friday night without a reservation and get a table for at least an hour, but I do expect to be able to call a month ahead and get a reservation for a Friday night. It's not that complicated. I've booked researvations for popular restaurants around the US and abroad six months ahead of time, as I'm sure everyone has, and have eaten fantastic food without having to wait two hours for it.

            Not taking reservations is what cut-rate restaurants in college towns like Ann Arbor do, because they're afraid people will ditch the reservation, and so they increase their profit margin by not having man a phone and reservation log. Yet if BLG, Heartland, Meritage, and La Belle Vie can make reservations work, I don't understand why Travail can't. The only two things I can think of is that: 1) it's a chef ego thing, that they like to see long lines of people waiting, or 2) it's profit driven because people will wait at the bar and spend $$$ on drinks waiting for the table, and the longer the wait equals more $$$.

            I went to Travail not long after it opened and didn't have to wait. The food was tremendous. Phenomenal. Yet I haven't been back since, because I have no desire to wait over an hour when I can get a reservation at any other of the Twin Cities top restaurants and spend my time sitting and eating, rather than standing and waiting.

            I was saddned to read about their new model. From what I've read (and maybe my interpretation is wrong, or I'm being overly cynical or pessimistic), their "expansion" isn't going to bring any advantages to Twin Cities diners, though it may bring advantages to the chef/owners wallets.

            1. re: foreverhungry

              Per Se, Le Bernardin, Daniel, and many others in New York City take reservations
              Alinea, L20, Avenues and many others in Chicago take reservations
              The French Laundry and most other high-end Napa Valley restaurants take reservations
              Travail does not take reservations. That's just one reason it is no where near a four-star restaurant.

              What was it about showing up and waiting an hour in major cities? Why would I have to do that? The truly great restaurants take reservations. And while Travail was good, it is by no means great. It's a two-star joint in NYC at best and would have a hard time standing out as there are 100 restaurants doing pretty much the same thing .........and taking reservations.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                In all fairness (and FWIW, I hate the no reservations deal of Travail), try making a reservation at Per Se or French Laundry or Le Bernardin or Alinea and let me know how pleasant that was compared to Travail's line.

                Make sure to call precisely as the phones open exactly one/two/three months to the day from when you want to be there, and even then, good luck.

                1. re: MSPD

                  Actually, it isn't always true. The last time I ate at Alinea, I called two weeks before we were going. I knew it was a long shot, but they had a cancellation and an opening for us. But yes, it's a challenge to get reservations at the most popular spots in any city. The point is that they have them and they make that clear to the general public. And they don't require that you have a party of 8. But I only have a half a brain apparently so what do I know.

                  1. re: Db Cooper

                    You lucked out Db Cooper, but you can't count on that happening very often and had it not worked out that way, with two weeks notice, most of the other places you would have wanted to fall back on would have been reserved.

                    You know what my point was. If you want to eat at the "hot" places in ANY city, you're going to have to deal with some form of difficulty.

                    And, again, I'm on your side in wishing they took reservations.

                    1. re: Db Cooper

                      And for the price, you could've had 4 or more dinners at Travail. The low rent in Robbinsdale, the lack of paying a reservation person / paying for software, is all part of how they can offer what they do at the price they do it at. Travail is not a fine dining restaurant and they don't claim to be.

                      Woodman likes to take not-so-thinly veiled shots at the Non-Rez taking crowd. His prices are also triple what Travails are.

                      The wait wasn't as bad when Travail did lunch service, but their hours and prep were so long they had to go to one shift.

                      But with the move, I still don't understand going even small and still no system. Won't it be worse? Isn't that the #1 Yelp complaint?

                      I hope to go before the close (I was present the first night of service) and will check out the new spot once open. I hope they can offer the same food at close to the same price.

                      1. re: american_idle

                        For the value, I could have ten dinners at Travail that wouldn't match up to the "worst" dish I've had at Alinea. Sorry, I enjoyed the food Travail (minus the 90-minute wait) but their food isn't close to that level. In all honesty, it wasn't worth the 90-minute wait though. The food was on the level of some of the other high-end places in town. Very solid. The atmosphere was claustrophobic and the service was below that you'd receive at any Acapulco or Applebee's here in town. You get what you pay for I guess. Good food, none of the other stuff that makes a restaurant dining experience enjoyable.

                        I'm fine with Travail, Tillia, and others not having a reservation system. Good for them. They just will never be getting my business again. At the end of the day, it's food. And I don't think any food anywhere is worth waiting that long to eat. I hope someday they'll change it. If they do, I'll consider eating there again. But I never will until they do.

                        And Yes, people are miffed at the wait times at Travail now. So they are going to open a new version and make it smaller. That really shows how much they care about your time and opinion doesn't it?

                        1. re: Db Cooper

                          I think the line is part of the buzz around Travail and Tilia. It's like that with the breakfast joints around here that feature obscene waits.

            2. re: american_idle

              Right, I do think the number one complaint is the wait. Right now, folks seem to be focused on Travail 2 being smaller. But that shouldn't be the issue. I understand going smaller so they can concentrate on their chef driven concept, spend more time with customers, and have more time to spend on the smaller details. That's great.

              The way to tackle that is by taking reservations (and not just on tables of 8 or on their high priced package). Reservations mean no waiting on line. You now wait in the comfort of your own home, waiting for your appointed time. If that means having to plan early, even a few months, so be it. At least you know that on such date at such time, you'll be dining on an excellent Travail dinner.

              This isn't exaclty a news flash, though. Which makes me wonder why, exactly, Travail refuses to use the universal reservation concept that nearly all restaurants use.

              Don't want to invest in a software system? Great, use a phone and a book. Countless high priced and hot restaurants eschew modern technology for a phone line and ink for managing reservations, and it works fine for them, and they still seem to turn a profit.

            3. re: brlattim

              I’ve been to Travail a handful of times and loved it every time. What I have noticed are the chefs seem much more rushed and have less time to explain what’s on the plate. My first few times the chef was very precise about what he/she was serving and pointed out each element of the dish in great detail. Lately, the chef puts the food down, does a hurried explanation, then off to the next table. Perhaps a smaller place will reign in the craziness and give the chef’s back the time to spend with the clientele. That’s my hope, anyway.

              1. re: BatMan

                This is not a criticism of Travail. This is a picture of what used to happen at V44. When Travail first opened in Robbinsdale we used to go in, get the charcuterie platter and a couple glasses of wine and leave happy. This platter was about $12. Way too cheap because on this platter there was rabbit confit, head cheese, a couple of country style pates, chicken liver mousse, and a few other things. Sometimes we got lucky and it came with a torchon of foie gras.

                If you're a chef, this is the kind of stuff that drives you. Those skulls which used to sit on the shelf weren't just decorations, you really did get head cheese made out of a whole head.

                I don't expect them to do this again at that price. Those days are long gone. My wish is that they do something similiar, maybe with a smaller selection, and maybe for a bit more money. This time maybe they'll be a little more health conscious and use a little less pork fat.

                Nah. :D

            4. re: american_idle

              True, the restaurant was a little too small to handle the demand. However, a smaller restaurant would give the kitchen even more control over what they want to do and how they want to do it.

            5. I live in Robbinsdale. I ate at Travail during their "soft opening." I was there the day they got their first liquid Nitrogen, and Mike looked at me and exclaimed, "Dude! We made fucking dippin' dots!"

              A *LOT* has changed since those days, yet not much at all. Even back then they were talking about opening a second spot in Robbinsdale as a bar.

              Before they got all of the press, Travail was Robbinsdale's neighborhood restaurant. One of their goals of the move is to "bring the neighborhood" back. They *WANT* to be a neighborhood hang out. (Read the story Rick Nelson wrote back in December on the move for quotes:


              These days, Victory 44 is my neighborhood restaurant, mostly because the suburbanites haven't figured out they perform at as high of a level for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (And turn out some of the best coffee-based beverages in the Twin Cities.)

              By making "Travail" smaller, they can really pull off the molecular gastronomy that brings in the suburbanites with fat wallets, and give them what they want.

              Meanwhile, the community surrounding the restaurant gets Travail's skill in a wider variety of things - cocktails, sandwiches, pizza. If all y'all want in, it isn't far, or move to Robbinsdale! I live 5 miles from Target Field, yet get suburban street plowing, and walk and/or bike to Travail and Victory 44.

              As for the location, they're moving into the building between Pawn America and Walgreens. The City of Robbinsdale is helping out with the demolition costs (and the fire department has been using it for training the last few weeks) but construction should begin soon!

              1. This is a very smart business move for Travail. They will serve more people, arguably get more repeat business, improve the dinig landscape of the Robbinsdale area (anyone here think it DOESN'T need improving?).

                First, the move from Victory 44 to the current Travail space. Mainly, it's that the KITCHEN was too small if the dining room was full. The current Victory 44 still has that challenge. The current Travail space has a large enough kitchen to do what they aredoing.

                Second, the dining space and no resevations policy. Having more diners and/or reservations could likely mean hiring more non-chef staff, or take the chefs away from cooking. The current servers take orders, serve drinks, and clear some plates. Part of the schtick is the interactivity, which would be lost with a larger dining room. Reservations also mean managing staggered seatings, dealing with cancelations, dealing with the table not being ready at the reserved time, etc.

                In the next evolution, there will be greater variety of choices for different income levels and different culinary palates. The molecular degustation menu might even improve with fewer of them to prepare.

                A very smart move.