Isaac Becker should be used to doing big things. After all, the local culinary giant and his wife, Nancy St. Pierre, are responsible for two of downtown Minneapolis’ most raved-about restaurants, 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa.
But the James Beard Foundation award winner admits that configuring Burch — his new steakhouse and pizza bar — in the old Burch Pharmacy on Uptown’s outskirts was a new challenge. “It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done,” Becker said of the renovations undergone before opening this week. “I didn’t really comprehend the fact that we were essentially opening two restaurants at once, also.”
Yeah, about that. Owners Becker, St. Pierre and Ryan Burnet (also a partner in Bar La Grassa) wanted to do another project together. While looking at locations in California and elsewhere in the Twin Cities, the trio first peeked at the old drugstore at Hennepin and Franklin Avenues in 2011. Burnet suggested a steakhouse for the two-level, 9,850-square-foot space, but there was the question of what to do with the basement.
“It seemed natural to put a bar down there,” Becker said. “But Nancy and I don’t really do bars, you know? I like crab cakes. … We weren’t comfortable just having a bar without any reason to go to it.”
The chief of chow decided pizza would be the downstairs dish of choice. Uptown is rich with pizza-and-pitcher joints, but none have Becker’s fine-dining flair — at Burch, lardo and lobster claw supplant sausage and pepperoni. An exhibitionist wood-burning pizza grill and 12 all-craft tap handles sit behind an L-shaped bar, not far from a framed picture of late rapper Eazy-E (Becker just thought it was cool).
On the steak-centric main floor of the century-old building, the once dingy aspirin emporium has been transformed into two elegant dining areas. Separated by a red brick wall, the high-ceilinged space — designed by Minneapolis architect Julie Snow — feels intimate despite its expansiveness.
Becker’s beef slabs come in a variety of grades and sizes, with a wine list bigger than his other joints’ (a not-so-quick count tallies around 170 different bottles). But keeping with the late-night tradition of 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa, Burch’s full menu will be served until 1 a.m.
“I thought I really wanted a place where people, after they get off work or get out of shows, can get a good meal after 10 o’clock,” Becker recalled of opening 112 Eatery. “It’s something that they’ve been doing in bigger cities for a while and it’s finally catching on here.”
With Burch, Becker is bringing a stylish, high-end hangout to an area he says has more foot traffic than the North Loop, where his always bustling Bar La Grassa is located. If the dining dignitary manages to convert even a fraction of the intently peering passersby into regulars, business should be just fine.
Where: 1934 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.
Info: 612-843-1515 or www.burchrestaurant.com.