The Twin Cities' loss is the Lowcountry's gain.
Lenny Russo, chef/owner of the former Heartland, is leaving St. Paul for Charleston, S.C.
“It all happened really fast,” he said.
St. Paul Saints co-owners Mike Veeck and Bill Murray have several properties in Charleston – owned in overlapping conjunction with restaurateur Brad Creger – and they’ve tapped Russo to turn them around.
“It’s just a matter of me taking them to the next level,” said Russo (pictured, above, in a Star Tribune file photo). “They have a good foundation. They’re open. They’re operating. I’m not sure they’re as focused as they should be. I’m going to be the guy who says, ‘Let’s take the next step.’”
Russo got to know Veeck and Murray when he was advocating for a new Lowertown ballpark for the Saints. CHS Field eventually materialized across Broadway Street from the former Heartland, which was replaced by chef Tim McKee’s Market House Collaborative, home to Octo Fishbar, the Salty Tart, Almanac Fish, Market House Meats and Birch’s Lowertown.
Since he and spouse Mega Hoehn closed Heartland in late 2016, Russo, a visionary proponent of the farm-to-table movement, has worked on several projects, including the Commodore Bar & Restaurant in St. Paul and Ninetwentyfive at the Hotel Landing in Wayzata.
Russo said that he’ll be relocating in August. But first, he and Hoehn are packing for a trip to France, Croatia and Slovenia. When they return, he’ll head to South Carolina. Hoehn will join him in the fall.
The plan is to give their Southern adventure six months.
“Then we’ll see after that,” said Russo. “We’ll see how we like each other, and if they want me to stick around, and if we want to stick around.”