What's an even more foolproof concept than a pizza place? A burger joint.
At least, that's the hope of veteran Twin Cities restaurateur Matty O'Reilly. After giving his Como Park pizza spot, Delicata a two-year run, he's closed the doors and opened a burger bar in its place -- with a jaunty little name that practically dances off the tongue: the Foxtrot Burger Spot (1341 Pascal St., St. Paul, foxtrotstp.com).
The transition from pizzas to burgers was as swift as flipping a patty on a griddle: While Delicata was closed for the State Fair ("Why stay open when everyone's already eaten?" said O'Reilly), the staff voted on and implemented a proposal to rebrand the restaurant from pizzeria to burger bar. They also switched to a profit-sharing model where decisions are made collectively, O'Reilly said. Two weeks ago, Foxtrot quietly opened.
O'Reilly, who currently owns Republic and Bar Brigade is also known for owning (and later selling) a number of area restaurants, including Red River Kitchen, 318 Cafe, Dan Kelly’s Pub, the Green Room, Spring Cafe and Aster Cafe. He recently launched a restaurant consulting business, Banner Year Advisors, which helps chefs and restaurateurs better understand their numbers. "I want them to be more confident with business fundamentals," O'Reilly said.
Some of those business basics -- namely knowing when to cut bait -- were at play when O'Reilly proposed the concept change.
"We had a capacity issue," he said. "When we were busy, we couldn't do any more than what we were doing. Our dreams of adding delivery and a lunch service just weren't possible with the size of the kitchen. We hit a wall."
Preparing fresh pizza dough every day and baking it in large, space-gobbling ovens was slowing them down. To expand their operations without expanding their footprint, the team needed a concept that requires less time and less space. The success of O'Reilly's burger and craft beer bar, Republic, inspired the shift.
Not that you'll find Republic burgers at Foxtrot; there's no overlap in the menus, O'Reilly said. What you will find are 10 burgers, ranging from $9-$14, and including a burger with Roquefort fondue, bacon and balsamic; an Albuquerque Turkey burger with green chiles and pepperjack cheese; and a meatless Beyond burger. There's also an extensive list of craft beers from local breweries, a "short and sweet, value-driven" wine list and appetizers such as wings, cheese curds and tots (plus some veggie friendly options like crispy Brussels sprouts and cauliflower bites, the meatless take on wings).
Serving the neighborhood seems to be the primary focus here, hence the daily and weekly opportunities to snag a deal. Thursday is date night; trivia's on Monday; Wednesday brings $10 craft beer pitchers and kids eat free on Sunday.
Tailoring the concept to the location is O'Reilly's modus operandi: "I never know what I'm going to do until I walk through the space. I look around the neighborhood to see what's missing. We don't need a million Instagram followers; we need our neighborhood to like us."