Table Talk
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The hallowed dining ground that is 510 Groveland in Minneapolis, dark since January, is coming back to life.

Jester Concepts, the crew behind Borough, Parlour, Monello and Constantine in Minneapolis and Parlour in St. Paul, is taking over the space, which had a brief life as 510 Lounge & Private Dining but is most famous for its longtime role as a fine-dining epicenter, initially as 510 Restaurant and then as nationally recognized La Belle Vie.

The plan is for Jester culinary director Mike DeCamp to lead what he’s calling a “modern steakhouse”

“I would say this is a ‘steakhouse,’ in air quotes,” he said with a laugh. “It has steakhouse leanings, but I don’t think it can be categorized as just another steakhouse.”

DeCamp said that he plans to set the restaurant apart from its beef-and-baked potatoes brethren by focusing on seasonality.

“And not necessarily have a focus that’s strictly on beef” said DeCamp. “I don’t want to get stuck doing anything. Most steakhouses have side dishes and cuts of meat that don’t change all that often. If we don’t like rib eye, we won’t have it.”

The dining room menu will also emphasize game.

“We’ll have squab, pheasant, venison, elk, wild boar, rabbit, all of that stuff,” said DeCamp. “I think the beauty of game is that people in Minnesota aren’t afraid of it. They’re hunters, or they know hunters. That’s beautiful and unique to our part of the world. I love rabbit, I always have. The No. 1 seller at Monello is a rabbit pasta.”

The lounge’s menu will have a more casual focus.

“We’ll do the classics — beef tartare, shrimp cocktail — but we’ll do them our way,” said DeCamp. “Something more interesting, and unique.”

The new venture is a homecoming for DeCamp (pictured, above, in the Monello dining room in a Star Tribune file photo), who spent nearly 10 years at four-star La Belle Vie, cooking there until it closed in 2015.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am about going back there,” he said. “Two of my mentors came from that kitchen — Jay Sparks [510 Groveland] and Tim McKee [La Belle Vie], and they obviously had a huge impact on my life. I’m very nervous, and very excited — I’m feeling pretty much every emotion right now — because we have to do it right. There’s a lot of pressure to pay due respect to my friends and mentors who were in the space before.”

The building, originally an apartment house and now condominiums, dates to 1927, and its patrician interior — high ceilings, enormous windows, a swank lobby and finely crafted details — is unlike any other dining venue in Minneapolis.

“I’m also really excited to keep that space open, because it deserves people in it,” said DeCamp. “In my mind, there aren’t too many historic restaurant spaces, but this is one of them. It leads the way.”

Architect David Shea agrees. His Minneapolis-based Shea Design is handling the project. The commission is also a homecoming; the firm was behind the space’s reinvention into La Belle Vie in 2005.

“It’s like déjà vu all over again,” said Shea. “We’re honored to be working in such a singular environment. I was just looking at the original drawings. They’re in the architect’s handwriting, it’s ink on linen, and they’re amazing. He’d sketch something, and then an artisan would handle the carvings. It’s not like today. Nothing is chosen from a catalog.”

Design-wise, the reboot is going to emphasize the differences between the lounge — the spacious, residential-like room that’s just off the building’s lobby — and the nearby formal dining room.

The biggest changes in the dining room will start with the long corridor leading up to it. Shea is removing the wall between the two, and inserting a bar.

“It will demystify the area a bit,” said DeCamp.

Lighting will be subdued, and booths will dominate (“Cozy, but private, with great lighting,” said Shea), along with the inclusion of a few showy freestanding dry-aging coolers.

“So people can see some of the meat and game, and get a preview of what they’ll be eating,” said DeCamp.

Meanwhile, the lounge (pictured, above, during its brief incarnation as 510 Lounge, in a Star Tribune file photo) will get a lighter, brighter touch-up, with new paint, furniture, curtains, a commissioned mural behind the bar and an infusion of greenery.

“We’re not turning away from what’s there, all the great old moldings, the chandeliers, all the history of the building,” said Shea. “We’re keeping all of those old bones, and then layering in stuff to create new character. It’s still going to have that classic Upper East Side swank. It’s not a replication of what we did years ago with La Belle Vie, but a fresh new personality that reflects Mike and all the guys at Jester.”

That includes company barkeep Jesse Held. DeCamp said that the lounge’s cocktails will be a little more adventurous, sticking close to the Parlour/Constantine mold, while the dining room’s bar will stick to the classics: martinis, Old Fashioneds, Manhattans.

The restaurant will be dinner-only, at least in the beginning.

“We’ve got some aspirations for brunch on the weekends, once we get rolling,” said DeCamp. “We got talked to a lot at La Belle Vie about brunch, but we never put it into action. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea, I would have loved to see what La Belle Vie would have done for brunch, it would have been fun. And it’s good for the neighborhood.”

So far, the project is without a name (“But we have a leading contender,” said DeCamp), but a November opening is in the works.

“We don’t like to relax for too long,” said DeCamp with a laugh. “We’ve been working on plans for a while, it’s not like we’re starting from scratch today. We signed the lease yesterday. My menu is pretty much written, Jesse has been working on his stuff, and we’ve got everything we need to move forward. Now we’ll get to go in and make it ours. For me, anyway, it’s like going back home, and putting on an old pair of shoes.”