St. Paul restaurateur Tim Niver and his Saint Dinette crew are headed across the river to open a new deli and bar.
Niver’s newest project, an unnamed deli and cocktail bar in Lake Street’s former Tinto location (901 W. Lake St.), will sport house-made Montreal-style bagels, lox, pastrami and dumplings as well as libations – and maybe some spiked egg creams – when it opens this spring.
Niver also owns Mucci's in St. Paul.
“It feels like a homecoming in a strange way,” Niver said, who is teaming with Saint Dinette chef Adam Eaton and general manager Laurel Elm once again. “I think people think of me as a St. Paul guy, and I am, but I’m also a Minneapolis guy. Town Talk Diner [which he opened in the Longfellow neighborhood in 2006 and has since been remade] was really what helped me start my career. I’m very happy to get back.”
The deli’s focal point will be the Montreal-style bagels that Eaton has begun making at Saint Dinette. For those who aren’t familiar, “Montreal-style” bagels are typically infused with a little malt or honey, making them slightly sweeter than New York and other varieties. They usually have a larger hole and are served with cream cheese on the side for dipping, not spreading.
At the new establishment, Eaton will be preparing them in a new-to-the-space, 10,000-pound wood-fired oven – which they’ll need to knock out a few windows (or a piece of the ceiling) to get inside.
“When you put [the bagels] in a wood-fired oven, they’re just different,” Niver said. “You get this crackly element where it kind of gets bubbly.”
Those bagels will be paired with house smoked and cured items, such as fish and meats to make what Niver hopes will be sandwiches that rise above, a la Saint Dinette’s beloved bologna sandwich.
“Unbeknownst to us, [Saint Dinette] became somewhat of a lab for this kind of concept,” Niver said. “People label Saint Dinette ‘fine dining,’ which I somewhat love and somewhat hate. It’s just casual food, but we put lipstick on it and dress it up.”
The deli will also have a full bar with a cocktail program, an online ordering system, a catering operation and perhaps a retail element as well – “bagels, cream cheese, lox, pastrami, anything we can mass produce,” Niver said. He plans for the space to be open all day long, seven days a week, with counter-style service.
“When you have the right people you can do pretty much anything,” he said. “We’ve been discussing this concept for a long time. It’s just the food that we love and food we think is needed, and it’s going to be more elevated than people think.”
(Photos by Courtney Perry, Joel Koyama)