A hole still remains in downtown Minneapolis’s burger-loving heart years after Vincent Francoual closed his restaurant Vincent after 14 years on Nicollet Mall.
While lauded for its French cuisine, the restaurant was especially praised for the Vincent burger, a fancified Jucy Lucy of a burger made with braised beef short ribs and stuffed with smoked Gouda.
Fans of the burger followed Vincent to his next post leading culinary operations for Cara Irish Pubs, which has two outposts of the Local (on Nicollet Mall and at the West End in St. Louis Park) on its roster. Francoual pivoted to hearty Irish fare in that role, but there was always a spot on the menu for that burger.
Later this summer, the Vincent burger — and Francoual — will transition to a new home at the Minikahda Club, the private country club on Bde Maka Ska/Lake Calhoun. (3205 Excelsior Blvd., Mpls., 612-926-1601, minikahdaclub.org)
“It was an opportunity that I could not refuse,” Francoual said. “When one of the top culinary programs in the nation for country clubs opened their door to me, that’s something you just don’t refuse.”
Early next year, longtime Minikahda Club chef Ferris Shiffer will hang up his apron after 25 years overseeing the dining program at the club — and giving cooking gigs to seemingly every big-name chef in town, at one time or another.
Francoual will spend another week with Cara Irish Pubs before taking a month hiatus to spend time with his 5-year-old daughter.
Francoual was a guest chef at the Minikahda Club some 20 years ago. In August, he joins the club full-time, and begins the transition to take over from Shiffer, whom he calls a good friend.
“Ferris is a mine of knowledge. I’m so excited to learn from him,” Francoual said.
Joining Francoual is sommelier Nico Giraud, who is currently the hospitality director of the Lynhall. Giraud first moved to Minneapolis 13 years ago to work in front-of-the-house at Vincent. “This is a great opportunity to get the team back together,” he said.
Giraud will be the club’s three restaurants’ food and beverage director.
“I’m really excited,” to work at a country club, he said. “I’m going to have to work on my golf game.”
Giraud is also French, but this doesn’t mean Minikahda Club is going Gallic.
“We’re certainly going to feature what these guys’ strengths are, but we’re not going to turn Minikahda Club into a Vincent restaurant or a French bistro,” said the club’s general manager, Jim Jennings. “We just do too many things.”
Jennings himself has worked there for 35 years, and “there’s a couple things on the menu that have been here since before I got here.” The Nugent salad, walleye pike, caramel rolls and the hot fudge sundae aren’t going anywhere. “And then there’s the Bootleg of course,” Jennings said.
But there is room for at least one addition. “I’m pretty sure the Vincent burger is going to be on the menu,” Jennings said.
Francoual confirmed the burger is coming with him, as well as another Vincent favorite, scallops with orange sauce.
(Francoual says the burger will remain at the two Locals at least through the summer, and he has given permission for it to continue after that.)
While Francoual’s new position is good news for club members, it’s also bittersweet due to Shiffer’s departure.
“Ferris is a remarkable man,” Jennings said. “I think he’s the strongest culinarian in town, and we’ve been reaping the benefits of his knowledge and his work ethic and skill for 25 years.”
Members can expect a farewell event for Shiffer next spring. Francoual and Giraud will be welcomed at the club at a reception in September.
“We’re just very excited about their arrival,” Jennings said. “Combining those two guys, it’s going to be a great food and beverage program.”