In December, Bar Cart will open at 1571 Grand Av. in St. Paul, with a neighborhood-pleasing mix of fare and a four-page cocktail list from experienced bartenders Ralena Young and Brian Riess.
It's a bit of a homecoming for Young, who grew up nearby and knows the location well.
For 37 years, it had been home to Khyber Pass, an Afghani restaurant owned by Emel and Masooda Sherzad. Until it closed last month, the Sherzads hosted intimate family nights at their restaurant on Sundays. Among those around the table would be the Sherzad's grown daughter Mashal and her girlfriend of seven years, Young.
"They announced [the decision to close] to the family and I was there for dinner," said Young. "At first, I only thought about what I could do as someone in the industry to help them."
Eventually, Young and Riess decided to open Bar Cart. After a light refresh of the room, it could open as early as the first week in December.
Riess comes to the project with his own St. Paul bonafides. He started his restaurant career "at the original Champps on West 7th, working my way through college."
After stints at several other restaurants, he worked at Volstead House in Eagan, which is owned by the Eyes Wide Hospitality group. That's where he met Young, who was head of the group's beverage program. The two found they had a lot in common.
At Bar Cart, Young will head the kitchen, "returning to my first love: food."
The menu will sport lighter fare and a few heartier entrees. There will be a loaded hummus (a nod to Khyber Pass), and a creamy burrata with hot honey and pickled cherries, Hasselback beets, tuna tartare and beef carpaccio. There will be a burger and a riff on nachos as well as skirt steak, pulled porchetta and freshwater fish. Plus, at Mashal Sherzad's request: an iceberg wedge salad.
Riess will oversee the bar program with a four-page menu broken out by classics ($11), vintage ($10), signature ($12) and a page of non-alcoholic and low-proof beverages.
Service and staff are pillars of Riess and Young's plan for the restaurant and the two are planning to adhere to the new service industry standard of including a 20% hospitality fee on each tab. The money will be split among all the staff working that evening, from the host stand to the dish pit.
Riess and Young are doing most of the remodeling work themselves, everything from building tables to painting the walls. "It's a journey, but it's all coming together," said Young.
Bar Cart will be open seven days a week — afternoons and evenings on weekdays, later on the weekends — and the are plans for a brunch service on Sundays.