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Bruce Taher stood on the creaking porch that wraps around Forepaugh's restaurant, surveying St. Paul's Irvine Park neighborhood.

The restaurant was darkened, as it had been since he shuttered it in 2019. The foundation was cracking beneath him, thanks to the encroaching root system of a neighbor's tree. The grand chandelier was robbed of its sparkle under decades of dust, the carpet was spotted with memories of meals dating back to the 1980s and the carport patio sagged. And, if mediums are to be believed, the spirits long rumored to occupy this house roamed without anyone to tell their stories. Taher eased back on his heels and sighed to his executive corporate chef, "I think I'm falling in love with this building again."

The undertaking of properly bringing this stately home-turned-restaurant back to its glory would not be easy.

"It's been 19 months of loving restoration," said executive corporate chef John Sugimura, who has led the project on behalf of Taher. "Nothing was easy about it, but we're renovating it, stabilizing it and making sure it's a treasure in the neighborhood."

He's since led scores of impromptu tours through the grand mansion's many rooms, which have been repainted, scrubbed and recarpeted.

Among those who recall fond memories of this place is St. Paul native and James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee. "You know, there were two places to go for all the big events growing up; graduations, confirmations, prom. It was Forepaugh's or the Lex. I'm so glad Bruce is bringing this back," he said.

McKee has been brought on to consult on the menu and rebuild the kitchen team. The chef is familiar with working within a historic building, having made his name at the landmark restaurant La Belle Vie, which he operated on the ground floor of Minneapolis' 510 Groveland building.

To run day-to-day operations, McKee tapped Jeremy Wessing, who worked with him at Sea Change and has since been in the kitchen at notable spots like Baldamar and Pau Hana. There will be two menus, one with small plates that diners can order in the bar, on the porch or up on the deck. Another will be served in the dining rooms. Food will be familiar American dishes with a little bit of an Italian bent. There will be pasta.

Forepaugh's is named for the home's original owner, Joseph Lybrandt Forepaugh, who built the grand Victorian house in 1870. Forepaugh and his wife, Mary, left the house in 1886. It was converted and opened as a restaurant in 1976. Bruce Taher purchased it in 2007 and continued to run it as a restaurant and event venue until closing it in 2019. The closure came after the death of the restaurant's 32-year-old executive chef, Kyle Bell.

Stories swirl about other tragedies inside and around the building, including that of a young maid named Molly who is said to haunt the grounds and is often seen under that chandelier. It's a lot of history held around one restaurant, but Sugimura said it is ready to welcome folks once again.

"I know more about dumbwaiters than I ever wanted to," he joked. "We even got the chandelier working again. Well, mostly. Sometimes you have to tweak a light bulb to get it going, but we cleaned every single crystal in there. I think of that as my gift to Molly. I think she'd like that."

There are just a few more projects to complete, including interior painting to restore the color schemes of the house's original Victorian era.

Forepaugh's is expected to open late summer, and will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 3:30 to 10:30 p.m. Why so early?

"That's what the neighborhood asked us to do," said Sugimura.

Lake Street's landmark cocktail room returning

In 2015, Du Nord became the first Minneapolis distillery to open a cocktail room. The pandemic and damage sustained during protests after the murder of George Floyd forced a yearslong closure. Now, the cocktail room will reopen in a new location on East Lake Street — and it's bringing a restaurant friend along with it.

Shanelle and Chris Montana are opening Lagniappe and Du Nord Cocktail Room in the Coliseum Building (2700 E. Lake St., Mpls.), which has undergone a $27 million restoration by Redesign Inc. The 85,000-square-foot mixed-use building, which held a reopening ceremony on Juneteenth, is now an incubator for small BIPOC-owned businesses.

Lagniappe will bring New Orleans flavor to the part of town that's been dubbed "downtown Longfellow." The Montanas have brought in New Orleans chef Brad McGehee to create the menu. Around the corner from the restaurant will be DuNord Cocktail Room.

Construction is underway with an expected August opening.

Khue's Kitchen finds a permanent home in St. Paul

Khue's Kitchen began as a ghost kitchen before moving into an extended pop-up at Bar Brava in Minneapolis. Now, Eric Pham is taking his tasty creations to St. Paul. The chef is hard at work inside 799 University Av. W., the former location of Ngon Bistro.

Pham is a third-generation restaurateur. His grandmother founded Minneapolis' legendary Quang, which is still run by his mother, Khue Pham, and her siblings. Despite Khue's hopes that he would find a career outside the kitchen, Pham couldn't resist the pull and desire to create a deliciousness of his own.

After a stint in the kitchen at Gavin Kaysen's Spoon and Stable, he launched Khue's Kitchen, named for his mother.

He's keeping mum on details of the new venture for now, but hopes are high for the return of his chile crisp-topped fried chicken sandwich.

Serene community space and craft cocktails in north Minneapolis

Tap In Kitchen & Cocktails is officially open at 2618 Lowry Av. N. in Minneapolis, on the site of what was once an abandoned convenience store. The ambitious project is spearheaded by New Rules North, which converts buildings in overlooked communities into innovative spaces.

Tap In is a stunner in neutral warm hues, with a menu built to attract those from surrounding communities. The drink menu includes modernized classic cocktails like a mezcalita, bourbon sour and espresso martini. Food includes salmon, black bean and quinoa and brisket sandwiches, salads, wings and more.

Tap In is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday.

New Lyn-Lake bar will combine sports and pop culture

Beckett's will replace the short-lived Fool Me Once at 3006 Lyndale Av. S. in Minneapolis. With nods to classic movies like "The Sandlot," odes to the 1991 World Series-winning Twins and daily service, this restaurant is angling to be the newest fun-times gathering spot on the block.

"We want Beckett's to be a place where every fan is welcome, and every victory is celebrated," said general manager Eric Harvey.

Bolstering that claim is a sassy little happy hour that will include $5 beers, burgers and buckets of signature cocktails weekday from 2 to 6 p.m. In addition to using buckets as a beverage unit of measurement, there will be TVs showing games and nostalgic movies.

Currently staffing up, watch Beckett's social media channels for updates on the opening.

Gorkha Palace has new owners

The Tibetan-Indian mainstay Gorkha Palace has sold, but the buyer remains a mystery and Rashmi Bhattachan isn't sharing just yet. Bhattachan, along with business partner/chef Sarala Kattel, has decided to turn over the business to a new generation of owners. Bhattachan will focus on her other business, Moma Dosa (with locations in Malcolm Yards and Midtown Global Market), while Kattel plans to retire. Bhattachan told Racket that the new owners are "young and vibrant."

Indigenous community-forward cafe reopens

Gatherings Cafe inside the Minneapolis American Indian Center (1530 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., maicnet.org) reopened this spring under the stewardship of chef Vernon DeFoe. Rooted in Indigenous ingredients, the cafe serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday. According to a release, "The cafe focuses on reducing barriers to healthy, whole food and serving decolonized meals made with innovation and ancestral knowledge. Most of the ingredients are indigenous to Turtle Island or North America."

The menu includes blue corn and wild rice pancakes, veggie hash, smoked turkey melt, Three Sisters Kale Salad and more.

Quoth the Raven: Pour us one more

It's not often we get a goth in the summer event opportunity, but there's an Edgar Allan Poe Speakeasy pop-up that's being held July 4-7 at Gale Mansion (2115 Stevens Av., Mpls.). For $48-$55, attendees can hear reinterpretations of his greatest works and enjoy four cocktails created in the theme of each one. Tickets are available online now at bit.ly/3xDOGmY.