Cafe Levain, the cherished neighborhood bistro that closed in 2016, went through a few transformations in its time.
The full-service restaurant from Turtle Bread Company began as a four-star, fine-dining operation overseen by chef Stewart Woodman in 2003. A year later, chef Steven Brown took over, and won the place another four stars from the Star Tribune. By 2007, Cafe Levain went casual, with chef Adam Vickerman in the lead. Three years ago, it closed.
Its next transformation? Pop-ups.
A cryptic Facebook post from the restaurant Wednesday tipped us off.
“Testing ... testing ... is this thing on?... I’ve already said too much. :)”
Turns out, Vickerman is back. He’s now working with Turtle Bread owner Harvey McLain as food and events coordinator. And that means Cafe Levain is back, too, in the form of private events and, eventually, pop-ups.
“Levain isn’t planning on reopening as a normal restaurant,” Vickerman said. “But private events are already happening, and I hope to do special events and pop-ups as a part of my return to the restaurant that has given me so much.”
He’s only been back with Turtle Bread for three weeks, so nothing is on the books yet, though Vickerman is considering whether to host pop-ups weekly or monthly, and what kind. “Sunday Suppers, Classics, Beer & Wine dinners, etc.,” are some of his ideas. The events will be held evenings at Turtle Bread’s 48th-and-Chicago complex (4762 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-823-7333, turtlebread.com). “The space is dormant after 3 p.m. and just begs to be used for those sorts of events,” he said.
Vickerman is also working with McLain in his rental property business, so there’s more than Cafe Levain to keep him busy.
Returning to the company was “a place to go for an aging cook whose mental health couldn’t keep up with the demands of line cooking, but also still allow for very particular events around food that can be completely controlled, unlike a busy service could introduce,” said Vickerman, who was only 22 when he started with Cafe Levain.
He left Cafe Levain after a decade to join the Seward Co-op. More recently, he was executive chef at the Lynhall, and then left management last fall to cook at Birchwood Cafe. But the restaurant life took a mental and physical toll, he said.
“The stress of a busy restaurant like that on the line made me rethink what I could be doing, and what I should be doing,” he said.
Though Vickerman also did a stint at Turtle Bread’s other, now-closed full-service restaurant, Trattoria Tosca, “I believe my impact was best felt at Levain,” he said. And that is where he is focusing his efforts in his new role.
“A lot of people are fans of what Levain was, and hopefully we can do some fun things for them,” he said. “Whatever it becomes, it is something, and it is special and fun in an environment we all know and love.”