MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s not just what bacon and what muffin you’re going to use for your breakfast sandwich. The uniform choice and the building design also matter.
Blue Barn is the newest restaurant at the Minnesota State Fair. Stephanie Shimp, co-owner of Blue Plate Restaurant Group, says they’ve been trying to get into the fair for almost a decade.
“Last fall we got one of those phone calls from the fair that said, ‘Hey, are you interested? We’ve got this new spot we’re doing, it’s called West End Market,'” Shimp said.
Their detailed proposal showed potential menu items, like the chicken and waffles in a waffle cone — which is perfect for walking the fairgrounds.
“What we do at Blue Plate is comfort food with a twist,” she said. “And we didn’t want to go to the fair with some sort of candy-coated-ostrich-leg-on-a-stick sort of thing. We wanted to be us.”
They showed the design of the building.
“It’s an iconic barn,” Shimp said. “I mean, there’s nothing else like it on the fairground.”
They even showed the T-shirt and potential uniform, down to the bandana, which the 120 new employees all wear.
“If you are in the restaurant business, you make it to the fair, it’s like a stamp of approval,” she said.
Some menu choices were easy, like the breakfast sandwich.
“There’s something about making it as big as you can for the newscaster that’s just about to take a bite,” Shimp said.
And there are the easy-to-share pierogis. But other ideas didn’t translate.
“If it didn’t work, it was usually because it wasn’t easily sharable, or we couldn’t produce it quickly enough,” she said.
They’re betting they’ll sell enough brownies with bacon on them to pay for the very expensive building.
“We had to get bacon in there somewhere,” Shimp said.
Like a real Minnesota barn, Shimp hopes to pass this one down to her kids.
“We are so excited, I can’t even tell you, because it’s a legacy,” Shimp said.
The barn is about 1,800 square feet, and Shimp says they had to work creatively with their bank to finance it.
At the fair, vendors often own their building, but they don’t own the land beneath it – which doesn’t fit into a normal lending program.