MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When Fred and Stacy Navarro opened George and The Dragon in 2012 the space was empty and new, their son was just five and they weren’t sure if anyone would show up.
“We were overwhelmed with the support of the people of the neighborhood. That’s what makes the pub, the great neighborhood around it,” Stacy said.
They were happy running corporate restaurants at Mall of America.
But in 2010, a building that housed Blackbird Café and Heidi’s near their South Minneapolis home burned to the ground. The new building had an opening.
“Paco went to school right down the street at Burroughs Elementary. We knew we’d drive by it every single day and think “What if?” if we didn’t take a chance. So, we did,” Fred said.
It’s hard to say who’s happier they took that risk Fred and Stacy, or the neighborhood around 50th Street and Bryant Avenue.
George and the Dragon is a true neighborhood pub.
“A pub is a public house. A place for the neighborhood and community. Because we live four blocks away, we knew that’s kind of what we wanted to do,” Fred said.
If you’re going to open a pub, you’re going to have fish and chips.
George and the Drago serves line caught Alaskan cod flown in fresh daily, then hand-battered with a local Fulton beer.
“We get the fish flown in daily every day except Sunday, and on Sunday we don’t serve fish and chips,” they said.
The Navarro’s love London so, like a British pub, they have a daily curry too.
But is George and the Dragon an English pub or an Irish pub?
“I always tell people, we’re a South Minneapolis pub,” Fred said.
The menu also has family recipes, like the Asian Hangover.
The Asian Hangover is super-tender pork slow-cooked for four hours, seasoned with five-spice and ginger and served with jasmine rice. Years ago, Stacy cooked it and said it cured Fred’s hangover.
“Fred and I have been in restaurant business for years and years, but we also like to have people over to our house to entertain. So, we had some recipes that we’d always make when people would come over and a lot of them ended segueing on to the menu,” Stacy said.
The restaurant was designed for families and kids. Their son Paco wanted to be involved in the restaurant, but Stacy said he didn’t want a coloring page on the kids menu.
“‘No mom, we’re gonna do a bookcase. I’m gonna bring my books in. Kids can borrow a book while they wait for dinner,'” Stacy said Paco said. “It’s certainly something the neighborhood kids really dig. They’re excited about it.”
Even though they have customers from all around, Fred estimated that 80 percent of George and the Dragon’s business comes from within six blocks.
“We’ve been so fortunate because the neighbors are so wonderful and so supportive. There are people in here a couple times a week,” Stacy said.
Now, they are celebrating five years and looking ahead to the future.
Fred said he won’t rule out opening another location, but he and his wife are in the restaurant every day and they’d hate to change their lifestyle too much.
“We have great customers, great staff and a great life,” Fred said.
George and the Dragon is located at 813 W 50th Street in South Minneapolis.