If you’ve skimmed the headlines of any local variety page lately, it doesn’t seem like a great time to be opening a restaurant.
In the first five months of the year, three Italian eateries – all just months old – closed their doors.
But in the aftermath of these restaurant closures Twin Cities foodies can rejoice, new eateries are continuing to open their doors. Among them is Sptiz Minneapolis.
Located in the former location of Wild Roast Café in Northeast Minneapolis, Spitz is an extension of a southern California restaurant created by Bryce Rademan and Robert Wicklund.
The vibrant spot serves döner kebab, a Mediterranean street food, as well as other Mediterranean-influenced dishes.
Being a Minnesota native, Wicklund had long wanted to open a location in his home state.
About a year ago, his dream happened. Wicklund teamed up with his brother-in-law to open Spitz’s in Northeast Minneapolis – the chain’s eighth location in its fourth city.
In late May, the restaurant finally opened its doors to the public.
Wicklund spoke with me a bit about the process of opening the Northeast location and just why Minnesotans should try his food.
It says on your website that Rademan first conceptualized the idea of this restaurant after coming back from traveling in Europe. After spending time over there, why was it Mediterranean food that stuck with him?
Wicklund: Bryce first conceptualized the idea for Spitz while traveling abroad in Madrid, Spain where döner kebab is the ubiquitous street food, kind of like the taco trucks that cover southern California. He was eating it literally every night. It was inexpensive, filling, flavorful and soaks up beer like no other food. It’s the perfect meal for a college student.
Well, it sounds like from that explanation that Northeast Minneapolis was a perfect spot to open! But tell me, being a St. Cloud native, which also has a large college population, why did you decide to open in Northeast?
Wicklund: We’re opening this location with my brother-in-law Chris Law, who lives in St. Paul. For years he and my sister would come visit us in L.A., rave about the food and [say] how they wished they could get it in the Twin Cities. Some things fell into place for him about a year ago and we started looking at spaces. Northeast was at the top of our list from the beginning. As an up and coming area, full of young people, artists and creatives, we felt like it was a perfect fit for our style and kind of food.
It definitely feels like a spot that fits right in to the community in Northeast. So, tell me a bit about the process of opening.
Wicklund: Opening any restaurant is a crazy experience and our spot in Northeast is no exception. That said, as soon as Law looked at the space he knew it was the right one. With the high ceilings, exposed beams, brick and massive walls we knew we could make it really special. We work with an amazingly talented artist from L.A., Devon Paulson, who puts so much creativity into all of our locations, but with a canvas like 518 E Hennepin we really felt like he had the room to wow everyone.
Following that, how was it different opening in Minneapolis than your other locations?
Wicklund: Honestly every location and city is different in their own way. We’re just relieved we were building in April and May instead of January and February, for obvious reasons.
I’m sure every Minnesotan can understand why! It’s great that this spring has been so mild as well. So, what is the most popular dish at the original store in L.A.?
Wicklund: It’s all about the Street Cart Fries and Street Cart Sandwich. There’s something about the way the garlic aioli and fried lavash chips mix with the meat off the spit that just warms the soul. We call it L.A. comfort food.
Sounds delicious! Tell me, what do you think will be the most popular dish for the Minnesota location?
Wicklund: It’s a little early to tell what’s going to be the most popular dish but it seems like everyone is really into the döquitos, basically our Mediterranean version of the Mexican taquito. It’s a bit of culinary mashup. But, man, they are tasty.
Wow! That sounds great too! It sounds like you have a lot of wonderful dishes on the menu, but what is one dish you’re most proud of?
Wicklund: I’m really proud of the entire menu. We’ve been working on and tweaking the recipes since the day we opened 10 years ago and our food is so much more refined than it used to be. There’s not a day that goes by that we’re not trying to make what we currently serve better and trying to think up new items.
I know diners will be happy to learn you are always trying to improve. Tell me, are the menus the same across states?
Wicklund: Yes, they are the same.
Minneapolis has a few Mediterranean restaurants for diners to choose from, explain how Spitz’s offerings differ from these other eateries?
Wicklund: At its inception, Spitz was really inspired by the street food and döner kebab stands Bryce and I ate at during college. Our restaurant now is inspired by so much more. One of the first things we did when testing our first recipes was to add lots of fresh vegetable to everything that we do and try to make this something that a southern Californian could feel good about having for lunch. That means fresh, healthy and flavorful without a lot of fat and grease. It was only after being open for five years that we developed the döquito – a shout out the Mexican street food we we’re surrounded by in L.A. The Berliner Fries can about after a trip to Berlin a few years ago, eating our way through the streets of Germany. At this point, we think of Spitz as truly its own thing.
I like that you and Rademan aren’t letting Spitz be defined by the original vision and are willing to open it up to create a whole new genre of food. You’re website mentioned that there will be local beer on tap. Can you tell me what local beers will you have?
Wicklund: Our tap list is 100 percent local as of right now with lots of rotation of the best of local brewers. Don’t be surprised if a beer from SoCal or Utah (where we have other Spitz locations) makes an appearance now and then, though.
Will there be a full bar or just craft beer and sangria as advertised?
Wicklund: We are working on getting a full liquor license so we can showcase our refreshing seasonal cocktails that we serve in SoCal. Look out for those in two to three months.
Sounds great and just in time for the summer season! So, why should people come and try Spitz?
Wicklund: I think Spitz is full of unique flavors and has a point of view that’s all its own. We try our best to provide an engaging and delicious experience without breaking the bank. Have a sangria or two and Berlin Döner and see if you agree with me. I think you’ll like it.
Spitz Minneapolis is located at 518 E Hennepin Avenue. It is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. For more information call 612-584-4922 or visit Spitz online.