By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One year after the state’s most acclaimed restaurant closed, there is a new restaurant going into the former La Belle Vie space in Minneapolis. The Kenwood restaurant owner Don Saunders will be opening 510 Lounge & Private Dining in the 510 Groveland space across from Walker Art Center.

“La Belle Vie provided a very high-end, quality experience, and so will we,” Saunders said.

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Saunders is a native of Eden Prairie. He’s owned and operated Fugaise, In Season, and his current restaurant over the years, and actually cooked at La Belle Vie when it was in Stillwater from 2003 to 2004.

“I’m not too concerned whether or not diners compare us to La Belle Vie. I just want them to have a great experience,” he said.

La Belle Vie’s back two dining rooms will become event spaces; Saunders says he’ll be able to host about 50 to 60 people in the larger room, and 20 to 30 in the smaller room. The Kenwood has no event space.

“The ability to host private events in the back two dining rooms is a big part of our concept,” he said. 510’s Private Dining expects to host wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, family parties, corporate dinners, among other events.

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Much like his menu at The Kenwood, he said he aims to have seasonal and flexible options for private dining.

“So, if you are booking a party for August, you will be looking at a menu much different than if you were booking a party in November. Our main goal is that the quality of food and service at these private events is quite simply the best you can find,” he said.

Road construction in the area is one factor that La Belle Vie chef Tim McKee cited as a reason for closing his restaurant, as well as the changing tastes in the dining public. Fewer people were sitting down in the formal dining rooms for multicourse dinners. Converting those spaces to private dining rooms may address that concern.

The front of the restaurant with the bar and lounge will be open to the public, featuring “shareable plates.” The lounge will have cheese and charcuterie plates; “a lot of classics with some fun seasonal stuff mixed in. We also plan on creating a really delicious signature burger,” he said.

510 Groveland is a unique condo building, as it is a collection of 36 co-op residences on the upper floors of a 1927 grand hotel. The resident owners reached out to Saunders in the spring, after La Belle Vie decided to cease operations.

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510 Lounge is expected to open in summer of 2017.

Jason DeRusha