By Jason DeRusha

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Almost every chef thinks they could do it better if only they ran their own restaurant.

Two Minnesota chefs who never worked together before decided to go for it. And customers are loving it.

This week in DeRusha Eats, Jason DeRusha checks out Pajarito in St. Paul.

Tyge Nelson and Stephen Hesse have spent most of their careers in high-end kitchens. Hidden from view, sheltered from the customers. And their complaints.

“You get away from the ‘They don’t know what they’re talking about.’ Absolutely yeah,” they said.

Tyge and Stephen are out in front now. They own Pajarito, in what had become a run-down, yet beloved German restaurant.

“I was a little bit nervous of having people say they used to go to glockenspiel all the time,” Tyge Nelson said.

Pajarito blends the technique from Tyge and Steve’s fine-dining years with the flavors of Mexican street food and tacos.

“Those same ingredients, flavors, with our spin on it,” they said.

So you can get chips and salsa, but the chips are homemade and the salsas are flavors like Avocado-Serrano or Arbol Cashew.

“You aren’t making claims. Absolutely not. We have some guests who say, ‘Not very authentic.’ And we say, ‘Thank you.'” That’s not what we’re trying to do,” Stephen Hesse said.

There’s a killer grilled octopus, with an elegant carrot slaw on top.

It’s the high-end for people who come from all around, and a more approachable side for the neighborhood.

“Those cold days when its 30 below zero you have people who walk a block to get in here because they don’t want to cook, that’s what thrives with local business stuff,” Nelson said.

The first taste of being management came with their elote-style brussel sprouts.

“We took it off the menu because they weren’t seasonal in the summer and we got hate mail. Pitchforks and torches,” they said. “A lot of the guests opinions, we take them 100 percent. We tweak and change. It definitely makes you more humble.”

But they also see the flip side: The happy customers, who are filling Pajarito for lunch and dinner, well into year No. 2.

“It’s kinda like having a newborn. We’re in that still in diapers, but new adventure, walking or talking,” they said.

Pajarito is open for lunch and dinner every day, and they have a weekend brunch too. They are just up the street from Xcel Energy Center, so they run shuttles for Minnesota Wild games as well.

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