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Dari-Ette’s Missing in Action

Thoughts of warm weather, ice cream and drive-in treats were sadly interrupted on St. Paul’s East Side. The iconic Dari-Ette, the city’s last historic drive-up restaurant, is up for sale with a price of $384,000.

The classic Italian restaurant, which has been open since 1951, has been owned by the Fida family for three generations. But there’s no indication the Dari-Ette will open for 2020. Calls by media have gone unanswered. 

Current Dari-Ette owner Angela Fida grew up next door to the restaurant. The drive-in was built by her grandparents, and her parents met while working there. She took over in 1998.

The Dari-Ette is the last St. Paul drive-in standing. It outlasted landmarks including Porky’s, which has been gone for more than a decade. It could be sold as a restaurant, but the property could also be redeveloped.

Another St. Paul icon changed hands as the sale of Billy’s on Grand was announced in January. RJMP Group Inc. has purchased Billy’s and assumed control, after years of ownership by one branch of the Wengler family.

Matt Pendergast, great-nephew of founder Bill Wengler, is the new managing partner and will serve as executive vice president of operations. Joining Pendergast will be his father-in-law, Randy Johnson, who will be CEO. What has generated the most excitement is that Jeremy Bechtold, former chef at Happy Gnome, is part of the new restaurant team. 

A renovation of Billy’s is planned. The bar/restaurant has a capacity of almost 400 people, making it a busy spot on game days and Grand Old Day. Billy’s will stay open during renovations.

A third St. Paul icon is cutting back its hours as its owner battles health issues. West 7th Street’s Mojo Monkey doughnut shop, which opened in 2011, is halting weekday doughnut production and will only be open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The change took effect in mid-February.

Head baker and owner Lisa Clark cited ongoing health issues in a social media announcement. The doughnuts will still be sold all week at Spyhouse Coffee locations. 

Another bakery is closing its doors for good soon. The New French Bakery in the Seward neighborhood will stop producing its varied and delicious breads in late February or early March. Its parent operation, Rise Baking, is dropping fresh bread baking and moving solely into frozen bread products.

A spate of closings continues in what has been a difficult winter for restaurants. Some owners note that bad weather many weekends has cut into their customer counts and profits. 

The Bird is flying out of its Minneapolis Loring Park roost. Restaurateur Kim Bartmann announced the closing on Instagram. It was the latest iteration of a spot that opened as Third Bird in 2014 near Loring Park. It was transformed into Bearcat in early 2017 for several weeks, then reopened that spring as the breakfast and lunch roost. An announcement from Bartmann Group indicates a focus to delivery and catering service.

Downtown Minneapolis also has more closings. McKinney Roe closed after three years in business on S. 4th Street. Located near U.S. Bank stadium, the business went through different themes but didn’t find success.

Longtime establishment Ike’s Food & Cocktails closed after 18 years downtown. Failure to negotiate a new lease with its building owner was cited. Ike’s outposts remain open in Bloomington and Minnetonka, with a new spot opening in the Bloomington South Loop area this summer.



CenterPoint Energy and Energy Smart are hosting a roundtable discussion for CenterPoint Energy natural gas customers and members of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, April 23, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at the Foodservice Learning Center, 700 Linden Avenue West in Minneapolis.

The event is focused on high-efficient foodservice equipment for commercial kitchens. This free showcase will highlight; performance specifications, utility rebate process, alternative grant incentives, lifecycle cost-savings analysis and an opportunity to “try before you buy.” Industry experts will be in attendance to shed light on attendees’ burning questions, lending insight on the purchasing process.

To register, go to: http://bit.ly/fsequipment.


When  Emagine purchased theaters in nine Minnesota locations in 2016, they hired local restaurant equipment supplier, Horizon, to help design, renovate, and outfit these nine locations. Horizon provided and serviced kitchen equipment in the bar, beer system, ice machines, refrigeration, stainless steel tables, shelving, refrigerated display cases and all of the commercial kitchen equipment in the back of the house.

Horizon streamlined their research to solidify a quality mix of equipment that is already paying off. In three years with these new locations, they’re operating smoothly and plan to duplicate this model in future theaters. 

Send your industry news for inclusion in this column to nancyw@foodservicenews.net

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