Long before the current vegan boom, there was The Herbivorous Butcher and there was J. Selby's. Among the earliest vegan places in the Twin Cities, the two opened a few years apart (2016 and 2017, respectively) and they've been close ever since.
So when J. Selby's owner Matt Clayton was getting ready to retire from the vegan burger and sandwich biz last year, it made an awful lot of sense to reach out to the Herbivorous Butcher's Aubry and Kale Walch.
"He said he hand-picked us—he wouldn't sell to anyone else. And he was so persistent," laughs Aubry. "I like, almost cried when he told us. Like, 'Oh my god, I feel the same way.'"
The Walches signed the paperwork in November, and they quietly took over J. Selby's beginning January 1.
"We're just kind of getting used to it, and their staff's getting used to us," Aubry says. "It's been really good so far though, we're so excited."
There won't be many changes, but the tweaks that are in the works are great tweaks. They plan to eventually go to full service from counter service, and they're updating the drink menu with some "nicer, more fun wines" and new beers. (The hours will stay the same: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.)
"But people love the menu so much, we're not gonna touch it," Aubry says. "We just can't." Outside of offering more of their meats and cheeses—so you'll have the option to order the original version or the HB version—updates to the food will be minimal. The one very good change? Brunch is coming back: Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting March 4, with bottomless mimosas.
It's a fun and rather hopeful update for J. Selby's, as many restaurants have made the switch from full service to counter service, and dialed back or eliminated their brunch altogether, since the pandemic.
J. Selby's recently hired a pastry chef, Brian, who's been creating an array of brownies, cookies, cinnamon rolls, challah, streusel, and more for the restaurant. "So we're gonna build out a full pastry case for him too, because he's doing such good stuff," Aubry says. The final change will be to the logo, which is getting updated in a way that combines the branding for the two restaurants.
The purchase expands the Herbivorous Butcher's vegan footprint throughout the Twin Cities: There's the original HB deli in northeast Minneapolis, Herbie Butcher's Fried Chicken in south Minneapolis, and now J. Selby's at Selby Avenue and Victoria Street in St. Paul—plus their State Fair stand.
"We're growing up a little bit," Aubry chuckles.