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Food & Drink

With Dutch Bar, Northeast Gets an Intimate, Timeless Space for Drinks and Snacks

"We don't have a wine bar in Northeast!" laments owner Patty Grell. Well... now we do.

The back bar of Dutch Bar, which is reclaimed etched glass from a barbershop that was painted at in 1902
Em Cassel|

Grell found this back bar, a gorgeous work of etched and painted glass, at an antique shop in Buffalo, Minnesota. It’s from 1902!

Patty Grell and her husband Jim opened Northeast's beloved Modern Cafe back in 1994, "when there was nothing," Grell chuckles. Thanks to its friendly, neighborhood vibe, its contemporary but unassuming menu of classics done well, and the affordable prices ($6.25 for the meatloaf, and just $6 for the pot roast), The Modern became a landmark; the Star Tribune's Rick Nelson called its 2015 closure "the end of an era."

"We were just a diner," a modest Grell says today, reflecting on their 20-year run. "It was hard to figure out how to be part of the new scene, online."

The Grells retreated from the food and drink industry after selling their restaurant, but they never left Northeast. In fact, they doubled down on their longtime home, buying and restoring neglected old buildings and investing in the neighborhood in the truest sense of the word.

"We love this neighborhood," says Grell. "We just really, really love this side of town." So a few years ago when the opportunity presented itself to buy 2512 NE Central Ave., the space nestled in next to next to Aki's BreadHaus and Fair State Brewing Cooperative, Grell said yes. She also decided to dive back into the realm of food and drink.

The lights, the benches, the chairs, the tables—everything at Dutch Bar is reclaimed. Em Cassel.

"During the pandemic, it bummed me out that all of the tiny places were going under and being replaced by huge, event-focused, really impersonal [restaurants]," she says. She and her son Marco started kicking around ideas for a cozy, quiet neighborhood bar with thoughtful cocktails and snacky fare—the kind of bar that's rare in Northeast, and in Minneapolis more broadly. Think Bev's Wine Bar (RIP), with a slightly scruffier, more shabby-chic vibe.

The result is Dutch Bar, which has been quietly open on Central Avenue since mid-April.

Dutch Bar's drink list emphasizes wine and cocktails, with just a few beers (they're surrounded by breweries and beloved dives, after all). Mixed drinks—like the Mommenpop Spritz, which combines Mommenpop Blood Orange Liquor with sparkling wine, or the Apricot Old Fashioned—tend toward the lighter, more refreshing side, with lots of herbal elements and fruit flavors. (There's also the Fauxca Cola, with rum, amaro, bitters, and cherry, which tastes just like the real thing.)

The food menu is small and simple, made up of sharable, handheld snacks like charcuterie and cheeses. Their renovation of the old office space didn't include a hood or open flame, which means they're getting creative to concoct little bites like Mushroom Lentil Duxelles with Grilled Toast and sandwiches including Classic Beef Sloppy Joes. The menu will likely rotate, but—and this might bum out folks hoping for a Modern 2.0—Grell says they're simply "not kitchen focused."

"And there will be no pot roast or meatloaf, ever," she adds. (People have been asking.)

Nearly all of Dutch Bar's decor has been reclaimed. The back bar, a gorgeous work of etched and painted glass, was made in Chicago in 1902, and installed at a barber shop in Michigan. Grell found it at an antique shop in Buffalo, Minnesota.

Tara Costello's art decorates the walls, and also the ceiling. Em Cassel.

"We were kind of on the edge of: Should we do this? Should we not? And then one day we found it—the set of arches—and the next day she was like... 'I bought it. I guess we're doing this now,'" her son Marco laughs.

Like the Grells' other restoration projects, building Dutch Bar was about creating timeless infrastructure that will last.

The benches are antiques, re-upholstered with plush gold and gray fabric. The lighting came from a combination of Architectural Antiques, City Salvage, and Guilded Salvage. And the ceiling, plaster made to look worn in and a little ramshackle, was painted by local artists Liz Schreiber and Tara Costello. (Costello's art is currently displayed on the walls as well; she'll have a reception at Dutch Bar on May 19).

The hours are fairly late for the area—it varies slightly depending of the crowd, but typically Dutch Bar closes between 10 and midnight. And a new patio will be done... soon! If not this week, then shortly after.

As for the name? Well for one, the bar is situated in the Holland neighborhood Grell loves so much. But it also plays nicely with the idea of going Dutch—it's sharing, it's community-based, it's for mutual good. The feeling is casual, and everyone is welcome.

"We've had people playing dominoes, and reading books—just come hang out," she says.

Dutch Bar
2512 NE Central Ave., Minneapolis
Wednesday – Sunday: 3 p.m. – lateish

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