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Ribeye with potato ravioli, mushrooms, and pearl onions.

A Well-Planned Coup

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Jester Concepts staged an overthrow of the bar-centric standard of uptown Minneapolis with its portfolio of concepts, including the New York City-esque coup d’état.

By Ellen Koteff February 2015 New Concepts

In one year’s time, the aptly named coup d’état in uptown Minneapolis has managed to transform the neighborhood’s culinary landscape with more upscale cuisine, better service, and sophisticated beverage offerings. It’s part of a calculated initiative by one restaurant group to reinvigorate the city’s uptown dining.

“The area was just bars. We wanted to overthrow the standard of what uptown was,” says co-owner Brent Frederick. “There was an opportunity to showcase the area in a new light. We wanted to come in with a bang.”

Coup d’état is operated by Jester Concepts, the restaurant group launched by Frederick and Jacob Toledo in 2008 that has four other local concepts in its portfolio in addition to coup d’état. Jester Concepts’ founders, who met at the University of Minnesota, have made a mark on this Midwestern city by creating distinctive concepts with an emphasis on food, service, and ambiance.

Coup d’état, which opened in January 2014 after some four years in the planning, is Frederick and Toledo’s take on a New York City restaurant. “Huge chandeliers, big chalkboards, and a grand design are all part of the mix,” Frederick says. “There is a big wow factor.”

With a successful first year in the rear-view mirror, the 350-seat coup d’état has been widely embraced by locals, despite some challenges along the way. “Initially, there was a sort of reverse sticker shock,” Frederick says. “A sense that this place must be really expensive. Our style could be intimidating, so we had to break the notion that a place like coup d’état was too pricey.”

Ticket averages, however, range from $40 to $50 for dinner, and on weekends it isn’t unusual for the restaurant to turn tables three times. The food is clearly chef-driven, with a trio of executive chefs—Nick O’Leary, Tom Roberts, and Tyler Shipton—collaborating to delight the locals and business clientele alike. The cocktail program helmed by bar director Jesse Held is equally smart, with reinterpretations of classic drinks as well as new creations.

Best-selling dishes include starters such as bone marrow with gremolata, smoked salt, and baquette; oysters grilled with pernod butter; and butternut squash soup with pumpernickel, maple, and pumpkin spice.

Popular shared plates include gnocchi with Parmesan and truffle and agnolotti with yam, macadamia nut, speck, and kale. Entrée best-sellers include the ribeye with potato ravioli, mushrooms, Taleggio cheese, and pearl onions and the pork chop with kale pesto, grit cake, and apples.

Frederick says sales are evenly divided between food and beverage, and food costs vary between 30 and 40 percent. There is an upper and lower patio in the restaurant, as well as a walk-up window for take-out that is open for lunch during the summer.

In order to keep up with coup d’état’s customer base, the owners have learned to be good listeners.

“We are educating the crowds, but we are also learning what the neighborhood wants and we are evolving,” Frederick says. To that end, the owners added a happy hour after numerous requests from patrons.

The learning curve is part and parcel of adapting to the needs of Minneapolis, a clientele Frederick loves to serve. “This town is home to quite a few Fortune 500 companies, law firms, and agencies, and they are all uptown.”

The Jester Concepts portfolio includes Maple Tavern, a neighborhood eatery and bar in a northwestern suburb, as well as Borough and Parlour, another uptown Minneapolis concept that has two operations in one building, with all the food coming out of the same kitchen. Borough is a contemporary American restaurant serving small, artisan dishes, and Parlour, located below ground, is a specialty bar serving handcrafted cocktails and snacks.

In order to attract new guests, Jester Concepts focuses on first-time diners as closely as regulars. As the restaurant grows along with its parent company, Frederick says the emphasis will be on doing things right.

“We’ve made a lot of mistakes, and right now we are trying to figure out how much volume we can handle,” he says. “We have to keep getting more organized so that we can grow smartly.”

For now, Frederick is happy tending to the thriving business, which employs about 350 people, with up to 75 of them working at coup d’état.