New Investment Challenges Hard Times

by Jerry Rothstein
The Bay Street Burger Dive, which opened in August at the former Bay Street Grill site, has become the latest in an 80-year history of food and drink enterprises on the spot.
In the teeth of the damage the COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted on our neighborhood businesses, three partners with deep roots in the Twin Cities restaurant industry have chosen the West End as the location of their latest Burger Dive site.
The roster of eateries in which owners Josh Thoma, Kevin Fitzgerald and chef-partner Nick O’Leary have been involved includes La Belle Vie, Barrio. Borough, Smack Shack, Travail and the fabulous revival of The Lexington.
Their Burger Dive concept launched in NE Minneapolis and added a location in the Potluck Food Hall in the Rosedale Mall. When they were ready to expand and the Bay Street location became available quite quickly, Kevin guided the partners to the choice of a place that he had loved to patronize—for its atmosphere, food, staff and neighborliness. They all agree that the West End is a great, still up-and-coming neighborhood, and they saw the modest size as more sustainable as we work our way through the pandemic.
Bay Street’s long history and its survival is a testimony to the efforts of many owners to keep this friendly, comfortable spot going. When neighbors were upset by noise, disturbance and disrespect from customers, it took some time to address the situations, but in recent years community relations have been good. The new owners see caring for neighbors and building relationships as high goals, and will close the patio at 9 p.m.
Bay Street has had many clienteles—its breakfasts attract third-shift workers form the hospitals; local families like the atmosphere and good, reasonably priced food.
Michaelann Gillis, the general manager, has a family history in the business, with grandparents owning a tavern and parents a neighborhood bar and grill, each in small Wisconsin towns. She loves the opportunity to meet and serve people, and thinks the environment at Bay Street is ideal for maintaining the neighborhood ambiance.
The Burger Dive model is grounded on freshly prepared, high-quality food. The burgers are not factory-produced but ground on-site from a mixture of rib-eye, chuck and brisket cuts. Franklin Street Bakery provides the buns and breads. Sauces are made in-house. Breakfast is served daily from 8 a.m., with an 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. brunch on weekends. The tap list includes local favorites from Summit, Bad Weather, Urban Growler, Big Wood and others, and the Bay Street Bloody Mary remains as the favorite mixed drink.
They aim to provide a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere—and COVID-19 precautions are well in place—with excellent food and service at affordable prices. With three Happy Hours each day, they are on the path to that goal. Pull Tabs are returning on October 1, and plans for Meat Raffles and Trivia are in the works.
It’s great to see the effort going in to making the Burger Dive a nourishing place for the neighborhood and beyond.
Bay Street Burger Dive, 731 Randolph at Bay: 651-294-3240 // www.burgerdivemn.com. Opens 8 a.m. daily.

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