News briefs, June 24, 2009 UPDATED

2nd Precinct's Skomra retires; Longfellow history; Lake Street ambbassadors, restaurant news

Seward Co-op mosaic columns completed

Artists Greta McLain (left) and Lori Greene laid the tiles for the mosaic columns at the Seward Co-op in mid-June. Greene is the owner of Mosaic On A Stick in St. Paul.

Second Precinct commander Skomra retires, Schafer takes over

Earlier this month, Insp. Robert Skomra, commander of the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) 2nd Precinct, retired after 39 years of service. Skomra, who grew up on the north side of Minneapolis, received two bronze stars, was shot twice in the line of duty and was named the Veterans of Foreign Wars Officer of the Year in 1973 for his outstanding service in Vietnam, according to a resolution passed in his honor by the City Council on June 12.

In addition to noting Skomra’s 11 Medals of Commendation, three Department Awards of Merit, one Unit Citation, three Chief’s Awards of Merit, and a Medal of Honor; as well as his many position with the MPD leading up to his command of the 2nd Precinct, which “had the highest part one crime reduction in Minneapolis last year,” the resolution offers some personal and humorous insight about Skomra’s character (and perhaps his colleagues):

Whereas, Inspector Skomra’s dedication was such that he routinely attended all three roll calls in the same day, working from 600 to 2100; and
Whereas, Inspector Skomra regularly stopped to chase a criminal on the way to dinner or work with his wife, JoAn, because for him there is no such thing as being off duty; and
Whereas, longtime friend and colleague Gary Ritari was sure that only a tapeworm could explain why Inspector Skomra always ate three lunches during B Shift but never gained any weight; and
Whereas, colleagues also liked to say that Inspector Skomra ran a three-mile race in the squad car every day due to his high energy personality; and
Whereas, Inspector Skomra never knew a microphone he didn’t like; and
Whereas, Inspector Skomra is known for his love of good food and good people; and
Whereas, Inspector Skomra is loved, respected, and wished well by all who know him;
Now, Therefore, Be It Resolved by The City Council of The City of Minneapolis:
That the City hereby recognizes Inspector Skomra as an outstanding public servant and a valuable contributor to the community.
Be It Further Resolved that the city is grateful for his care and attention, and Inspector Skomra will long be honored, remembered, and missed.

Inspector Bryan Schafer takes over for Skomra as commander of the 2nd Precinct. Schafer was previously the lieutenant in charge of the Juvenile Division, which he helped reinstate in 2006. Under his leadership, that department “has made great strides to curb youth violence through programs such as the Juvenile Supervision Center for low-level offenders,” according to a release from the MPD, which notes that juvenile violent crime in 2008 was down 44 percent, as compared to 2006.

In March of this year, the Police Executive Research Forum presented Schafer with the Gary P. Hayes Memorial Award for outstanding leadership.

The 2nd Precinct is hosting a reception to meet the new inspector on Tuesday, July 28, 6 p.m.–7:30 p.m. at the 2nd Precinct, 1911 Central Ave NE.

Longfellow history — book and church tour

LONGFELLOW—Ward 9 City Council Member Gary Schiff notes in his June 16 newsletter that tours of Christ Church Lutheran, 3244 34th Ave. S., will take place the first Sunday of each month, 11 a.m.–12 p.m. The church, designed by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, is the only National Historic Landmark church in Minnesota and “a renowned high point of mid-century modern architecture.” The church also represents the only Bridgeland walking tour put on by the City of Minneapolis this year. Information on this and other walking tours can be found here.

Schiff also notes Eric Hart’s new book on Longfellow history, The Neighborhood by the Falls: A Look Back at Life in Longfellow, published by the Longfellow Community Council (LCC). The book is available directly from the LCC; stop by the LCC office, download the order form and mail it to LCC with a check or money order. For more information, contact the LCC at (612) 722- 4529.

‘Ambassadors’ to keep Lake Street clean

EAST LAKE STREET—This month saw the inauguration of the Lake Street Ambassadors Program, an initiative of the Lake Street Council. Eight high school students will work 9 a.m.–3 p.m., Monday–Friday, to keep the street clean. The Lake Street Council is asking local businesses to support the ambassadors by offering the use of the businesses’ dumpsters to dispose of full trash bags, and to offer a drink of water during the hot days of summer.

The students were hired through STEP-UP, a Minneapolis program that provides opportunities for employment for local young people. Sponsors for the ambassadors program include the Longfellow Business Association, as well as other Lake-Street business associations at Chicago Avenue, Hiawatha, Bloomington-Cedar, Nicollet, Lyndale and Longfellow; and Allina; the City of Minneapolis; Ryan Companies; Metro Transit; Wells Fargo; M & I Bank; and US Bank.

Restaurant news:

Butcher Block takes over Fugaise space

EAST BANK—The restaurant Butcher Block, “inspired by the cozy neighborhood _trattorias_” of Italy, is set to open on Friday, June 26, at 308 E. Hennepin Ave. — the former home of Fugaise.

Chefs Darin Koch and Filippo Caffari will serve up Italian cuisine (the “dinner menu:“ features only one item that doesn’t end in a vowel) — with meat or fish courses running $14–$17, including grilled lamb and New York strip steak, short ribs and a fish dish and stew. The Butcher Block website (link below) states that “meat is our passion; organic, grass-fed, and sustainable are our principles, and serving great-tasting food – with or without meat – is our priority.” Caffari, the butcher from whom the name comes, worked in Rome for almost two decades before becoming become head chef at I Nonni in Mendota Heights, from which Koch also hails.

Among the six pasta dishes ($13–$14) is the Ravioli fatti in Casa — homemade ravioli filled with ricotta, mint, lamb ragú and pistachio. Starters, salads and dessert round out the menu. Starters include Ali di Pollo — 12 chicken wings in your choice of 29 (yes, I said 29) flavors, which warrant their own chicken wing menu altogether.

Yet another menu is dedicated to late night Stuzzichini. From 9 p.m. until the wee hours of the morning (2 a.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 4 a.m. Thursday–Saturday) Butcher Block treats the night owl with burgers (lamb or beef); sandwiches of braised short rib, pulled pork and turkey (among others); the “soft scramble” or “special benedict;” other egg dishes and a fried-rice omelet.

For those of us on the other end of the sleep spectrum, box lunches can be ordered.

The wine list highlights Italians, of course, but with a selection of internationals, as well. Bottles of reds and whites range from $19–$70, with nearly 20 other labels selling for $4–$5 a glass and around $15 a bottle. Grappa runs as high as $90 a bottle.

Butcher Block opens everyday at 5 p.m.

Butcher Block
308 E. Hennepin Ave.

True Thai adds outdoor seating

SEWARD—What more can we say? You can sit outside now at True Thai, 2627 E. Franklin Ave. Tables are set along the east side of the building. on 27th Avenue. Owner Anna Prasomphol Fieser (identified as the “Queen of All Curries” on the True Thai website) writes in her blog that the recent hot, humid weather reminds her of home (Chanthaburi, Thailand).

SNG, city loans will leverage bakery, sushi at old Seward Co-op building

SEWARD—The June meeting of the Seward Neighborhood Group’s (SNG) Community Development Committee (CDC) included a long discussion about the two businesses expected to occupy the old Seward Co-op building at 2111 E. Franklin Ave.

Worku Mindaye, owner of the Shega Bakery and the Co-op building itself, will move his existing business from just east on Franklin to the back of the building, while a pair of businessmen are expected to open a sushi and noodles restaurant in the front.

Eddie Landenberger of Seward Redesign told the CDC that Mindaye will perform the “very expensive renovation or build-out of the space into a restaurant,” according to minutes from the meeting.

Meanwhile, the operators of a proposed sushi and noodle restaurant will invest about $80K of their own money, with the help of loans totaling $150,000 — half from the city and half expected from SNG’s Phase I NRP funds. That amount was returned to SNG when the co-op moved to its new location.

In December, SNG passed a resolution supporting an application to the city for a wine and beer license by Willis Dry and Don Inthisone, who own Ba-Gu Sushi, 4741 Chicago Ave. S., and Koyi Sushi, 122 N. Fourth St.

While there was “a heated discussion concerning the wisdom of awarding all of the neighborhood’s funds earmarked in its NRP plan for ‘Economic Development’ to one risky business,” according to the meeting notes, others defended the decision, saying the $75,000 loan will leverage the $2.3 million renovation of the building, which would survive the failure of a restaurant.

Others at the meeting spoke to the success and experience of the business owners, however, whom SNG President Sheldon Mains noted, on the word of a longtime restaurant critic, “took over a failing sushi restaurant in the downtown area and converted it into a successful outlet with very reasonable prices and excellent food.”

The build-out of the building is expected to take 3–4 months.

last revised: June 26, 2009