For Michael Larson of Orono, being in the restaurant business has been a lifelong career.
Since age 19 he has been working in some facet with opening new restaurants, being a chef and creating memorable dining experiences. One of Larson's claims to fame is that he ran Chino Latino in downtown Minneapolis and has launched many restaurants in and outside of the Twin Cities.
Today Larson, along with two business partners, are opening a new upper casual dining restaurant called the Eat Shop Kitchen and Bar. It is located on County Road 24 off Highway 55 in the old Joe Senser's spot at 16605 County Road 24 in Plymouth.
The location is familiar for Larson who had been interested at one time in opening a restaurant there, but was beat out by previous owners of Howie G's that used to reside there before Senser's claimed it.
Being quite familiar with the area, shopping at local businesses nearby, Larson saw a niche to fill for a non-sports bar and chain restaurant in Plymouth.
With business partners Reid Sellgren and Tony Burger, the idea to fill that niche in the city's restaurant scene has become a reality. Each partner brings a key set of skills. Sellgren is a building and general contractor, Burger is the financial manager and Larson knows his way around the kitchen.
"We've put a lot of time, effort and funds into making this happen," Larson said. "We have hired some great staff who have been through rigorous training that will produce smart service. They will know about the food."
Larson has hired around 100 part-time and full-time staff. There are seven managers including Larson and Sellgren. There are three sous chefs.
Not many Senser employees applied for positions.
"We're a different restaurant though," Larson said. "We're not a sports bar. We have service and culinary expertise."
Many changes were made in the space.
"I've never seen more freezer space in my life," he said. "We got rid of that in this space. We also tossed out the deep fryer."
Making the food from scratch and allowing chefs to get creative with dishes was important to him. One fun thing includes creating ice cream using liquid nitrogen tableside in front of the customer.
"Today's chefs are chemists," Larson said.
Larson keeps many of his purchases local, going to the Plymouth Farmer's Market and ordering from local vendors like U.S. Foods.
"We're also a more modern, cleaner restaurant," he said. "The place is set up to be somewhere you can hang out and enjoy the atmosphere."
Items displayed in the restaurant were also bought locally including wood from an old red barn decorating one wall of booths near the kitchen and many other reclaimed items that found a new purpose including a wall of chalkboard slate in the bar that came from an old schoolhouse in Duluth.
Larson has a few more surprises in store for people as they take a look around the Eat Shop including some interesting interactive features like a front row seat to watching the chefs in action and a fun feature in the outdoor patio seating area.
With having more "upscale" dining, Larson knows some may be wary about hearing "upper casual" when it comes to prices.
"Some people aren't into spending a little more money for better food," he said. "But we're not downtown Minneapolis either when it comes to prices. We're completely value-driven so you can have a great turkey burger for $9, but also have on the menu a $40 dry-age, New York strip steak."
Opening on the first day of school for local schools was done on purpose. Having a soft opening was an important step in the process of becoming "the fabric of Plymouth," Larson said.
"It's a marathon not a sprint," he said. "What makes us unique is a combination of three things: great food by great chefs creating a value-driven and creative menu; a good, happy and knowledgeable staff; and a friendly, fun atmosphere. It's a trifecta."
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. It opens at 11 a.m., but does not have a fixed closing time yet. Larson said he wants to see how the first few weeks go and when busy times are to determine a closing time.
Starting in a few weeks the Eat Shop will offer Sunday brunch that will begin at 10 a.m. on Sundays.
You can find more out about the Eat Shop on its Facebook page or by calling 763-270-5929.