Featured Project

5th Street Station

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Be The Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program, has an extraordinary mission: working every day to save lives by managing the largest and most diverse bone marrow registry in the world.

So when it came time to create a publicly accessible restaurant for the group's new, Target Field-adjacent headquarters, something extraordinary was called for. Enter food service veterans Bon Appétit Management Company and the design team of Boelter/Landmark. Together, they've built 5th Street Station. It's a restaurant that offers a diversity of food choices, a bright, airy atmosphere, and serious collection of workspaces for the chefs who turn out an ever-changing menu composed of scratch-cooked food made from carefully sourced ingredients.

"I've worked with Bon Appétit for many years on a variety of different projects," says Tom Lutz of Boelter/Landmark (right). "I've been blessed with that and have learned a lot – they're great food people and they're great managers. They've got a great reputation within their overall group."

That reputation goes back to the company's insistence on sourcing local, ethical food whenever possible. "It's kind of been the key to the business," says 5th Street Station Chef Manager Chris Gumm (below). "Back in 1987, our founder Fedele Bauccio would go to [food service company-managed restaurants] and ask: 'Why is the food so terrible? Why can't we have restaurant-quality food in these settings?' That was the whole model."

"We buy directly from the producers, so it's literally coming from the farm to our restaurant," says Gumm. "In my personal opinion? It just tastes better. It hasn't been sitting on a truck for a couple of weeks. It was harvested when it was ripe, not when it was ripe to pack. It tastes better and it helps support local farmers. You can honestly taste the difference."

That approach to food is driven by a company that puts chefs and their experiences first. "Our regional vice president started as a chef," says Gumm. "Most of our district managers started as chefs."

The chef-driven philosophy of Bon Appétit Management Company comes through in the restaurant's food, such as the barbecued pork ribs that were offered as the daily special during our visit. Even without its accompanying barbecue sauce, the pork was full of flavor, not bland and washed out. Neither tough nor falling apart, the meat had an ideal texture. The sauce was tangy and had depth, and it didn't hide the flavor of the meat under a tidal wave of sugar – instead, it accentuated that flavor. The meal's accompanying scalloped potatoes, almost always an afterthought in a food service setting, were superb - thinly sliced, cooked completely but still with structure, touched by the richness of dairy but not drowning in it.

If Bon Appétit's philosophy is "quality in, quality out" then the same can be said for 5th Street Station partners, Boelter/Landmark. The way that 5th Street Station Cafe has been built means that the space has a long healthy life ahead of it.

"We put an emphasis on protecting things, guarding things – using the best materials," says Lutz. "Not just that it looks good when the operation opens, but a lot of the spaces that we've been responsible for, seven years, 10 years later, they are holding up very well because of the emphasis we put on protecting things, building things strong. It may cost a little bit more, but in the long run it'll withstand the test of time."

And behind the scenes at 5th Street Station (which is open to the general public as well as Be the Match employees) much is brewing for 2016. Although the restaurant is part of Be the Match, it's also, by design, a part of the neighborhood as well – and that means baseball: "We're really looking forward to the Twins season starting – we're going to open up a bar," says Gumm. "And we can't wait for the patio to open, too."

5th Street Station, 500 North 5th Street Minneapolis, 763-406-3700