LOWRY HILL — A handful of years after Auriga closed, the restaurant space at 1930 Hennepin Ave. S. is being converted into a unique Montreal-style deli.
The as-of-yet-unnamed deli is the product of a partnership between restaurant consultant Tobie Nidetz and real estate attorney David Weinstein.
Weinstein, who has ample experience providing legal counsel to restaurants, is a Lowry Hill resident.
“It’s a shame for the neighborhood that the building has been vacant for so long,” Weinstein said. “A good, fun, casual deli is something both the neighborhood and city as a whole could really use.”
In addition to offering Montreal-style cuts of smoked meat — smoked meat is a cross between corned beef and pastrami — Nidetz and Weinstein plan to include chopped liver, bagels and soup on the menu, among other items.
But the twist is that Nidetz and Weinstein plan to offer the full gamut of drinks — espressos, beers and cocktails.
“The one strange thing about the project is our full bar and full liquor license,” Nidetz said.
The restaurantuers don’t plan to “go after the young after midnight crowd,” as Nidetz put it, but do envision happy hour specials and “interesting deli-orientated bar food.”
Both acknowledged that the concept for the deli is still evolving. Nidetz said he envisions the pace of the restaurant being somewhat similar to Southwest fast-casual spots like French Meadow and D’Amico and Sons.
Weinstein said he and Nidetz are planning to keep the exterior of the old Auriga building largely intact — they may not even need to repaint the building — but are in the early stages of completely renovating the interior.
Though 1930 Hennepin is just a block away from the bustling Franklin & Hennepin intersection, the building is surprisingly difficult to access by automobile. A median makes it impossible to make a left-hand turn from northbound Hennepin into the parking lot.
But Weinstein — who is in the process of completing a deal to purchase the building — downplayed accessibility concerns.
“One of the benefits of the site is that is actually has about 14 parking spots and a nice amount of off-street parking,” he said. “With plenty of pedestrian accessibility and bike parking, there should be plenty of access for the type of neighborhood we’re in.”
For Nidetz — who teaches at Kitchen Window and served as a consultant for The Sample Room and Ike’s Food and Cocktails, among others — developing a deli represents a return to his roots.
Growing up in Chicago, “one of my first jobs was in a deli, cutting meat and making coleslaw,” Nidetz said. “It’s always been in the back of my mind to do something with a deli somewhere, and I was developing a deli concept before David and I even started talking. I guess I was meant to be in the deli business.”
Nidetz and Weinstein hope to get their deli up and running by Labor Day.