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27 posts categorized "Burger wars"

October 15, 2015

Is the Thickburger returning to Rochester?

It's been a long 14 years for Rochester fast food fans with a taste for Hardee's.

The restaurant known for its outlandish hamburger creations such as the Mile High Bacon Thickburger closed its doors in the Med City abruptly in 2001. Three Hardee's in Rochester and one in Stewartville closed their doors after franchisee Andris-Crawford Enterprises re-organized during bankruptcy. The four restaurants had 95 employees when they closed up shop.

HardeesADHowever, the over-the-top TV commercials still play locally, teasing people with gigantic mash-up burgers they can't have unless they drive to Winona or Austin.

And then the buzz started this summer that Hardee's and its smiley face star logo might be ready to make a comeback in Rochester.

Some calls to CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns St. Louis-based Hardee's and its California sibling Carl's Jr., eventually got a response in the form of a short email.

"We do have plans to open a Hardee’s in the Rochester area in the coming future, but at this time we cannot share any specifics on an opening date. We will keep you updated," wrote Melissa Penn of Hardee's.

So they are coming back to town … soonish. There's no word on where in Rochester or if there might more than one coming.

Whenever and wherever Hardee's opens, it will find a much more competitive Med City than when it left 14 years ago.

Many local spots in Rochester are well-known for their burgers such as hometown favorite Newt's, Wildwood Sports Bar, Fat Willy's and Rooster's Barn and Grill. The number of McDonald's, Burger Kings and Culver's locations have grown.

In 2009, Five Guys Burgers arrived and threw down the burger battle gauntlet. This summer, the trendy Smashburger chain also confirmed it has plans to be in Rochester sometime in 2016.

I guess we'll see just how big of an appetite Rochester has for fast food burgers. 

July 24, 2015

A new burger chain plans to 'smash' into Rochester

Could the flames of Rochester's always simmering burger wars soon flare up from the heat of competition?

Possibly. Another national gourmet burger chain is planning to smash into the Rochester market.

Smashburger, a trendy burger juggernaut, is expanding rapidly its footprint across the U.S. and now Rochester is on its radar. The chain is known for "smashing" its fresh hamburger patties to sear in flavor.

Bigburger_situational_960x394_home_page-cactusSmashburger Marketing Manager Christine Ferris said they hope to be cooking in Rochester by late March 2016.

"To answer your question, we do have a site picked out according to our real estate sheet and it’s going to be a corporate restaurant, not franchise. It looks like the projected opening date is for late March of 2016," she wrote in answer to an inquiry about their plans.

This could bring a competitor into a city already dominated by hometown favorite and local burger champion Newt's.

In 2009, Five Guys Burgers arrived and threw down the burger battle gauntlet. Newt's has kept its title as the top burger power, but plenty of skirmishes continue between Five Guys, Culvers and the usual lineup of fast-food suspects.

SmashBurger_logoReaders have been clamoring for burger specialists White Castle, Red Robin and/or Sonic Drive-in for many years, but none of those players have ever gotten serious about cooking in the Med City.

The Denver, Colo.-based company already has 13 restaurants in Minnesota and is ready to start construction on a new one in Shakopee, according to an article in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal this week.

If Smashburger does open in Rochester in March, it will be the first new big national name to jump into the local fray, since Five Guys arrived six years ago. 

June 26, 2015

A taste of the East Coast coming to Med City

The flavor of the East Coast is on its way to southwest Rochester.

Joe Phillips is cooking up a new eatery called Jersey Jo's to serve up "authentic Philly Cheesesteaks and more."

FireShot Capture - Order Online - http___jerseyjos.com_order-onlineHe hopes to be able to open Jersey Jo's by mid-July at 187 16th Ave. SW. Cousins Subs is moving out of that 1,600-square-foot spot in the Shoppes on Second commercial center at the end of June. That address will put him just a couple blocks away from Mayo Clinic's St. Marys Hospital and many hotels.

Phillips, a software programmer who will continue that profession remotely from the restaurant, said this new project started very simply.

"I couldn't get a cheesesteak anywhere around here that I liked," he said. So after years of looking, he finally decided to open a place of his own.

Phillips plans to "import" many of the ingredients for the Jersey Jo's signature cheesesteak sandwiches from the East Coast to create as authentic of a flavor as possible.

In addition to Philly cheesesteaks, Jersey Jo's also will serve cold hoagie sandwiches, chicken wings and a trio of specialty burgers. The meat will be sliced on-site, deli-style for each of the made-to-order sandwiches.

While he has long worked in the technology industry, Phillips knows his way around a kitchen from years in restaurants during college.

Phillips' vision for Jersey Jo's is to create a laid-back place like the small mom-and-pop corner shops he remembers from growing up in New Jersey.

"I want to offer a nondiscriminatory place for people to come and feel welcome while they have some good food," he said.

He expects to have about eight people on staff.


June 12, 2015

Checking in with Sonic

Hopeful rumors of a Sonic Drive-in opening in Rochester have been buzzing around… again.

I called Oklahoma City, Okla.-based burger and shake chain in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 to see if car hops and cherry limeades might be on the way to the Med City.

Sonic-drive-inI've never received an answer that made local Sonic fans happy. And unfortunately, the 2015 call did not turn out any differently.

"We do not have any signed contracts or any under construction drive-ins there," said Sonic's Communication Manager Jason Acock. "I don't see any plans right now of opening up in Rochester."

However, there's always a possibility. Sonic has opened a number of drive-ins in the Twin Cities and in nearby Wisconsin in the past eight years.

"We're open to looking all over the county right now. We're looking to expand everywhere," said Acock. "Hopefully, somebody will step forward and a franchisee will want to open a location up there."

March 31, 2015

Newt's South ready to start cooking

Editor's note - Tip of the hat to Sean Baker of the Med City Beat for reporting on this opening first. Keep up the good work.


The new Newt's South will open its doors at 11 a.m. Wednesday, which brings the Currie brothers tally of Rochester restaurants to nine.

Restaurateurs David and Mark Currie built their latest restaurant/bar in front of Rochester's Crossroads Shopping Center.

It's serving the same full Newt's menu that's served at the original downtown Newt's, Newt's North and Newt's Express. However, this new Newt's will have 20 beers oNewtssouthatcrossroadsn tap, more than the other locations. Plus it will not serve breakfast, like Newt's North does.

The Curries have a team of about 30 staffing the new Crossroads location. That's brings the grand total of their Rochester employees to 172. That includes the four Newt's, two City Markets, City Cafe, 300 First and the Redwood Room.

"People seem really excited about it. We've had a steady stream of people coming up to the doors, since we put the signs up," said David Currie.

They built this new Newt's on the former location of Tasos Psomas' Pannekoeken Huis restaurant between the Andy's Liquor store and Home Federal Savings Bank.

Tom Graf bought Pannekoeken and demolished it in 2011 with the intention to build a second Buffalo Wild Wings. However, a legal battle with the Crossroads Shopping Center over parked quashed that plan. That's when the Curries came into the picture.

This is the first restaurant they've built from the ground up, though it looks a lot like the unusual, angular Wallins West building that houses Newt's North. That Newt's opened at 5231 U.S. 52 Frontage Road NW in 2011.

"That was very purposeful," said David Currie on Tuesday. "It is our intention to create brand standard look."

While haven't decided anything yet, the brothers are mulling over the possibility of the opening a Newt's outside of Rochester. Of course, they still have plenty on their plates in Rochester at the moment.

"It keeps us busy," he said.

March 25, 2015

Upscale craft beer pub to open in northwest Rochester

A Crooked Pint Ale House is on tap to open soon in Rochester's former Green Mill Restaurant building.

Green Mill Restaurants CEO and Crooked Pint franchisor Paul Dzubnar announced this week that the "nouveau urban pub with a local neighborhood feel" is scheduled to open on April 21 at 2723 Commerce Drive NW.

Dzubner built the 6,800-square-foot restaurant in 2006 and still owns the building. The Green Mill operated there until it abruptly closed Jan. 1.

Place_18269"Even though the Green Mill closed, we still think Rochester is a great restaurant market. We want to get right back out in front of the market," Dzubnar said on Tuesday. "I think the people of Rochester have a very good palate."

He cited the poor timing of Green Mill's opening just as the recession started and the resulting development hiatus as contributing to the restaurant's failure. The resurgence of development along West Circle Drive and Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center initiative makes it much more favorable to launch a new concept now, he said.

Construction crews have been revamping the restaurant for weeks. It is expected to employ between 65 and 70 people, about the same that Green Mill did.

This will be the third Crooked Pint in Minnesota and the first outside of the Twin Cities metro area. Jeremy Brown owns the Rochester Crooked Pint as well as one in Apple Valley.

“Everything at Crooked Pint is the real deal, from the menu to the furnishings to all of the local craft beers,” Brown said in an announcement.

Dzubner described the Crooked Pint concept as catering to the growing craft beer trend, while serving "upscale pub fare," like stuffed burgers, homemade tater tots and stuffed pickles.

"We think this concept is really good. While the food is upscale, it's very affordable. We offer a daily $6 burger basket lunch special," he said.

From the bar, the Crooked Pint offers 30 local and regional craft beers on tap as well as 20 wines available by the glass. It also will serve a variety of high-end bourbons and scotches.

Plans call for up to 10 more Crooked Pint locations to open in the next three years.

“Rochester is growing with a mix of business and residential, providing a great backdrop for this fabulous concept. We are excited for Crooked Pint to join the community,” Brown said.

March 06, 2015

10 years of blogging Rochester

On March 4, 2005, I wrote my first blog post. Kiger's Notebook blogo 2x

It was my sixth year at the Post-Bulletin. I created the "Heard on the Street" column about three years before the blog began. 

More  than 6,200 posts, stacks of columns, mountains of tweets and many gray hairs later, I'm still here writing about business and things vaguely related to businesPhoto on 2015-03-03 at 18.11s in southeastern Minnesota.

It'syou, the readers, who make this career such a fulfilling and entertaining one. Thank you everyone for your feedback, criticism and support over these past 10 years. 

10 years of blogging Rochester

On March 4, 2005, I wrote my first blog post.Kiger's Notebook blogo 2x

It was my siPhoto on 2015-03-03 at 18.11xth year at the Post-Bulletin. I created the "Heard on the Street" column about three years before the blog began. 

More than 6,200 posts, stacks of columns, mountains of tweets and many gray hairs later, I'm still here writing about business and things vaguely related to business in southeastern Minnesota.

It's you, the readers, who make this career such a fulfilling and entertaining one. Thank you everyone for your feedback, criticism and support over these past 10 years.  

July 17, 2014

New plan: Newt's at Crossroads

After years in limbo, a plan to build a restaurant/bar in front of Rochester's Crossroads Shopping Center once again is moving ahead.

However, it won't be the long anticipated Buffalo Wild Wings. Instead, it'll be the latest version of Rochester's iconic eatery, Newt's.

Rochester restaurateurs David and Mark Currie are working on plans to build Newt's South as their ninth local restaurant. Their Creative Cuisine restaurants are the original downtown Newt's, the City Cafe, City Market Deli Downtown, City Market Deli South, the Redwood Room, 300 First, Newt's Express and Newt's North.

The project is in its early stages, so it may be a while before construction starts on the large rectangle of dirt and grass.

"If I could break ground today, I would," said David Currie, who owns and runs Creative Cuisine with his brother. "But I'm going to say it will be in the six-month range before it really gets going."

The sibl07162014bbwsignings are buying the site between the Andy's Liquor store and Home Federal Savings Bank from Tom Graf. Graf originally had hoped to build Rochester's second Buffalo Wild Wings there, but a series of legal disputes over parking eventually quashed that plan. The development plan, approved by the city, called for extending BWW's parking onto Crossroads property to have the required number of spaces.

Parking shouldn't be an issue for the new Newt's project because it will be smaller than Graf's proposed BWW. That means the restaurant and all of the required parking should both fit on the island of land in the Crossroads parking lot.

"I thought the Curries could make the best use of the space with the size of what they want to put on it," said Graf. "At the end of the day, it's a win for the shopping center."

07162014newtssouth1The first generation of Creative Cuisine dates to the 1960s with Jerry Zubay and Mike Currie, the father of Dave and Mark. Building a ninth restaurant will add to an already full plate for the brothers.

"The business is a lot of fun. We both love it and enjoy it. We're blessed to work with a ton of great people. That makes it super enjoyable," said Dave Currie of why they decided to open a new place.

Creative Cuisine employs 141 people. The Curries estimate Newt's South will need 20 to 30 employees.

This will be the first time the Curries have opted to construct a new building rather than adapt and renovate an existing site. They had shopped for a south Rochester spot for about a year before the Crossroads deal worked out.

"Building from the ground up took a lot more thought going into it. We're used to finding a 100-year-old building and then working with it," said David Currie.

They plan to build a restaurant similar in look and size to the quirky Newt's North location, which opened in 2011 inside the Wallin Building at 5231 U.S. 52 Frontage Road N.W.

The genesis for the project dates to 2011, when Graf purchased Tasos Psomas' Pannekoeken Huis restaurant and demolished it to make way for a second Rochester BWW.

Even though Graf decided "it just made sense" to have the Curries build on the site, it doesn't mean he's abandoning his own restaurant plans.

"There will eventually be another Buffalo Wild Wings in Rochester. It will happen. The city's big enough for at least one more," he said.

September 04, 2013

New BK to start cooking

The ever-alert Todd Schwartz spotted a sign on the new Burger King fast food eatery on Marion Road saying it's opening today (Wednesday, Sept.4).

6a00d83451cc8269e2017d3bf391ec970c-250wiThis is the new place built by franchisee Dolphin Corp. on a long empty chunk of land at the corner of 12th Street Southeast and Marion Road Southeast.

That spot is in front of the new Marion Road Business Center and the Kwik Trip station on Marion Road. It is across 12th Street from the Cub Foods Plaza, where Dolphin has a Burger King. The new BK is replacing its older sibling location.

Dolphin Corp. owns all three Burger King restaurants selling in the Med City. They're located along South Broadway and North Broadway, as well as in the Cub Foods center.