WAYZATA, Minn. - It’s one of the hottest restaurants in the Twin Cities – bringing flocks of diners to downtown Wayzata, hoping to snag a highly sought-after table.
Bellecour, the most recent success story from local celebrity chef Gavin Kaysen, has been one of the toughest reservations to get since opening March 15. And for Kaysen, that's a humbling response to get for such a deeply personal project.
Every bit of Kaysen's journey to the chef he's become can be seen throughout the space -- from the photos of his grandmother's handwritten recipes in the bakery to the influences of his mentors on each carefully plated dish.
The long-awaited space had Kaysen's followers hanging on every update and now that it's open, the glowing reviews confirm the wait was well worth it.
Here are 11 things you need to know about Bellecour …
1. The name Bellecour is a call back to the central square in Lyon, France called Place Bellecour, the hometown of Kaysen’s mentors and dear friends Daniel Boulud and Paul Bocuse. Guests can find a map on the restaurant’s wall of the France landmark.
2. Near the Chef’s Table in the kitchen sits three oddly shaped pepper mills – and they’re not just for décor. Kaysen said when he initially visited the space – then the dead restaurant, Blue Point – those pepper mills were sitting inside. The sight of them made Kaysen stop dead in his tracks. Before Kaysen left New York to come back home to Minnesota, a good friend gifted him that same peppermill – a creation her father handmakes in Portland, Ore. Kaysen took the small world coincidence as a sign.
"It was sort of my omen to say, this is the right space. Take it," Kaysen said.
3. In the back dining room, called the Garden Room, there’s a wall featuring a gorgeous floral mural that Kaysen says is the “most instagrammed wall” in the restaurant. His wife, Linda, found the wallpaper online at Anthropologie and immediately knew it would fit the space.
4. The building itself has a ton of history. For starters, it’s a return to its roots – in 1977, the space was a French restaurant called Chouette. During construction, the crew found wall coverings, murals and more from its Chouette days. Kaysen says he invited one of the previous owners to come back and sign one of the walls, as a blessing of sorts. They even found newsprint from 1940 inside the walls as part of the insulation. Since then, its been home to a toy store, furniture store and even was the parking garage for the local fire station.
5. You can sit at the Chef’s Table to get a front-row seat of the kitchen. It seats six and gives diners a completely different experience of the restaurant. Diners get special dishes straight from the kitchen and Kaysen says the energy from the kitchen feeds to the diners and vice versa.
"It’s a blast, we have so much fun with it," he said.
6. The patio space features a living wall -- yes, technically speaking, it's a wall of flowers that sustains itself. Kaysen said he wanted to create the feeling of a secret garden, something peaceful that could give guests a quiet space that transports them to France. The flowers on the patio walls are self-irrigated and French music plays in the background.
7. The menu is classic French cuisine – a passion of Chef Kaysen. "To me, this is food that I just love to cook and I love to eat," he said. From steak frites to bouillabaisse, foie gras and more, Kaysen sticks to the staples. "You know, they’re classics for a reason. It’s the reason why U2 is still selling out stadiums," Kaysen said.
8. If you order the French fries, you’ll get a side of history. The French fry "cone" is a tribute to Kaysen’s personal Bellecour journey – you’ll see photos of Daniel Boulud as a child, Place Bellcour in France and even Kaysen’s dog, Rudy. "For me, every time a fry cone goes out, it means a lot to me," he said.
9. The best way to snag a reservation in the dining room is to call the same day. Taking advantage of last-minute cancelations can give you the edge on getting a table. "The best thing to know is the patio is for walk-ins only," Kaysen added. Still out of luck? Try the bar -- it opens at 4 p.m. for drinks and bar snacks. Kaysen says the bar tends to flip around 7 to 7:30 p.m. so that can be your best window to grab an empty seat.
10. The bakery, featuring amazing creations from award-winning pastry chef Diane Yang, is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and features plenty of personal touches. The wall near the entrance features photos of Kaysen’s late grandmother’s handwritten recipes and photos of his mentors. On the opposite wall, there’s a coloring contest where the art of youngsters visiting the bakery is on display – each week, they pick a winner who gets a free pastry. Try the infamous crepe cake -- 28 layers of crepes and vanilla creme (Yang sells about 50 a week!).
11. The bar program is run by Robb Jones, an award-winning barman who served as head bartender at Kaysen’s other restaurant Spoon and Stable. Jones’ cocktail menu sticks closely to the restaurant’s French roots, featuring a call back to the former Chouette and a spin on the summery Moscow Mule (The Summit).
Bellecour is located at 739 Lake St. E. in Wayzata. For menus, reservations and more information, click here.