Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, there’s a new Irish pub in town... sort of.
The Local West End is a reboot of the former Cooper in St. Louis Park’s Shops at West End. As the name suggests, the concept borrows from Cara Irish Pubs’ downtown Minneapolis location, now known as the Local Downtown.
We got a sneak peek at the renovated pub to learn what patrons can expect from the Local West End when it opens Wednesday. Here's what to know before you go.
1. It’s cozier.
The most obvious change to the space is that it’s smaller—part of the dining room was sectioned off to make a separate storefront that will be leased to a new tenant. In addition, the walls have been lined with enclosed wooden booths that'll look familiar from The Local Downtown. (You may only be able to pull this off if you have an Irish accent, but Cara Irish Pubs CEO Peter Killen charmingly refers to them as “snugs” on the grounds that “these are not your normal booths.”)
The Local West End is the first phase of a suburban expansion for Cara Irish Pubs; eventually, they plan to open several iterations of The Local brand throughout the Twin Cities metro, each with a similarly downsized footprint.
2. The decor is the real deal.
Nearly everything in sight has been imported from Ireland, and they even flew in an Irish crew to lay the intricate hand-cut floor tile. The Gaelic-themed mural above the bar is new, but was painted by the same artist who created the Cooper’s original mural.
Another new touch is the wooden flooring that covers part of the dining room, which is intended to dampen background noise—Killen notes that one of the major complaints about the space from its days as the Cooper was the high decibel level.
3. There are seating areas for groups of all sizes.
In addition to those cozy snugs, there’s a semi-private bar area that seats four. It’s called McBride’s, in homage to one of the smallest bars in Ireland. (At a mere six seats, the original is barely larger than the Local’s version.)
For larger groups, there are two private dining areas. The Cooper Room seats 40, and while the room’s size is unchanged, the ceiling has been lowered and carpet added to give it a more intimate feel. Behind the bar, the Cutting Room can accommodate groups of up to 20.
4. The menu will look familiar.
The menu for the Local West End—and future Local iterations—is identical to the tried-and-true menu at the Local Downtown. You’ll find pub classics like fish and chips, plus salads, sandwiches, and burgers. A special “Wee Lunch” menu is offered on weekdays, with scaled-down versions of select entrees and sandwiches. The brunch menu features everything from a traditional Irish breakfast to quinoa hash.
Plans are in the works for “Sunday suppers” with a meat carving station and pastas. “It’s kind of like an Easter brunch, but scaled down,” explains Killen.
5. But this isn’t your standard pub grub.
“It’s a shorter menu, but we do things right,” says chef Vincent Francoual, Cara Irish Pubs' culinary director. He points to the fresh salmon of the week special as something that sets the Local apart from other pubs—when we visited, it was a served with an artful squash puree, buttermilk sauce, and perfectly roasted Brussels sprouts.
The salads also feature some unexpected touches. The chopped salad is topped with a fried soft boiled egg (which is just as delicious as it sounds), and the roasted pear and brie salad has some interesting textural elements in the form of freeze dried raspberries and puffed wild rice.
Understandably, Francoual’s favorite item on the menu is his namesake short rib-stuffed Vincent Burger. His runner-up was a bit of a surprise—the pub pretzels—but one taste of horseradish-laced, blissfully sinus-clearing mustard later, we understood why. “We don’t try to reinvent the wheel, but every day, we see what we can do better,” Francoual says. “I think we can be proud of what we do.”
The Local West End
1607 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park
Opens Wednesday, February 6 at 3 p.m.; after opening day, lunch service will start at 11:00 a.m.