For the past few months, we've noticed increased activity inside the Lexington, the historic restaurant that has stood empty on the corner of Lexington and Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Now we have confirmation that when she springs back to life, it will be under the guidance of some accomplished and exciting local chefs.
The owners of Smack Shack, Josh Thoma and Kevin Fitzgerald confirmed yesterday through their representative that they have purchased the Lexington. The Smack Shack empire has already grown substantially since its beginnings as a lobster-centric food truck. After taking over the kitchen at the 1029 Bar in Northeast, the owners then opened a large restaurant in the North Loop with an expansive patio. They were also recently working with the owners of the Half Time Rec to take over the kitchen inside that space, though that project has experienced construction delays.
The Lexington kitchen will be helmed by the much-lauded, Iron Fork-winning chef Jack Riebel, a born and bred St. Paul man. This will be a homecoming of sorts for the chef.
Riebel was last seen inside 2013's Best New Restaurant winner the Butcher & the Boar. He stepped away from the restaurant at the end of last year, and when last we spoke with him, he said he was under contract to work with his former business partners of Butcher & the Boar on the upcoming revamp of the (still unnamed) former Joe's Garage space.
The Lexington has struggled in modern times to find its footing. In its heyday it was the spot for three martini lunches and lawmakers to reach across the aisle and get deals done. The building will require some renovations, but early reports assure us that the new owners will respect the integrity of the building and the stunning bar housed within.
That sound you hear is the majority of St. Paul rejoicing. A landmark seems to have found the perfect fit of modern restaurateurs to delicately pull it back from the brink of death and please the palates of Twin Cities' diners.
Later this week the new owners and Mayor Chris Coleman will meet with members of the press to discuss more details about the deal. We'll share them with you as menu and floor plans emerge.