Gray Duck Tavern opens Tuesday

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Duck, Duck Gray Duck (called Duck, Duck, Goose in literally every other state) is a game all Minnesotans remember from childhood.

But St. Paul’s recent restaurant boom is no game, and downtown/Lowertown especially has seen nearly a dozen new bars and restaurants open in the past few years to revive a dying urban core.

Gray Duck Tavern is the latest restaurant/bar to come online.

A lounge with cocktail service will greet patrons from the lobby entrance that once saw gangsters and dignitaries checking into the hotel. Beyond that, the large dining room (120 people) will serve lunch and dinner, with a small patio (28 people) available for eating al fresco.

(There are plans for a rooftop patio that, at 11 stories, will the tallest in Minnesota, and an event space as well, but they won’t be available until next year.)

Expect classic American fare with a twist (usually called “New American” but whatever). Chef Donald Gonzales is not shy about his goals: As a world-traveler who was raised on West Coast flavors in California, Gray Duck will not be confined by hot dish and hamburgers. Pan Asian cuisine to handmade pastas may all make an appearance alongside regional classics for a mix that looks to be at once unique and familiar; as Gonzales himself has said, this country is a melting pot of flavors.

St. Paul has been waiting a long time for something to move into this ground-floor space of the Lowry Hotel. It’s been nearly five years since plans for a restaurant were first announced after Jim Crockarell’s firm Madison Equities took over the building from John Rupp. And it’s been even longer than that since locals were allowed inside: The last tenant was Horatio Hornblower’s, which closed in 1982.

(Locals with long memories may also remember when the Oz nightclub was located in the basement.)

Gray Duck adds another piece to the Wabasha Street puzzle. It joins the revamped American Burger Bar, Amsterdam Bar and Hall, and soon Treasure Island Center to help revitalize the once-thriving thoroughfare.

That’s the most important part of these businesses opening in downtown. These restaurants, bars, eateries, and venues are not self-contained success stories: Each new door that opens, each new light that comes on, each new board that comes off the windows makes for a more dynamic destination and adds a little something to the city.

Cheers to that.

Gray Duck Tavern | 345 Wabasha Street, St. Paul, Minnesota, MN 55101 | (651) 340-9022

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Adrian Schramm is a local writer covering all things Minnesota. Through his work with CBS, the St. Paul Almanac, Minneapolis Examiner, TiltMN, and others as a "writer for hire," he has traveled down many dark paths to find what truly makes the Twin Cities tick. In a world of clickbait, sensationalism, and dollar-based journalism, he works tirelessly to present a better brand of internet news.