When Duluth Grill owner Tom Hanson bought the building at 1909 W. Superior St. in 2014 for a new restaurant, he figured it could take one to two years to open.
Built in 1886, the building needed a lot of work.
“In the beginning I thought, let’s utilize the assets already there,” Hanson said. “Then we discovered how terrible the wiring and plumbing was. We realized there’s nothing of use. Now it’s a shell of a building.”
Currently gutted to the studs and reinforced throughout, the two-story building awaits reconstruction. Final designs are being worked out, and a general contractor will be chosen soon. With construction expected to start in June, Hanson is confident he can open OMC Smokehouse in November.
“We have a lot of people rooting for us,” he said. “They really want the project to go.”
When complete, the restaurant will sport an industrial modern look and seat 84, including some counter seating. It’ll have a bar, serving wine and beer. An open kitchen in the rear will allow customers to see food prepared on an open-flame, wood-fire grill.
“Our original thought was a quick-service deli, but our expertise is sit-down,” Hanson said.
OMC - short for oink, moo and cluck - will be like no other restaurant in the Twin Ports. It will be steeped in Southern-style smokehouse and barbecue techniques for its chicken, beef, ribs and pork.
Hanson and his son, Louis, who will be OMC’s manager, traveled to Texas and and Kansas City in recent months to check out restaurants and learn about Southern cooking techniques. Louis is returning to Texas next week with a team from the Duluth Grill to learn how to prepare Texas-style briskets.
Current menu plans are for 20 entrees and eight side dishes, along with appetizers, vegetarian options and a few desserts. Like the Duluth Grill, it will take a green, sustainable approach using healthy, locally sourced foods and pasture-raised meats.
Beer from Lake Superior Brewing Co. and Bent Paddle breweries in Lincoln Park will be the main beers, showcasing what the neighborhood offers.
But first comes months of construction that will transform the 4,000-square-foot former tavern inside and out.
When construction is complete, it will be a brand new building, Hanson said.
The entrance will be moved to the side of the building facing the parking lot. There, windows will be added to bring in natural light. The entrance to the parking lot will be from the rear alley to make the front more pedestrian-friendly. A corral-like station will accommodate bicycles.
Similar to the Duluth Grill on 27th Avenue West near Interstate 35, large raised beds will be filled with flowers and vegetables.
“The city is giving us the freedom to do the landscape design,” Hanson said. “We’ve proven ourselves as landscapers, so they’re allowing us to do the design.”
Hanson would like to turn the building’s second floor into a fitness center for the Smokehouse’s expected 45 employees and the Duluth Grill’s more than 100 workers.
Meanwhile, the project costs have risen since Hanson purchased the repossessed building from the bank for $37,000.
“We’re now looking at $600,000 in financing, with $100,000 to $200,000 that we’re bringing into it,” Hanson said. “But we have confidence. We know how to run a restaurant. And we have a good staff.”