AP NEWS

Heard on the Street: New cafe starts serving in historic Rochester building

May 5, 2019

The newest addition to the Med City restaurant scene started serving dinner this week.

Le Petit Café started serving dinner on Thursday in the under-renovation historic Avalon building at 301 N. Broadway.

The European-style restaurant is the creation of Chef Deirdre Conroy, known locally for her food cart of the same name at the Rochester Farmers Market.

When asked to describe Le Petit, Conroy said, “We call it elegant dining. No TVs. Open and simple. Never rushed. I want people to feel as they would as guests in my house sitting by the fireplace.”

Dinner, which includes two courses, costs $31. Diners have five entree choices as well as five starters and five desserts from which to choose.

After selling food and drinks at the Farmers Market for the past two years, Conroy has a lot of contacts with local farmers to source pork, vegetables and milk. Eggs and other ingredients will come from her own farm.

“Everything will be as regional as possible,” she said.

In addition to serving dinner, Le Petit also has a coffee and pastry counter that’s open from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Le Petit is ramping up to its full vision due to the ongoing construction as part of owner Angela Martin’s renovation of the 100-year-old building. The partially complete dining area now seats 50. That will grow to 73 once the sunroom addition to the southwest corner is complete.

On May 11, Conroy will add lunch from noon to 2 p.m. to Le Petit’s offerings. On Mother’s Day, she will introduce a three-course Sunday afternoon tea.

“I hear some people are already buying hats for it,” said Conroy with a grin.

Eventually, Le Petit will add an 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. daily breakfast into the mix.

Conroy feels the old brick building, arguably the most historic Rochester building without a direct Mayo connection, is the perfect setting for her restaurant.

It was built in 1919 by a Jewish man named Sam Sternberg as the Northwestern Hotel, a place where Jews could stay at a time when most Minnesota hotels refused them.

Verne Manning bought the building in 1944 and changed the name to the Avalon.

It was the first hotel in Rochester to accept black guests, as well as white. Well-known people, such as Duke Ellington, stayed at the Avalon Hotel.

By the 1980s, the building was unused and run down. Myrna Hamilton purchased it in 1987 and renovated it to house her Hamilton Music store.

When Hamilton retired in 2008, Stephen Lalama bought it and moved in his Rochester Pro Music. He changed the name to Avalon Music, to honor the building’s history.

“She’s a dear of a building, bless her,” said Conroy of it.