Hell's Kitchen ramps up 'Late-Nite' series
Minneapolis has no shortage of venues. However, the city also has no shortage of quality bands in search of a stage either. Popular downtown restaurant Hell's Kitchen recently threw their hat into the venue ring, seeking to better utilize their stage and sound system. The restaurant prides itself on their local focus, and pulling in the Twin Cities music community is a fitting addition. They brought in Mike Siddall, a former Amphetamine Reptile employee and owner of doubleplusgood records to book shows under the name HK Underground: Late-Nite shows at Hell's Kitchen. Already, Siddall has brought in a variety of acts, from Charlie Parr to Unknown Prophets, all while keeping costs at just $5 per show.
Gimme Noise talked with Siddall and general manager Tony Perella about the process of adding amplified music to an already established restaurant.
Gimme Noise: How has the series affected diners? Are there many who have been surprised by the loud music?
Tony: It is a trick to turn a restaurant into a venue 3 times a week, but we are getting good at it. The time between the end of dinner music is about an hour and a half. This seems to be ample for letting folks finish their dinner with a more subdued musical ambience and still allow time to take out (some of) the tables and open up for a more raucous night show. It will take some time to perfect it, but thus far it seems to be working pretty well.
The amount of seating is unusual for a venue, making it a more relaxed setting. Is there a specific kind of music you aim to book to suit this feeling?
Mike: I guess it's two-fold. For our Dinner/Brunch shows, which feature more jazz/blues/folk acts, people are able to enjoy their meals while watching the music. So for that, I think the music we feature is more suited to enjoying the dining experience. For the Late-Nite shows, we clear out the tables in front of the stage, but still have plenty of seating for people that prefer to sit or have something to eat off our Late-Nite food menu. At the same time, there's plenty of open space if people want to move around, so I don't personally try and book a specific kind of music to suit. I want the Late-Nite shows to be more about the music and wherever people feel more comfortable (sitting or standing) is fine by me, regardless of the genre of music.
Besides the menu and location, what do you think separates Hell's Kitchen from other venues across town?
Mike: I think there are a number of areas that Hell's Kitchen separates itself from other venues around town:
1. I consider Hell's Kitchen to be one of the best sounding rooms in town. I heard this before I started booking here and I've heard it from nearly every band that's played HK Underground since we started.
2. We have cheap drink specials during all Late-Nite shows until close. $3 PBR Tall boys, $4 taps/rails, $7 PBR & a shot. No other venue in town is offering this on a nightly basis. Same with our Late-Nite food menu.
3. Hell's Kitchen really wants to take care of the people that walk through the door (customers and the bands). Bands get 100% of the door plus food and drink. We're trying to keep the covers reasonable for the people coming to the show plus the cheap food and drink options. HK Underground is a very unique setting to see a show and the bands and the people attending the shows so far have had really great things to say about their experience.
Tony: Mike really summed it up. My only addition is that we truly see ourselves still as a locally owned and operated venue and restaurant, regardless of our size. We want to provide good local music to go with our food and drinks. We really are unique in the sense that people who work here, want to hang out here to enjoy the ambience. Some of our staff performs here. Our bartenders work on infusing our own vodka and other liquors for custom cocktails. Our cooks really want to provide a fun meal that they want to enjoy if they went out to a club. There is a lot of personal pride here, and we take the quality of all aspects seriously. The music is only the most recent venture.
Had the restaurant seen a need for live music downtown for a while? Did the idea go back to the original location?
Tony: We had started late night shows a while back. However, in recent months we had begun to plan a large revamping of the program. We created the name HK Underground, set a new Facebook page, got Mike on board and started a separate website: HK-undergound.com (still under construction). This concept started with the new location and the realization that we had a great stage setup with an amazing sound system that needed to be utilized.
Does Hell's Kitchen seek to remain known as a restaurant-first, venue-second? Is there a potential identity crisis?
Tony: We have always been known for our brunch, breakfast all day and our Bloody Marys. When we moved here two plus years ago, the goal was to hit the ground running with two full bars and dinner service. We are proud of how well that has gone over. The food and drinks are always a priority. That is why we offer the extensive late night menu and drink options. As far as an "identity crisis," we have created the separation of venue and restaurant with the aforementioned HK-underground and Hell's Kitchen branding to enforce this. We don't want to alienate the foodies from the music fans or vice versa. Our demographic wants one or the other, but more often both. We are confident that we can accommodate that and be known for both equally. We also have a separate back dining room that is more subdued that is open during dinner service for patrons that don't want live music. However, more and more we are finding that our customers want both.
Upcoming "HK Underground: Late-Nite" shows at Hell's Kitchen:
Fri Feb 25th: Radio K's Off the Record presents: Food Pyramid/ Fire in the Northern Firs / Grant Cutler's 2012 $5 18+
Sat Feb 26th: The Funeral and the Twilight / Hollow Boys / Safewords $5 ID
Fri Mar 4th: Soul Friday w/ DJ's Lady L, Shannon Blowtorch & Naughty Boyy $5 ID
Sat Mar 5th: Party Ready (members of Kruddler) / Rank Strangers / Party of One / Oaks $5 ID
Thurs Mar 10th: MPLSSTPAUL.com presents Holly Newsom (of Zoo Animal) / Nice Purse / The Broken Bicycles / Matt Latterell $5 ID
Fri Mar 11th: Private Dancer / Slapping Purses / Vampire Hands / Bombay Sweets $5 ID
Sat Mar 12th: In Defence / Bust! (Illinois) / Nightosaur / The Turkletons $5 ID
Thurs Mar 17th: TBA
Fri Mar 18th: Ashley Gold CD Release / Dance Muhamitz / Eric Stoeckeler / Oso $5 ID
Sat Mar 19th: The Rockford Mules / The Evening Rig / Halo Sparkle $5 ID
Thurs Mar 24th: Jeff Ray and the Stakes / Molly Maher & Her Disbelievers / Erik Koskinen Band $5 ID
Fri Mar 25th: Chooglin' / John Swardson & The Get Gone / Young Quitters $5 ID
Sat Mar 26th: Iron Thrones / The Great Sabatini (Montreal) / Torch the Spires / One-Dimensional Man $5 ID
Thurs Mar 31st: High on Stress / The Shams Band (Chicago) / Disaster Bird $5 ID