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At Sara’s Table expands kitchen, adds second floor

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe is expanding its kitchen and adding a second story to its building at 1902 E. Eighth St.

Brunch has become so big at a Duluth farm-to-table restaurant that owners are building an addition to help cooks keep up with the French toast and omelette orders.

At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe owner Carla Blumberg said a construction project started this spring will expand the kitchen, add new bathrooms and offer a newly created second floor space with dramatic Lake Superior views. The restaurant was established in 2002 at the corner of Eighth Street and 19th Avenue East on the former Taran’s Food Market site.

Donald Holm Construction, the same firm that built the restaurant, is also handling the addition.

“We have to enlarge our kitchen,” said Blumberg. “Our level of business, we just can’t cover it anymore with the kitchen we have. I just never imagined we would be as busy as we are.”

The project also includes new bathrooms with shared sinks, a new basement cooler and an additional room in a newly added second floor. The new second floor room is limited to 30 occupants by handicapped accessibility rules.

A new second floor room has been added to the east side of the building. The room was planned for offices but may become a limited use dining space.

“We might be able to have small dinners or small parties or something like that up there,” she said. “For a while we thought it would be offices but it’s just too nice of a space.”

The restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, has seen its weekend brunch business push kitchen capacity to its limits. No changes to the bar — added around 2010 — or regular dining room are planned in the project.

“No, we’re not going to expand the dining room. The dining room isn’t where the problem is,” she said. “If you’ve ever been over here on a weekend morning it’s quite the scene. So we’ll be able to give them better service if we have a larger kitchen.”

Blumberg said while kitchen space is being added this spring, new equipment won’t be installed and fully converted on line until later in the fall.

Project manager Daniel Holm said the transition into the new, larger kitchen space will be completed in phases in an effort to keep the restaurant open through the process.

“The new equipment can be installed pretty easily. The problem will be converting the old equipment and creating a new flow,” he said. “We’re going to try and phase that in over a few weeks so the restaurant doesn’t have to close and lose business.”

Holm said the new basement cooler was connected last weekend and new bathrooms should be ready for use soon. The east side building bump out how has a basement and two upper levels.

Blumberg and her partner Barbara Neubert purchased the former Taran’s Food Market in 2001 with plans to remodel into a coffee shop called Chester Creek Cafe. But the building had been used as a market since the 1920s and was found structurally deficient. Holm Construction disassembled the building and incorporated salvaged materials like tin ceilings and old lumber into new restaurant construction on the old foundation. Neubert then moved her Minnesota Point restaurant/bookstore At Sara’s Table into the space.

Adjacent houses were torn down to create a parking lot.

“That was Carla’s background. She wanted to salvage and reuse as much of the building as she could,” said Holm. “She was very careful about preserving the history of the old Taran’s Market.”

Holm said some salvaged materials from the old market and adjacent homes were given to the Taran family and former homeowners. The old Taran’s sign was incorporated into the new building, only to be removed and replaced with a new At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe sign this winter.

Holm estimated the project will be complete in 90 to 120 days.

“They’ve built up a great brand on that corner,” Holm said. “People really like the restaurant and this should help them deal with the added demand they’ve seen over the years.”

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