Downtown Fargo restaurant Sazerac Alley closing for rebranding, concept change

FARGO -- Exactly one year after diners bid farewell to Monte's Downtown, the New Orleans-inspired restaurant that replaced it will close.But the site of Sazerac Alley, 220 Broadway, will be serving up food and drinks again soon with a new name, c...

FARGO –- Exactly one year after diners bid farewell to Monte's Downtown, the New Orleans-inspired restaurant that replaced it will close.

But the site of Sazerac Alley, 220 Broadway, will be serving up food and drinks again soon with a new name, concept and menu.

Ownership group Great Plains Hospitality announced the upcoming closure on Monday, Dec. 5. Sazerac Alley, which opened in April after a renovation of the former Monte's space, will close on Saturday, Dec. 31.

When the restaurant reopens as Twist on Monday, Jan. 9, the space will look the same other than new signs and some decor changes, said Dan Hurder, Great Plains' president and CEO. But it will be different-especially its departure from Sazerac Alley's Cajun focus for a more diverse menu.

While Hurder said Sazerac Alley achieved its goal of offering something new, the owners also found its New Orleans theme and "very specific" flavor profile made it difficult to cater to local diners.

"I have no doubt that this restaurant would've been a home run in a Chicago or a Minneapolis, but the reality is the more niche your menu is, the smaller of a portion of a population that you appeal to," he said. "Appealing to 10 percent of the Fargo population is a lot more challenging than appealing to 10 percent of the Chicago population."

New cuisine

The new name is one sign of the owners' hopes for the rebranding, Hurder said.

"We kept saying we want a menu in which we can put our own unique twist on things, and one of our bar managers actually said, 'Well, why don't we just name it Twist?' " he said.

The name also works as a nod to the classic drink garnish to reinforce the establishment's focus on its cocktail program, something Hurder said will continue with Twist.

Hurder said the owners realized something needed to change a couple months ago when the Sazerac Alley menu was revamped, but it wasn't enough because the "Cajun niche" made it difficult to expand the cuisine.

The restaurant could've just added non-Cajun items to the menu, but he said that would work against the established brand. Instead, the New Orleans theme had to go, Hurder said.

He described the new concept as "global fusion," with new menu items set to include Korean braised beef quesadillas, pulled pork-wrapped Scotch eggs, bloody mary shrimp shooters and French onion grilled cheese.

Twist will also keep some of Sazerac Alley's most popular items, including seafood pot pie, Buffalo oysters, and chicken and waffles.

"In this global fusion cuisine, Cajun mac and cheese won't seem out of place alongside a Korean beef quesadilla or something that is Southwest-inspired," Hurder said.

The menu will focus on small plates, with several items meant to be shared by a couple or group, but Hurder said entrees will also be available.

The staff, ownership and overall look won't change, he said, and previously purchased gift cards will be honored, even as the restaurant changes to a new concept that aims to be more adaptive to the latest trends and tastes.

"For all intents and purposes, we're putting up a new sign and printing a new menu," he said.

Twist will be open for lunch, dinner and evenings Monday through Friday, and dinner and evenings Saturday.

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