The sun, moon and stars have aligned: Partners behind Luna Fargo to open Sol Ave. Kitchen in Moorhead
MOORHEAD — One might say the sun, the moon and the stars aligned when David Hunstad approached Ryan Nitschke two years ago about opening a restaurant next to Junkyard Brewing Co. in Moorhead.
Nitschke, who partnered with Nikki Berglund in 2014 to open Luna Fargo at 1545 S. University Drive, had already been dreaming about the concept for a second restaurant.
"Luna has its thing, and we have many concepts, many ideas, and we wanted a way to express that," Nitschke said.
They'll get their chance next year when they open Sol Ave. Kitchen at 1408 First Ave. N. in the space already home to First Avenue Promotions, Hunstad's custom screen-printing, embroidery and design business.
The partners have launched a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of gaining community support for the project. Berglund explained that Kickstarter campaigns — a method of funding a project online by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people — is common in larger markets, where obtaining traditional funding can be difficult.
"Restaurants are seen as a riskier venture," Berglund said. "Junkyard actually did a Kickstarter when they initially opened up. To me, it’s like the oldest form of trade. It’s really bartering."
They're asking for $75,000 of the estimated $100,000 needed to renovate and equip the new kitchen. Supporters will receive a gift based on their donation amount, ranging from a high-five and cup of coffee for $5 to free food for life for a pledge of $10,000.
Berglund said financially it might make sense to wait another a year or two before opening a second location, but they don't want to miss out on this opportunity to open in north Moorhead, a "new, growing neighborhood."
Berglund and Nitschke are both well-known in Fargo-Moorhead's bar and restaurant scene. In addition to Luna Fargo, Berglund has long been involved in running her family's liquor store, Bernie's Wines and Liquors. She was recently among the top 20 fellows chosen by the prestigious James Beard Foundation to participate in the Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership program in September.
Nitschke has been honored by the foundation as well. In 2014, the former Hotel Donaldson chef was nominated for a James Beard Award, which is considered the highest honor in American culinary circles.
Sol Ave. Kitchen will serve "globally (and thoughtfully) inspired street food with a Midwest twist to make you happy," according to their Kickstarter page. For instance, Nitschke said they'll serve "bowls of goodies" like chicken mulligatawny or a Midwest version of a Korean-inspired vegetarian rice bowl.
"It's definitely going to have a world-spin, but in a comfort food kind of way," he said.
They'll also serve sandwiches, salads and appetizers. Luna meats and cheeses will be available as well.
It's exactly what Hunstad had in mind for a restaurant.
"I'm excited. I've long been a fan of their work over at Luna, and so that was the kind of caliber I had in mind," he said. "I've been using the term 'upscale food truck.' It's got to be bar food, but it's got to be good. ... I just really believe that they are able to do that."
Hunstad initially had retail in mind when he purchased the Moorhead property 10 years ago, but he said that didn't make sense once his business began to focus more on custom designs.
"So, when Junkyard was looking for a space, I thought this was an ideal match," he said.
Hunstad said that once Junkyard really took off and was looking at an expansion of its taproom and production space, it made sense to open a restaurant there as well.
While he's officially the landlord, Hunstad sees it more like a partnership.
"I look at it as a partnership with Junkyard and Sol Ave. Kitchen. I feel like we all see the opportunity and see the value of being together, so I think it’s a good mix. I’m excited about it," he said.
For more information or to donate, search for "Sol Avenue Kitchen" at www.kickstarter.com