Last week I posted a story from the Minneapolis paper of some silly spat between two restaurants here, one of which pays my bills. Unexpectedly, it did not end there. Ms. CJ (aka who knew The Star Tribune had a gossip queen) did a follow-up of the non-news story in today’s edition. It’s still funny, I think. I had one customer who had cut out the story and come into the restaurant based on the hoopla. Next week we are going to see who’s dad can beat up the other’s.
Peanut butter has been added to the flame throwing between Hell’s Kitchen and New Calhoun Grill, the restaurant in Hell’s former location on S. 9th Street.
Last week’s item in this spot reported Hell’s owner Mitch Omer‘s fury that Calhoun Grill sent a host to the gates of, strike that, Hell’s doorstep to solicit business. New Calhoun manager James Robinson told me that it would not happen again but that he was not the manager to whom Omer colorfully vented his complaint.
On Monday, Joe Sipprell, another manager, identified himself as the manager to whom Omer “started freakin’ out, getting vulgar and loud in front of all my customers.” In retrospect, Sipprell understood Omer’s outburst. Sipprell said that the 17-year-old host was ordered to “Get out there and get some customers in here,” but that he was not instructed to approach diners in line at Hell’s Kitchen. After Sipprell learned of that tactic, “I said, ‘Hey, you can’t do that.’ He got a real quick marketing ethics lesson.”
As for reader Susan Marsh‘s complaint to me that her party was duped into dining at New Calhoun after staffers there told her getting to Hell’s was much more complicated than it is, Sipprell said most of his employees are not familiar with downtown Minneapolis. (Roll your eyes here; I did.) “People come in and I definitely try to persuade them to stay,” Sipprell said. “I’ve been up front most of the time.” This deception left Marsh “pretty sure I’m not going back to the Grill again.”
And then Sipprell smeared what could be called flammable peanut butter on an already explosive situation.
“My big question for Mister Mitch is why he takes Skippy peanut butter and sells it as his own,” Sipprell said. “I talked to one of my food reps who said, Yeah, we tried to get that account, but we don’t stock Skippy peanut butter. I know that’s a huge following, people buying that peanut butter — Skippy with honey and sugar in it. ”
This is absolutely not true, Cynthia Gerdes told me Monday, speaking in defense of the “Homemade Hell’s Kitchen Peanut Butter” and on behalf of her husband, who was in a Health Department course. “We heard last week that he’s telling customers that! What is that about?” Gerdes said. “Mitch has got his recipe ready to publish in a cookbook. We start roasting our very own peanuts. We could tell you the nut vendor.
“We’ve got tons of Skippy, but we keep it for our kids and people” who prefer regular peanut butter, she said, inviting me, with my video camera, to participate in the making of the peanut butter, as long as I don’t divulge the recipe. Better yet, I told Omer when he called, I’ll make an unexpected visit, like the Health Department. “Do it,” Omer said. “We’ve got nothing to hide.”