Former A Rebours Owner Sets the Record Straight

Back on the 7th of September, it was — for some bizarre reason — front-page news for the Pioneer Press when A Rebours, the little bistro on St. Peter Street, closed its doors.

Now, I loved A Rebours. The classic menu and long picture window and ridiculously unpronounceable name. But I didn’t think its closing was on par with stories about war or poverty or even the strike of 3,500 union workers at the University of Minnesota. Another odd thing: on the day A Rebours closed, owner Doug Anderson supposedly insisted it was due to circumstances beyond his control — the 35W bridge collapse, for instance, and the general dullness of downtown St. Paul.

"It got to the point where I couldn’t make a living downtown," he reportedly told Kathie Jenkins.

The following day, Jenkins wrote a second piece that said Anderson was selling the restaurant to former W.A. Frost chef Russell Klein and his wife, Desta. And they would soon open a place of their own, called Meritage.

So here was my problem: If A Rebours — an established restaurant — was being driven under by ongoing traffic SNAFU’s caused by the 35W bridge collapse, why would the Kleins dive in and buy it? And if Anderson was in the midst of a negotiation to sell, why would he tell a reporter the location sucks?

Further: Why was the phone number for Nick and Eddie, Anderson’s new Loring Park restaurant which was supposed to open some time in summer, not in service?

Now, you should know up front, I like Doug Anderson.

Last time I talked to him, back in June at A Rebours, he said, "I hate all these haughty food weenies. Who are the customers I love? The people from over on 7th Street who make $50K a year and they’ll come in here and have a cheap bottle of wine and a nice meal and then go home and screw. Not talk about the fucking food."

He told me during the same conversation that he’d recently quit drinking at his wife’s request. And this is what’s truly magnificent about Doug — stone cold sober, he’s less politic and more profane than the rest of us are roaring drunk.

Today, I dropped in on Doug to get the real scoop about A Rebours and Nick and Eddie. And here’s what he said:

He never blamed the 35W bridge collapse for the failure of his restaurant. "Sure, it made traffic difficult, but 35W had nothing to do with what happened," he told me. And he didn’t sell the place, either. Russell and Desta Klein "inherited" it in a complicated deal he calls too "big a fucking mess" to discuss.

He is in debt, no question, and has pledged to repay his lenders by "getting a real job." To that end, he no longer has an interest in Nick and Eddie, which will open on or around October 8 and will be owned by his wife, Jessica Anderson, in partnership with Steve Vranian, formerly the chef at North Coast in Wayzata.

Also, he’s joined a punk rock band, called Sam Planet, that’s "extremely loud." Doug plays guitar.

I don’t know what’s happened over in St. Paul. And I’m pulling for Meritage to do well no matter what the issues between Anderson and Klein, because with the closing of Margaux last week, there’s practically nowhere left in St. Paul to get a decent upscale meal. (The exceptions are Heartland and I Nonni, but neither is downtown.)

As for Doug, I’m hoping against hope that he stays sober, pays off his collectors, makes his loud music, and rejoins his wife and Vranian on Loring Park. We need someone who just wants to sell us cheap wine so we can go home and screw, not talk about, well, you know. . . .