Brothers Sam and Jose Leon opened their family’s first Irish bar, Pub 112, located in the multi-level space on Main Street—once home to Cat Ballous, Ruby Begonia and Pub Monique—on July 20.
They celebrated with Kieran Folliard and the 2Gingers crew during an official ribbon cutting ceremony with bagpipe performances, and live music by Luke Warm and the Cool Hands followed by The Tim Malloys.
Since Pub Monique closed last fall, there’s been a lot of talk of what was going into the North Main Street space.
“I heard we were moving the Acapulco down the hill to Main Street,” Jose joked. “That was news to me.”
The Leon family owns seven other restaurants in the Twin Cities, but Sam says they have never entered into a project quite like this one.
Most of the spaces where his family has opened Acapulco restaurants were new or recently renovated, Sam said. This space was built in 1882.
With the exception of the bar and kitchen, which were renovated before Pub Monique opened a couple of years ago, the space has been completely gutted and is in the process of being restored.
While renovating the space, Sam said structural issues kept coming up that needed to be addressed.
“We own this building and wanted to do it the right way,” Sam said. “We didn’t want to just reopen it as a new restaurant.”
Pub 112 will serve two different menus that are being created by Chef Jose Leon and two traditional Irish chefs who work for US Foods.
The main-level menu of Pub 112 will be traditional Irish fare, Sam said. The bar will feature Two Gingers Irish Whiskey, and have 20 draft lines—17 of which will be microbrews from Minnesota and Wisconsin.
And yes, Pub 112 will pour Guinness.
On the upper level, Pub 112 will serve small plates of Irish-Latin fusion cuisine.
“On St. Patrick’s Day we rolled out corned beef and cabbage tacos at all of our Acapulco locations,” Sam said. “We’ve also been playing around with corned-beef tortas. So we’ll see what comes of it.”
The upper level has been completely gutted and is in the process of being restored into a lounge with new restrooms, refurbished hardwood floors, exposed beams and brickwork and antique lighting.
“This is history," Jose said. “There is so much character, we had to refurbish it. We didn’t want to open our new restaurant and have the old owner’s mystique.”
The centerpiece of the lounge is a bar that dates back to the 1880s.
“We found the bar online and just had to have it,” Jose said.
The bar was built in Massachusetts in the 1880s, shipped down through South America—because the Panama Canal hadn’t been built—to California where it was in use for 100 years, Jose said. That bar will be surrounded by couches and other lounge-style seating.
The upper-level space will be open to the public, but will also be available for nonprofit groups to hold meetings, and people to host small parties and corporate events.
The plan is to host the annual Casino Night fundraiser at Pub 112 this October.
“Opening a restaurant downtown brings distinct challenges with it, because it’s a seasonal town,” Sam said. “But we’re going to focus on the locals, not the tourists, just like we do up the hill at Acapulco. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
But why open an Irish bar?
“We sat here one day and it just spoke to us,” Jose said. “It just feels like a pub.”