Next Chapter for Former Piccolo Owner Includes His Wife and a Dive Bar
Husband and wife Amy Greeley and Doug Flicker are gearing up for their second joint restaurant venture, Bull’s Horn Food & Drink.
For Doug Flicker’s fine-dining restaurant, he chose the name Piccolo, the musical instrument most associated with highbrow concerts (it’s also the Italian word for “small”). But we think it makes perfect sense that when he and his wife Amy Greeley decided to open a dive bar, the chosen name would be more of a shout-out, a let’s-make-some-noise kind of name. Thus Bull’s Horn Food & Drink is being orchestrated in the old Sunrise Inn space, just a few blocks from their home in Minneapolis.
Esker Grove’s clams with smoked potato, morcilla and kale
Actually the couple wasn’t thinking musically so much as of a cowboy image depicting a serious bull. While Piccolo was Flicker’s restaurant for his 40s, Bull’s Horn will be his restaurant for his 50s.
“Doug’s turning 50 and he can’t be standing on the line” forever, Greeley points out. Flicker’s vast talents are also being utilized at the Walker Art Center’s new restaurant, Esker Grove, which is in tune with his Piccolo offerings.
Bull’s Horn is also a chance for the couple to continue their restaurant partnership that started with Sandcastle, the counter-serve café on the shores of Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. The popular warm-weather-required spot just opened for the season, just as the couple starts to dive into construction on their bar. They’ll keep the grill and the fryer for late night fare, but to serve the kinds of food they want to —barbecue, a “killer roast beef sandwich and a juicy Lucy which is greater that the sum of its parts,” according to Flicker — they have to install a full kitchen.
“We’ve always talked about doing a bar,” Greeley says. “The question was what kind of bar.”
Greeley was drawn to the old-style Wisconsin bars that were family friendly.
Esker Grove borrows an arty vibe from its landlord, the Walker Art Center.
“I don’t need someone telling me a dirty joke every five minutes,” she says.
Flicker agreed, but also wanted food with his DNA on it.
“Instead of dainty foie gras, I’ll focus on making a really good sandwich,” he says.
They’ll have barbecue, but he doesn’t want barbecue to define the restaurant.
“In the 55406, we don’t have a barbecue-style culture,” he says, referring to one of Minneapolis’ ZIP codes as opposed to barbecue havens such as Memphis and Kansas City.
The bar is currently a “2.3 bar” and Flicker and Greeley will be upgrading the wine and beer, while still staying within the price range of customers. While they want to retain some of the original bar’s charm, they will be making changes that may lead to a slightly different clientele. They want it to be a neighborhood spot.
Since it’s so close to Sandcastle, the couple envisions being able to combine food buys and share staff. This will also ease a problem of having to find seasonal people for Sandcastle.
Greeley will handle the business side.
“He’s the creative one, unless you want to get into a creative spreadsheet,” she says of her husband, with a grin.
“She’ll do the front of the house, because she’s the more extroverted one,” Flicker inserts.
Sandcastle opened on its beach-front property at Lake Nokomis for the season at the end of April.
Prior to becoming immersed in the Twin Cities culinary scene with her award-winning chef husband, Greeley worked in higher education, recruiting students for study-abroad programs. The problem with academia, she says, is that employment tends to be a pyramid, all the jobs are at the bottom, without a lot of room for growth.
“I knew she was good with people, smart, and would make a great restaurant person,” Flicker says. The one challenge is for a day person to turn into a night person. “As long as I can sleep in occasionally,” she says.
Her other adjustment was the intensity of the job.
“I didn’t have answers at first and now you’re the boss (but) a couple of calls on the nurse line and I’m fine.,” she says, adding, “That’s funny, ‘cause that’s true.” Sandcastle, however, has helped her hone her culinary chops.
Working as a team has some challenges.
“For seven years, Doug was his own boss and was used to not having to coordinate with anyone,” Greeley says. When differences occur, she adds, it’s hard for both of them not to take it personally. “I’m glad we waited until we’d been married 12 years to do this,” Greeley says.
The upside, and it’s a big one, is that this second restaurant venture allows them to “marry our lives, both personal and work,” Flicker says.
Greeley had never worked in restaurants, so she’s learning the business from one of the best. Piccolo was a four-star restaurant where the Twin Cities elite took their out-of-town guests to show off the cities in the best light. He was also a regular on best chef lists from the numerous publications covering restaurants.
Greeley’s education started on their honeymoon to Spain, which was a culinary immersion. “I became a ‘foodie for love,’” she says, laughing. And we all benefit.