"The spirit of the age and its society."
That English translation of "Zeitgeist" symbolizes what is taking shape in downtown Duluth, as an energized spirit has transformed an old hole-in-the-wall tavern into a new-age entertainment and dining experience.
The 200 block of East Superior Street, once known as "Old Downtown," included the Red Lion Lounge, Last Place on Earth, Fond-du-Luth Casino, and the Greysolon Plaza. Today, entrepreneurs have shed new light onto an old section of downtown.
As the weather improved this summer, Duluth locals started to notice construction at the old Red Lion Lounge, which was renovated and restored to house the new Zeitgeist Arts Café.
The café is the last leg of expansion from the Zeppa Family Foundation.
Upbeat jazz music, an inviting atmosphere, and mouth-watering smells are the first things to catch your senses as you enter the Zeitgeist Arts Café.
The idea behind the café was simple, explained Ryan Myers, Zeitgeist kitchen manager. "We wanted to bring a different addition to the regular dining places that you can find on Superior Street."
The Zeitgeist Arts Café offers an eclectic menu, but mainly very contemporary dishes.
"As Michael Olson [operations manager] and I designed the menu, we wanted to bring something new to the Duluth scene, but done with a touch of comfort food," Myers said. "The idea was to keep it simple, and prepare dishes that people will like."
The process for starting the café was quite stressful staff members explained, but Myers had great success hiring a kitchen staff to work under him.
"Everything ran seamlessly during the hiring process. I posted the openings on Craigslist, and had several applications from very experienced people, so that made my job easy," Myers said.
The former small tavern can seat approximately 100 people at any given time.
"We have 66 seats in the upstairs portion, 26 on the main level, and can seat another 14 at the bar," Myers said. "That many seats is actually a great size; it does not overwhelm our staff, so things run very smoothly and it allows us to get people in and out during show times."
If you have not heard much about the Zeitgeist Arts Café, you are not alone.
"We have done basically no advertising so far," Myers said. They have relied solely on Facebook and Twitter groups, and word-of-mouth from customers to get a buzz out.
"There have been ads highlighting the Zinema 2, and that has helped draw people over to the café before and after shows," Myers said. "Also, since it is downtown, we have caught some good food traffic, and referrals from Black Water right across the street."
The Zeitgeist Arts Café is just one segment of the whole "Z" experience that is now occupying the 200 block of East Superior Street.
"People need to come down and try the entire experience, by having a meal at the café, taking in a show, and then socializing for a drink after," Myers said of the entire Zeppa-owned building. "This has been three years in the making, and I am really excited for what is to come."