Mark van Wie describes his latest restaurant as "sort of like your neighborhood pub, with just really good food."
Dubbed , the latest addition to 50th and France offers a wide array of European dishes coupled with one of the largest selections of beers in the area. Brainchild of Muddy Pigowners van Wie and Paul Schatz, Pig & Fiddle is filling half of the former not already occupied by the .
"Muddy Pig is great pub food, but completely different from what we have here," van Wie said. "The way we describe it to people is if you went to grandma's house for Sunday dinner, what would she serve you? I hate the phrase gastro pub, but that's really what we are."
Pig & Fiddle is van Wie's third major restaurant remodeling, but was a tough project in some ways because the took Pearson's former kitchen and restrooms—"a shell that needed to be gutted," van Wie said.
While it certainly looks different from its former self, Pig & Fiddle does retain the fireplace, wood paneling and exposed beams that gave Pearson's much of its charm.
"It was a little dark and dated in here before, with no windows or doors," van Wie said. "We tried to save what we could, but really brightened it up at the same time."
Chef Stephanie Kochlin crafted the menu within general guidelines from van Wie and Schatz, combining local ingredients with traditional European dishes.
"I'm calling it European country fare," Kochlin said. "I wanted it to be very rustic, not fussy or high."
Kochlin spent the last half-decade working as sous chef at Heartland, a St. Paul restaurant focused on utilizing local ingredients. She brings that same approach to the kitchen at Pig & Fiddle, with everything from pickles to pasta—all made fresh, in-house.
Kochlin's favorite dish on the menu is the alpine rabbit stew, a blend of rabbit, bacon, wine and tomato served over pappardelle pasta and topped with almonds. The early favorite among customers appears to be the Polish-style pierogi, pillows of hand-formed dough dished up with mushrooms and sour cream. There's also the braised beef carbonnade, a Belgian beef stew made with beer, grainy mustard and vinegar to provide a tangy finish.
On the beverage side, van Wie is sticking with beer and wine, but could expand later with a full liquor license. The beer list is extensive—more than 36 varieties on tap.
"We're not a Belgian-themed restaurant per se, but we'll always have a big pile of Belgian beers on hand," van Wie said.
Pig & Fiddle is open daily from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. The full menu isn't currently available, but many of the restaurant's main dishes are ready for eager customers.
"We tried to keep the open low-key so we didn't get overwhelmed," van Wie said. "But we're ready for customers to see what we've been working on."