Lake Elmo Inn plans Depot Cafe within the downtown St. Paul Union Depot

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Rail fans rolling out of the downtown St. Paul Union Depot on the Empire Builder or the new Amtrak Borealis train to Chicago may soon have a new dining option.

The Union Depot’s recently-shuttered restaurant space within the Head House along Fourth Street could reopen by July 1 under the management of the Lake Elmo Inn, one of Ramsey County’s catering partners.

Meeting as the county’s Regional Railroad Authority on Tuesday, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners will review a proposed five-year lease with the proprietors of the Lake Elmo Inn, who plan to run the new restaurant and bar under the name Depot Cafe. The lease, which runs through June 2029, carries a five-year option to extend.

The space hosted the Greek restaurant Christos for 20 years, but the county chose not to renew its lease in 2016 and instead issued a request for proposals. Bloomington-based Kaskaid, known for the Minneapolis eateries Crave and Union Rooftop Bar and Grill, opened the Union Depot Bar and Grill in 2018 after some $2 million in renovations.

With sales lagging, Kaskaid turned the restaurant over through a subcontract to the North Minneapolis-based nonprofit Appetite for Change, which opened the Station 81 bar at the location in early 2020. The bar closed in recent weeks.

County Commissioner Rafael Ortega, who chairs the Regional Railroad Authority, said the Lake Elmo Inn is known for higher-fare food than some of the site’s previous vendors, but the county has worked with the prospective tenant to ensure the menu offers affordable take-out items for residents of the Union Depot’s condominiums.

“We want the tenants that live there to be able to eat in the restaurant,” Ortega said. “We’re working out details.”

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