One of Rochester's newest dining venues was once a maintenance and storage facility for trucks.

Those days are long gone and in their place is the European concept of a food hall. Both the idea of a Food Hall and the total renovation of the building in Southeast Rochester were the brainchild of Andy and Kari Friederichs of Rochester.

Renovating old properties is their passion and The Workshop is their fifth project here. They have also done two hotels top to bottom as well as two apartment buildings.

The Workshop Food Hall, is in the former Reid and Murdoch & Co. building from the early 1930s at 1232 Third Ave. SE. The city's iconic ear-of-corn water tower is across the street, where the Libby's and Seneca foods plant once stood.

A Chicago dog at Murdoch’s Place on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at The Workshop Food Hall and Bar in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
A Chicago dog at Murdoch’s Place on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at The Workshop Food Hall and Bar in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

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The Friederichs purchased the property in 2019 and renovation work began in March 2020, just as COVID was making its mark.

"We kept going in spite of it, though progress was very slow. We were happy with what we could get done, regardless," said Kari.

Through their construction contacts the couple met Drew Sincebaugh whose specialty is restaurant design and operations. He joined in and is now a partner and operations manager.

This unique, colorful space opened on July 21. It's a very large area with long cafeteria-type tables, booths and high-tops. The area can seat 300.

In fact when I went in the ambiance reminded me of a German beer hall with its fun, welcoming atmosphere.

The Workshop Food Hall and Bar on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
The Workshop Food Hall and Bar on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

There are five food vendors so far with a good selection and a variety of things to eat, among them:

  • Reid's Detroit-style pizza ( a thick crust, but not like Chicago deep dish).
  • Murdoch's Place serves Angus beef burgers, hand-dipped corn dogs and gourmet all-beef hot dogs. (The Chicago-style is the real deal including a poppy seed bun)
  • Then there is Birdie's Coop whose specialty is Nashville hot chicken and waffles.
  • Want tacos? Julio's is a street taco concept and what he offers is delicious.
  • Opening soon — perhaps by the time you read this — is Cobs Kitchen. There you'll be able to get special soups, salads and sandwiches.

"There really is something here for everyone," said Kari.

The trouble as I see it is choosing what to eat. Coming here, don't expect a full-service restaurant. Once you have checked out all the options and ordered, you are given a number which you take to where you are sitting. A server then brings it to you. A full-service bar is at the far end and in the front outside is a generous patio for outdoor dining. Entertainment is scheduled for the weekends.

That's not all. There is a large room adjacent to the main hall called the Minnesota Room which is available for private parties, conferences or over-flow seating. Old photos of Rochester decorate the walls as well as items unique to Minnesota, much of it from the Olmsted County Historical Society . (That area was formerly the garage for repairing trucks.)

The Workshop Food Hall and Bar on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
The Workshop Food Hall and Bar on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Rochester. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

There's more: For 11 years, Andy ran a barber shop in Park Rapids, and decided that was just what this new venture needed. To to the left of the Workshop's entrance is an old-fashioned barber shop. Nothing too "old" about it — sleek and modern, when I peeked in all the chairs were full.

While there are a good number of dining options in town, this will appeal to everyone — singles, marrieds, families, youngsters and everything in between. It's a great addition.

Workshop Food Hall

Location: 1232 Third Ave. SE, Rochester

Hours: 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Closed Monday.

Food writer Holly Ebel knows what’s cookin’. Send comments or story tips to life@postbulletin.com.