“Oct. 20, 2023 is when Minneapolis changed in a different way. We’re never going back,” said chef Tomme Beevas of Pimento on the Lake, the new restaurant inside the rebuilt Bde Maka Ska Pavilion at 3000 E Bde Maka Ska Parkway. “Thank you for being an instrument of liberation. On Oct. 20, 2003, Minnesota said ‘forward forever, backwards never.’”
In 2023, there is still segregation in the financial world, said Beevas during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the pavilion. He observed that it was easier for his grandmother to access capital to build her business in Kingston, Jamaica than it is for Black people in America.
“We don’t need charity. We need access to capital. We need leaders who believe in us,” said Louis King of Lola on the Lake and Lola’s Cafe. He and his wife, Beverly, were the food vendors at Bde Maka Ska pavilion when it burned down four years ago, and they partnered with Pimento to create Pimento on the Lake.
“We could not be more excited to open the new Bde Maka Ska Pavilion and provide another welcoming, open space in our park system,” said Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Superintendent Al Bangoura. “As beloved as the original pavilion was, I believe this new building will quickly become a favorite gathering space and a Minneapolis icon.”
It’s been a long wait, acknowledged MPRB President Meg Forney, who lived for much of her life in the neighborhood around the lake.
“This is a phoenix,” said Forney. “We have created something so beautiful out of something that was so devastating.” She added, “It took us 515 days to create this, but it was worth it.”
A team led by Cuningham worked on the design. Two design concepts were presented to the public in March 2021, and refined into a single concept the next month. The MPRB Commissioners approved the design in May 2021. A construction contract was awarded to Morcon Construction in May 2022, and work started later that month. The site was under continuous construction for 17 months.
“We’d like to thank the partners who contributed to make this project possible, including Louis King, Tomme Beevas and the Pimento Jamaican Kitchen team, Cunningham, Concrete Pig with Juxtaposition Arts, Hennepin Theater Trust, Native American Community Development Institute and the muralists, artist Adrienne Zimiga-January, who created the ‘We are on Dakota / Native Land’ decals, Morcon Construction, and, of course, the dedicated MPRB staff members who spent countless hours making this a reality,” said Forney. “It was truly a team effort.”
District 4 Park Commissioner Elizabeth Shaffer pointed out that 7.5 million people visit the Chain of Lakes each year, making it the second most popular destination in Minnesota, second only to the Mall of America. “We now have a space for the neighborhood, the region and the state to enjoy,” said Shaffer. “I’m glad we took the time to do it right.”
Food, drink, market and mural
The $6.5 million project features two new buildings totaling 4,400 square feet that host a restaurant and market from the team behind Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, Indigenous art, and the return of naval artifacts that were previously displayed at the lake. The project also includes improved outdoor seating with 3,000 square feet of open covered space with ceiling-mounted heaters, a small performance stage, upgraded landscaping and trail safety, and a six-stall, year-round restroom area.
Menu items include rice and plantain bowls with jerk chicken, braised oxtail and other Pimento favorites, alongside a new beach menu with mac ‘n’ cheese bites, fried shrimp, fries, hot dogs, jerk burger and a black bean veggie burger. Beer and wine are also available for purchase from a self-serve kiosk.
Pimento will remain open in the north building at the pavilion site for as long as demand will sustain it this fall/winter.
In the south building, there is the Pimento Market, which serves hot food and drinks, and includes an indoor seating area. It also houses items from 20 local BIPOC entrepreneurs.
There’s a new mural on north building thanks to a partnership with the Native American Community Development Institute (NACDI), and Hennepin Theatre Trust (HTT). It’s part of the We Are Still Here project. Working on the mural were Thomasina Topbear, Racquel Banaszak, Summer Cohen and Jearica Fountain. Dakota language signs are found on steel columns throughout the buildings, including decals designed by artist Adrienne Zimiga-January.
‘I’ve been waiting’
The nearly 90-year-old pavilion caught on fire on May 16, 2019 after embers from a hookah were left behind trash cans on a windy night at about 3 a.m., as shown on surveillance footage. The building was fully engulfed in flames by 3:42 a.m. The fire caused an estimated $2 million in damage. A 23-year-old man was charged with one count of negligent fire causing property damage of more than $2,500. He pled guilty and was sentenced to one year in the Hennepin County Work House that was stayed for two years.
Originally called a “refectory,” the pavilion was operated seasonally before it burned down.
“I live across the lake and I’ve been waiting for this to come back,” said Barry Hastings. He’s missed grabbing a beer and a bite to watch the sun set. “I’m excited.”