Small business ownership is in Alex Luebbert's blood.
Since moving to Minnesota from Mexico City in 1988, Luebbert has opened a Latin foods grocery store, a Tex-Mex restaurant and his own events center—not to mention a mechanic shop.
Last week, Luebbert added Zest, a new restaurant at the intersection of Hwy. 3 and Diffley Road in Eagan, to his list of business ventures. The restaurant, Luebbert's brainchild, held its soft opening last Friday and its grand opening on Monday, according to General Manager Seth Wright.
Zest is a departure from the norm for Luebbert, whose previous eateries focused on Mexican or Latin food. Zest ditches enchiladas or fajitas in favor of an inventive menu, which includes items like apple bruschetta, a grouper po'boy, a gyro burger and Minnesota eggrolls made with wild rice. The restaurant also features a full bar.
Nearly all of the menu items are made fresh in the restaurant, Wright said. That includes a handful of sauces—like Zest's blackberry compote. Luebbert and Wright's focus on fresh ingredients even served as inspiration for the restaurant's name.
“We don’t have a microwave here, so there's no microwaved food," Luebbert said, laughing.
Entrees range from $15 to $21 in price. Zest also has 19 wine selections and a dozen beers on tap. The restaurant offers Happy Hour specials from 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close every day.
“We wanted to do something a little different, and bring something you’d find in downtown Minneapolis out to Eagan," Wright said. "We have different food from any other place in Eagan."
Luebbert, a Lakeville resident, lived in Eagan for seven years. The city's family-friendly neighborhoods and atmosphere inspired him to return to his former home to open Zest, Luebbert said. The 3,000 square foot restaurant is the perfect size for Luebbert, who says he prefers to have a more intimate setting for guests.
"I like to interact with people, and get to know people," Luebbert said.
Luebbert also plans to have live music acts at Zest. In the summer, the restaurant will also seat guests at its outdoor patio.
The excitement of opening a new restaurant hasn't yet hit Luebbert, who said he's holding back until he sees how the community receives his new venture.
"When you ask me if I’m excited, I say not yet," Luebbert said. “I want to see people coming in happy and leaving happy and then see those people again in the resturant."