Stillwater, Minn.: New restaurant Tin Bins to open in old grain elevator

Farm Forum

The historic Commander Grain Elevator building in downtown Stillwater, Minn., is undergoing a major makeover and will soon reopen as a bar and cafe.

The new restaurant will be called Tin Bins.

The Stillwater City Council signed off on the restaurant’s liquor license Tuesday, April 2.

Tin Bins will be owned and operated by the five owners of the Dock Cafe. The building, which is owned by Dock Cafe co-owner Mike McGuire, formerly housed P.J. Asch Outfitters, which closed in 2009.

The restaurant will seat 40 to 50 people inside and another 40 on the patio, said Sherri Hopfe, one of the co-owners.

“The patio is one of the best-kept secrets in town,” Hopfe said. “Most people really don’t notice it, but it has just a wonderful view looking out on the (St. Croix) River. It will be a great place to come down for breakfast. You can have something to eat and a cup of a coffee or a Bloody Mary.”

The restaurant will feature lighter fare and mostly cold food, including sandwiches, salads, pastries and appetizers. Hopfe said Tin Bins also will sell picnic lunches and dinners — packed in baskets, complete with checkered tablecloths and silverware — that can be ordered ahead of time and taken to Lowell Park or out on the river.

“Boaters will be able to pull in, and we’ll have a picnic lunch or dinner ready for them,” Hopfe said. “The idea was to have more take-out available down by the river and down by the park because so many people just want to be down there.”

Tin Bins will serve keg wine; servers will pour wines by the glass from a tap, she said. It will also sell beer and hard liquor.

The restaurant is slated to open at the end of April or first part of May; hours are expected to be 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Tin Bins will also be available for private events.

The Commander Grain Elevator was built in 1898 and was originally at the corner of Nelson and Main streets — the current site of the Stillwater Feed Store, said Brent Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.

In 1904, the elevator was moved to its present site just east of the feed store to make room for a flour mill. The building operated as a grain elevator until March 1, 1986, when the last load of feed was ground in the mill, Peterson said.

McGuire, an architect, bought the building in the late 1980s and opened his office on the second floor.

“The Commander Elevator is one of the great symbols of architectural reuse in the city,” Peterson said. “It shows that Stillwater was more than a lumber city — it was also agriculture-based, and the Commander Elevator represents that agricultural history of Stillwater. I’m very happy it’s going to be reopening again.”