“The geek shall inherit the earth.”
This is the time to be alive if you’re a geek. Nowadays, bringing your limited-edition Pokémon Game Boy Color to school is likelier to earn you praise from your classmates than ridicule. You can have entire conversations with strangers by relying only on Harry Potter and Star Wars quotes. Even incarcerated felons are whiling away their sentences by playing Dungeons & Dragons. Geek chic pub Byte is downtown Minneapolis’ newest instance of this renaissance, but you don’t have to speak Klingon to love it there.Chefs Travis Shaw and Mark Loman used to work in a corporate restaurant. That’s fine and steady work for a chef, but the duo eventually soured on how little control they had over their kitchen. So they did what reasonable people do under such circumstances: They had a few drinks and resolved to work for themselves. Byte was born over beers.
Travis and Mark do a few things differently at Byte. For starters, they better engage their employees than is typical for most employers. They believe that, with more agency, cooks and waiters take more pride in their work, resulting in better service with fewer staff members. It’s a by the people, for the people affair. Their approach to food is remarkable, too. They consider their ingredients’ preparation as carefully as they do their quality, and in doing so bring out character in dishes which wouldn’t surface with less care. Globally inspired dishes like Byte’s Curry Chicken Naan, Chicken Mole Rojo, and Banh Mi bring that cosmopolitan je ne sais quoi to Minneapolis which every great city’s culinary scene so dearly needs.
Byte’s most distinguishing feature, of course, is its nerd motif. Rather than sports, Byte’s televisions display video games being played — football is fine dining entertainment, but there is something about watching Mario navigate a frenetic hellscape that captivates attention in a refreshing way. The shelf over the bar is laden with unusual board games which diners can play, ranging from BANG! where players vie for supremacy in a spaghetti western themed contest to Call of Cthulhu, a game which I hesitated to open for fear of summoning some indescribable eldritch terror onto the city. The walls are decorated with local artists’ busy murals, and the restaurant hosts regular galley nights where you can see local visionaries’ work in person.
Having only opened in March, Byte is still in its infancy. The owners Travis and Mark are keeping their noses to the grindstone, adamant about proving that their novel restaurant model is not only viable, but poised for success as well. Big things are on the horizon: social game nights, cosplay events, and “Wacky Wing Nights” where people can vote online for which flavors and sauces they’d like represented. Even if you didn’t get made fun of in high school for your Battlestar Galactica lunchbox, Byte is well worth checking out. I’m excited to see what will come of this local experiment.
By David Scheller