Maple Grove restaurant offers entertainment-based dining.
Entertainment-based dining is coming to Maple Grove. Paulie’s, the casual-upscale restaurant and craft bar formerly known as Rock Elm at The Grove, is under new ownership, with an expansion, new menu and multi-sport simulators breathing new life into the spot.
Owner and director of operations Paul Sarratori and managing partner Julian Ramirez have taken on this venture fresh off of the 2021 opening of their indoor golf training and fitness space Optimal Performance Golf (OPG) on 93rd Avenue. But Paulie’s is not set to be an offshoot of OPG—it’s the actualization of Sarratori’s childhood dream.
“This has been a dream of mine since I was very young, to own a restaurant,” Sarratori says. “What I’m looking forward to from this process is to take what [former owner] Troy Reding built to the next level. He’s done an amazing job … he has done a lot for the community, and I want to continue that.”
Upon taking over the restaurant in January, their team redesigned the neighboring Sugar and Spice Sweetery space, adding multisport simulators and a connection to the main restaurant. “We wanted to take a little bit of us and put it into the restaurant, which was the simulators [and] offering that entertainment. A new way to dine—entertainment-based dining,” Sarratori says.
Sarratori does want to make one thing abundantly clear: “No, we are not turning into a Dave & Busters. Our idea was to knock down the wall and put simulators there to complement dining,” Sarratori says. “… What I wanted to do was bring back yesteryear, where you felt comfortable, like when you went to your grandparents house to eat, but I still want to keep it casual and upscale.”
The new room—dubbed The Lounge—can accommodate 60 people and is home to two multisport full-swing simulators, which can accommodate 10 total players. It tests their skills in 14 virtual sports and activities, including including basketball, football, golf, hockey, soccer and zombie dodgeball.
Separated from the restaurant by a set of French doors, The Lounge is an extension of Paulie’s offerings and Sarratori’s interest in combining dining and entertainment. “What I want to do, first and foremost, is to have an enhanced event space,” Sarratori says. The room is built for gatherings of many kinds—whether it’s a birthday or work party with the six big-screen TVs playing and simulators or a private dinner party with fireplaces burning and soft music, elevated by the room’s cozy seating, marble counters and hardwood floors.
“It’s pretty much guest driven. Whatever you want, we will provide,” Sarratori says.
When we first spoke with Sarratori, they had yet to find the perfect name. “I will tell you this, naming a restaurant is harder than naming your children,” he says.
The new name required a certain je ne sais quoi—casual yet upscale, fitting for both the restaurant and the simulators, able to attract families in the day and younger customers at night. “What we wanted to do with the name of the restaurant was to keep it classy but also play to the young crowd,” Sarratori says.
“With the condos being built down the road, you’re going to have an influx of young people. You see now people don’t want to be in [the Twin Cities] anymore. They’re kind of shying away from downtown based on everything that’s been going on,” he says. “So, we’re hoping to provide that neighborhood hangout for those people.”
Naming such a multifaceted place presented a task, to be sure. Especially as the new owners seek to elevate the restaurant while respecting Reding’s legacy. In the end, the team settled on Paulie’s.
Sarratori and Ramirez, both Maple Grove residents, initially connected with Reding to cater OPG while petitioning to rezone their facility in 2021. Not long after, Reding mentioned he was looking to downsize his portfolio. It was divine timing. “It just made sense for us to take the next step into the restaurant business,” Sarratori says.
Much of Paulie’s menu will remain true to the Rock Elm way—the tots are not going anywhere. “We’re not going to shy away from what Rock Elm serves. We’re going to keep five or six menu items currently there on the menu,” Sarratori says. For now, the Rock Elm Rig will be shared by Paulie’s and the other Rock Elm locations. Co-general manager Jason Amell stayed on, joined by co-general manager and executive chef Jason Littlefield.
A highlight of the reimagined, scratch-made menu is the artisan pizza—made in an all-new pizza oven, with a recipe, initially for OPG, perfected over months by Littlefield and Sarratori; it was inspired by Sarratori’s East Coast Italian roots.
For Sarratori, it all comes down to experience and creating a place that provides a sense of community and excitement.
“We’re at a time where people are looking for fun things to do when they go out. They don’t want to just sit and eat,” Sarratori says. “I think the public is ripe for it; we’re all getting kind of tired of arm’s length distance and the coldness of places when we walk in … I want everyone to feel at home when they come here.”
The new multisport simulators bring a new way to spend an evening. Whether you want to unwind and play zombie dodgeball with the kids or fine tune your swing, the simulators are available to rent every day of the week.
Though popularity of simulated sports is undeniably on the rise, the technology has been around since the 1980s. So, how does it work? The simulators function with dual-tracking technology, where high-speed cameras, computer software and infrared light wave technology come together to track and analyze data of a player’s precise actions. The high-speed cameras focus on specific data points of players in motion, processed uniquely for each sport and determining the outcome in real-time.
All of this adds up to a responsive, precise system that is just as useful for skill-building as it is for good old family fun. To reserve a simulator, head to thelounge.reservewithrex.com. Prices start at $60 for one hour.