Loto is attempting two very difficult things, being all things to all people, and being a force to help move a neighborhood market upscale from a food perspective.
The great thing about Loto is it genuinely seems to be a place that wants to serve the neighborhood, not just make a killing off the current condo craze.
Loto's neighborhood (LOwerTOwn) is rapidly transitioning from a desolate corner of sleepy/scary downtown St Paul to an upscale residential loft community. The interesting thing about the lofts in lowertown is that they are far more affordable than downtown Minneapolis but just as nice and usually bigger - They are cheaper mainly because right now there is basically nothing to do at night in Lowertown.
Galtier Plaza, Loto's physcial home, itself is the product of a late-80s, real-estate developer driven and ambitious attempt to move the neigborhood upscale. It's fascinating to see Loto as an individual's atttempt to do the same thing, not only to cash in on what might be a fad, but actually hang in there to possibly make eastern downtown St. Paul's second try at privately funded gentrification more than a fad.
The behemoth Galtier building is made up of upscale (for the 80s) apartments/condos. The changes to the bottom 5 floors of the building are the what's really interesting. Originally a mixture of retail, restaurants, and a very nice 1st run movie theatre, Galtier' shops and restaurants themselves just could never draw enough people into the area to support themselves, and the retail part of the project was a big money loser for the original developers.
Galtier Plaza is now all offices with a few restaurants that close at 4PM serving lunch to the office workers.
Except Loto. Loto is a bakery, coffee shop, bar, and restaurant. EVERYTHING a real residential neigborhood needs from a food point of view, and it's open until 1AM.
But when you're trying to be everything, its very difficult to be very very good at anything. The bakery goods probably come closest to being outstanding. The bar is very nice, great ambiance and new industrial decor. The food is good, not great. The service is friendly and attentive.
The current condo boom is the second very similar attempt by developers to do their thing; buy land cheap, build condos, and make a killing. David Fhima won't make a killing with a places like Loto but his efforts will determine whether this transformation of lowertown will fizzle like the last one.