Went to Travail for a birthday celebration in the middle of last week with a party of 8.
When my party got there at 4:45 or so, there was a line of people outside waiting for the doors to open at 5, which appeared to be part of the no-reservations mystique. I was lucky someone else had arrived before 4 and had held our place in the chilly line.
When they opened the doors at 5pm, everyone filed into the available spaces at several communal tables. There also looked to be a few small 1-party tables but that wouldn't have been nearly as fun. Those who didn't get a spot right away waited in the bar area for an hour-plus, which was better than waiting outside.
The feel inside was industrial-chic, bare brick walls and unfinished ducting overhead. The kitchen was fully open to the dining area and the menu was comprised of several blackboards where the specials and drink offerings were scrawled. The cooks (who are also the servers) are dressed in casual street clothes and chef's aprons and the music is rock-n-roll and loud. Our group loved it and had several impromptu sing-alongs.
The 8 in my party paired-up and all four pairs chose the 10-course tasting menu which was served per-couple, every course of which was amazing in presentation, in taste, in creativity, and in balance with the other courses. My party had called ahead to ask about dietary needs. They said - "the server staff is also the cook staff so just tell them the deal and they'll adapt" which was true. Otherwise, there were greens and soup and all sorts of little creations like three different little amuse bouche each made with steak tartare. One of my favorite courses was an egg in a cup - once the cups were handed-out to our group, we stood up and filed through the kitchen area where different people spooned different spices and veg and beans and meat into each cup right out of the pots and pans where they were cooking. The last person in the kitchen topped off the whole thing with homemade corn chips. By the time we returned to the table, the egg was mottled and soft cooked by the added ingredients and the cup's contents could be eaten with the chips. The entree's included different kinds of spiced chicken and a 5-yr aged piece of prime rib. Dessert was a cup of liquid nitrogen and two squeeze bottles, one filled with a mint cream and the other with chocolate cream. By squeezing the contents into the liquid nitrogen, each pair of people made their own mint-chocolate dippin dots.
The beer and wine menu was also very impressive, obviously each offering had been picked by the cook staff for its specific characteristics.
Our 10-course tasting experience was $85 per couple, not including drinks. I've been happy spending way more than $40-some per-person in the twin cities for far less.
My understanding is that the Travail staff is branching out to have a Travail-style pizza joint in addition to the restraurant experience for which it has gotten so popular. This transition will begin when they close Travail-proper to open the pizza joint in a few weeks right in the current space and get that venture on it's feet. Meanwhile over the next six months, they are custom-building a new space for the restaurant experience right down the way, of course, still in Robbinsdale. It appears Robbinsdale is becoming one of the hippest places in the Twin Cities.
THANKS TRAVAIL! See you this fall!