Franz Gilbertson doesn’t want Good Times to be known as the pizza place that was under construction for ages, or the one that opened right before COVID, or as a takeout-only place. He wants the Kingfield restaurant to be a neighborhood joint for families with a top-notch menu, free popcorn, a jukebox and arcade games.
The Jordan, Minnesota native started Good Times on 38th and Grand Avenue a few years after moving to Minneapolis. He spent his teen and early adult years in Seattle, where he met his wife, started a family, and took courses in a culinary arts program and a pastry program.
Gilbertson owned a wholesale bakery in Seattle that he turned into a French-inspired pastry shop for a decade after spending years working in food service at hotels, restaurants, fine dining places and coffee shops. When the lease was up on the bakery in 2016 and his wife was eager to get back to work teaching after being primary caretaker of their two children, the couple moved to Minneapolis for a more affordable cost of living.
Opening a pizza place was a logical move for Gilbertson because pizza dough is comparable to the bread he made for years at the bakery, and because he grew up at his uncles’ old pizza shop called Campus Pizza in Dinkytown.
The menu at Good Times is intentionally limited with a mix of classic options and unique ingredients like preserved lemon and kale. Gilbertson developed his own take on the Midwestern “very thin, crackery-almost crust” for the pizzas. On the menu, there are five pizzas, a build-your-own option, two salads, some tap beers, natural wines, and two pop options. For dessert there’s homemade soft-serve ice cream in chocolate, vanilla bean, or a swirl. There are also THC gummies for sale at the counter.
When he set out to open Good Times, Gilbertson didn’t expect the countless setbacks including a difficult landlord, a crooked contractor, an angry vandal, and a years-long pandemic.
“I didn’t want people to think of us as ‘oh those poor bastards. They’re the ones getting their windows broken, they opened right before COVID,’ and all this crazy shit,” Gilbertson said. “I don’t want to be known for those things.”
Those things did happen, though, and they delayed the opening of Good Times repeatedly. Gilbertson chose the location because it was close to home and because the space was available. He was attracted to the old building because of the character that historical buildings tend to have. The tile floor in the dining area is a relic of that old-timey character, but that’s about all that’s original in the place.
The kitchen, bar, booths, HVAC system and about everything else are new because the space was gutted when Gibertson got it. After signing the lease, Gilbertson said his landlord asked him to upgrade the HVAC system, which was an expensive ask.
At the same time, a person who Gilbertson said was angry at the landlord came by the space at night and bashed the windows almost daily. Repairs, which were the landlord’s responsibility, delayed the process even longer.
Gilbertson didn’t have a huge budget to work with and the tradespeople he initially hired worked slowly, so he fired them and Gilbertson and his friends and family ended up rebuilding most of the space.
His carpenter friend built the booths and countertops, he and his dad painted and did finish work, they tiled the kitchen floor. Gilbertson flexed his creative side with the decorations, which are mostly sentimental items from his life.
“It’s also influenced by dive-y spots that my wife and I would hang out in when we met,” Gilbertson said. “That weird painting was in a place where we met in Seattle.”
The weird painting in question is of a topless woman laying on a beach on her side with a monkey on her butt.
The maps on the wall are his grandparents’ blueberry-picking spots at the Boundary Waters. He found them stashed in his dad’s old jukebox. There’s a collection of doll heads that belonged to his dad sitting above the door “just to be weird.”
The jukebox, which is temperamental, is filled with Gilbertson’s own CD collection, including Led Zeppelin, D’Angelo, and everything in between.
“It’s an old jukebox that occasionally doesn’t work, but it seems to be on a good streak now,” Gilbertson said.
The restaurant opened for business in February of 2020.
“We had a month of just getting our sea legs and figuring out everything, like the normal chaos associated with opening a new restaurant,” Gilbertson said. “And then everything changed from underneath us all of a sudden, almost overnight.”
The pivot to takeout during the pandemic was fairly natural for a pizza place, and Gilbertson ran the restaurant on a bare-bones staff. He worried that people would view the restaurant as a takeout-focused place because that was all they could do at the beginning of the pandemic.
Since reopening for inside dining, people are returning to eat inside Good Times. With only a handful of booths and bar stools, the dining area fills up quickly. Since the oven can only fit a handful of pizzas, Gilbertson said he sometimes has to ignore the phone during peak times because he wants to focus on walk-ins instead of takeout orders.
The pizzas take some time in the oven, but Gilbertson has planned for that. Diners can play old arcade games, board games, eat free popcorn or drink beer. There’s a Ouija board for the brave pizza-eaters. The decorations, menu, and overall friendly vibe contribute to the community watering hole atmosphere that Gilbertson wants.
“That’s what gives small communities and neighborhoods their sense of character, rather than a chain or corporate,” Gilbertson said. “I didn’t want that overly glossy, squeaky clean exterior or vibe. That just doesn’t feel genuine to me.”