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New Brews, a Neighborhood Darling, Skyway Malaysian Eats, and More of the Latest Restaurant News

It's June's Racket Restaurant Roundup, in July!

Instagram: @tap.in.mn / @ococofoods|

Left: Inside the dining room at Tap In. Right: Kaya Puffs and Curry Puffs at Ococo.

As rabid readers of the Racket Restaurant Roundup know, our monthly news recap typically hits the website on the last day of the month. This latest installment is a little late, partially because I was out of the office (sorry!) and partially because I needed a little more time to think over what I wanted to say in the introduction to my recap of June’s restaurant news (extra sorry!!!). If you don’t want to read these ramblings, by all means just scroll down a ways.

My foodie foot-dragging has been due to the fact that the biggest news of the last month hasn’t been related to restaurant openings or closings at all. It has been related to labor.

Workers at Kim’s in Uptown won their union drive last week “despite a persistent anti-union campaign by the employer to encourage a ‘no’ vote,” according to a press release from hospitality union Unite Here Local 17. Workers at Daniel del Prado’s restaurants Colita and Café Cerés announced their intent to unionize in mid-June, hoping for higher wages, better health care and PTO, and more consistent scheduling. 

Meanwhile, restaurant owners throughout Minneapolis are waging a campaign against a proposed Labor Standards Board, which would make industry policy recommendations to the city. They say they fear further regulation of their businesses and believe such a board would stifle their ability to innovate. The city says it would boost economic recovery and improve working conditions, though neither the proposal nor its specific policies have been made public.

So what is the truth? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Here’s one bit of commentary I’ve been thinking about a lot as it relates to this news. Here’s another

Yes, it’s worth noting that a coalition of roughly 40 BIPOC restaurant owners is pleading with Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Frey to reconsider. It’s also worth noting that Ann Kim, who just tried to dissuade workers from their union drive at Kim’s, is among them, and more than one-tenth of the signees own local McDonald’s franchises. Do the McDonald’s owners of the world really need protecting? Do they need it more than their employees?

These sentiments won’t win you any friends in the restaurant industry, which is fine because we don’t have a lot of friends in the restaurant industry. Racket is not a publication that relies on access to local power players. We cover people and restaurants we believe are doing interesting things. We try to uplift those who are doing so in a worker-friendly environment; we try to prioritize reporting on places that get less representation in other local news outlets. But we have little way of knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. 

It bears repeating: Restaurant owners are a class with their own class interests, and we have reported at length on the friction between outwardly “progressive” businesses when they’re met with a unionizing workforce. Nothing better sums it up than this 2022 Twin Cities Business profile of Daniel del Prado, which begins with the prolific local chef driving his Porsche Carrera around Edina and ends with this tremendous quote: “I love capitalism. I love Adam Smith.” 

Del Prado is among those 40 restaurateurs of color asking the city council to nix plans for standards board oversight, by the way.

Anyway. Here’s the news. 

Now Open

Brühaven Craft Company

Just a few months after Lakes & Legends closed its Loring Park taproom, Brühaven Craft Company has filled the space at 1368 LaSalle Ave. in Minneapolis. Brühaven comes from Glen Oslin and Alex Doerin; the latter was Freehouse’s longtime head brewer. They’ve got beer, hard seltzer, and NA options including THC bevs and coffee—the space opens at 7 a.m. weekdays for your caffeine needs. 

Sebastian Joe’s Kingfield Social

The cutest food news story of the year and it’s not even close: After Kingfield neighborhood kids petitioned Sebastian Joe’s to open a scoop shop in their neighborhood with an adorable letter in Southwest Voices, the ice creamery actually went ahead and did it! Sebastian Joe’s Kingfield Social is now up and running at 4301 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis.

Darling

The new darling in Seward is Darling. Located in the former Birchwood Cafe space (3311 25th St. E., Minneapolis), the restaurant comes from the husband-and-wife team of Juell and Ray Roberts, former personal chefs to Prince and current overseers of the food program at Paisley Park. (They’re also behind People’s Organic.) Open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m, for now, with dinner coming soon. 

Ava

A two-level bar promising to usher in “a new era of bar and lounge in Minneapolis,” Ava is now up and running in the former downtown Stilheart Distillery space (124 N. Third Ave.). Owner Ben Taheri previously ran former North Loop spots The Tangiers and Hennepin Steam Room, according to Axios, and they’ve got food from STEPCHLD/Parcelle chef Kamal Mohamed.

Tap In

It’s been a long road for Tap In, the New Rules North project converting a north Minneapolis gas station/convenience store (2618 Lowry Ave. N.) into a bar/restaurant. But Tap In celebrated its grand opening on June 22, and it’s now open with a fast-casual food menu of sandwiches, bowls, and sides, plus $12-$14 cocktails and an “innovation hub” ethos that includes a shared workspace and event space.

Ococo

Ococo, a new Thai and Malaysian fast-casual spot, has opened up at 811 LaSalle Ave. in the Minneapolis skyway. They’ve got breakfast from 8-11 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with rice bowls, satay, and even a Basque burnt cheesecake. 

Gatherings Cafe

Located inside the Minneapolis American Indian Center (1530 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis) Gatherings Cafe has reopened with a focus on Indigenous ingredients. Stop by for breakfast and lunch on weekdays and enjoy a wild rice or bison scramble, blue corn wild rice pancakes, a perch patty fish melt, and more.

Alary's Bar

It’s still a “cop bar,” per a press release, but let it be known that Alary’s has reopened at 139 E. Seventh St. in St. Paul. 

Beckett’s

OK, so it’s July now, but we’ll pop Lyn-Lake’s new sports bar Beckett’s in here for timeliness’s sake. Its grand opening in the former Fool Me Once space is today, and the first 50 people through the door get a commemorative ticket. They’re boasting that they’ve got the best happy hour in town—why don’t you go ahead and see if that’s true?

Bassett Hound

North Loop Green's walk-up drink and snack restaurant, Bassett Hound (named for the Bassett Creek that flows beneath it) is now open along the development's one-acre green space (360 N. Fifth St., Minneapolis).

The Sandwich Room at Sea Salt

Last month we reported that Sea Salt's Sandwich Room was still "in the works"... but it had sneakily opened! Thanks to commenter LJW for pointing it out; read our recap from a June visit here.

Bye-bye, Peppers & Fries

Closed, Closing, or Changing

AxeBridge Wine Co.

AxeBridge’s North Loop tasting room is no more, but the winery isn’t saying goodbye for good. Instead, AxeBridge’s owners have announced a move to Waconia, where they’ll continue bringing Minnesota wines to a broader audience. 

Aki’s BreadHaus Moving

Aki’s is on the move, heading from its longtime home at 2506 Central Ave. NE to 1712 Marshall Street NE in Minneapolis, according to The Development Tracker. They’ll still have pretzels, breads, and baked goods, plus “WunderBar,” which’ll offer coffee, specialty teas, and locally sourced drinks.

Peppers & Fries

Pour one out for Peppers & Fries: The East Lake Street bar and burrito and burger joint closed at the tail end of June. The father-daughter duo behind P&F—Steve and Marie Frias—wrote on Facebook that it was time for the former to semi-retire and the latter to return to “normal” life. Don't worry: You’ll still be able to visit their food truck from time to time.

La La Ice Cream → Sugar and Salt

La La Ice Cream is now “Sugar & Salt Uptown MPLS,” but the ice cream isn’t going anywhere. It’s just that La La Ice Cream didn’t properly encapsulate the offerings, owner Jennifer Lisburg tells Southwest Voices, which include a chili crisp chicken sandwich and a bacon cheddar burger. “A regular customer for seven years said, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize you had food here,’” and that’s when she realized she needed a new name.

Saturday Dumpling Co. goes brick and mortar.

Just Announced / Coming Soon

Justin Sutherland Plans: ???

Feels both weird to mention it and weird not to mention it in what is typically a pretty breezy restaurant blurb roundup, so let’s talk about Justin Sutherland. The local celeb chef announced more than one downtown Minneapolis-related bit of news in June: plans to reopen his former Stillwater restaurant Pearl and the Thief, and plans to bring a third location of his egg sandwich chain, Big E, to the Mill District. That was on top of May’s announcement that the chef would take over the Black restaurant incubator space Golden Thyme Presents in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood. 

Then, on Friday, the former Handsome Hog chef and Fast Foodies co-host was arrested and charged with threatening to shoot his girlfriend. He allegedly choked her, smashed her phone, and pointed a gun at her; she told officers about additional verbal abuse and violent behavior, including smashing her car windshield. Police say they responded to multiple 911 calls Friday night related to the incident, including one from a passerby who said they saw a man with a gun and a woman with her hands up.

According to the Pioneer Press, “Police carried out a search warrant at the address and found a gun case on top of the bed with two firearms inside. Police located eight additional firearms, which they also collected. Police saw what appeared to be ‘a blood-like substance’ on one of the guns and Sutherland’s hands had blood on them when police had contact with him, the complaint said.”

With allegations this despicable, it seems unlikely any of Sutherland’s recent plans will come to fruition. But there they are. Obligatory “Sutherland’s attorney denies all of the allegations” here. He’s been released without having to post bail, according to the Pioneer Press, and is scheduled to appear in court next month.

Lagniappe / Du Nord Social Spirits

The newly renovated Coliseum building at 2700 E. Lake St. in Minneapolis reopened on Juneteenth after undergoing renovations from the protests following the police murder of George Floyd. Today, the Coliseum is a Black-owned business incubator, and it will soon house Du Nord Cocktail Room and the New Orleans-style restaurant Lagniappe, both set to open in late summer or early fall, according to Sahan Journal.

Dexter’s

An "elevated sports bar" with a "casual yet refined" vibe is the latest from Daniel Del Prado (Martina, Colita, Rosalia, Macanda, Blondette, etc. etc. etc.). Dexter's, named for collaborators Carla and Spencer Jones' French bulldog, is headed for 3717 W. 50th St. in Minneapolis, where it will replace the Agra Culture that just moved next door. It'll serve burgers, BLTs, and wings, but also a beef tongue pastrami Reuben sandwich. Read more via the Star Tribune.

Le Burger

Le Burger 4304, which will open in Linden Hills at 4304 Upton Ave. S. later this year, is what you’d get "if a couple American guys went to Paris and opened a burger place," chef Jonathan Gans tells the Star Tribune. That means family friendly with high-quality ingredients and Frenchy flavors, like chicken cordon bleu and French onion soup. He and co-creator Josh Hoyt are both Bachelor Farmer alums; look for their burger spot to open this fall.

Local Rumor

Scott Cochran, former COO of Keg and Case food hall, is opening a new restaurant in the home of the area’s first Blue Door Pub, which quietly closed during the pandemic. Axios reports it’ll have new American food, beer, and cocktails, and will open later this year.

1881 by Lake Elmo Inn

This summer, St. Paul’s Union Depot (214 Fourth St. E., Suite 110) will get a new restaurant in 1881 by Lake Elmo Inn. The name is an homage to the year both the original Union Depot and Lake Elmo Inn opened, owners John and Christine Schiltz say in a release, and the project is a family affair operated in part by Frank Hopp (Christine's son) and Anna Schiltz (John's daughter). 

Khue’s Kitchen

Eater has the scoop on Khue’s Kitchen, a Vietnamese restaurant from chef Eric Pham, which’ll open in the former Ngon Bistro space on University Avenue this summer. Pham’s grandmother opened Quang, where his mother still works; Pham you might know from his Khue’s Kitchen pop-up at Bar Brava. The brick-and-mortar should open in August. 

Forepaugh's

Forepaugh's in St. Paul will reopen later this summer, according to this Strib scoop. Tim McKee is overseeing the menu at this historic (and famously haunted) mansion restaurant, which closed in 2019 after the death of its 32-year-old executive chef, Kyle Bell. 

Hola Coffee

Say hello to Hola Coffee, a Latina-owned business that’s heading for 326 Central Ave. SE in August, according to Downtown Voices. Vanessa Palestino has a mobile coffee cart that rolls all over the North Loop right now, and this brick and mortar will be “built for grab-and-go convenience,” she tells DTV.

Saturday Dumpling Co.

Saturday Dumpling Co. is going brick and mortar! After years as one of the area’s most successful pop-ups, owners Peter Bian and Linda Cao announced in a release this week that they’re heading for the former Glam Dolls Donut shop at 519 Central Ave NE in Minneapolis. They’ll have dumplings, rice bowls—and, of course, that scallion pancake breakfast burrito. They’re planning to open early this fall.

Bubble Line Brewery

You’ll have to wait until 2025, but Brittney Mikell—currently the assistant brewer at La Doña Cervecería—is readying to open the state’s first Black-owned brewery in the Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul. Bubble Line Brewery is currently in the crowdfunding stage, and you can chip in (and watch their very cute campaign video) here

KFC

Normally, no, we wouldn’t report on the moves of a national chain like KFC. This one’s noteworthy for two reasons: For one, as the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports, the just announced franchise-owned fried chicken spot will be the chain’s only Minneapolis location, and for two, it’ll open in the ol’ White Castle building on Lake Street. 

In The Works

As previously reported in the Racket Restaurant Roundup

Tiny Diner

Tiny Diner closed “for the season” in September, with its ownership announcing plans at the time to reopen in March. But March, you may have noticed, has come and gone, and although Bring Me the News reported in February that the Southside restaurant would reopen despite hitting the market, it… has not! A message on the TD website reads “Tiny Diner is temporarily closed. See you in May.” Which has also come and gone. Along with June.

Tender Lovin Chix

The former Fire and Nice Alehouse spot (2700 Lyndale Ave S., Minneapolis) won’t be vacant long; MSP Mag has the scoop on Tender Lovin Chix, a food truck-turned-brick 'n' mortar from Marques (Ques) Johnson (of the short-lived CHX tendie shops) and Billy Tserenbat (of Billy Sushi). They’re looking to open in spring of 2024. 

Lynette

It was a bummer when Richfield’s Lyn65 closed to make way for an apartment complex a few years back, and it was a bummer when Riverview Cafe and Wine Bar closed indefinitely back in 2021. Good news on both fronts from Mpls. St. Paul Mag: Lynette, an homage to Lyn65 from a few of its founders, will head to the former Riverview space (3751 42nd Ave. S., Minneapolis) in spring 2024.

Crossing Bridge Noodle

Construction is underway at the old Bad Waitress building on Eat Street (2 E. 26th St., Minneapolis), where Sushi Train co-owner Kevin Ni will soon open Crossing Bridge Noodle, according to Southwest Voices. Their specialty? Crossing-the-bridge noodles, a pho-like dish made with whole chicken broth as the base.

Walkin’ Dog

Downtown Minneapolis skyway staple Walkin’ Dog is (kinda) coming back! Northstar Center shared the news on LinkedIn (LinkedIn!), saying you’ll soon be able to “enjoy dogs, malts, sides and camaraderie in an updated version of this Minneapolis classic that honors Dave & Cindy Magnuson’s legacy.” 

Jade Dynasty Restaurant and Bar

Not far from the forthcoming NY Gyro, there’s finally good news for the old Fuji Ya space at 600 W. Lake St. Southwest Voices reports that a new hot pot and dim sum spot called Jade Dynasty Restaurant and Bar is planned to open there sometime this winter. The restaurant comes from Chuen Sai “Paul” Wu and Eric Zeng, and will specialize in Cantonese dishes and authentic Asian cuisine. 

Small Hours

A new “hi-fi wine bar” from sommelier Sarina Garibovič of Ženska Glava and songwriter/musician Sam Cassidy is in the works, according to the Star Tribune. Small Hours (2201 NE Second St., Minneapolis) will have wine-adjacent snacks like bread and tinned fish, and what sounds like a very fun selection of vintage audio equipment. Look for it to open this summer. 

WildChld

Stepchld will soon get a next-door sibling: Wildchld, a cocktail bar that’s headed for 24 University Ave. NE. The Strib reports that the new bar is a collab between restaurateur Kamal Mohamed of Stepchld—which just got a full liquor license of its own to boot—and Bridgit Loeffelholz at Dampfwerk Distillery in St. Louis Park.

Tono Pizzeria + Cheesesteaks Minneapolis

Southwest Voices had the scoop on Tono Pizza and Cheesesteaks’ upcoming takeover of the long-vacant Michelangelo’s Masterpizzas space. Per our count, this’ll be Tono No. 7 in the Twin Cities—but the first one in Minneapolis.

Minari

No, not the tear-jerking, critically acclaimed film about the struggle for the American dream—this Minari comes from Daniel del Prado student Jeff Watson, per the Star Tribune. It’ll open in the old Erté & the Peacock Lounge space (323 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis), with a focus on Korean food, this summer. 

Aster House

Aster Café has long been a great place to catch live music, and now, the restaurant is going all in on it. Owner Jeff Arundel tells Chris Riemenschneider at the Star Tribune that he plans to open a new 200-capacity restaurant and venue this summer, just a block from Aster Café’s original St. Anthony Main space (which isn’t going anywhere). That gets a big hell yeah from us. 

Sculpture Garden Eats

A restaurant for the Walker’s Sculpture Garden? Total no-brainer. Kind of can’t believe there isn’t one already. Mpls.St.Paul Mag’s Stephanie March had a great scoop on the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Walker’s teaming up to bring this new concession stand to life.

Saffron

Just know this news has the foodie in your life all a-tingle: Saffron, Sameh Wadi’s popular, groundbreaking, and much-missed Middle Eastern fine-dining restaurant, which closed in 2017, will make a return. That’s according to this scoop from Mpls-St.Paul Mag, whose Stephanie March caught up with Wadi earlier this month to talk about opening Saffron, closing Saffron, and the yearslong process it’s been to bring it back. (Did you know he was just 23 when Saffron opened? Wild stuff.) No lease yet, but it’s reportedly in the works. 

Razava Bread Co.

A new bakery will open on Grand Avenue in St. Paul later this year, according to the Biz Journal, with “old-world” sourdoughs, bagels, challah, and coffee. Razava Bread Co. comes from owner Steve Baldinger, whose family has been in the bread business for more than 130 (!) years, and baker Omri Zin-Tamir, formerly of The Bakery on 22nd Street. 

Mad Chicken 

Is that like mad cow? Downtown Voices reports that chicken chain Mad Chicken, which got its start in Wisconsin and has locations in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Maryland, will open its first Minnesota location in the vacant building at First Avenue North and Fourth Street North that formerly housed American Army Navy Surplus Store. 

Russell’s Bar & Grill

So Tavern on Grand still plans to close in June—that’s the bad news. The good news is that the restaurant at 656 Grand Ave. in St. Paul won’t be empty for long: Russell’s Bar and Grill, from owner Todd Russell (who also owns the building) will open there this fall, according to the Pioneer Press.

Hope Breakfast Bar North Loop + Salt & Flour + Bassett Hound 

The new North Loop Green development (that’s the big one you could watch going up from Target Field) is welcoming residents, and soon, according to the North Loop neighborhood org, it’ll have a pair of new restaurants, both from chef Brian Ingram of Purpose Restaurants. One will be another location of his already popular Hope Breakfast Bar; the second is an Italian eatery, Salt & Flour.

La Madre 

The Vicinity, a mixed-use building on the corner of Washington Street and Park Avenue in the Mill District, is getting a bar and restaurant specializing in Mexican street food, per The Development Tracker. La Madre comes from Abe Ponce Delgadillo of La Tapatia in Roseville, and is aiming to open in late August or early September. 

Barcelona Wine Bar

For Downtown Voices, Brianna Kelly has the skinny on Barcelona Wine Bar—a national chain with 22 locations in 11 states—which will open its first Midwest location this year at 508 Washington Ave. N.

Sip Society Cafe

Uptown’s Inspire Apartments will soon get a coffee shop called Sip Society, according to the Business Journal. Expect coffee drinks, Somali tea, wraps, breakfast sandwiches, juices, and smoothies, and look for it to open in June. 

Black Duck Spirits & Hearth

The Strib has the latest on chef Jason Sawicki (Lyn 65, Popol Vuh), who plans to open Black Duck Spirits and Hearth this summer at 2900 NE Johnson St. in Minneapolis. Expect an “eclectic menu,” with smoked foods that blend Mexican cuisine with Sawicki’s Polish heritage.

Asia Village

Here’s some news that has the North Sider in your life ecstatic: The group behind Asia Mall in Eden Prairie has announced a similar concept called Asia Village slated for the Northtown Mall in Blaine (301 Northtown Drive NE). They’re teaming up with the folks behind Pho Mai and Keefer Court to bring the 130,000 square foot space to life, with hot pot, all-you-can-eat sushi, a Korean BBQ, and a grocery store. Renovations will start this August; it’s scheduled to open by late 2025. 

Catzen Coffee Bar & Den

A cat cafe and coffee lab is heading for Grand Avenue (1416 Grand Ave., St. Paul, to be exact). They’ll have lots of local treats: Dogwood Coffee, pastries from Hot Hands Pie and Biscuits, and snacks from Re-Mix Popcorn and Soul Grain granola. They'll open this fall, according to the latest update on their website.

Vinai

The former Dangerous Man building will soon house chef Yia Vang’s long awaited Hmong fine-dining restaurant, Vinai. Initially announced pre-pandemic for another location (1300 NE 2nd St., Minneapolis), Vinai is now expected to open in spring 2024. “This restaurant is about carrying on my parents' legacy,” Vang says in a press release. “But it’s also about carrying on a piece of Dangerous Man’s legacy, and the legacy of the community here.”  

Animales Brick 'n' Mortar

Here’s a meaty story for ya: Animales BBQ is looking to open in a brick-'n'-mortar building. Year-round ribs, folks! Jon Wipfli (of Animales) is teaming up with Billy Tserenbat (of Billy Sushi) to bring the place to life in either the North Loop or northeast Minneapolis.

New North Loop Project from Tim McKee

James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee (La Belle Vie, Sea Change, Octo Fishbar) has his eyes set on the North Loop for a new project inspired by the Basque region of Spain. He's being tight-lipped about the endeavor for now, but has revealed that it'll be somewhere on First Street and open sometime... sometime. Read more via the Strib.

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