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Openings, Closings, and Some Signs of Spring in the March Racket Restaurant Roundup

Welcoming Wildflyer East, saying bye-bye to Bev's, and getting ready for Gai Noi.

11:11 AM CDT on March 31, 2023

An overhead shot of three enormous pork tenderloin sandwiches, which are topped with colorful slaw and wear little buns like hats
Instagram: @yiavang70|

Check out these pork tenderloin sandwiches from Mee-Ka, Yia Vang’s latest pop-up.

We've heard reports from friends and loved ones in other, less cruel states, that March is in fact going out like a lamb. Not here! But hey, at least there are a few reliable signs of spring: Sea Salt is hiring, for one, and for another, Conny's Creamy Cone is open. We're getting there, folks.

Open

Eat Street Crossing

The Twin Cities’ newest food hall is open at last in the long-vacant Arizona Studio building on—where else?—Eat Street (2819 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis). At Eat Street Crossing, they’ve got Brazilian pizza (Ouro Pizzaria), sushi (Sushi Dori), ramen (Ramen Shoten), and ice cream (Bebe Zito), plus a big ol’ bar and tea drinks from ChaTime. Read our preview from the opening event here.

Wildflyer East

St. Paul now has its own Wildflyer Coffee at 1362 Seventh St. W. The shop, which employs and uplifts youth experiencing homelessness, is now able to double the number of young people it serves (from 30 to about 60), and a new partnership with the nonprofit RS Eden will let them expand their services.

Big Biscuit Bar

Love that alliteration, love a big biscuit. Big Biscuit Bar is open in the original Handsome Hog address on Mears Park (203 E. Sixth St., St. Paul), with a menu of “down home cooking” that includes 11 biscuit sandwiches and “smothered biscuits” plus other breakfast staples. 

Mee-Ka

No more Slurp at Lyn-Lake! Chef Yia Vang’s latest pop-up concept at 901 W. Lake St. in Minneapolis is Mee-Ka, where the menu includes an incredible-looking smash burger and the ginormous pork tenderloin you see pictured above. “We’re diving into our Hmong roots to really figure out what is Hmong America Food culture,” Vang writes on Instagram. “Sometimes the greatest part of understanding two different cultures is the intermingling of their foods to create a beautiful third culture.”

Kruse Markit

I'm really looking forward to checking out Kruse Markit (4237 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis), which is like a corner store that's also a cafe that's also a bar. Southwest Voices has your first look at this Nicollet Ave. newbie.

Official Fried Chicken

Official Fried Chicken, the broasted chicken spot from Jared Brewington, closed its doors at on East 46th Street in Minneapolis after a brief run earlier this year. But it’s back as of this month, operating on a delivery and takeout basis from Curie Food Hall in downtown Minneapolis. Mpls. St. Paul Mag has the scoop.

Hippo Pockets

And speaking of cloud kitchens (they’re no longer ghost kitchens, I guess), meet Centro’s new kitchen concept, Hippo Pockets. These are spiritually similar to the Centro Crunch, which is itself spiritually indebted to the Crunchwrap. They're only available for pickup or delivery from Centro on Eat Street; find the full list of pockets and place your order here

Pinoli Restaurant

Kim Bartmann's newest restaurant, located in the former Amore space in Uptown (1601 W. Lake St., Minneapolis), has been doing takeout for a few months now. As of this month, Pinoli is also open for indoor dining, with a menu of pizza, fresh pasta, and mains like frito misto and lamb meatballs.

Zelo + Jakeeno’s

Not just open but reopened: Zelo on Nicollet Mall (831 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis) is back in action after a three-year closure. Over in south Minneapolis, the pizza place Jakeeno’s (3555 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis), which has been open for delivery and takeout only for the last several years, has reopened its dining room after extensive renovations. 

So long, It's Greek to Me

Closed or Closing

It’s Greek to Me

It’s Greek to Me has opened and closed a handful of times over the last few years, but this one looks like it’ll stick. “Due to numerous obstacles, big and small” the restaurant closed after service on March 26, its owners wrote in a March 27 farewell post. That means that after under a year with restaurants operating at all four corners of Lyn-Lake—the first time that’s happened in ages—we’re back down to three.

Eat Street Social

A few weeks after Eat Street Crossing opened its doors; Eat Street Social announced it was closing. Perhaps it’s some kind of Highlander situation. “It's our absolute honor to have been a part of all of your lives for the last 11 years,” their closing announcement read. Their final day of service was March 18.

Bap and Chicken

“It is sooner than we envisioned, but the time has arrived that we must say our goodbyes,” the Bap and Chicken team announced in a March 20 Facebook post. Big bummer! The last time we chatted with owner John Gleason, it was around the restaurant’s celebration of Adoption Day—not the national one, but Gleason’s own. He came to the Twin Cities from Korea at six months old, and always made a point to welcome in other adoptees, especially immigrants.

Bev’s Wine Bar

North Loop staple Bev's Wine Bar, open since 1995, closed earlier this month. "We thank all our customers and friends for your loyal patronage in what we truly believe has been one of the most special and beautiful spaces," its owners wrote in their farewell.

Eagle Street Grille

After two decades in St. Paul, just across the street from the Xcel (174 West Seventh St.), Eagle Street Grille will close at the end of April. The Pioneer Press reports that their lease is expiring and their landlord doesn’t want to renew. Not much you can do about that!

Lemon Grass 

Lemon Grass announced its closure with some runway in December, but this month marked the official end for Ann Ahmed’s groundbreaking Thai restaurant. Don’t fret—there’s always Khâluna, and soon we’ll have her new restaurant, Gai Noi, in Loring Park. 

Oliphant x Lyn Lake Brewing

Not closed, per se, but simply not happening: Earlier this year, there were rumblings (confirmed by staff) that Lyn Lake Brewing was being bought by Oliphant Brewing in Wisconsin. The Biz Journal reported this month that the deal fell through: The Oli folks didn’t have the dough. 

Soon, these big ol' Big E's sandwiches will be available in St. Paul

Just Announced and Coming Soon

Oro

Amazing news for fans of Nixta's tortillas and take-home meals: Soon they'll be available at a sit-down restaurant called Oro next to the tortilleria's Northeast address (1222 NE Second St., Minneapolis). “We feel that is the best way to truly celebrate corn and masa in the fashion that we want to,” the members of "Team Tortilla" told us earlier this month, a detail we positively buried in this piece about how Covid changed Twin Cities restaurants. Look for Oro to open in mid to late April.

Big E

When celebrated local chef Justin Sutherland (Handsome Hog, assorted TV shows) opened the first location of his egg sandwich chain, Big E, naturally he brought it to... Portland, Oregon? Anyway we're finally getting one here: The Strib reports it's heading for the Grand Ole Creamery sister pizza place, ​​Grand Pizzeria, which closed in mid-March.

FRGMNT Coffee

FRGMNT Coffee, which has locations in Eden Prairie, the North Loop, and St. Anthony Main, is opening another cafe in the Open Book building (1011 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis). Look for it to open this spring, according to Bring Me the News.

Bogart’s Doughnuts SLP

Bogart’s has announced a grand opening date for its St. Louis Park location *drumroll please*... it’s April 15!

Still In the Works

As previously reported in the RRR...

Slice Pizza No. 3

Nice news for folks who just want their favorite restaurants to remember there’s a second city they can expand to: Following locations in northeast Minneapolis and Midtown Global Market, Slice is heading for St. Paul, and this’ll be their first standalone location with indoor seating. Co-owner Adam Kado told the Biz Journal they’ll have room for 30 in their space on the first floor of the Frogtown Crossroads apartment building (495 Dale St. N.), and they hope to open in late April.

La Bodega Taco Bar

Perhaps you're familiar with Alex Rosario's La Bodega Taco Bar in St. Louis Park or his Crystal-based food truck of the same name. Uptown residents will soon get to know the budding taco bar/car dealership/ice cream shop mogul. At La Bodega Uptown, Rosario hopes to serve booze inside the former clothing boutique at 2829 Hennepin Ave., as well as birria ramen, walleye tacos, nopales, and "Crazy Fries." Sounds fun as hell! “When everything’s said and done, I want to leave my daughter in a better position than I grew up in,” Rosario tells SW Voices.

Mother Clucker’s Pizza

Coming soon to the ol’ Nicollet Diner space (1428 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis)? Mother Clucker’s Pizza, a “neighborhood bar” that’ll specialize in late-night pizza and broasted chicken, along with local beer and creative cocktails. According to its website, Mother Clucker’s belongs to the Nicollet Diner/Roxy’s Cabaret family; those spots are now up and running down the street at 1333 Nicollet Mall.

Juniper

Mpls. St. Paul Mag reported this month that an “alcohol-free THC restaurant” called Juniper is making its way into the old Common Roots address (2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis). Juniper comes from Michelle Courtright, who was behind the vegan restaurant Fig + Farro in Uptown, and chef Heather Klein, from Root to Rise vegan catering. They’ll have a patio, a plant-based bodega (the “restaurants with shops in them” trend you read about right here in Racket continues), and “euphoric non-alcoholic drinks” made with THC. 

Marc Heu Move

Frogtown’s famed Marc Heu Patisserie Paris is leaving the neighborhood—but don’t worry, they’re not goin’ far. Baker Marc Heu and his wife, COO Gaosong Heu, tell Mpls. St. Paul Mag that they’re heading for the Selby & Dale neighborhood this spring (156 N. Dale St., St. Paul), where they’ll eventually evolve into a full-on bistro with a 30-seat patio, Parisian bentwood chairs, and sammies, made with Marc Heu baguettes and prosciutto and Iberico ham. Sounds pretty pleasant, and very French! 

ALTBuRGEr

I’m already tired of typing this name out, but ALTBuRGEr—or “All Love This Burger”—is making its way to the former Sheridan Room space in Northeast (337 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis) this spring. A press release promises “creative food not centered on animal protein with flavor profiles that are playful, craveable, and satisfying,” and co-owner Martina Priadka tells us they hope to be “approved and ready to go before the snow melts.” Neither the release nor the website explicitly say it’s a vegan burger joint; if it is, it’ll be the second to open in Northeast in short succession following Francis’s arrival in January.

Milly’s Wine Bar & Bistro

“My personal stake in everything is: I want gigantic cheese boards,” Milly’s Brandon Witzel told us last year. “I want for you to come in and pick however many cheeses you want, however many meats, and just go to town for two or three hours, have a couple bottles of wine.” Milly’s is slated to open in early 2023 at 1129 Washington Ave. S. in Minneapolis, with a big ol’ lending library and lots of plant life (and yes, gigantic cheese boards). Follow their progress on Instagram.

​​Gai Noi

Mpls. St. Paul Mag has the latest on chef Ann Ahmed’s forthcoming Loring Park restaurant, which it reports will be open by Pride. It’ll be named Gai Noi, which is short for a type of rice and also means “little chick,” and the menu is roughly 80% done—but we’ll have to wait until the recently James Beard Award-nominated chef gets back from a trip through Asia for more details. 

Fawkes Alley Coffee

In similar youth-focused nonprofit coffee shop news: Futsal Society, an organization that acts as a lower barrier option for kids who want to play soccer, is opening a coffee shop in Loring Park (1621 Harmon Place, Minneapolis). Southwest Voices has the scoop; look for an early 2023 opening.

Animales Brick and Mortar

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

Soul Lao 

The popular food truck and popup spot Soul Lao has its sights set on a brick-and-mortar space at Sibley Plaza on West Seventh in St. Paul. “We want to build a supportive environment where young chefs can shape a career and neighbors can share a plate of Lao sausage, sticky rice, and spicy papaya salad,” Soul Lao’s GoFundMe Page reads. “There’s no other place we would want to place our roots.” The projected opening date is April 2023; you can donate to their GoFundMe here.

D’s Banh Mi

The sign is up at D’s Banh Mi, which is taking over the ol’ snack shack at 38th & Cedar. Brothers Dylan, Dyon, and Dustin Tran were shooting for a November opening; that's since been pushed back to this summer. Read our chat from April about their plans for the space here.

Bellecour Bakery at 50th & France

The third Cooks of Crocus Hill/Bellecour Bakery is headed for 3945 Market St. in Edina, joining locations on Grand Ave. in St. Paul and Minneapolis’s North Loop. “Lots of exciting details to share with you when the time is right… stay tuned and looking forward to seeing you in our new space,” chef Gavin Kaysen wrote in an Insta post.

Diane Moua Moves On

Speaking of Bellecour Bakery: Diane Moua has left her role as Bellecour’s executive pastry chef to open her own bakery and cafe, which will combine Hmong home cooking and southeast Asian flavors with her French pastry perfection. “You’ll see a chocolate croissant here and there, but I want to use coconut and yuzu,” she told Eater Twin Cities, which has the rundown. “It’s so French at Bellecour, but with this, I can use taro.”

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen

Great news on Bde Maka Ska: Eat Street’s wonderful Pimento Jamaican Kitchen is coming to the redesigned pavilion when it reopens this summer. Get ready for jerk chicken on the beach in 2023!

The Painted Turtle

No more Sandcastle at Lake Nokomis; this is The Painted Turtle’s time to shine. The new concept comes from the folks behind Unleashed Hounds and Hops, the indoor/outdoor dog park/human restaurant. They’ll have a full ice cream shop thanks to a partnership with La La Ice Cream, and Kramarczuk’s Sausage Company is also name dropped as an early partner. Here’s the whole scoop.

Progress at the Fhima North Loop Concept

Though chef David Fhima says it’s still “a winter away from opening,” his new multi-level project in the North Loop has a name: Maison Margaux. The chef shared some updates on Instagram in December, including the challenges of “creat[ing] a three-level masterpiece with the coolest underground bar in the world, a modern take on a Parisian brasserie, a Ralph Lauren inspired event center, and neighborhood terrasse” while keeping the vibe Minneapolis-y. We chatted with Fhima about the project last January.

Spot some Big Food News we missed? Email em@racketmn.com with tips.

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