The birth of the duo-restaurant concept, Popol Vuh and Central, happened organically, according to Lyn 65 co-owner Ben Rients. “It felt like we were ready to take on our next project, but instead of doing another Lyn 65, I asked Jose if he ever thought of owning his own restaurant. He already had the name and wanted to do something small with a strong seasonal focus. Popol Vuh was born.”
Rients is referring to Mexico native, chef Jose Alarcon, who, along with Rients, Travis Serbus, Tye Sullivan, Jack Lawless, Adam Tapper, Chris Buchel, Jami Olson and Jason Sawicki, is a partner in The Tributarians, a restaurant holding company. Sawicki will join Alarcon at Popol Vuh/Central kitchen and Olson will head the bar program.
When the team settled on a spot in Northeast Minneapolis, the ample space (over 5,000 square feet) naturally lent itself to the two restaurant concept, according to Rients. “We wanted Popol Vuh to be a higher-end spot, but the market has proven that fine dining alone doesn’t work,” he explained. “Because the building is over 100 years old, it has a space that was perfect for the smaller Popol Vuh inside of the larger, more open Central.”
The idea is both simple and complex: Popol Vuh, lead by Alarcon’s passion for the Mayan cuisine of his youth, will offer an intimate, immersive experience. Fire will be at the heart of Popol Vuh, where Alarcon will utilize an Argentinian wood burning grill as well as a wood fired plancha. “Fire is the ancestral way of cooking,” Rients said. “There is nothing more calming and satisfying than working with a big beautiful fire.” Popol Vuh will have 56 seats, including a counter where diners can get up close and personal with those flames. A bit of fun trivia: Popol Vuh is the Mayan book about creation, directly translated to Book of the People, which includes an account of the origin of all living beings, with animals arriving first, followed by humans.
The rest of the space will be dedicated to Central, a counter service taqueria focusing on South American barbecue cuisine in a laid back atmosphere. Expect hand pressed tortillas, grilled meat by the pound, lots of tacos and margaritas on tap. Both restaurants are looking to source heavily from Mexico, including wines rarely seen outside the North American country. Reints promises (warns?) that there will be Honkey Tonk music on vinyl and soccer games on screens “tastefully placed around the restaurant.” There will be a summer patio and a take-out window to service local breweries as well. Central will be open for lunch and dinner while Popol Vuh will offer dinner service.
The space will be transformed by ubiquitous designer Shea, and will likely open in Fall of 2017. In the meantime, the team plans on holding several pop ups to introduce the concept over the summer months, possibly in the evolving space.