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Everything You Need To Know About the Next Crop of New Twin Cities Restaurants

All day Mexican breakfast for lunch and dinner, a Hmong chef’s dream realized, and a Southern seafood eatery pop-ups in an unexpected spot

Chef Yia Vang is wearing a plaid shirt and denim apron, smiling, in front of a black background
Chef Yia Vang’s Vinai signs a lease in Northeast
Katie Cannon

Even as the coronavirus pandemic continues with diminished restaurant capacities, bar restrictions, and new daily cases in the hundreds, several restaurants have announced big plans on opening. Northeast will be the home of Vinai from Yia Vang and the former Popol Vuh will become an all day Mexican market from Jose Alarcon. Justin Sutherland continues his trend of opening spots by bringing back his Pearl & the Thief concept as a pop-up. Here’s what we know so far.


Location: 1717 NE. 2nd Street, Minneapolis

Key Players: Yia Vang and Marshall Paulsen

Projected Opening: Spring 2021

Named for the refugee camp in Thailand where he was born, Vinai will be the first permanent restaurant from chef Yia Vang. Vang has been an advocate for Hmong culture and the food he grew up with, telling an oral story through the dishes he has served at his pop-up turned food trailer Union Kitchen. There he made popular dishes with roasted meats, like the Hilltribe fried chicken, highly seasoned sausages, vermicelli noodles crammed full of herbs in savory sauce, and purple sticky rice.

Plans for Vinai were first introduced in early 2020. Since then, Vang has also hosted the web series Relish for TPT, started a podcast called White on Rice, made the cover of Bon Appetite, and continued operations of Union Kitchen in an Airstream trailer outside of Sociable Ciderwerks.

Vinai will be the next extension of his journey, one he likened to that of the Hmong people, moving from place to place, bringing memories of each location to its next stop, incorporating those into each place, until finally finding a permanent home. For the restaurant, that place will be a 1930s building in Northeast. At his side in the endeavor will be chef Marshall Paulsen. Paulsen was the long time chef at Birchwood Cafe. He will bring his extensive farmer partnerships to the kitchen, meaning locally grown food prepared with all the vibrancy of flavors Vang has built his considerable reputation upon.

The new restaurant will have an open kitchen, patio, and a garden space.

Construction will begin this fall with a projected opening of early next year.

Chef/owner Jose Alarcon, co-owner Jami Olson, and pastry chef Ngia Xiong
Kevin Kramer


Location: 1414 Quincy Street, Minneapolis

Key Players: Jose Alarcon, Jami Olson, Ngia Xiong

Projected Opening: Fall 2020

Vivir is a new Mexican cafe, bakery, and small market that will take the place of the recently shuttered Popol Vuh in Northeast. This new lunch and dinner spot comes from the same ownership team behind the fine dining restaurant its replacing, chef Jose Alarcon and Jami Olson. The duo will partner with pastry chef Ngia Xiong to create all kinds of tasty all day dishes available to eat on site or take away, including all day breakfast dishes like chilaquiles, plus ceviche, and emoladas. Xiong, on the bakery side will be making fresh sourdough bread, masa cookies with sprinkles, conchas, polvorones, and more.

In addition to all the food, there will also be a small market space that will sell salsas, grab and go food goodies, pottery, greeting cards, and more.

Plus, there will be drinks. Vivir will continue Popol Vuh’s legacy of bringing in a fabulous selection of Mexican wines. There will be cocktails with mezcal, cocoa drinks, and to-go cocktail kits.

This is the third restaurant from Olson and Alarcon who also operate the neighboring Centro, a casual taco spot with margaritas and a pretty patio space in Northeast.

Shea Design is once again helping them with transforming the space.

A whiskey cocktail and food at Pearl & the Thief in Stillwater
Pearl & the Thief is making a comeback of sorts
Kevin Kramer

Pearl & The Thief

Location: 289 5th Street East, St. Paul

Key Players: Justin Sutherland

Projected Opening: August 27

The Pearl & the Thief has become a bit of a roving concept for chef Justin Sutherland. The Charleston-styled eatery first opened in Stillwater in May of 2018, before closing in December of 2018 with the expectation that it would relocate to downtown Minneapolis. In April of 2019, the restaurant was expected to re-open inside the Moxy Hotel. Since we’re now in the mire of 2020, and nothing is exactly going as plan, the restaurant will instead take up a temporary residence in Lowertown. Specifically, inside the space that was most recently filled with seafood delights from Octo Fishbar.

The pop-up will run from August 28 to October 17 with the original Pearl & Thief chef Brandon Randolph and Thomas Haure working the kitchen with Sutherland. Tickets are expected to be $75 for 7 courses, with optional drink pairings. Tickets will be available on Tock this week.

Sutherland has become a beacon of restaurant-opening optimism in 2020 with the relocated Handsome Hog doing gangbuster business on Cathedral Hill, plus a new partnership with the folks behind the just-opened The Gnome and the forthcoming Elotes Woodfire Cantina on West 7th.

Octo fishbar

289 5th Street East, , MN 55101 (651) 202-3409 Visit Website

Popol Vuh / Centro

1414 Quincy Street Northeast, , MN 55413 (612) 345-5527 Visit Website

Popol Vuh

1414 Quincy Street Northeast, , MN 55413 (612) 345-5527 Visit Website

Centro at Popol Vuh

1414 Quincy Street Northeast, , MN 55413 (612) 345-5527 Visit Website