With metro-area COVID-19 cases down to some of their lowest rates since last summer, mask mandates and vaccine requirements have been lifted, imbuing this year’s spring thaw with a sense of renewedness and hope. The Twin Cities have already seen a slate of new restaurant openings: Asa’s Bakery debuted an expanded bagels and bialys menu at its new Nokomis location; Ties Lounge & Rooftop opened on Nicollet Mall with fast-casual Italian fare from Joey’s Meatballs; Soga Mochi Donut opened at Dragon Star Oriental Foods in St. Paul; and Lush returned in full marvelous form — plus biscuits from Betty and Earl’s — in Northeast.
The Cities have even more restaurants openings to look forward to in the warmer months to come. Among them are a modern Filipino restaurant serving caldo and lumpiang shanghai on Selby Avenue; a music venue and restaurant hybrid with food and drinks made from wild and foraged foods; and an expanded pizza and empanada spot in south Minneapolis. Here are some of the most exciting new restaurants opening around the Cities this spring.
Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.
One of the Twin Cities’ most-loved pizza spots is opening its first standalone restaurant: after so much success at food halls North Loop Galley and the Market at Malcolm Yards, Wrecktangle is setting up at Lyn-Lake. Known for hefty, Detroit-style, lets-go-cheese-diving pizzas baked in rectangular steel pans, Wrecktangle offers takes that are hard to find elsewhere in the Cities’ pizza scene — like whole meatballs and giardiniera with romano cheese, and thai basil pesto chicken and lemon pepper ricotta with tomato. (Its local tribute, “Sotalicious,” features beef casserole, tater tots, and two well-placed pickle spears wrapped in ham.) Chef Jeffrey Howard Rogers plans to create a mini food hall at the new space on Lake Street, to help incubate new food businesses — Wrecktangle will also have an expanded menu and make use of a smoker, reports the Star Tribune. Though an opening date hasn’t been announced, Wrecktangle is hiring in earnest as of mid-March.
Em Que Viet
Known and loved for its state fair egg rolls — crispy and humongous and served, as it goes, on a stick — chef Dat Le of Que Viet is opening Em Que Viet in St. Paul. The latest addition to the Que Viet restaurants, which Le owns with his wife Lauren Le, the new location will offer traditional Vietnamese dishes like banh xeo, stuffed rice pancakes. But Que Viet’s egg rolls, folklorically voted best egg rolls in Minnesota, will remain at the heart of the menu. The new space, owned by Maria Nyugen and Brianna Le, was formerly a used book store — it’ll have restrooms decorated with phoenix and dragon themes, a full cocktail menu, and a bakery case. An opening date hasn’t been announced yet, but expect sometime this spring — the Star Tribune has the full story.
Lutunji’s Palate Bakery
Coming to the Gatsby Apartments in the Elliot Park neighborhood, Lutunji’s Palate Bakery is bringing a new guild of baked goods to downtown Minneapolis. Known for her Harriet’s Escape peach cobbler — made sweet and southern style, with vegan variations as well — pastry chef Lutunji Abrams also sells pineapple upside down cakes, coconut macaroons, pecan cobbler, and a range of gluten-free and vegan desserts, like Oreo cheesecake. (Her desserts are available at Lunds and Byerlys across the metro, and other grocery stores.) The new location, opening May 15, is a major expansion from her former kitchens. Abrams bakes with a mission: she’s partnering with a few local nonprofits to give young people and formerly incarcerated men the chance to work at Lutunji’s, and learn business and baking skills. Keep an eye on Lutunji’s Palate’s Facebook page for more updates.
The Twin Cities’ pizza-and-subs plot is thickening. Jason Hansen and Peter Sebastian, owners of southern European restaurant Estelle in St. Paul, are opening a pizza restaurant in the former Tillie’s space on Cleveland Avenue. Chef Evan Vranian, who has worked in local kitchens at Sooki and Mimi, Tilia, Spoon and Stable, and Surly, will lead the kitchen. According to Racket, Mario’s will be making pan pizzas, honing in on the essentials: a crispy crust made with local Baker’s Field flour, fresh tomato sauce layered under a generous helping of high-quality cheese. Vranian will also be baking Italian white sesame seed loaf bread for hoagies. Look for an opening before the end of April.
The Shroom Room
Mike Kempenich — aka the Gentleman Forager — is opening a music- and mushroom-forward restaurant on Central Avenue in Columbia Heights. (OK, it’s hard to know how many shrooms will really be on the menu, but Racket reports that the restaurant’s food and drinks will be made with wild and foraged ingredients. Look for dishes like rosemary and porcini-crusted beef tenderloin lollipops, served with smoked tomato jam.) Kempenich is the Cities’ resident mushroom guy: he forages in local forests, teaches identification classes, and sells wild and cultivated varieties to restaurants. He’s also a former Broadway actor — and the Shroom Room will also be a venue for live music and entertainment. Opening day is March 26.
A new Filipino restaurant is coming to St. Paul on Selby Avenue, adding a new presence to a cuisine that’s generally underrepresented in the Twin Cities. Leah Raymundo and John Occhiato, who own Cafe Astoria on Grand Avenue, are opening Kalsada with plans for two different menus: counter service for a Filipino-style breakfast menu during the day, mixed with Cafe Astoria’s crepe and coffee offerings and some American breakfast items, and a modern Filipino menu with table service for dinner. Look for lumpiang shanghai (meaty Filipino-style egg rolls), caldo (a Filipino congee typically made with chicken and rice), and a full bar with cocktails. Kalsada will open around mid-April, says the Community Reporter — and Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal has the full story.
Provision Community Restaurant
First opened in 2019 and closed during the pandemic, Provision Community Restaurant is finally re-opening this spring. Provision’s mission is to provide meals to anyone who wants one. Its menu is donation-based — diners are asked just to offer their “personal provision” and give what they can, whether that’s money or volunteer service. Provision has communal seating, and the food is served family style in a cozy interior, where the walls are painted with bright blue flowers. The menu changes daily, but favorites from the restaurant’s last run included dishes like meatloaf, radish and carrot salads, chili, and greens with roasted cauliflower and eggplant. An opening day hasn’t been announced, but expect sometime in early 2022.
Boludo on Nicollet
Facundo Defraia’s hugely popular pizza and empanada restaurant is scooting just around the corner in Minneapolis’s Kingfield neighborhood, moving from its original location on Nicollet Avenue to a much larger space on 38th Avenue. Along with his friend Danny del Prado (of Martina, Colita, and Rosalio), Defraia is known for bringing the cuisine of Buenos Aires to the streets of the Twin Cities — Boludo made its name with its intensely flavorful empanadas (think creamed leeks and gorgonzola, beef picadillo and ají molido) and diamond-shaped pizzas with crispy, cloud-like crusts. Boludo has been teasing the new opening in a series of social media posts, so check Instagram for updates — but expect an opening in April, says the Star Tribune.