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Vinai Launches Summer Restaurant Residency at Steady Pour

Plus: Peace Coffee and Starbucks workers make union wins, Milkjam’s snack shack goes up for sale, and more news

Chef Yia Vang stands at a table in the background wearing a black T-Shirt and grey apron. Diners are seated and dining in the foreground; behind Vang is a brick wall with large windows and track lighting.
Chef Yia Vang’s upcoming restaurant Vinai is launching in residency form.
Lauren Cutshall

James Beard-nominated chef Yia Vang’s highly anticipated second restaurant Vinai has been in the works for a few years. In 2020, Vang raised nearly $100,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to get the restaurant, which celebrates Hmong cooking and culture, off the ground. But construction delays and financial turbulence caused by the pandemic have stalled opening. In the meantime, Vang is launching Vinai in a nontraditional format: as a summer restaurant residency at Steady Pour in Northeast Minneapolis.

“This residency is not just a preview of the Vinai menu,” Vang said in a press release. “This residency is not a pop-up. This residency is Vinai. Vinai has never been about a specific building or even location. Vinai is a love letter to my parents.”

During the residency, Vinai will operate on a reservation-only, ticketed basis. Expect a single, rotating five-course menu based on Vang’s five planned menu sections, plus cocktail pairings. Tickets are available on Vinai’s website — the residency kicks off on June 23, and runs on weekends through August.

Despite delays in Vinai’s official debut, Vang has been busy this year: starring in Netflix’s Iron Chef reboot, launching Hmonglish, a podcast about Hmong culture in America, with Kare 11 news anchor Gia Vang, and getting his brand’s hot sauces, chili oils, and rubs into local grocery stores. Union Hmong Kitchen, which earned him a 2022 James Beard nomination for Best Chef: Midwest, remains open for business in Graze food hall.

Workers at Peace Coffee and Starbucks make decisive union wins

From Amazon to the national Starbucks unionization wave, the labor movement has been gaining steam across the country this year — and the Twin Cities’ coffee and beverage scene is no exception. June 3, 17 workers at Minneapolis-based Peace Coffee voted “overwhelmingly” to unionize, according to a press release, following their push in April to secure better wages, working conditions, and work-life balance. On June 6, workers at a St. Anthony Starbucks won their union election in a 12-5 vote. They follow in the footsteps of workers on Snelling Avenue — who in April made history by becoming Minnesota’s first Starbucks to unionize — and workers on Cedar Avenue, who successfully unionized in early May.

Milkjam’s ‘Lil Jam’ snack shack is for sale

A sad day for the Cities’ ice cream scene: Racket reports that Milkjam Creamery’s charming 38th Street outpost is up for sale. Brother duo Sameh and Saed Wadi of Milkjam Creamery and World Street Kitchen began their ice cream-and-hot dog operation in the 280-square-foot space a few summers ago: Prior to their venture, the shack was home to Dave’s Popcorn, a business with a 105-year history in the Cities, according to Racket. Milkjam Ice Cream & Hot Dogs, a.k.a. Lil Jam, served a seasonal menu of Milkjam classic scoops, shakes, and raised donut ice cream sandwiches, plus beef and veggie hot dogs. (Note that the Instagram post below is from years past; Lil Jam is not currently open.)

Justin Sutherland’s new egg sandwich shop is en route to Portland

The city envy is real. Eater Portland reports that Twin Cities-based celebrity chef Justin Sutherland is opening a sandwich shop in downtown Portland this week. Big E, named for rapper Biggie Smalls, will serve an intriguing menu of egg-topped sandwiches: Think everything from smoked salmon and Tillamook cream cheese to a surprising combo of steak, American cheese, and Welch’s grape jelly, layered with a fried egg and served on an Oyatsupan milk bun. All of the sandwich names reference Sutherland’s favorite musicians and songs — the “When Doves Cry” sandwich, made with wilted spinach, hummus, and feta, sends some love homeward to Prince territory.

Cochon 555’s big tasting event this weekend has a local chef lineup

Cochon 555’s nationwide Heritage Fire Tour is arriving in Minneapolis this weekend on Sunday, June 12 at the Loews Hotel. The tour highlights heritage breed livestock and heirloom produce: Twin Cities chefs will be preparing dishes with ingredients from local farms like Angela Dawson’s Forty Acre Cooperative, Bolton Bees, Peterson Craftsman Meats, and others. The chef roster includes Gustavo Romero of Nixta Tortilleria, Jametta Raspberry of House of Gristle, Wang Vang of Fire Box Deli, Lachelle Cunningham of Chelles Kitchen, Brian Ingram of Purpose Restaurants, and many, many more. Tickets are all-inclusive of food and drink, and can be purchased here — Heritage Fire will also be supporting a local nonprofit, to be announced.

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