The late-summer transition from August to September always stings a little — but this month brings two exciting pop-ups to the Twin Cities. Kua, a modern Mexican tasting menu by chef Gustavo Romero, is officially back at Travail Kitchen and Amusements. Kua first debuted as a long-term pop-up in 2019, when Travail was temporarily based on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis — this time around, Romero is collaborating with chefs and owners Mike Brown, Bob Gerken, and James Winberg in Travail’s Robbinsdale kitchen.
The tasting menu is inspired by Romero’s use of heirloom corn and nixtamalization process, which he’s known for at Nixta, his Northeast Minneapolis tortilleria and Mexican takeout restaurant. Expect dishes like esquites, marquesitas (a sweet, rolled, crepe-like dish), and ceviche tostadas. Romero also collaborated with Nouvelle Brewing, Travail’s brewery arm, on a pink tart ale brewed with heirloom corn, prickly pear, and lime. The pop-up will be held in Travail’s basement bar — it launched on August 18, and runs through September 30. Reservations are available here.
Over at Bar Brava on Washington Avenue, the full-service menu may be done, but weekend chef residencies live on. September’s featured chef is Spencer Venancio, a teenager who hosts pop-ups and, according to Woodbury Magazine, has cooked in some of the Twin Cities’ best kitchens (Spoon and Stable, Travail, Bardo, and others). A few highlights from the prix-fixe tasting menu are cured sea bream with a sauce of fermented wild plums, pork grilled with caramelized buttermilk, and a corn macaron. Venancio’s six courses also come with an optional natural wine pairing. Bar Brava made the transition to weekend chef residencies in late June — its first residency featured A Bird in Hand, a fine-dining pop-up with a thoughtful rustic bend. Venancio’s residency runs every Friday and Saturday in September; reservations are available through Bar Brava’s website. (Walk-ins are still available at the bar for an a la carte snack menu, too.)