Spring promises big things for the Twin Cities this year. With a highly anticipated food hall already open — Eat Street Crossing’s stand-and-slurp ramen and Brazilian pizza are finally here — a number of notable openings are coming down the pike. All have an element of transformation to them: chef Gustavo Romero is expanding his heirloom corn mission to a dine-in format; Marc Heu is parlaying pastry success into a larger bistro; Juniper has a game-changing approach to edible THC, and the list goes on. Here are the Twin Cities’ most anticipated restaurant openings this spring, in no particular order.
Chef Gustavo Romero of Nixta Tortilleria and Mexican Takeout has plans to open a dine-in restaurant, Oro, this spring. Details are sparse so far, but Oro will open next to Nixta’s current location in Northeast Minneapolis, with space to seat 50. Romero’s mission is to preserve and celebrate heirloom corn varieties, which have suffered in recent decades due to hybridization and industrial tortilla production. His tortillas come in shades of slate blue, pale yellow, and brown, all ideal canvases for okra tostadas, duck carnitas tacos, and chicken mole. At Oro, Romero expects to double his menu, adding in more complex dishes he wasn’t able to cook as a takeout-only operation. Look for a mid to late April opening.
Marc Heu Patisserie Paris — at Selby and Dale
Pastry chef Marc Heu trained at a 300-year-old Parisian patisserie before eventually leaving France for St. Paul. He and his wife and patisserie COO Gaosong Heu set up shop in Frogtown, serving some of the Cities’ most elegant pastries — towering croquembouche, creamy Basque cheesecake, vanilla Saint Honoré sculpted like a blooming peony — on a corner of University Avenue. This spring, Marc Heu is relocating to the former Dale Street Garage in St. Paul’s Selby and Dale neighborhood. Expect a copycat of the current patisserie at first — but as Mpls.St.Paul Magazine reports, the Heus plan to expand into a French bistro with a patio, wine and beer, and a lunch and dinner menu by this summer.
La Bodega Taco Bar is expanding from its St. Louis Park home base with a new restaurant on Hennepin Avenue in Uptown. Tacos, of course, are the backbone of the menu, but one of La Bodega’s most popular dishes is a birria ramen, which pairs fiery beef birria broth with springy ramen noodles, all topped with diced onions and cilantro and served in a noodle cup. Then there are the birria (and quesabirria) tacos themselves, stuffed with ample shredded beef and cheese, a perfect, salty complement to La Bodega’s mangonada and paletas. La Bodega is the newest in a crop of restaurants that have opened in Uptown, joining the Breakfast Klub, Arts + Rec, Northern Soul at Ties, and Boludo. Owners Alex Rosario Elizabeth Raygoza also operate a La Bodega food truck in Crystal, and own La Michoacana Rose, which runs on the sweeter side, focusing on paletas and ice cream. Put together, their six total locations have an impressive footprint across the metro.
The former Common Roots space in Uptown is under renovation as Juniper, a new vegan restaurant with THC on the menu, prepares to move in. Minnesota legalized the sale of food and drinks containing THC last summer, spurring innovation in the beverage market, but chef Heather Klein of Root to Rise Kitchen is among the first to add it to a food menu. Diners can order a THC tincture a la carte and or as part of a prix fixe meal, and sprinkle it over a dish, dessert, or drink — Juniper will highlight local ingredients like wild morels, ramps, smoked juniper, and hazelnuts. The restaurant will be totally alcohol-free, subbing cocktails out for sparkling kava, house-made switchel, and a root beer made with 33 different barks, roots, and berries.
Chef David Fhima’s transformation of the historic Ribnick Furs building is underway in the North Loop. This project has a number of intertwining themes and elements: It’s a once a Parisian brasserie, a cavernous, twinkling underground bar, an event center inspired by the stylings of Ralph Lauren, and a neighborhood terrasse. It’s an exciting addition to Fhima’s already impressive portfolio, which includes his glittering, eponymous Fhima’s Restaurant, his work with Minnesota Central Kitchen feeding local community members in need, and his role as executive chef of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx.
Remember the banh mi restaurant planned for the red-and-white snack shack on 38th Street? Permitting delays pushed D’s Banh Mi’s opening into the new year — the restaurant is now slated to open in May. Hilda Tov, owner of local hair salon Hilda’s Hair Hut, bought the snack shack with her sons Dylan, Dyon, and Dustin. Expect a robust banh mi menu with plenty of vegan options, like deep-fried curry tofu, salt-and-pepper tofu, and mock duck, plus gluten-free alternatives to the Vietnamese-French baguettes. There’ll be sticky rice and noodle bowls, too. “We love south Minneapolis,” says Tov. “We’ve been here 24 years. The people around this neighborhood are so supportive of small businesses. It’s such a great, diverse neighborhood. We didn’t want to go anywhere else.”
Minnesota’s first Black-owned pizzeria has been steadily expanding this year, first adding a location at Midtown Global Market and now, this spring, opening a third location in St. Paul. Adam Kado and Hosie Thurmond’s restaurant is a true New York-style pizzeria. The pizza, equal parts gooey and crackly, is made with classic toppings like pepperoni, veggies, and pineapple chicken. Don’t miss the pickle pizza, drizzled with ranch, coming soon to University and Dale.
Herbst is a bit of a mystery so far — Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal reports that Fast Horse agency founder Jorg Pierach is the name behind this new Raymond Avenue restaurant, and he’s provided scant details so far. But Pierach is one of the co-founders of Tilia, so American bistro fare and fresh offerings from the “farm stand” component isn’t a bad bet.
After a few months of slinging Hmong-style noodles out of his new Hilltribe space on Lake Street, chef Yia Vang will launch Mee-Ka, a Hmong American comfort food pop-up, in early April. As Vang wrote on Instagram, “Mee-ka” is a Hmong word for American. “Growing up mom always asked if we wanted to eat Hmong food or Mee-ka food. We lived in this cross-cultural state of eating food that was considered Mee-ka but using Hmong ingredients.” Menu details haven’t been shared yet, but the pop-up represents the collision — not fusion — of two cuisines creating a third, distinct one. Keep an eye on Instagram for more details.