Without question, 2020 was the most tumultuous year in the modern history of restaurants.
Many have closed, and many are teetering on the edge of closure.
And yet! We still have a giant list of optimists who are planning to open restaurants in 2021, including the latest details on highly anticipated eateries Sooki & Mimi (an opening date has been set), Myriel and Vinai. Here are the projects we know of at the moment. Cheers to a new year and hopefully clinking glasses at these spots sometime in 2021.
The latest project from James Beard-winning chef Ann Kim along with Conrad Leifur (Pizzeria Lola, Young Joni, Hello Pizza) is set to open Feb. 3. Reservations for the restaurant are set to go on sale Jan. 21 via the restaurant website. Now that she’s mastered the art of a best-in-class pizza crust, she’s hoping to conquer the art of the soft tortilla to go with a menu that has Korean, Midwestern and Latin American influences. The opening menu will feature ten-courses of vegetables and nixtamal, with an option for wine, non-alcoholic, and mixed beverage pairings. A limited number of pre-paid bar reservations will also be available for wine, beer and signature cocktails. Sooki and Mimi — named after Kim’s maternal Korean grandma (Sook-Young or “Sooki”), who influenced her love of food and cooking, and her American grandmother figure Thelma (“Mimi”), who introduced her to Western culture — will include a basement cocktail bar to follow at a later date. The space is not new to top-rated chefs in the kitchen — the eatery is in the former Lucia’s in Uptown.
1432 W. 31st St., Minneapolis; sookiandmimi.com
This brewery in a former Joe’s Crab Shack in Roseville was supposed to open this fall, but you know, pandemic. They have hired brewer Matt Faulkner, formerly of Stone Brewing in Napa, Calif., to head their beer program and have partnered with Tipsy Steer, the restaurant arm of Invictus Brewing in Blaine. Co-owner Sonja Anderson (she and husband, Peter Crews, are longtime employees of the original Bulldog in Uptown) said they are shooting for a Feb. 3 opening.
2704 Snelling Ave., Roseville; highpinesbrewing.com
The debut of this downtown Stillwater spot is just around the corner. Joe Ehlenz, Brad Nordeen and Mark Miller of Lolo and Lolito, also in downtown Stillwater, have teamed with 45th Parallel Distillery out of New Richmond, Wis., and are shooting for a February rollout of the concept that will run as two entities. The Lolo and Lolito team will run a restaurant and bar in part of the space; 45th Parallel will be operating stills and a tasting room in the other.
The menu will feature upscale bar food integrating traditional techniques in preservation, fermentation and more. In addition, look for a quarterly collaboration with chefs from Lolo and Lolito in which a few items will spotlight a cuisine or theme.
“They will be culled from our chef’s family heritages, meticulous research and travel … We are excited for this opportunity to keep exploring and learning about different cultures, techniques and the great food that is out there,” Nordeen said. “The goal will always be to pay homage to the culture and cuisine while, hopefully, introducing guests to new experiences and furthering their interest in the cuisine and culture.”
For the first collaboration, Stillwater Proper welcomes Lolo Hudson executive chef Ervin Thomas, who will highlight classic Sichuan cuisine.
When it comes to the drink menu, cocktails will spotlight spirits from the region.
“When you walk in, you won’t see any national liquors,” Ehlenz said. “It will be all Midwest spirits.”
For example, Norseman’s agave spirits will stand in for a cocktail that might otherwise use tequila. And house-made bitters will play a role in bringing out notes such as the smokiness that you might find in a mezcal drink.
227 Main St. S., Stillwater; facebook.com/stillwaterproper
It’s been even more of a roller coaster ride for Bole than for other restaurants this year — their original space off of University Avenue burned in the unrest following George Floyd’s death. But after a very successful GoFundMe, owners Rekik Meratsion and Solomon Hailie have purchased the building that formerly housed Foxtrot Burger Spot (Delicata Pizza and Java Train before that) in the Como neighborhood.
The 80-seat spot, which has an additional 50 seats on a beautiful patio, will open in mid-February, with a menu of Ethiopian specialties.
1341 Pascal St., St. Paul; boleethiopiancuisine.com
It seems like this local chain is always opening a new spot lately — if you hadn’t heard, their long-anticipated downtown St. Paul location is now open. Owner Reed Daniels said they’ll open a branch in Lakeville in February and are looking at another in Shakopee this summer.
17450 Kenwood Trail, Lakeville; savoypizza.com
If all goes as planned, Nellie’s will be up and running in part of the former Izzy’s Ice Cream Shop space in St. Paul just in time for ice cream season. The new concept, run by veteran group Nelson’s Ice Cream in Stillwater and St. Paul, will feature traditional cups and cones as well as build-your-own ice cream cookie sandwiches. And why stop there if you can also offer candy, sprinkles or cereal to roll your custom sandwich into? Co-owner Daved Najarian said they are shooting for an April launch.
2034 Marshall Ave., St. Paul; nelliesicecream.com
The Sioux Chef’s long-anticipated restaurant in the new Water Works Park along the Mississippi River waterfront in downtown Minneapolis is set to open this spring.
According to an update for Kickstarter backers (the project broke records when it raised nearly $150,000 in 2016), the menu will include foods native to Minnesota, “like forest mushrooms, hand-harvested wild rice, leafy greens, smoked turkey and cedar-braised bison.”
The restaurant further laid out its ambitions:
“We are committed to reintroducing Indigenous cuisine, which means no wheat, dairy, refined sugar, beef, pork or chicken will be present on our menu. We purchase our ingredients from Indigenous vendors whenever possible. We also plan to use other prepared foods — such as dressings, sauces and stocks — which we think could possibly be created at and purchased by us from Indigenous Food Lab, our newly-launched nonprofit endeavor located inside Midtown Global Market.”
One of the more pleasant surprises of 2020 was chef Karyn Tomlinson, most recently of dearly departed Corner Table in Minneapolis, moving across the river to St. Paul.
Tomlinson, who was also the first solo female winner of the national Cochon 555, is taking over the Cleveland Avenue space previously occupied by Bar Brigade, which closed during the pandemic. For now, she’s offering takeout meals (Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast) from an outfit she’s calling Karyn’s Quarantine Kitchen, but she’s hoping to be serving a full menu of European-inspired dishes this spring.
470 S. Cleveland Ave., St. Paul; myrielmn.com
This food hall was supposed to be open by now, but it’s been pushed back until May. The development is on the border of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the former Harris Machinery Co., which was on the verge of becoming ruins.
Co-owner Patricia Walls said the delay in opening “has helped us put together a really thoughtful, resilient, inclusive plan” for the market, which is what they’re calling the food hall.
There will be nine vendors altogether. Seven have already been secured. She said “a few already exist in the Twin Cities; others are chefs whose high-end restaurants closed and they took the opportunity to launch a new brand.”
Announcements on the vendors will begin soon on the development’s social media pages. They’ve been showing some sneak peek photos, though, and we spied a Del Sur Empanadas stamp on some empanadas, so there’s one! Looks like there will also be pizza and pasta of some sort. There will be two outdoor patio areas; two self-pour walls with beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages; a full bar with craft cocktails; and a coffee bar.
501 30th Ave. S.E., Minneapolis; malcolmyardsmarket.com
While technically a mobile food unit, Gloria’s To Go in downtown Stillwater will resemble more of a concession stand. The spot run out of part of the existing Leo’s Grill & Malt patio will be a place to select grab-and-go items such as soft-serve cones, hotdogs, sandwiches and salads to take to the park or wherever your day’s outing takes you.
It’s all part of Leo’s owner Corey Buettner’s vision to offer more quick-service and affordable options to the area. Gloria’s To Go will be a seasonal venture. If all goes smooth with the build-out, the spot could debut in May.
131 Main St., Stillwater; 651-351-3943; leosgrill.com
Revival is spreading its wings and spreading the joy of its lauded fried chicken and burgers. In addition to the Revivals in St. Paul and Minneapolis, owners Nick Rancone and Thomas Boemer have a St. Louis Park outpost in the works. The latest Revival, slated to roll out in the spring, will have favorites that include Southern fried chicken, burgers, hushpuppies and their private label “Jazzy Belle” bubbles.
The latest location is in the recently renovated Texa Tonka Paster Properties development shopping center that has undergone a major renovation.
8008 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park; revivalrestaurants.com
This is one of our favorite Philly cheesesteaks in the Twin Cities, and the pizzas are also delicious, so we’re really excited about this one. The team behind Tono Pizzeria + Cheesesteaks has plans to expand across the metro. Next up: a Coon Rapids outpost to add to their existing Maplewood and St. Paul locations.
Shaz Khan and Antonio Gambino have partnered with Goran Vejzovic and Dario Klasic of MVK Capital to roll out a Tono Pizzeria + Cheesesteaks at Riverdale Village. Like their other locations, look for fare that pays tribute to chef Gambino’s Sicilian and Philadelphia roots in the form of brick oven pizzas and Philly cheesesteaks. Plant-based offerings such as an Impossible Cheesesteak also make up the menu. The plan is to roll out at the end of May or the beginning of June.
And that’s not all the team has in the works: The search is on for more metro locations.
3500 124th St. N.W., Coon Rapids; tonomn.com
The local elixir company has long been consulting at top bars and restaurants, integrating its syrups and elixirs in cocktails. Now, Jesse Held and Jeff Erkkila have a place to call their own, and in a sizable space at that. The duo are planning for a 16,000-square-foot distillery with a 165-seat cocktail lounge, private event space and a production center where the brand’s spirits, syrups and ginger beer will be produced, bottled and canned. The spot will also feature a sidewalk cafe patio and an indoor botanical and herb garden for ingredients used in making food and spirits on site. “We’ve been testing out dishes. We’re going to do (from-scratch) pizza rolls,” said Held. “It’s definitely one of my favorites so far and we wanted to give people options to share or not to share because, you know, pandemic. You can get a basket of pizza rolls to share or for yourself and it will be just fine.”
The spot will also feature wood-fired pizzas, including dietary friendly options for those seeking out things like gluten-free crusts, vegan and vegetarian menu items. Bar snacks, salads, sandwiches and small plates will also be on the menu.
1325 Quincy St. N.E., Minneapolis; earlgiles.com
Chef Yia Vang’s highly anticipated Hmong restaurant has a home in Northeast Minneapolis, and work has begun. But because of the pandemic, the best we can get out of the team is “sometime this year.” Which totally makes sense.
Vinai, named after the refugee camp in Thailand where Vang was born, will serve his signature Hmong dishes, many of which are cooked over a wood fire. Vang also snagged chef Marshall Paulsen, who for many years headed the kitchen at Birchwood Cafe, to help with operations, in particular the sourcing of local ingredients and the creation of a progressive and equitable staffing structure.
Vinai will be designed by Christian Dean Architecture, which created the look behind Upton 43, Kado No Mise, Headflyer Brewing and more. The restaurant will seat 40 to 60 people inside and more on the patio.
1717 Second St. N.E., Minneapolis; vinaimn.com
Now that Vikings & Goddesses Pie Co. has a bricks-and-mortar spot, expect more to come out of the St. Paul space beyond the current wholesale, preorder and delivery operation. Chef/owner Rachel Anderson is taking small steps amid the pandemic. Sometime this year, she hopes to add a takeout window.
In addition to pies and take-and-bake options such as croissants and pie crusts that are currently available through pre-orders, a walk-up window would include breakfast pastry offerings such as muffins, scones, danishes and croissants. Anderson is also thinking of offering things like savory hand pies.
“They’re things that people can walk with and eat while on the go,” Anderson said.
Down the road, Anderson and her husband hope to open up the interior part of the space and possibly feature a counter or cafe for grabbing prepared foods. They’re also throwing around the idea of running pop-ups out of the space, which occupies part of the former Izzy’s Ice Cream Cafe spot.
2036 Marshall Ave., St. Paul; vikingsandgoddessespiecompany.com
A partnership between Birchwood Cafe and the Minnesota Farmers’ Union will open in the former Spoonriver space in Minneapolis.
Birchwood Cafe, which has assisted with the growing food presence at the Minnesota Farmers Union stand at the Minnesota State Fair, will focus on local, seasonal and sustainably sourced ingredients at the new restaurant. The collaboration with 14,000 farmers in the union puts a whole new spin on the farm-to-table movement.
Local design firm Shea will help re-create the space. Further concept and menu details will be forthcoming. A pop-up that ran in the space, called F + B, has run its course, according to the team. There are no updates as to a timeline for the opening.
750 Second St. S., Minneapolis
This mix of office space, retail and restaurants will occupy the former Dayton’s building on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, in partnership with Robert Montwaid, creator of Gansevoort Market in New York City, will be in charge of the 40,000-square-foot space dedicated to food. The creators say the market will be a mix of “well-known food vendors, local treasures, fresh food purveyors and food makers.”
The developers said they could not yet share who the vendors might be. The project was expected to open in 2019, and representatives for it said they don’t have an updated timeline.
700 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; thedaytonsproject.com