Delayed three years, Vinai will open in the celebrated Northeast brewery’s current space in 2024
Chef Yia Vang’s much-anticipated Hmong restaurant, Vinai — postponed three years by pandemic-related construction delays and financial setbacks — has found a new home in the current Dangerous Man Brewing Company space in Northeast Minneapolis, at 1300 2nd Street N.E. The taproom will close on October 21; Vinai is slated to open in spring of 2024.
Dangerous Man opened in 2013 as part of Minneapolis’s microbrewery vanguard. In the decade since, it’s established itself as one of the top breweries in the state. Vang has a longstanding relationship with owners Sara Bonvallet and Rob Miller; he started doing his Slurp Noodle Shop pop-ups in the taproom in 2021. “Dangerous Man is one of the OGs — the reason why our brewery scene is so strong here is because of Dangerous Man. I want to honor that,” says Vang. Vinai will be a tenant in the space, though Vang will be partial owner.
Bonvallet and Miller announced the taproom’s closure on the brewery’s website, explaining that new owners had recently bought the building and had a “different vision” for it. Dangerous Man’s lease was expiring, so it seemed like an “opportune time” for a change. “We have never owned the building, so in that sense, our future there has always been uncertain,” the statement reads. “It is with excitement, though, that our beloved space is in good hands and will continue to be a community gathering place.” The couple emphasized that this isn’t a curtain call for Dangerous Man, and hinted at an announcement coming in spring of 2024. In the meantime, they’ll keep making beer, which will be available at local liquor stores.
The taproom sits at a restaurant-rich intersection in Northeast’s Sheridan neighborhood, which Vang finds exciting. “You got Young Joni right there, you got Anchor, Hai Hai’s not too far,” he says. “Marty’s is right in that area, Lowry Hill’s over at the Food Building.” Oro by Nixta, the new masa-focused restaurant by chef Gustavo Romero, is just across the street. “I told Gustavo, I don’t know who we have to pay off in the city, but that intersection right there — I want to close it down once a year and throw an intersection party,” says Vang. “Throw a big grill in the middle, we bring sticky rice; you bring tortillas.”
Vinai is a love letter to Vang’s parents, Hmong immigrants who fled persecution in Laos after the Vietnam War and forded the Mekong River on their way to Thailand, where they were resettled to Ban Vinai refugee camp. Vang had originally planned to open Vinai in Northeast’s Bottineau neighborhood in 2021; that location didn’t pan out. But he’s been incrementally debuting the menu over the past few years, holding a residency at Minneapolis’s Steady Pour and doing pop-ups around the country.
At Vinai, Vang says, the menu will be broken into several sections: small treats, appetizers, wood-fired grilled meats, vegetables, rice, and pepper sauces. “It’s a choose your own adventure — that’s kind of how Hmong food is,” says Vang. “If you say, ‘Hey, I want three things, cocktails, and a beer,’ you can walk away at 50 or 60 bucks for two people. If you say ‘Let’s ball out’ and you want to drop like 400 bucks for five people, you can do that too.”
Vang is bringing in a local artist to add new art to the space, but he says much of Dangerous Man’s interior elements will remain, including the big bar. He says that he doesn’t see the opening as Vinai taking over Dangerous Man — rather, to him, it’s a transition of stewardship and responsibility. “That’s so quintessentially Hmong, to build on something that was already there,” says Vang. “To honor that building is one of the big things for us.”