Lao sausage sandwiches, Korean American fare, and pandan cakes coming this autumn
After a bountiful summer of restaurant openings, Minneapolis and St. Paul are slipping into a cooler season, welcoming cloudy skies and chilly nighttime breezes after a blistering August. This autumn holds many debuts to look forward to: crispy pork belly and steaming bowls of khao poon in St. Paul; the revival of a beloved bakery in Eden Prairie; and a big changeup from James Beard Award-winning chef Ann Kim, among others. Here are the Twin Cities’ most anticipated restaurant openings of fall 2023.
Soul Lao — the St. Paul-based food truck known for its pork belly baguette sandwiches, red curry-topped branzino, and fiery khaopoon — is on the brink of opening a permanent location at Sibley Plaza. Owners Sabrina Boualaphanh and Eric Phothisanh’s new menu features khao gee pâté (a Lao sausage baguette sandwich), papaya salad, and Soul Lao’s super-popular crispy pork belly and wings, among other dishes, plus a beer collab with next-door Wandering Leaf Brewery. “We sold the food truck only because we wanted to focus on this restaurant, this was our main priority,” says Eric. “Being able to do that definitely helped us not just understand the new kitchen and new restaurant space but dial it in.” This winter, Soul Lao will offer a noodle soup menu, too, featuring khao poon and khao soi. A grand opening is planned for September 10. 2401 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55116
This fall, chef Ann Kim is converting her newest restaurant, Sooki & Mimi — which opened in Uptown Minneapolis in 2021 — to an eponymous Korean American restaurant called Kim’s. “It’s not going to worry about authenticity, or be a K-town spot, it’s going to be Korean American, which is how I grew up,” Kim told Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, which first reported the news. “This neighborhood isn’t bad, it’s just evolving and changing as it always has, it was the first place I lived after moving back from New York. It needs people who are willing to create new things that are personal to them.” A menu hasn’t been announced yet, but Kim told MSP Mag that the opening comes at a time when she’s been regularly cooking Korean dishes for her mother, who has Parkinson’s. The basement bar will begin serving food, too — mostly bar bites like Korean fried chicken and chive biscuits. Sooki & Mimi will close for a week during October for the transition, after which Kim’s will open. 1432 W 31st St, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Keefer Court Bakery & Cafe supplied the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood with handmade mooncakes and egg tarts, pillowy steamed buns, and comforting bowls of congee for four decades — it was the end of an era when it announced its closure last December. But later this year, the bakery will reopen under new owners at Eden Prairie’s super-popular Asia Mall. Michael Bui, Mai Bui, and Peter Do, who own Pho Mai (a Vietnamese, pho-focused restaurant with locations in Dinkytown and Asia Mall) are adding Vietnamese desserts and pandan cakes to Keefer Court’s menu, but those beloved pork buns, egg tarts, and sesame balls aren’t going anywhere. Look for a November or December opening, and in the meantime, check out these glossy renderings of the new bakery. 12160 Technology Dr., Eden Prairie, MN 55344
El Sazon, known and loved for its tacos, salsa verde-smothered enchiladas, and five-course dinner series — all served inside an Eagan gas station — is readying for its Tangletown debut. Owners Karen and chef Cristian de Leon are opening their second restaurant in the former El Jefe Cocina & Bar space on south Lyndale Avenue. “If you would have asked when we opened our Eagan location, what are you plans in the future? having a full service restaurant was not it,” says Karen. “But after our first ‘night at the gas station’ we knew that it had to be done. Seeing people gather for our food and mocktails and just having a good time is an unexplainable feeling and we wanted to continue that.” A full menu isn’t set yet, but expect many of the staples from the Eagan menu during lunch hours, with a shift to a more formal, plated dinner experience in the evening hours. El Sazon will start with a mocktail menu, and serve cocktails from bar director Zoilo Ruacho as soon as its liquor license is approved. A grand opening is tentatively planned for October 18. 5309 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55419
Hawaiian comfort food restaurant Ono Hawaiian Plates is opening a second location at United Noodles marketplace, once home to UniDeli’s steaming bowls of ramen. The new spot will have both take-out and dine-in options, with seating for about 40. A number of Ono staples will appear on the new menu — look for garlic shrimp and kalbi short ribs, Hawaiian barbecue chicken, and luau bowls with ahi poke and kalua pork. But chef Warren Seta (who co-owns Ono with his partner Jess Kelley) is adding a few new dishes, including nori-wrapped Spam musubi and sesame chicken bowls. Kelley and Seta are also expanding to the Lunds & Byerlys deli in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood. They hope to open both locations in October. 2015 E 24th St, Minneapolis, MN 55404
D’s Banh Mi, the Vietnamese, banh-mi focused restaurant coming to the snack shack space on 38th Street, has had a number of permitting delays — the latest from owner Hilda Tov is that a November opening seems likely. (In the meantime, D’s has a limited delivery menu.) Slice Pizza’s Frogtown opening was pushed slightly past this summer, but grand openings at the new space are planned for September 8 and 14; the Mall of America location is also readying to open. Chef Tim McKee’s new Basque restaurant at the North Loop’s incoming West Hotel is slated for winter 2024, and chef Jon Wipfli doesn’t have updates on his permanent Animales restaurant quite yet. North Minneapolis restaurant Tap In is gearing up for an opening after about a year of delays; developer Chris Webley’s request for a liquor license was originally denied in March at a city council meeting. As Axios reports, the opening dates for the Bde Maka Ska pavilion and its restaurant Pimento at the Lake are up in the air — no recent word from chef Tomme Beevas about Pimento’s upcoming St. Paul location, either.