Vincent may have closed, but the downtown Minneapolis restaurant’s beloved Vincent Burger lives on. In his new capacity as culinary director of Cara Irish Pubs, Vincent Francoual is reviving his namesake burger. Hurrah.
You know the one: a beef patty stuffed, Jucy Lucy-style, with slow-braised short ribs and smoked Gouda, and topped with chopped lettuce, tomato, raw onion and a sauce of mayonnaise, ketchup, Tabasco and chopped cornichons.
Another revivial: Those same gloriously golden and crispy fries.
The similarities continue with the price, which is the same $15.50 that Vincent diners paid. Unfortunately, the Vincent half-off happy hour bargain is a no-go this time around. Bummer.
Francoual’s plan is to roll them out at all four Cara properties, but he’s starting at Cooper Pub & Restaurant (1607 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park, cooperpub.com). The official debut is March 14, but it’ll appear as a get-them-while-they-last special starting Thursday. Francoual’s remake of the rest of the menu will appear in late April.
Summer openings in northeast Minneapolis
The long-awaited northeast Minneapolis restaurant by Pizzeria Lola (5557 Xerxes Av. S., Mpls., pizzerialola.com) owners and spouses Ann Kim and Conrad Leifur is on its way.
When Young Joni (165 13th Av. NE., Mpls., next door to Dangerous Man Brewing Co.) opens this summer, it will feature a 140-seat dining room and bar, as well as a 40-seat bar with a separate alley entrance that will double as a private events space.
Both bars will be under the direction of former La Belle Vie bartender Adam Gorski. The dining room bar will feature quick-service, crafted batch cocktails. The back bar’s cocktail menu will be based on ever-changing themes.
“So Adam can stay creative,” said Kim. “We’ve stayed away from calling it a speakeasy, because for us, that means ‘exclusive,’” said Kim. “We want to be inclusive. The goal of the bar, and the restaurant, is to have fun.”
In the kitchen, Kim will be cooking from a pair of wood-burning ovens and a custom-built wood-burning grill. The larger of the two ovens (clad in the same copper as the distinctive Pizzeria Lola oven) will be devoted to pizzas.
The crusts will be the same as Lola’s, but Kim hasn’t decided if there will be crossovers, toppings-wise, or if Young Joni will feature an entirely different lineup.
The second oven (clad, like the grill, in hand-made Japanese tile) will run at a lower temperature for vegetable-centric shared plates, while the grill will be reserved for Korean-style meats served saam-style (with lettuce, herbs or kimchi) or taco-style, with handmade tortillas.
“Cooking by fire is very temperamental, it takes craft and repetition and practice to get it into your muscle memory,” said Kim. “But this is how people cooked for hundreds of years. I’m really excited about what it means for roasting and charring vegetables. It’s not just about meat, but about the diversity of umami that’s created when you add fire-roasted salsa to a grilled piece of meat. It’s about creating this cacaphony of interesting flavors.”
Anyone who has waited — and waited — for a table at first-come, first-serve Pizzeria Lola will be pleased to learn that the twice-as-roomy Young Joni will accept reservations.
As for the name, it’s an homage to the couple’s mothers.
“Finally, something I’ve done that my mother can be proud of,” said Kim with a laugh. “They’re really two very different spirit animals. My mother — Young — is the cooking inspiration of the restaurant, and Joni — Conrad’s mom — is always the one with a wine glass in her hand, always singing and having fun.”
The address — it’s three adjacent buildings, formerly home to the Polish Community Center, among other tenants — is getting a top-to-bottom makeover by the Los Angeles design firm Studio MAI.
Opening date? “Summer” is as specific as Kim is willing to get.
“Whether that’s June, July or August is hard to say,” she said. “It has taken a long time, but this is our biggest, most exhaustive project to date. And I’m a perfectionist.”
Do not, under any circumstances, refer to John Sugimura a caterer.
“Noooooooo,” he said with a laugh. “It’s ‘private chef.’ ”
Fine. Sugimura is channeling the considerable expertise he’s amassed from seven years of cooking — to an estimated 5,000 clients — into an exciting new restaurant that he and business partner Xiaoteng Huang are calling PinKU Japanese Street Food (20 University Av. NE., Mpls., pinkujapanese.com).
“We did not go to the Internet to come up with this concept, and these recipes,” said Sugimura. “This is our story, it’s everything about where we’ve come from as two Asian dudes with a passion for food and entrepreneurship.”
“I don’t want people to think that Benihana is representative of Japanese cuisine,” said Huang. “Those kinds of restaurants aren’t delivering the story. We want this concept to make a difference and change how people view Japanese food. That’s going to be our legacy.”
Sugimura trained under sushi master Katsuya Uechi in Los Angeles and worked in Tokyo and Kyoto, where he fell in love with the rich culinary traditions of that city’s sprawling Nishiki Market.
At PinKU (it’s the Japanese word for pink), the brief counter service setup will feature 10 menu items, including:
• Thinly minced top-grade Hawaiian tuna, tossed with a spiced-up mayonnaise and served over steamed rice and radishes;
• Shrimp coated in potato starch and fried until its crispy, then tossed in a spicy mayonnaise;
• Pan-fried gyoza filled with the traditional pork-garlic-chive combination, as well as a vegetarian version, with gyoza skin wrapped around shishito peppers and served with a ginger-garlic-soy dipping sauce.
Sugimura plans to mimic the Nishiki’s everyman pricing, with an average guest check that he estimates will hover around $16.
“We want to create a new niche in the middle of the market,” he said. “A chef-inspired opportunity at a fast-casual price point. So rather than negotiate with your dinner partner over what to order, we want you to come in and say, ‘I want the spicy tuna, the crispy shrimp and the fried ramen,’ and we’ll make your own entree, so no one else at the table will be tempted to take chopsticks and stick them in your food.”
Beverages will include moderately priced beer, wine, sake and sparkling wine, in the $5.50-per-glass range.
The two met two years ago when Huang, who has spent his career in the corporate world, attended one of Sugimura’s sushi classes. Sugimura’s ever-growing clientele is the driving force behind his pivot from private-parties chef to restaurant chef.
“There are just so many days on the calendar, and I can’t meet the demand,” he said. “I have clients duking it out over dates.”
The entire restaurant — restrooms and all — will clock in at 960 square feet (basically a large-ish one-bedroom aparment), with the kitchen at its center.
“It’s intimate for all the right reasons,” said Sugimura. “There’s no back of house, it’s all front of house. It’s the mom-and-pop feel that brings people together and places them really close to the kitchen, so they can see how our food is made.”
As for the opening date, “We’re saying June 1,” said Sugimura, starting with lunch, dinner and late-night (to midnight) service.
Sometime during the summer, they’ll add a single-item breakfast: grilled salmon with brown sauce, rice, pickled vegetables and a poached egg. “For probably around $9,” said Sugimura.
The late-night menu will be a pared version of its earlier incarnation.
“I would be so thrilled to see people come in at 11, drinking 22-ounce Sapporos and a tray of 40 gyoza,” said Sugimura. “I know that we’ll have made it when we see that.”