Last fall, Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson, who own the Sioux Chef company, announced that their crowdfunding campaign was successful — raising nearly $150,000 for an indigenous-foods restaurant and culinary training facility they expect to debut next summer.
Now, they’re already lining up restaurant No. 2.
Owamni: An Indigenous Kitchen (sioux-chef.com) will open as the featured full-service restaurant in the first phase of the upcoming Water Works project on the Mississippi River when it is completed sometime in 2019, the duo announced last week. The project, on West River Parkway, was formerly occupied by the original Fuji Ya before it closed in 1990 — three years after the Minneapolis Park Board condemned its parking lot. The building, vacant since then, will be torn down to make way for a new pavilion, which will include a green space and year-round gathering area, along with the new restaurant.
Like Sherman and Thompson’s other upcoming project, the Water Works restaurant will highlight indigenous Native American cuisine and seek to educate. The surrounding area will include native plants and a garden containing produce, such as ramps, chokecherries, juneberries and crab apples.
The couple were interested in the space because of its historical significance.
“This is really sacred land,” Thompson said. “The history of the Dakota people here is unbelievable. Before the lock and dam, this part of the river was a series of waterfalls that went down for miles. It was a spectacular place. People would come there to sign treaties, come there to talk with the elders. Women would travel miles just to give birth there.
“A lot of people don’t know the history, and we hope to help tell it.”
It’s been a busy year for Sherman and Thompson. The two are still searching for a Twin Cities location for restaurant No. 1 — which will be a 7,000-square foot eatery, training hub and indigenous foods lab — which they hope to lock down soon for a summer 2018 debut. Sherman’s cookbook “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen,” will be available Oct. 10, jumpstarting a tour that will hit “most if not all states” in the next calendar year, Thompson said. And then there’s the 52 Weeks of Giving — a Super Bowl-organized, grant-giving tour around the state, at which Sherman will be doing food demonstrations and speaking engagements.
“We have a lot on our plates but we really have a lot of ambition,” Thompson said. “This just speaks to the amount of work we have ahead. This isn’t just a Native American issue, it’s a human issue.”