After 35 years in Dinkytown, Camdi Restaurant will close at the end of this week.
Camdi Phan, who immigrated to Minnesota from Vietnam in 1978, opened Camdi after a friend with a restaurant in that location decided to move their business. "I was working in a factory, Control Data," Phan said. "But then I quit that job, and I think, maybe this is a better chance for us."
She started by offering American Chinese classics — kung pao, sesame chicken, stir fry. As the area began to draw more foreigners, thanks to its proximity to the U, Phan added more traditional Vietnamese dishes, too. In recent years, Camdi Restaurant expanded its vegetarian and vegan menu.
At first, Phan said her approach to running a restaurant, as a young, female, immigrant entrepreneur, was largely trial and error. "That was tough. Up and down, up and down. We make mistakes and we learn," she said.
Her restaurant-owning friends helped guide her, and about 10 years in, her husband, Kiet Phan, joined her in the business. So did the Phans' three children, who grew up pitching in at the restaurant. "I went to the U and worked there in between classes," said daughter Jenny Poon. "I remember paying my quarterly tuition with dollar bills from the tip money from the restaurant."
The Phans had been mulling over selling the restaurant when the pandemic hit. They shrunk their hours and went to takeout-only. Now, with the pandemic beginning to abate, business hasn't recovered. "Dinkytown is not that busy like before," Phan said, perhaps due to fewer foreign students returning.
It's only the latest change to the neighborhood that Camdi Restaurant has witnessed. Seemingly every building around it has been knocked down and turned into a high-rise. The restaurant itself will become a real estate office for the apartments in the area, Phan said.
She's looking forward to retirement, and spending time with her grandchildren. "It will be fun to give life a little change," she said.
Before the restaurant closes, Phan says, she hopes longtime customers will return to say goodbye. From professors who have since retired to kids who grew up coming to the restaurant and who now have families of their own, "I want to say thank you for their support," she said.
Camdi Restaurant (1325 SE. 4th St., Mpls., eatatcamdi.com) will be open 4 to 8 p.m. through March 26.
In other closure news
Fans of Lowertown St. Paul's Tin Whiskers Brewing have until the end May to say cheers to the eight-year-old brewery (125 E. 9th St., St. Paul, twbrewing.com). "We have fought hard to keep our brewery running and continue to make the beers you love to drink, but the brewery is no longer sustainable to keep going," said a statement on social media.
And Zetta's (2424 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls.), the minuscule Eat Street shop known for its ricotta sandwiches, closed March 18. Instead, the team will expand the menu of their ghost kitchen, Yeah Yeah Taco (yeahyeahtaco.com). "With our 260-square-foot space, it's too hard and cramped to run two restaurants out of it," they said in an Instagram announcement. "It's been an amazing ride."
Here's at least one bright spot. Emily's Lebanese Deli, which shuttered early in March due to a family health issue, reopened this week at 641 University Av. NE., Mpls., emilyslebanesedeli.com.
These reopenings are a sure sign of spring. Sea Salt Eatery, on Minnehaha Falls, announced it will open for the season on April 15 (4825 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls., seasaltmpls.com). The St. Paul Farmers Market is returning Saturdays and Sundays beginning April 23, and will run through November (290 E. 5th St., St. Paul, stpaulfarmersmarket.com). And after a two-year hiatus, A to Z Produce and Bakery's Tuesday night pizza farm will be back May 3 on a reservation-only basis (N2956 Anker Lane, Stockholm, Wis., atozproduceandbakery.com).
The Minneapolis Club is betting on a bit of nostalgia when it opens its exclusive space to nonmembers for dining for the first time. On the ground floor, the historic bar from Charlie's Exceptionale is being installed and chef Jamie Malone, formerly of Grand Cafe and currently of Petite Atelier, will write the menu. She's been mulling over vintage menus from the restaurant for inspiration. Reservations will be open to the public for a limited time starting April 1, with nonmember dining beginning April 20. After 90 days of lunch and dinner service, the dining room will once again revert to being members-only. The Minneapolis Club (729 2nd Av. S., Mpls., mplsclub.org) was founded in 1883 to provide "a private city club for like-minded leaders of the community," according to its website.
Hold the Wheat saw lines and a speedy sellout for its soft opening over the weekend. The new bakery (4050 Brookside Av. S., St. Louis Park, holdthewheat.com) is the work of baker Spencer Justiniano and his partner, Edwin Snyder. In 2016, Justiniano started following a gluten-free diet after years of suffering from stomach issues, but missed baked treats. After some time tinkering, he amassed a collection of recipes for baked goods and began selling them first to friends and then to an ever-widening community. The bakery's opening menu includes cookies, hand pies and mini cakes draped in vegan frosting and adorned with little curlicue designs. The menu eventually will expand beyond sweets into savory pies and more. The bakery is holding another soft opening March 23-24 from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. or until they sell out; the grand opening is March 26.
Hot dogs stuffed with cheese, dipped in a dairy-free batter and served on a stick sounds like a new State Fair entry. But it's the specialty of the Korean hot dog chain CrunCheese, which will debut in Dinkytown (401 14th Av. SE., cruncheesehotdog.com) this spring. The restaurant (think adventurous corn dog) offers a variety of sausages, cheeses, toppings and the option of a squid-ink-laced batter. This is the chain's first outlet in the state.