Four years ago, Bunbob Chhun and James Munson brought their dream of a small sandwich operation to the Twin Cities.
Now, they’ve got their own brick-and-mortar eatery after taking over the former Ming’s Palace at 4004 Minnehaha Av. S. in Minneapolis this summer and opening Dumpling (dumplingmpls.com, 612-724-8795) — a “next generation” Asian-American restaurant — in November.
The path to the Longfellow neighborhood location began in 2012 when Chhun and Munson began selling their banh mi sandwiches to cafes and stocking the likes of Royal Grounds Coffee, Matchbox Coffee Shop and Groundswell.
As their following grew, the duo expanded to farmers markets, where they expanded their menu and experimented with ramen, wok noodles and steamed buns, among others.
“We used that as a way to kind of test out some of our dishes,” Chhun said.
In 2014, Chhun and Munson began staging pop-ups around town, pulling together a small menu and holding one-night-only events at Mon Petit Cheri, Cook St. Paul and most recently Gigi’s Cafe.
After searching for about a year and a half for a building, they happened upon Ming’s Palace, which had been shuttered after 20 years in business.
Perry Wong, Ming’s owner, took the time to teach the new proprietors some of his traditional recipes. Chhun and Munson took some of those classics — like sweet and sour shrimp, and beef and broccoli — and tried to elevate them by infusing them with fresh herbs and top-quality ingredients.
Among the small plates are their namesake crispy dumplings, which became the restaurant’s moniker courtesy of the nickname Chhun’s girlfriend’s has for him.
As for drinks, Dumpling has a beer-and-wine license, but is also offering low-proof cocktails, such as the Mei Mei Collins — a concoction combining sake, lime juice and muddled snap peas.