The end of the year typically brings a sad slew of restaurant closings, and 2021 was no exception. Notable among them was PinKU Japanese Street Food (20 University Av. NE., Mpls.), which closed with one last party on New Year's Eve. The creative, casual restaurant had an impressive run, at one point expanding to co-op grab-and-go dishes and an outlet at MSP airport.
Another big loss is Black Dog Cafe (308 E. Prince St., St. Paul), a Lowertown hub for more than 23 years. Co-owner Sara Remke posted a notice on the door and on its Facebook page that the cafe has closed. The music venue, coffee bar and restaurant will host a farewell event on Jan. 15.
The St. Paul outpost of the Oklahoma-based coffee and cocktail restaurant Hodges Bend (2700 W. University Av., St. Paul) is closed and the location has been removed from the company's website. Chef/owner Timmy Truong has closed his comfort food fusion stand Soul Fu inside the North Loop Galley food hall (729 Washington Av. N., Mpls.). Soul Fu combined elements of Chinese and soul food into hearty plates like fried chicken-topped fried rice and spicy mac and cheese. Clockwerks Brewing (25 N. 4th St., Mpls.) closed with a farewell event Dec. 18.
In better news, new restaurants are joining the scene.
Opening Jan. 6 is Carbon Kitchen + Market, the spot for coal-fired beef sandwiches from the folks behind Gastrotruck. Carbon was one of the first vendors at the Graze food hall in the North Loop. It now has its own home at 2400 University Av. NE., Mpls. (carbonkitchenmarket.com).
Nouvelle Brewing by Travail is opening Jan. 8, taking over Travail's former pizzeria Pig Ate My Pizza (4124 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, nouvellebrewing.com). The brewpub features the same cast of characters and the same kind of cooking that Travail fans know — minus the pizzas.
At 246 Grill, a menu from chefs Mik German and Marisol Herling brings scratch bar food to the James Ballentine Uptown VFW (2916 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 246grill.com). Burgers are the focus, along with a fried chicken sandwich, Minnesota poutine (Tater Tots topped with cheese curds and wild rice soup) and a number of vegan options.
The newest addition to Midtown Global Market is The Kitchen, Destinee Shelby's Baked Brand spot for fresh-pressed juices, Budda Sauce, chicken sandwiches, cake jars and a stuffed turkey leg (920 E. Lake St., Mpls., midtownglobalmarket.org).
Spice & Tonic (903 Washington Av. S., Mpls., spiceandtonic.net) is a new Indian restaurant from Joginder Cheema (formerly of Bukhara Indian Bistro, among many others). It opened mid-December in the former Sanctuary space in downtown Minneapolis.
What began as a food trailer in 2016 with only one egg roll flavor is now Sumo & Smoh, a brick-and-mortar "interactive" restaurant with 23 kinds of egg rolls, noodles, colorful desserts and a selection of games — think virtual reality and escape room. (1579 N. Hamline Av., Falcon Heights, sumosmoh.com).
And the latest addition to the Wild Bill's Sports Saloon brand opened in mid-December across from Xcel Energy Center, taking over the former Irish bar the Liffey (175 W. 7th St., St. Paul, wildbillssportssaloon-stpaul.com).