Subo opened quietly in early December in the old Hell's Kitchen space, half a block off the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Even with its foodie inclinations (Asian tapas) and a complete re-imagining of the space, Subo hasn't necessarily garnered the tidal wave of attention that it deserves.

The concept

Subo is a Filipino word that means "to feed." With its railcar-narrow layout, small-plate menu and burgeoning bar scene, Subo could be on its way to becoming an Asian version of Barrio. While chef Neil Guillen crafts traditional Filipino dishes as well as Southeast Asian favorites, he and general manager Johann Galera have made no secret of their nightlife aspirations.

What's to like

Subo maximizes the vintage mystique of the 103-year-old Handicraft Guild Building. After gutting the interior, Guillen and company discovered cobblestone-like flooring under old carpet and plate glass windows behind wallboard. Then they erected a wall of wooden shipping crates behind the 23-foot-long wormwood bar. The crates display the bar's liquor bottles, back-lit in a neon blue glow. It's one of the more innovative bar designs in the Twin Cities. All of this makes Subo's lounge feel like a cleaned-up version of a dingy hangout on some darkened side street in Manila.

The cocktail list isn't exactly a mixology stunner, but it's fun and has variety. Currently, it includes a saketini, a pumpkin pie martini, a cocktail served in a coconut and an energy drink named after boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. Many cocktails sub out traditional juice mixers for more Philippines-based ingredients, including kalamansi juice, coconut juice and kaffir leaf.

Guillen's small plates could be classified as sophisticated bar food. My suggestion: the roasted "pork candy," a Chinese-style sausage cut into coin-sized bites, dripping with palm sugar and lime gastrique.

Needs work

The beer list would benefit from some more boutique brands. Also, management told me they plan to make Saturday night DJs a regular thing. The size of last Friday's crowd was much smaller than Saturday's, which was bolstered by the presence of a couple of DJs.


Subo is near the busy corner where the Local and Barrio reside. But this end of the block can be deathly quiet. The late-night bargoers who overrun those bars need to take a peek down the street. If you do, I see a coconut drink in your future.