Minor Fire Put Out at Sen Yai Sen Lek

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

First, everything is OK at Sen Yai Sen Lek. Our photographer Kate N.G. Sommers spotted several fire trucks this morning, but the flames have been put out and the damage is minimal. The restaurant reopened today at 1pm.

“Seeing firefighters on your roof using an axe to chop into your facade is — it’s, well, it’s interesting,” said owner Joe Hatch-Surisook.

Hatch-Surisook had been running errands when he noticed three missed calls from the restaurant on his phone. “Three times in a row, that’s a pretty clear sign that it’s serious,” he laughed.

“I’m a pretty calm person,” he said. “I don’t react right away. I have to process things first. So I thought, ‘Well, I have to drive over there anyway, so let’s figure out what we need to do in that time while I’m driving over there.’”

According to Hatch-Surisook, a workman doing tuck pointing on the building next door had overheated some material with a blowtorch and the heat ignited something inside Sen Yai Sen Lek’s ceiling. Restaurant staff saw smoke coming from the ceiling and called the fire department. Damage is contained to the area immediately around the door inside and outside the restaurant, and the basement took on a fair amount of water. The kitchen and dining areas are unaffected.

“It’s one of those freak accidents,” he said. “The guy who did it feels pretty bad. It’s not worth getting upset about.”

While we were talking, a couple of confused diners wandered past the shards of stone and stucco, the scaffolding, and the shop vac at the entrance. Hatch-Surisook welcomed them and said, Well, why not, he could serve them at the bar.

The Durango Bakery next door, where the work was being done, was unaffected by the fire and is open for business.

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About the Author

Tricia Cornell

Tricia has been called the mother of “world-class veggie eaters” in the Star Tribune (that is patently untrue) and an “industrious home cook” in the New York Times (true, but was it a compliment?). She loves Brussels sprouts, hates squash, and would choose salty and sour flavors over sweet just about any day. She is the author of Eat More Vegetables, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2012, and The Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook, published by Voyageur Press in 2014.

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