Former Pepitos Space to Become El Burrito Minneapolis

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Pepitos and the Parkway Theater have been acquired by two local investors, who have announced that El Burrito Mercado will be taking over the Pepitos restaurant space. The new restaurant, to be called El Burrito Minneapolis, is targeting a June 2018 opening date. Press release follows:

Pepitos and Parkway Theater Acquired, New Restaurant Tenant Announced

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, February 14, 2018 Pepitos restaurant and the Parkway Theater, two popular institutions located in the Northrop neighborhood of South Minneapolis, have been officially acquired and are scheduled to re-open in June 2018. Pepitos Mexican Restaurant, located on the 48th Street block of Chicago Avenue South, enjoyed a long and revered 46 year-run as a fixture in the neighborhood under the ownership of Joe Minjares, who also owned and operated the adjacent Parkway Theater. Due to a serious illness, Minjares had to close Pepitos Restaurant at the end of 2017, though its nearby deli on Nicollet and 46th Street remains.

Enter local investor/entrepreneurs Ward Johnson and Eddie Landenberger, who live in the neighborhood and saw the potential to renovate both the restaurant and theater, in an effort to bring new life into these two establishments. Both Johnson and Landenberger are longtime fans of Pepitos, and Johnson, in particular, has a special connection to Pepitos. “My wife and I had our first date at Pepitos. And fittingly in 2001 it’s where I proposed,” said Johnson.

After an extensive remodel, Johnson and Landenberger will continue to run the theater as a classic/indie movie and live performance venue. “Our goal is to restore the Parkway Theater to its former glory and bring new energy to the space through renovation, curated movie and speaker series, contemporary chamber music and more,” says Landenberger, a veteran of neighborhood redevelopment projects in South Minneapolis.

As for the restaurant, the pair found another family-owned, neighborhood institution to take over operations. El Burrito Mercado, a fixture in St. Paul’s West Side for 36 years, will open El Burrito Minneapolis in the space formerly occupied by Pepito’s. El Burrito Mercado is led and operated by Milissa Silva-Diaz together with her sister and niece, which makes it a 100% women-owned Latina business. Fittingly, according to Silva-Diaz, the bar portion of the restaurant will carry a theme featuring prominent Latina entertainers, artists, and influential women. Like it’s St. Paul counterpart, El Burrito Minneapolis will feature an award-winning menu of authentic Mexican cuisine, a take-out deli, as well as their popular tamale-making classes.

Minjares, for his part, is happy to be handing off the torch to people with deep connections to the neighborhood, and to his restaurant. “It’s bittersweet to say goodbye,” says Minjares. “But I feel like I’m leaving things in good hands, and there’s a bit of serendipity to be handing over the reins of the restaurant to another family-owned Mexican restaurant with a long history in the Twin Cities.”

Plans for the renovation of the Parkway Theater and the opening of El Burrito Minneapolis are pending approval of all necessary plans, permits, and liquor licenses.

Nye’s redux in Northeast Minneapolis

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

When polka-bar institution Nye’s Polonaise Room announced plans to close in 2016, the outcry was widespread. The drive to build condos in the budding neighborhood was unstoppable, and no business was sacred, even after 66 years of success.

It came as a surprise to many when Nye’s owners, Rob and Tony Jacob, announced that they had plans to reopen once the mixed-purpose building was erected. The smaller space, which occupies just the corner rather than the block, opened a few weeks ago. Some felt betrayed — that the goodbye wasn’t authentic — but one thing is clear: It’s not the same.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

And the new Nye’s Bar isn’t trying to be. Red velvet ropes are present outside the entrance, and the waitstaff looks like it belongs at Seven Steakhouse, across the river. Instead of polka entertainment, there’s a piano, though during our visit all was silent. The lighting and seating appear to be a nod to the classic, but little else is reminiscent of the Polonaise Room.

The straightforward cocktail menu contains a combination of classics and variations on the same. The prices fall close to those at other Minneapolis cocktail bars, but overall the cocktails pack less of a punch.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

The Old Fashioned ($10), made with whiskey (brandy upon request), sugar cube, bitters, ginger ale, soda, and orange, plus a cherry garnish, was weak and bland. While most takes on this classic tend to be spirit-forward, this version tasted watered down, as though the ice had melted immediately. The addition of ginger ale and soda should have been a clue, but it was worse than anticipated. Not only was the whiskey almost lost, the other flavors were attenuated, too.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

More successful was the Iron Butterfly ($12), a twist on a White Russian made with Bailey’s, Kahlúa, and New Amsterdam vodka. There was a pleasant and pronounced nutty undertone, perhaps from an unlisted ingredient (or the Kahlúa), that added to the intrigue of this mix. While the spirits were not particularly potent, the balance of ingredients was good, and the sweetness wasn’t overpowering.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Finally, the Manhattan ($10) was an undrinkable flop. The vermouth was so heavy-handed that the whiskey and cherry took a backseat, and a potent chalklike astringency took hold. It’s possible that the bottle was oxidized or unrefrigerated as the unpleasantness was significant.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

We felt ourselves glancing up at a mural of the old facade, which blankets one brick wall, concentrating hopefully, as though it was a Magic Eye capable of coming to life. While we have fond memories of the cocktails at the original, this new version of Nye’s combines the quality of mixed drinks found at a neighborhood dive bar with the stuffy, impersonal service of a club. It lacks the buoyant kitsch and authenticity (not to mention food — there’s now none) of the original, while overpromising through ambiance and price point.

For lovers of the Polonaise original, it may be best to regard Nye’s as gone, because, in all practicality, it is. This misguided attempt at a revival feels like a poor movie sequel no one asked for that threatens to taint affection for the original.

Nye’s Bar, 112 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414; 612.236.4854

Corned Lamb Hearts

Forager | Chef

This post is sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm and written by Chef Alan Bergo of Forager | Chef.

The day after Christmas, it’s Valentine’s season. Walk into any grocery store and you’ll be bombarded with an endless array of heart-shaped signs and symbols. The aisles are festooned with heart-laden banners. The walls are decked out with paper hearts, some creatively colored in by local kids, most in a range of traditional pinks and reds.

Around Valentine’s Day, we’re surrounded by hearts, both as marketing symbols and as signs of endearment, but for the most part, unless they’re made of chocolate or cookie dough, hearts are not something we eat.

Perhaps no heart today seems quite so inedible as the heart of an actual animal. Once coveted as a delicacy, that kind of heart is now considered strange — a piece of forbidden, alien meat we glance over in the frozen section, with ice crystals from the deep freeze reinforcing our notion that no, no one eats that, and neither will I: Where are the steaks, tenders, and chops again?

When I was growing up, I was squeamish about eating heart, along with most other organ meats. But when I started cooking, I gradually came to appreciate both the ethical and practical value of eating the whole animal. I also began exploring the culinary potential of less-popular bits, including heart. And, with experience, I grew to love and respect this meat’s unique properties.

Forager | Chef

We all want to share our passions and strongly held beliefs with others. And “eat the whole animal” is a tenet I believe in fiercely. But what I learned from experience is what most seasoned chefs already know: Heart is a very hard restaurant sell. And in a restaurant setting, the inability to sell heart can quickly translate into a lack of desire to cook it.

This is true for home cooks, too, of course. Even the most inspired drive to creatively elevate and celebrate offal will quickly fizzle if there’s nobody to appreciate the results. To see beautiful hearts carefully prepped and served, only to be pushed around a plate and later tossed in the trash is, well, heartbreaking.

Happily, there’s one way to cook heart that’ll win over just about anyone: corning. Corning has a transformative effect on both the flavors and textures that are so often presented as organ-meat deal-breakers.

After meat sits in a brine for a while and then gets thoroughly cooked, there’s a safe and comforting homogeneity to it. Everything gets soft, tender, and seasoned to a slightly salty perfection.

So, here, I’m going to give you my recipe for corned lamb or goat hearts from Shepherd Song Farm, a great 100 percent grass-fed lamb and goat operation in Downing, Wis. This method of corning is a great way to bring out the best not just in hearts, but in all sorts of other organ and muscle meats, especially game that must be cooked through before eating.

Amy Thielen uses corning to make bear-meat pastrami in Northern Minnesota, and my friend Hank Shaw uses the process for venison (as well just about as anything that flies). The possibilities are limitless.

So, what do you make out of the corned heart you prepare? Since the meat has already been cooked, and the heart is lean, you don’t want to apply too much direct heat (so no grilling), but slicing and gently warming corned heart in a pan is great.

I love to make warm Reuben sandwiches out of corned heart. Here’s a simple recipe and video describing my process. If you feel like trying goat or lamb hearts, as I have pictured, here’s the link to Shepherd Song. Know that hearts from larger animals like pork and beef can take longer to cure.

Forager | Chef

Alan Bergo
Yield: enough to serve 3-4 people for lunch or as a light entree

• Deep covered braising pan, Dutch oven, or casserole capable of holding 1 gallon of liquid
• Plastic container for refrigerating the hearts, capable of holding 1 gallon of liquid
• Large plastic bag, or a plate or other weight for keeping the hearts submerged in the brine while they cure (see directions)

For the Brine:
2 quarts water
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
2½ teaspoons Prague powder #1 (pink curing salt)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 heaping tablespoons pickling spices
1 tablespoon chopped ginger

4 lamb or goat hearts, roughly 2 pounds, total weight

For the final braise:
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 heaping tablespoon pickling spices

1. Toast the pickling spices. Then combine with the remaining brine ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool the brine to room temperature, and transfer to a container big enough to accommodate both the brine and the hearts.

2. Make a cut down one side of each heart so the hearts can be opened up like a book. Hearts often come already slit.

3. Put the hearts in the cooled brine. Then place a weight (a small saucer or something similar) on top to keep the hearts under the liquid as much as possible. Alternately, open a large plastic freezer bag over the sides of the container, press down, and fill halfway with cold water, just enough so that the hearts are kept under the brine. Then cover the top in plastic or with a lid, to avoid spilling. There are lots of ways to keep the meat under the brine, and as long as it’s underneath the liquid, it will cure just fine.

4. After four days, remove the hearts from the brine and fit snugly into a pan with the 4 cups of water, the remaining heaping tablespoon of toasted pickling spice, and the chopped carrot, onion, celery, and ginger. If 4 cups of water isn’t enough to cover the hearts, add more until they’re just starting to float. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook for 2 hours, or until the hearts are tender.

5. Allow the hearts to cool in their liquid until you can handle them, then remove and trim off some the fat and remove the large central vein.

6. For storage, strain the liquid and keep the hearts in their cooking liquid so they don’t dry out. The hearts will keep in their liquid for 5 days. They can also be wrapped tightly in plastic, labeled, dated, and frozen for 3 months.

Editor’s note: the recipe was updated on Feb. 14 to clarify that pink salt is another name for Prague powder, a curing salt that contains sodium nitrite. It is not the same as Himalayan or Hawaiian salt.

Brooklyn Park’s Vietnamese Food Scene, Part 2

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

A few months ago, we ventured up to Brooklyn Park after hearing rumors that there was a lively and growing Vietnamese scene there. Turned out we’d heard right, and our first visit left us hankering for a return. So back we went, looking for three more Vietnamese eateries, and following the same simple rule as last time: no pho or banh mi, because those are everywhere. We wanted to try what isn’t so easily found.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Our first stop was Thanh Vi, an attractive, large restaurant in a small strip mall (which our server told us was owned by the restaurant owner). Like many of the restaurants we visited, Thanh Vi’s menu has its share of Americanized items, but then you come to the category marked Authentic Vietnamese Dishes, later followed by a section titled Thanh Vi Dishes, and things become interesting.

We began with an iced French coffee with condensed milk ($3.55), a classic Vietnamese drink, and one we’d thoroughly enjoyed at Phuong Trang. Thanh Vi’s was equally delicious, but while Phuong Trang served the coffee brewing with a phin filter, so diners get the full experience, Thanh Vi’s came already brewed and assembled in a plastic to-go cup with a straw — not the same experience at all.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

That, however, was our only disappointment at Thanh Vi. After much debate, we started with Com Tam Bi, Cha, Tau Hu Ky, Tom, Thit Nurong ($13.65), or broken rice with grilled shrimp, grilled pork, shredded pork, egg loaf, and shrimp paste in bean curd wrap. Both the grilled shrimp and grilled pork were tender and slightly sweet, with a nice amount of char to round out that sweetness. The egg loaf was mild and seemed design to be paired with the more assertive barbecued meats. The shredded pork was almost like a vegetable side dish, very mild and soft. Perhaps the most surprising thing was the shrimp paste in bean curd wrap. One person at the table noted that it had an egg roll vibe to it, but funkier, and enhanced by dipping in the traditional fish sauce. Altogether, it was a platter meant to combine and play with rather than eat one item at a time.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

We were excited to see that Thanh Vi offered several soups not in the pho category, and when we asked our server what he’d recommend, he pointed to Hy Tieu Nam Vang ($8.75), a soup made with noodles, barbecued pork, shrimp, squid, imitation crab, and fish and pork balls. This was a surprisingly delicate soup, almost Japanese in feel, mild but with a depth of richness. The thinly sliced pork practically melted in our mouths, and the fish and pork balls were soft and gentle. The soup came with a large plate of bean sprouts, jalapeño slices, and Thai basil, all of which added flavor and texture to this subtle soup.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The true surprise came with the Hu Tieu Bo Kho ($9.45), a beef stew with carrots, onions, noodles (choice of egg or rice noodles — we went with our server’s recommendation of egg), five-spice powder, and lemongrass. This was unlike any beef stew ever tasted by anyone at the table. The broth was more souplike than stewlike (by our American definition, of course) — complex, rich and intense, full of lemongrass flavor. Large chunks of tender beef had just a light taste of anise. It occurred to us to try adding a little sriracha (available at the table, along with several other Asian condiments), and to our surprise, a dollop of sriracha didn’t ratchet up the heat; instead, it almost disappeared into the broth and kicked up the lemongrass element instead — an entirely welcome development.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Having been more than happy with most of our choices at Thanh Vi, we knew that our next destination was starting at a bit of a disadvantage. Fortunately for Hip Sing BBQ, we were able to disengage from the previous stop by the sheer difference in environments and menus. Hip Sing is housed in what appears to be a former drive-in, with customer parking in the former drive-in slots. Inside, it’s a cheery, bright place, with several large round tables that have rotating glass plates on them, the better to eat family-style with a crowd. (And, in fact, Hip Sing offers fixed-price family-style dinners ranging from $128-$218, for 8-10 people.) Hip Sing has an extensive menu, with plenty of basics, but it also offers a large variety of deli and barbecue items, and that’s what attracted our attention — not to mention the vivid display of bright-red roasted ducks hanging behind the counter.

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

So the first thing we asked for was Roast Duck ($13.95 half, $21.50 whole for red or plain). Our half red duck arrived glistening, and it proved to be wonderfully tender, tasting like well-cooked dark chicken meat with a rich, earthy sauce that had traces of hoisin and soy. It was fatty, there were little bones, but who cares? This is pick-it-up-with-your-fingers-and-gnaw-to-your-heart’s-content meat.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Feb. 9-15


Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.


James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveSport Platter at O-City
The heavily Oromo-influenced sport platter at O-City on East Lake Street was a garden of bold flavors and agreeable textures. So, what are we looking at? Up top: rolls of light, delicate, not-too-sour pieces of injera. To the left: Chili Chicken, every bit as fiery and deeply flavored as you’d hope. In the center: a much milder chicken with a delicate, vinegar-based flavor that was a great match for the shredded lettuce that flanked it. To the right: tender Beef Suqaar. On the bottom: rolled up pieces of crispy, chewy, utterly tasty chapati bread.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton from an upcoming East Lake Checklist]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot five

Hu Tieu Bo Kho from Brooklyn Park’s Thanh Vi
The Hu Tieu Bo Kho from Brooklyn Park’s Thanh Vi (review coming Monday) is a beef stew with carrots, onions, noodles, 5-spice powder, and lemongrass, but it’s unlike any beef stew ever tasted by anyone at our table. The broth was more souplike than stewlike (by our American definition, of course), and the broth was complex, rich and intense, full of lemongrass flavor. Large chunks of tender beef had just a light taste of anise. Totally comforting and pleasing.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot fivePad Thai at Pho #1
We went to Pho #1 to shoot the soup for yesterday’s Bite, but we ended up ordering some Chicken Pad Thai while we there. You never know when this stuff will be good, and lo and behold, it was good. Tender but not fragile noodles, properly cooked chicken, nice textural balance, and a heat we’d describe happily as a “2” on a scale of 1-5, which was precisely how we ordered it.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a Bite, by James Norton]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveHam and Gruyere Crepe at Penny’s Coffee
The Ham and Gruyere Crepe at Penny’s Coffee in downtown Minneapolis is a satisfying meal in an unlikely place. Located on the ground floor of a nondescript office building, Penny’s has a substantial menu in addition to premium coffee and pastries. The crepes are served with a frisée-and-herb salad, a crisp counterpoint to the creamy ham and cheese.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveCurried Chicken Meat Pie
The chill of winter makes comfort food — stews, hotdish, etc. — the stars of the show. Inspired by the British cooking/detective serial Pie in the Sky, we bought a special mold and tried our hand at a traditional British hot water crust meat pie. We cooked our chicken by sous vide for maximum tenderness and dialed up the amount of curry to give it some depth. A hefty dash of locally purchased berbere added to the overall kick and further developed the spice profile. The result? A rich, hearty, warmly spiced dish perfect for February.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]