A few months ago, right around the same time that Michael and Nu Zosel bought the joint, a faux-neon sign with a bowl of pho went up in the window of Kings Wine Bar. We admit to having been skeptical.
Finally this week, at the insistence of a reliable tipster, we stopped in, and boy, was our skepticism misplaced! We were rewarded with a bowl of pho ($12 with meatballs or brisket, $14 for “meatlovers”) that was light and sweet, deeply infused with star anise, and more homemade in character than the pho at many of the well-known shops up Nicollet Avenue. The nearly fat-free broth was poured over a tangle of rice noodles and arrived already garnished with basil, bean sprouts, and peppers. The brisket was sliced impossibly thin and served still cooking in the steaming broth. It left us infused with hope for the future of Kings.
Weekly trivia, daily happy hours, and a few reliable menu items helped to build Kings’ reputation as a decent neighborhood joint, though one that was notoriously inconsistent when it came to food and service. The restaurant had a strong opening in 2009 but has since struggled to find an identity.
Now Nu Zosel says that she has a vision. Along with the hearty pho, Kings has added a handful of Vietnamese recipes to the menu. A testing specialist in R & D at a medical device company, Zosel applies the scientific method to the kitchen, scaling up her mother’s recipes for a commercial operation, using local ingredients wherever possible and no MSG. We’ll be keeping an eye on Kings as she develops her vision.
With craft beer on tap, a crowd-pleasing wine list, and a dark-wood interior, one could almost see Kings as Minneapolis’ answer to Ngon Bistro. For now, with mac and cheese on one side of the table and pho on the other, the menu feels like it has a split personality. Then again, on a cold, blustery day, Dad can have authentic pho and Junior can have authentic mac and cheese. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Kings Wine Bar
Neighborhood bistro and Vietnamese food
4555 Grand Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55419
OWNERS / CHEFS: Nu and Michael Zosel / Jay Hall and Warren Seta
Mon-Thu 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Fri 4 p.m.-midnight
Sat 11 a.m.-3 p.m. brunch, 3 p.m.-midnight
Sun11 a.m.-3 p.m. brunch, 3 p.m.-9 p.m.
BAR: Wine, beer, sake
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / On weekends
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $10-$18