PinKU’s New Year’s Eve Celebration Will Be Its Swan Song

After more than five years of operation, the Northeast Minneapolis Japanese street food restaurant PinKU will be shutting its doors at 20 University Avenue. The restaurant is calling it quits after a New Year’s Eve celebration on December 31 that features a 7-course all-you-can-eat menu with open bar for $99 (email
for dinner seatings at 5pm, 6:30pm, 8pm, and 9:30pm.)

Writing about PinKU in 2016, we noted:

The very short menu at PinKU is perfect. It’s etched into wooden boards hung from pegs near the door, and it’s mostly driven by tuna, salmon, or shrimp, rearranged with various understated accompaniments. Undersung but crucial support comes from the rice, which we found to be invariably well seasoned and perfectly cooked. This isn’t the case at many (if not most) run-of-the-mill sushi places, and the places that take care with their rice (Obento-Ya and Kyatchi come to mind) really stand out.

The restaurant will be replaced by a new concept called Pa Tea & Poke. A note from the founder (Xiaoteng “X” Huang) sent by email to patrons follows below:

Dear supporters of PinKU, 

After 5 and half years of service, we will be closing on December 31. When our journey first started, we aspired to bring high quality, authentic, and affordable Japanese street food to NE Minneapolis. 323,006 orders of Okonomiyaki, Wagyu Ramen Burger, Chicken Katsu Curry, Gyoza, and Spicy Tuna Crispy Rice, as well as 833 5-star reviews later, we have successfully achieved our vision. Although COVID-19 unexpectedly paused our growth, we overcame the pandemic and remained open thanks to the resilience of our staff and the loyal patronage of our customers.

Building the PinKU culture and turning it from a dream into a reality have been the proudest moments of my life. Along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet countless mentors who have taught me to become a more skilled chef, a humbler leader, and a better human being. Although the current labor shortage and increasing cost of ingredients have made running a small local restaurant exponentially more difficult, I have no doubt our existing business model is sustainable. However, as I looked ahead into the next 5 years of my life, I also realized that changes are needed. I want to continue learning about the world, exploring other industries, and contributing to our society in new ways. Sometimes, it’s also just necessary that we make room for other people who have fresher ideas and different talent.

I am happy to announce that on January 1, Pa Tea & Poke will be taking over our space in NE Minneapolis and opening its first location in Minneapolis. As an Asian-American, woman-owned small business, Pa Tea & Poke specializes in Taiwanese style bubble tea and poke bowls. All of our employees have been offered comparable positions at this new neighborhood establishment. Over the next few weeks, I will do my best to assist with the change and help our employees transition to this new opportunity. I kindly ask our community to welcome them to the neighborhood just like how you embraced us 5 and half years ago.

Although we’re closing our NE Minneapolis location, the PinKU story will not die. I am open to any entrepreneurs or restaurateurs who want to license or franchise the PinKU brand and signature menu in the future. You are welcome to email me anytime at Until then, I will continue my passion for learning and focus on finishing up the remaining year of my MBA program at Yale, while working on another exciting startup.

For the next two weeks, we will continue our regular daily hours of operation (11 AM-2 PM and 5 PM-9 PM). We will close on Christmas Eve at 2pm and we will be closed on Christmas Day. We are also inviting you to make a reservation for our final night celebration on New Year’s Eve. Please see the attached flyer for more information.

Last but not least, I want to thank everyone who has helped me in achieving the American Dream. More specifically, I want to thank all of the talented employees at PinKU for joining me in this unbelievable journey. I am beyond grateful to my family and friends for believing in me and investing in my vision. Thank you to Chef John Sugimura for playing an indispensable role in designing the restaurant, creating the original menu, and orchestrating the opening of the MSP airport location. Thank you to Chef Tomoyo Rudin for collaborating with me in designing our updated menu. Finally, I want to thank my parents, for never doubting my ability, for helping me wash thousands of napkins and towels every day for the past 5 and half years, and for going on countless grocery trips to supply the restaurant while I was away in school.

Every change in life brings new opportunities, and this one is no different. We hope to see you in the next two weeks and cherish our final days together!

With gratitude,

X, Owner & Co-Founder of PinKU Japanese Street Food