The Tap: Why Minnesota Needs a Syrian Restaurant

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This week in the Tap: Middle Eastern food is stellar, and we could always use a bit more of it — and right now, what we need most of all is a Syrian place.

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

A Taste of Syria

The news that Syrian refugees may make their way (in small numbers) to the Gopher State has made plenty of people mad, and it has made others quite proud. But for those of us who care about what we eat, the news that our increasingly multi-cultural stew is about to be peppered with new flavor is a good thing. It’s an excuse to learn a bit more about the massive blue marble on which we live.

There’s no shortage of good Middle Eastern fare around here (on Central Avenue alone, we had stellar kebabs and Iraqi bread at Al Amir, mind-blowing baklava at Filfillah, and savory charcoal-roasted quail and divine Lebanese Night dessert at Basha – and let’s not, of course, forget Saffron downtown or Beirut on Robert Street in St. Paul). But to the best of my (considerable but not perfect) knowledge, we don’t have any place with a particularly Syrian bent.

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

In a best-case scenario, one or more Syrian families come to our state with money and a dream, and they start a restaurant — maybe on the far northern outskirts of Central Avenue, or maybe in a suburban strip mall, or maybe somewhere on University Avenue’s massive expanse. The food is good, people come and eat, and the restaurant prospers. It expands, it moves, it leverages social media, it embodies one particularly delicious incarnation of the American Dream.

More realistically, this might be the kind of thing that gets a slower start: a pop-up dinner series supported by an established restaurant or a food truck launched with the help of crowdfunding, for example.

But regardless of how it happens (and I sincerely hope that it does), here’s why it matters: When you eat in first-generation restaurants, you meet first-generation immigrants and you taste the flavors that they love — the flavors of the place they call home. And when you do that, the gaps that separate people — religion, language, class — start to close a little bit.

Bridging those gaps is what food should be about. That’s what it needs to be about, right now.

James Norton

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table


Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Sunrise Creative Gourmet, 1085 Grand Ave, St. Paul | A big move for the Hibbing-born Italian specialty shop, which opened in the former Chez Arnaud space on Grand Avenue and offers some cafe-type noshes including soups, salads, and pastries.
  • The Commodore Bar and Restaurant, 79 Western Ave N | Historic art deco spot linked with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
  • Kendall’s Tavern and Chophouse, 12800 Bunker Prairie Road, Coon Rapids | Tavern-style food including steaks and pizza from Morrissey Hospitality Companies, the folks behind the St. Paul Grill, Pazzluna, and more. The spot has room for 236 guests in the bar and dining room, plus a patio.
  • SotaRol, 5005 Ewing Ave S, Minneapolis | Is a Minnesota / Japan / Mexico crossover a good idea? Who cares! This’ll be fun.
  • Harriet’s Inn, 4000 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Wings, flatbreads, pot pies, nachos, jucys, tacos(?), and hot dish(!), which you don’t typically see on the menu.
  • Ramen Kazama, 3400 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis | Lots of good buzz about this place, can’t wait to check it out.


Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
  • Vincent, A Restaurant | Closing Dec. 31. A triumphant run by a classic restaurant.
  • Origami (downtown location only)
  • Glockenspiel | Closed, with one last bartime farewell this Wednesday (Nov. 25) from 3-10 p.m.
  • The Loring Kitchen and Bar | Closing Dec. 14.
  • Chiang Mai Thai | Closing Dec. 22. An Uptown mainstay heads for the exit. Along with the closing of Republic, it heralds an era of change at Calhoun Square mall. What’s next, Sushi Tango?
  • Surdyk’s Flights | Closing end of 2016. Patently unfair to anyone who flies through MSP.
  • La Belle Vie
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table
  • Nye’s Polonaise Room (closing early 2016) | This trolltastic City Pages column nonetheless does a good job of expressing some of the ambiguity about the passing of the nationally known and locally legendary Nye’s.



  • Milkjam Creamery at World Street Kitchen, 2743 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | Late 2015 or early 2016 | A gourmet ice cream shop by Sameh and Saed Wadi, the brothers behind World Street Kitchen and Saffron.
  • The Draft Horse, 1401 Marshall St NE., Minneapolis | Dec. 5 | New restaurant at the Food Building featuring food made from products from The Lone Grazer Creamery and Red Table Meat Co., along with grab & go sandwiches on Patisserie 46 baguettes, salads and soup.
  • Shake Shack | Early 2016 | A local outpost of the cult-favorite better burger chain will open at the Mall of America.
  • Domo Gastro, 1032 3rd Ave NE, Minneapolis | Late 2015 | An Asian-inspired gastro pub — shows some real promise. Looking forward to the Korean-style fried chicken in particular.
  • Modist Brewing Company, 503 N. 3rd Street, Minneapolis | Early 2016
  • ie, 4724 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis | Nov. 25, 2015 | AKA “Italian Eatery.” Scratch pastas, with an eye toward the style of Bar La Grassa.
  • Taco Cat, Midtown Global Market | The cult favorite, bike-delivered taco place becomes a bricks-and-mortar affair, replacing the former Burrito Mercado spot in Midtown Global Market.
  • Polpo | Late 2015 | In the former La Mac Cleaners space, run by David Hahne, the former chef of the excellent Cave Vin.
  • Cafe Alma, 528 University Ave SE, Minneapolis | Late 2015 or early 2016 | Hailed by the Star Tribune as this year’s Best Upcoming Project and a “casual breakfast-to-late night cafe, coffee bar, wine bar and bakery.”
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Blue Door Pub, 1514 Como Ave, Minneapolis | January 2016
  • Inbound Brewco, 701 5th St N, Minneapolis | End of 2015 | Appears to be a spin-off of Lucid.
  • The Viking Bar, 1829 Riverside Ave, Minneapolis | End of 2015 or beginning of 2016 | After nearly a decade of closure, this Cedar-Riverside saloon is on its way to reopening.
  • Savory Bake House, 3008 36th Ave S, Minneapolis | 2015 | Located across the street from Merlin’s Rest, “Savory is a new twist on the old school rustic bakery everyone knows and loves,” or so says their Facebook page. Baker is Sandra Sherva from Merlin’s Rest and formerly of Birchwood. Signage was going up yesterday (check our Instagram feed) and test baking is happening.
  • Saint Genevieve, 5003 Bryant Ave, Minneapolis | Early 2016 | Expectations are high for this Steven-Brown-helmed restaurant, which will dish up approachable French fare.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Brut, 428 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | 2016 | With all the culinary firepower of Erik Anderson (above) and Jamie Malone, Brut promises exciting things. It’s going into the old Sapor space on Washington Avenue.
  • Lawless Distilling, 2619 28th Ave S, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
  • Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Ave S, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
  • Bonicelli Kitchen, 1901 Fillmore St NE, Minneapolis | ??? | A catering business that raised Kickstarter money to make the jump to bricks-and-mortar and may not be making the jump to bricks and mortar.
  • Twin Spirits Distillery, 2931 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
  • Able Seedhouse and Brewery, 1121 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Q Fanatic, 6009 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | Winter 2015 (second location) | Although the local BBQ scene is mighty weak, we do think Q Fanatic does a good job at serving up serious Q. This new location, along with the recently launched truck Bark and the Bite, suggests that there’s hope for us yet.
  • DiNoko’s Pizzeria, 4457 42nd Ave S, Minneapolis | Winter 2015 | DiNoko’s is a local place that can do deep dish pizza seriously well. Their move from Nokomis to downtown Minneapolis didn’t work out; here’s hoping that their return foray to South Minneapolis does.
  • Utepils (formerly Bryn Mawr) Brewing, 225 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis | Winter 2015
  • The Sheridan Room (replacing the Modern) in Northeast Minneapolis | Opening soon | Some details on MSP365.
James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table
  • Hi-Lo Diner, 4020 E Lake St, Minneapolis | Opening soon | Seward and Longfellow are really jumping onto the breakfast train after years of struggling to get by with nothing more than the overpriced Longfellow Grill and the inedible Denny’s; Mon Petit Chéri seems to be doing well, and the new Co-op Creamery Cafe will be a serious breakfast presence as well. Hi-Lo is getting in as the neighborhoods heat up. Here’s the press release and a photo of a crane lifting the diner into place.
  • Upton43, 4312 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | This spot, by Victory 44’s Erick Harcey, is a chance for the much lauded chef to bounce back from the bust-up of Stock and Badge and rollup of the ambitious but shaky Parka. Now hiring, so that’s a good sign.
  • Urban Forage Winery and Cider House, 3016 E Lake St, Minneapolis | Winter 2015 | We profiled these guys when they were mounting their (successful) Kickstarter campaign, and they have a fascinating take on how to do earthy, grassroots local wine and cider.
  • The Herbivorous Butcher, 507 1st Ave NE, Minneapolis | Fall 2015 | These guys have gotten serious national press and look poised to become a force in the food scene once their bricks-and-mortar spot is up and running. We like what Pizza Nea did with their product.
  • Pizzeria Lola concept TBD, 165 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | 2015
  • The Bachelor Farmer Cafe project to be named, 200 N 1st St, Minneapolis | 2015

St. Paul

  • Red Lantern Sushi, 465 Wabasha Ave., St. Paul | | A new branch of the White Bear Lake-based sushi restauarnt is opening in the old Fuji-Ya space in St. Paul.
  • Handsome Hog, 225 E 6th St, St. Paul | Early spring 2016 | Former Brasserie Zentral and Meritage chef Justin Sutherland will be cooking contemporary Southern food with a high-end twist.
  • Mucci’s, 786 Randolph Ave, St. Paul | Early spring 2016 | A new old-school Italian-American place from Tim Niver, owner of Strip Club Meat and Fish and Saint Dinette.
  • Parco 400, 400 N Sibley St, St. Paul | Late spring 2016 | A new Italian restaurant opening in the old Trattoria Da Vinci spot in Lowertown, the culinary side to be headed up by Troy Unruh, formerly of  New York City’s well-known Del Posto.
  • World of Beer, 356 N Sibley St, St. Paul | 2015 | Part of a chain including locations in Wauwatosa and Appleton, Wis., and Naperville, Ill.
  • Lake Monster Brewing, 550 Vandalia St, St. Paul | Dec. 4, 2015 | From the press release: “The 3,000 square foot taproom is housed in a turn-of-the-century brick warehouse, and features a large horseshoe bar and space for over 200 guests. There is also a small private event space available for rent. The December 4 grand opening will feature four brand new beers available for the first time exclusively at the taproom, including a nitro Milk Stout and a Sour Brown Ale.”
Courtesy of Lucas Gluesenkamp /
Courtesy of Lucas Gluesenkamp /
  • Heirloom, 2186 Marshall Ave, St. Paul | Winter 2015 | W.A. Frost chef Wyatt Evans hopes to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors (such as Russell Klein and Lenny Russo) and found a new St. Paul gastronomic institution. “Modern but … approachable … slow food” sounds pretty good to us (quotes from the Pioneer Press preview).
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
  • 11 Wells Millwright Cocktail Room, Historic Hamm Building, St. Paul | Early 2016 | A restaurant aspect to the space is rumored to be under consideration.
  • The Lexington (new ownership), 1096 Grand Ave, St. Paul | November 2015 or later | It’ll be interesting to see how the ambitious team behind this revamp and relaunch tackles the task. Between its facade, its location, and its glorious but stuffy, old-school feel, we’ll find it tough to sort the baby from the bathwater on this one. Jess Fleming sums up the progress or lack thereof here.

Greater Twin Cities Area and Beyond

The Tap is the Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled and published biweekly by the Heavy Table. If you have tips for The Tap, please email James Norton at