Zen Box Izakaya, Stout’s Pub, Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill and more

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The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding two Heavy Table pint glasses to the best tipster each month. 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 Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com.

June’s winner: Jeannie Kenevan of St. Paul

Zen Box Izakaya (opens this month)

602 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis | Find it on Facebook

The second project from husband-and-wife owners John Ng and Lina Goh is getting close, as Zen Box Izakaya, an offshoot of the skyway staple Zen Box, should be open by the end of the month.

Ng and chef Junji Umezu, a veteran of Loring Kitchen & Bar, Wasabi, and Restaurant Max, are creating a menu described as “Japanese comfort food” that includes some favorites from the original Zen Box like chicken teriyaki and chicken kara-age but also a notable exception: no sushi.

“We describe it as hardcore Japanese comfort food,” Goh said. “There’s no specific method of cooking per se, like sushi or robata or hibachi, it’s just basically food that makes you feel good and it’s like your mom’s cooking. It brings you back to the feelings and emotions of when you are in Japan or with your family.”

Goh and Ng mentioned stews, fried foods, and noodle dishes as a general menu direction. Mostly, though, the couple hopes to expand on its lunch-only skyway version to offer an expanded menu, table service, dinner, and drinks.

“We are not style-driven, and comfort food should not be style-driven,” Ng said. “When your mom cooks for you, she does not say, ‘Sit down, I’m going to make this or that,’ all she tells you is that she’s going to make pasta. She’s not going to tell you, ‘Oh, I’m going to make a specific way of cooking.’ It’s just something that she feels like making.”

The name Zen Box Izakaya conveys a sort of neighborhood pub. According to Goh, izakayas are common in Japan, and each has its own style, specialties, and culture.

“If directly translated, it’s like a Japanese gastropub,” she said. “It’s not really a restaurant, not really a bar, kind of like tapas but more substantial. There’s not really a definite way that you can describe it. It’s like a neighborhood joint where all the regulars come back more than once a week. You know the guests by their name, you’re their friends.”

Zen Box Izakaya will have full liquor, wine, and sake, but Goh said a special commitment will be made to both Japanese and local beers. It’s important, Goh said, for the beer selection to reflect both the Japanese culture and the local craft beer movement.

“We want to make it like a portal for the neighborhood where people can hang out with friends, meet new people,” Goh said.

Stout’s Pub (opens this fall)

1611 Larpenteur Ave, Falcon Heights

A “classic neighborhood pub” is in store for the former Chianti Grill at the corner of Larpenteur and Snelling. Co-owner Robert Gillen said construction at the site had neighborhood residents eager for the latest incarnation of a building that has housed a restaurant for decades.

“Ciatti’s Chianti Grill was here for 20 years,” Gillen said. “Kevin (Schleif) and I had owned it. We bought Ciatti’s almost 14 years ago, and we operated her as Ciatti’s for many years. Two years ago we moved to Har Mar (in Roseville) with the intention of coming back here and turning this into a neighborhood pub.”

Before Chianti Grill, the site housed Lido’s Italian for 28 years, Gillen said.

“There were really only two places here for 50 years, and we’re hoping we can add onto that,” he said. “The neighborhood here supports their businesses here very well.”

Gillen said Stout’s Pub would open sometime this fall.

Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill (open again after fire)

1960 Rahn Cliff Ct, Eagan | 651.452.0999 | ansarisgrill.com

A February fire shuttered Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill for months, but owner David Ansari’s restaurant is back in business after a renovation that included an expanded patio, extended bar, higher ceilings, and new bathrooms. Ansari also unveiled a new menu with more Mediterranean, steak, seafood, and pasta options, like lamb sliders, roasted red pepper halibut, garlic broiled shrimp, gyros pasta, and a Greek omelet. “It’s been a long five months but it’s good to be back to work,” Ansari said.

Zest! Bar and Grill (coming soon)

525 Diffley Rd, Eagan

A notably named new restaurant is opening in an Eagan strip mall near the Inver Grove Heights border. Zest! Bar and Grill plans to have full liquor, seat 120, and have a patio, according to City of Eagan records. It juxtaposes nicely with the news that Amsterdam, a nightclub and restaurant, will go into the former Pop! space in St. Paul. Surely The Tap’s heart would burst if only he could dine at Pop! for lunch and Zest! for dinner.


  • Little Szechuan, 5377 16th St, Shops at West End, St. Louis Park | littleszechuan.com
  • Blue Ox Coffee Company, 3740 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.825.6650 | blueoxcoffeecompany.com
  • Alix in Candyland, 5400 France Ave S, Edina | 952.915.1100 | alixincandyland.com
  • Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill, 1960 Rahn Cliff Ct, Eagan. Open again after fire. | 651.452.0999 | ansarisgrill.com
  • Viva Brazil, 913 W Lake St, Minneapolis | 612.871.4239 | vivabrazilrestaurant.com
  • Rare Steak & Sushi, 615 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis. Former Zahtar.
  • Pizza Town, 1600 W Broadway Ave, Minneapolis | 612.522.9999
  • Grand Szechuan, 187 Cheshire Lane N, Plymouth | 763.404.1770 | grandszechuanmn.com
  • Osaka, 6440 Wayzata Blvd, Golden Valley | 763.398.6808 | osakausa.com
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Palumbo’s Pizzeria, 454 Snelling Ave S, St. Paul | 651.698.0020 | Our take
  • Kinsen, 1300 Lagoon Ave, Minneapolis | 612.367.4595 | kinsennoodles.com
  • :D-SPOT, 705 Century Ave N, Suite B, Maplewood | 651.730.7768 | Our take
  • Asia Bistro, 10060 City Walk Dr, Woodbury | 651.788.9108 | asiabistrowoodbury.com
  • RedRossa Italian Grille, 1901 Killebrew Dr, Bloomington | 952.814.2910 | redrossa.com
  • Element Pizza, 96 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis | 612.379.3028
  • Catalina’s, 2301 37th Pl, Columbia Heights | 612.695.7531
  • Muddy Waters Bar and Eatery, 2933 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.872.2232 | muddywatersmpls.com
  • Wilde Roast Cafe, 65 Main St SE, Minneapolis. Now open in new location. | 612.331.4544 | wilderoastcafe.com
Lars Swanson / Heavy Table
  • Pandolfi, 3904 W 50th St, Edina | 612.801.7567 | Find it on Facebook
  • American Grill, 3752 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Mill Valley Kitchen, 3900 Excelsior Blvd, St. Louis Park  | 952.358.2000 | millvalleykitchen.com
  • Gather, 1750 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | 612.253.3410 | walkerart.org/gather
  • Turtle Bread, 4205 E 34th St, Minneapolis. | turtlebread.com
  • Wise Acre Eatery, 5401 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.822.4769 | Our take
  • Blue Point, 4400 W 78th St, Bloomington | 952.767.9711 | bluepointrestaurantandbar.com
  • Las Tortillas Mexican Restaurant, 15051 Crestone Ave, Rosemount | 651.332.2200 | lastortillas.net
  • Republic, 221 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.338.6146 | Our take
  • Bread & Pickle, 4135 W Lake Harriet Pkwy, Minneapolis | 612.767.9009 | breadandpickle.com
  • Crave, 825 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis | 612.332.1133 | craveamerica.com
  • Las Teresita’s Mexican Grill, 5748 34th Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.727.1791
  • Candy Alley, 4813 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.354.3881 | candyalley.com
  • The Nook, 492 Hamline Ave S, St. Paul. Open again after fire. | 651.698.4347 | Our take


Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table
  • Curry Up, 13601 Grove Dr, Maple Grove
  • Purple Sandpiper, 8405 Lyndale Ave S, Bloomington
  • Soul Daddy, Mall of America, Bloomington
  • Cake Eater Bakery, 2929 East 25th St, Minneapolis
  • Urban Harvest, 2311 18th Ave NE, Minneapolis
  • Jun Bo, 7717 Nicollet Ave S, Richfield


  • The Public House, 700 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis. Opens Aug. 8. | 612.455.1213 | thepublichousempls.com
  • The Bachelor Farmer, 50 2nd Ave N, Minneapolis. Opens in August. | TheBachelorFarmer.com
  • Urban Bean, 2401 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens Aug. 8. | urbanbeancoffee.com
  • The Lowry, 2112 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens Aug. 15. | blueplaterestaurantcompany.com
  • El Loro Mexican Restaurant, 5689 Blaine Ave, Inver Grove Heights
  • Mi Sinaloa, 3801 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Joan’s on the Park, 631 Snelling Ave S, St. Paul (soon-to-be-former Grampa Tony’s) | 651.690-3297
  • Claddagh Coffee, 458 W 7th, St. Paul | 612.940.9805 | Find it on Facebook
  • Maeve’s Cafe, 300 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | 612.379.1033 | Find it on Facebook
  • Pat’s Tap, 3510 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens this summer. | 612.822.8216 | Find it on Facebook
  • Andale Taqueria y Mercado, 7700 Nicollet Ave S, Richfield. Opens this summer. | 651.230.6498
  • Adagio Cafe, 5001 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens this summer. | Find it on Facebook
  • Fasika, University and Dale, St. Paul (new Frogtown Square) . Opens this summer. | fasika.com
  • Humble Pie, 822 W 36th St, Minneapolis. Kim Bartmann’s revamp of Gigi’s. Coming this summer. | 612.825.0818
  • Rosa Mexicano, 6th St and Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis (in City Center next to Fogo de Chao). Opens late August. | rosamexicano.com
  • Zen Box Izakaya, 602 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens in August. | Find it on Facebook
  • Pig & Fiddle, 3808 W 50th St, Minneapolis. Opens late August / early September.
  • Rye Delicatessen & Bar, 1930 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens in early October.
  • Eat Street Social, 14 W 26th St, Minneapolis. Opens this fall.
  • Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis. Opens this fall.
  • Stout’s Pub, 1611 Larpenteur, Falcon Heights. Opens this fall.
  • Cranky’s Bicycle Bar, east Lake St, Minneapolis. | Find it on Facebook
  • La Crepe Nanou, Huey’s 24 / 7 Diner, The Wine Loft, Shops at West End, St. Louis Park. Opening this fall. | lacrepenanou.com | hueys247diner.com | thewineloft.net
  • Pittsburgh Blue, 3200 Galleria (former Kozy’s), Edina. Opens this fall. |pittsburghbluesteak.com
  • Mesa Pizza, 1440 W Lake St, Minneapolis. Opens this fall. | mesapizzamn.com
  • Mojo Monkey Donuts, 1169 7th St W, St. Paul
  • Crooked Pint Ale House, 501 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Amsterdam, 6 W 6th St, St. Paul (former Pop!)
  • Zest! Bar and Grill, 525 Diffley Rd, Eagan
  • McCormick’s Pub, 331 Broadway Ave S, Wayzata | mccormickswayzata.com
  • Toppers, 1154 Grand Ave, St. Paul; 702 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis | toppers.com
  • Five Guys, 8360 3rd St N, Oakdale | fiveguys.com
  • YO!Sushi | Company says five metro locations coming, first in Minneapolis in 2011 | yosushi.com
The Tap is The Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled by Heavy Table writer Jason Walker, and will be published biweekly. If you already subscribe to our newsletter, look for an emailed version of The Tap every other week — otherwise, you can find it on the website on alternating Tuesdays.
If you’ve got tips for The Tap, please email Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com. Follow The Tap on Twitter at @jasonwalkermpls.


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