Justin Sutherland, Yia Vang Launching New Concepts and Locations

Big E’s is coming to Grand Avenue, Mee-Ka to open soon

There’s a lot of new food news for anyone hungry for it. Chef Yia Vang’s pop-up in the Hilltribe space (Bryant Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis) opens Wednesday and will connect to Vang’s childhood as a Hmong kid growing up in Minnesota. Slurp Noodle Shop ran with six great dishes, and now it’s Mee-Ka’s time to show off spaghetti.

“Growing up, Mom always asked if we wanted to eat Hmong food or Mee-ka food,” Vang says in a news release (he’s traveling until opening day.) Mee-ka is “American.” “As Hmong people, we lived in this cross cultural state of eating food that was considered Mee-ka but using Hmong ingredients. But our Mee-Ka pop-up is not fusion food. It is the forging of two cultures and traditions to build a third culture that we can use to connect to others.”

Look at this burger! The beef is mixed with toasted rice flour salt, topped with ranch kua txob, fermented radishes and American cheese. Expect meatloaf and spaghetti and meatballs: but ramen noodles instead of spaghetti and Hmong sausage meatballs.

You’ll also find Nqaij Tsaws (pronounced “ngai chah-uh”), which is braised pork and greens along with rice and roasted vegetables. Cobb Laab Salad and a pork katsu sandwich are also on the menu of this limited-time pop-up.

I hope that over time they add more seating and maybe make the space a little more welcoming. Right now, the former Mucci’s Trattoria feels like the former Mucci’s with sparse and sort of sad-looking seating. I know most of what’s happening is take-out and delivery, and the initial pop-up was not exactly a fully-financed restaurant opening. Still, as Hilltribe is around as a concept (which I love!), it would be nice to feel more comfortable in the space.

Centro Launches Hippo Pockets

Every time I bring my kids to Centro, one of them orders a Centro crunch. It’s like a burrito/taco wrap cooked on a griddle so it’s crunchy. The new Eat Street location is huge, and weirdly it’s often empty in the dining room yet busy in the kitchen. Delivery and take-out is the name of the game here. So owner Jami Olson and her team were brainstorming on better ways to take advantage of their large kitchen, and they launched Hippo Pockets, a delivery/cloud kitchen dedicated to their riff on a certain national fast food chain’s crunchy-wrappy-thingy.

Hippo Pockets has 7+ flavors along with 6 Hippo Sipps, available only through delivery apps. The original is like a beef taco, but there’s a cheeseburger royale, chicken bacon ranch, Philly, pepperoni, chicken & waffles, along with a breakfast pocket and a s’mores dessert pocket. Will it become a food stand at a sporting venue or airport? Will it become bigger than Centro? Will it get a cease & desist? We’ll see.

C.R.E.A.M. sandwich

Big E

Sutherland Opening Big E’s On Grand Avenue

Hot the on the heels of the announcement that Grand Ol Creamery is shutting down its pizza operation on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, local celebrity chef Justin Sutherland shared he’s putting in his first Minnesota location of Big E’s. Egg sandwiches, but not just for breakfast.

The first location is in Portland, Oregon, and location two should open this spring in St. Paul. Sutherland tells me a Minneapolis location is coming next. The menu looks amazing: DANCE YRSELF CLEAN is the brekker, WHEN DOVES CRY is hummus, scrambled egg, feta and wilted spinach. C.R.E.A.M. looks good, it’s an everything bagel seasoning with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Rose Street Patisserie is making Japanese egg buns for the sandwiches. And Oregon will be represented, in the form of Tillamook cheeses. Misfits Coffee is doing the java.