Restaurant News: Two Big Chefs Opening Two New Eateries

An opening and a closing from Ann Ahmed and a new pop-up from Yia Vang

Are you ready for a noodle-shop from Chef Yia Vang? How about a Loring Park spot from Chef Ann Ahmed? The end of the year means big changes in restaurants, and the end of 2022 is no exception.

First up is Vang and the Slurp Noodle Shop. Vang has been in the Lyn/Lake neighborhood for a prep kitchen, taking over the lease of Tim Niver’s former Trattoria Mucci’s. The location is now called “Hilltribe,” and within that, Yang will start rotating through some pop-up concepts. Starting Jan. 4, that 901 W. Lake St. location will be a Union Hmong Kitchen Slurp Pop Up Noodle Shop.

Slurp Pop Up Noodle Shop

Lauren Cutshall

Slurp will be around until the spring, when a new pop-up concept will take over the space. The menu is simple with just six dishes, three “brothy” dishes and three “saucy” dishes. Khao Poon, mushroom ramen, and pan-fried noodle dishes are all on the opening menu. Similar to what Vang was doing at pop-ups in breweries last winter, it will be lunch only Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and open extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The noodle shop will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“We want Hmong people to feel comfortable ordering and being in our space; we want the menu to be recognizable,” owner and founder Vang said in a statement.

Does this mean Vinai will never open? Maybe! It’s been forever hasn’t it? Funding has been the challenge, and Vang tells us he still plans to open Vinai if he can line up the final pieces of funding. There is no permanent home, however, as they’ve left the Northeast Minneapolis building that was the initial idea.

Also new from Ann Ahmed

In March, chef Ahmed is closing her initial restaurant in Brooklyn Park, Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine. This hits me hard because I first met Ahmed doing a story on her before she opened Lat 14, and before Khâluna, in the suburban strip mall. But while many restaurateurs are betting on a suburban expansion, Ahmed has certainly gone all-in on a more urban upscale growth.

“This is good timing, I can close this chapter and still do something creative in the city that I love,” Ahmed told me. She and her husband bought the building on Loring Park.

Lemon Grass is where Ahmed first started doing cooking classes, she perfected technique on combining her love for fresh, almost California flavors with her family’s heritage of Thai cooking. But there is little question that what she’s doing at Lat 14 and Khâluna is at a higher level than what was happening at Lemon Grass. And 18 years is quite a run.

She’ll be taking over the former 4 Bells, the former Joe’s Garage, right on Loring Park. It’s a huge, three-story building with a great rooftop and lots of private spaces. It won’t be a relocation of Lemon Grass, but instead will be a new concept. “It’ll definitely still be southeast Asian, but we’re having meetings in the new year,” she said. Ahmed isn’t ready to disclose her plans for it just yet, however.