Biz buzz :: Opening date set for Wondrous Azian Kitchen

Share this:
August 2, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott and Katherine Lymn
Gregory J. Scott and Katherine Lymn


Opening date set for new Thom Pham restaurant

True to his word, Thom Pham has succeeded in prepping his new restaurant space for a late summer opening.

Less than three weeks after showing off the 10,000-square-foot space at 533 Hennepin Ave. S., which at the time was messy with renovation debris, Pham’s management company, the Phamous Group, says the restaurateur is ready to open for business. The first day of operation for Wondrous Azian Kitchen will be Aug. 12.

That’s right, the new restaurant has a shortened name. According to Chris Kallal of Twincy, the agency handling Pham’s marketing, the word “Wanderers” has been dropped from the title. The sign out front, though, will read “Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen.”

“We’re gonna do a closing party at Azia” — Pham’s Eat Street restaurant — “on Sunday, August 8. Then on the 12th, we’ll do an opening party at Wondrous,” Kallal said. “We’re gonna open it up, sample a bunch of food — and obviously some of the new cocktails.”

Wondrous will offer happy hour specials all evening, he added, and a plan for musical entertainment is in the works.

As for the Azia location, at 2550 Nicollet Ave., “we’re in communication with a potential buyer,” says Elizabeth Grzechowiak, executive director of the Phamous Group.

According to Pham’s landlord, three years remain on the Azia lease. No official details are available yet on the transition.


Ethiopian food cart hits the street

After a three-month slog through the logjam of the city licensing process, the newest mobile food vendor is finally out operating on the streets.

She Royal, serving authentic Ethiopian dishes and coffee, opened its truck in early June at the corner of 1st Avenue North and 8th Street. The vehicle is a street food satellite of the She Royal deli and coffee shop, which opened at 2010 E. Hennepin Ave. in September 2009. Both operations are run by Hania Benti, a Minneapolis transplant born in Ethiopia, and the name reflects the business’ proud female ownership.

Benti’s brother Samson has been manning the truck’s grill thus far.

He said he’s proudest of some of the traditional African dishes he serves, namely the veggie sampler, a huge circle of Injera bread piled high with lentils, cabbage and other greens. The dish is prepared without dairy products, Benti said, which makes it vegan friendly. It can also be prepared gluten-free.

Aware that Ethiopian food might not always be “accessible” to a Downtown lunch crowd, She Royal also serves American, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine, including quick service staples like samosa and gyros.

All meat dishes are made with 100 percent grass-fed beef from Thousand Hills Farms, based in Cannon Falls, Minn. The coffee too is 100 percent free trade organic, imported from Ethiopia. Benti emphasized She Royal’s effort to maintain a small carbon footprint, pointing out that the vendor is in the process of switching to completely biodegradable paper products.

She Royal would have been in operation sooner, but the truck’s original location, at 7th Street and Nicollet Mall, was nixed due to its truck being too heavy to operate on the Mall. Benti said he’s been working with the city to reconsider the decision, claiming that the current location doesn’t offer enough foot traffic.

She Royal also makes appearances at the Lyndale farmers market on Sundays.


Fitness studio to feature wheelchair accessible cycles

“Kranking” is the latest fitness class to come Downtown.

501FIT gym, at 501 Washington Ave. S., has partnered with independent business owner Dawn Doll to bring a new spinning studio to the location, and the bikes are anything but old-fashioned. The gym is the first in the area to feature Krankcycles, a modern remodel of an upper body ergometer (UBE), which work one’s upper body instead of the legs. These are ideal for exercisers in wheelchairs or runners who want to switch it up and work out a different part of the body, 501FIT co-owner Diana Broschka said.

The “studio within a studio” will also have 22 Realryder bikes, which lean and tilt to mimic outdoor cycling, giving the rider less stability. Spinning on a RealRyder bike increases the exertion level, Broschka said. 501FIT will also be the only gym in the area to feature this equipment.

“What’s starting to happen,” Broschka said, “is we’re essentially creating or delivering programs that are different than what people are doing out there in the rest of the fitness world.” The studio will have 30 bikes or less, which makes it more intimate than other studios, she said. Doll will have classes that employ both types of bikes at once.

For those who wish to take the spinning classes but are not members of 501FIT, a small administrative fee will be charged for using the facility; pricing and reservations for the classes will be managed separately by Doll.

Testing and trial classes will begin in mid-August, and the new classes will be fully up-and-running by September.


New patio lounge for Walker’s 20.21

20.21, the Wolfgang Puck-controlled Asian restaurant at Walker Art Center, has spruced up an elegant sky perch for outdoor dining.

The redesigned patio lounge features new furniture and can seat up to 30 guests. It stretches along the eastern edge of the Walker complex, offering views of the Basilica of St. Mary and the Downtown skyline.


Fried Bologna vintage open in Northeast

Another funky tenant has moved into the arts district of Northeast Minneapolis. Fried Bologna Vintage, a thrift store and consignment boutique catering to both men and women, opened at 158 13th Ave. NE on July 10.

A grand opening featured free fried bologna sandwiches.

The store stocks vintage t-shirts and women’s dresses from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a slew of men’s clothing and houseware items. Owners refresh the selection regularly, shifting offerings on a near weekly basis.

Store hours are Tues. through Sat., 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sun. 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.


Nepali restaurant to replace Mairin’s Table

The former Mairin’s Table, at 23 4th St. NE, has been painted bright yellow and now bears a “Coming Soon” sign for a restaurant called Yak & Yeti. The sign advertises “Nepali, Indian and Tibetan cuisine.”

Yak & Yeti is a common named used for commercial enterprises in Nepal — a premier five-star hotel in Kathmandu goes by the same title — and many Nepali restaurants in the United States also use the moniker. It is unclear if the new Minneapolis restaurant is part of any chain.