The Butcher Block on Hennepin Avenue has since expanded into the neighboring Pacifier space. File photo

The new Eat Street

Updated: November 15, 2016 – 2:18 pm

East Hennepin’s mushrooming dining scene is attracting a new generation of restaurants.

From new neighborhood hotspots to the city’s next big chains, Nicollet Island-East Bank is quickly becoming the next Eat Street in Minneapolis.

The area just northeast of downtown has had a renaissance of restaurant concepts, from tiny Japanese spot PinKU to the unique Herbivorous Butcher, making it a new foodie destination. Here’s a rundown of the neighborhood’s latest food hotspots.


In recent years Nicollet Island-East Bank has been a proving ground for up-and-coming restaurant chains.

Spitz, a Los Angeles-based Mediterranean street-food chain, has expanded into Minneapolis, opening a restaurant in the former Wilde Roast Café space at 518 Hennepin Ave. E. — technically less than a half-block outside Nicollet Island-East Bank. Founders Bryce Rademan and St. Cloud native Robert Wicklund started the chain after trying döner kebab — now the chain’s signature dish — while studying abroad in Spain.

With Prince on the wall and several local beers on tap, Spitz does its best to make the small chain feel local. Over the past decade, the restaurant has expanded with five locations in California and two in Salt Lake City, Utah.

PinKU is an entirely new concept for Minneapolis diners. The “fine-casual” restaurant — fine dining in a fast-casual setting — breaks the mold on chains. The apartment-sized PinKU replaced Primrose Park at 20 University Ave. NE over the summer and has garnered rave reviews with its Japanese street food. From $7 yellowtail tuna to seared salmon over a rice cake for less than $6, PinKU’s small plates also don’t take a big bite out of your wallet.

And PinKU may not stay Nicollet Island-East Bank’s best-kept secret for long. Founders Xiaoteng “X” Huang and John Sugimura say they’re looking to open a second restaurant inside the airport and even a local hotel or art gallery.

Nicollet Island-East Bank welcomed New Bohemia Wurst+BierHaus, a Twin Cities-based chain, at 233 E. Hennepin Ave. four years ago. The restaurant gets creative with ingredients to serve up a huge array of sausage, from its classic beef hot dog stuffed with mac and cheese to a smoked duck bratwurst with cilantro.

With its food truck, the bratwurst and beer restaurant now boasts seven locations.
Neighborhood joints

With all these new options, there’s also a lot for residents.

Ivy Taheri, a partner at the now-shuttered Tangiers in the North Loop, opened Stem Wine Bar & Eatery in the spring. The full-serve restaurant and wine bar at 24 University Ave. is one of the neighborhood’s only lounges.

On the menu, Stem offers a long list of French and Italian wines, many curated byMinneapolis-based Small Lot Wine, along with an American-fusion menu of small plates, salads and desserts, from petite lamb chops to Korean meatballs.

With a long list of craft beers and cheap, customizable burgers, JL Beers at 24 University Ave. NE fits well among Northeast Minneapolis’ neighborhood establishments.

This is the eighth location from the roughly seven-year-old chain, which has burger bars in North Dakota, South Dakota and Moorhead. JL Beers has roughly 40 taps, so there’s always something new to try, and it has root beer and kombucha on tap for those who don’t want to drink.

Herbivorous Butcher is perhaps Nicollet Island-East Bank’s most buzzed-about business. You won’t find the traditional cuts of meat at the 2,300-square-foot neighborhood butcher shop at 507 1st Ave. NE. Instead, founders Aubry and Kale Walch serve up “meat-free meat” and dairy-free cheese products, all recipes they’ve perfected as vegans over years at farmers markets around the Twin Cities.

For curious palates, Herbivorous Butcher offers a crash course into veganism with a starter pack, and they stock a wide variety of other vegan sauces, condiments and other products. The shop also offers a rotating lunch item for a quick meal.

Whittier invasion

The city’s real Eat Street is spreading to the city’s east bank with several Whittier-based businesses expanding into Nicollet Island-East Bank.

Lu’s Sandwiches, a sandwich shop known for its banh mi sandwiches, is the first of these concepts to open. Lu’s opened in the spring on the ground floor of Red 20 apartment building at 10 6th St. NE.

Owner Quang Pham, who owns Lu’s Sandwiches with three other partners, said the new location is a higher-end version with beer, wine and made-to-order food.

The news broke in the spring that Glam Doll Donuts co-owners Teresa Fox and Arwyn Birch were looking into a Northeast Minneapolis expansion and had signed a lease for a space inside the Red 20 apartment building.

Glam Doll bakes an eclectic mix of pastries with some creative ingredients and local flair — just order the Night Moves, a blackberry-infused donut named for the local band. Plus, the new shop at 519 Central Ave. NE will see the addition of more brunch items, beer and wine.

Finally, there’s The Bad Waitress, which soon will open up a second location just a block outside the neighborhood near Central & 7th. Owners Mary and Andy Cohen will open the diner and coffee shop inside the 700 Central project, an apartment redevelopment of two warehouse buildings.

The Northeast Minneapolis restaurant will likely have full table service in the evening and a full bar, unlike the original restaurant. The approximately 2,200-square-foot joint is expected to open by the end of the year.

Old favorites

Though NIEBNA has seen several recent openings, the neighborhood has had destination establishments for several years.

Kramarczuk’s is one of the area’s most well-known mainstays. The family-owned landmark offers sausages, baked goods and a full menu based off its Eastern European roots. With more than 60 years under its belt, Kramarczuk’s has even expanded with foods at Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium.

Red Stag Supper Club is nearing a decade in the neighborhood. Owner and longtime Minneapolis-based restaurateur Kim Bartmann opened the contemporary supper club concept at 509 NE 1st Ave. in 2007 as the state’s first LEED-certified restaurant.

Much like Bartmann’s other restaurants, such as Bryant Lake Bowl and Barbette, Red Stag hosts its own unique event, the In Cahoots! block party. The craft beer collaboration festival pairs a dozen local craft breweries together to create exclusive beers for the restaurant.

The Butcher Block has been Nicollet Island-East Bank’s upscale Italian restaurantfor nearly seven years, but it continues to transform. The eatery at 308 E. Hennepin Ave. recently expanded into the former Pacifier space next door to open a 1,600-square-foot bar and event area with its own menu and happy hour. Chef Filippo Caffari and Kristin Van Duyne, co-owner and pastry chef, have also added lunch.