|Christina Nguyen and Birk Stefan Grudem have found a new, permanent place to park the truck|
Love is in the air and so is the toasty scent of Hola Arepa's delicious corn cakes. In honor of Hola Arepa's birthday and Valentine's Day, Birk Stefan Grudem and Christina Nguyen are sharing the news that they have signed a restaurant lease -- which means very soon, dear eaters, we will be able to enjoy their arepas all year round. That's not all! They will be serving all manner of Latin-inspired entrees, brunch items, cocktails, and more.
The pair are taking over the former El Parasio space at 3501 Nicollet Avenue. The new space will seat about 55 to 60 inside and will seat even more guests on its beautiful outdoor patio during warmer months. With Nguyen's design background, she's long been plotting what the inside of the restaurant will look like. "It will be rustic, with Latin touches," she said. "There might be some turquoise-colored metal chairs we've been painting." No doubt the new location will show off that effortless cool aesthetic that these two radiate, but there's still much work to be done. "It's going to be a huge remodel to the interior," said Nguyen.
The menu will draw inspiration from the pair's worldly travels. They plan to be open for happy hour, dinner, and a weekend brunch. The duo are considering lunch service, but it's hard to say if the foot traffic will be great enough to sustain a regular midday meal. In the meantime, the truck will continue to operate in downtown Minneapolis around lunchtime, at farmer's markets on the weekends, and will be available for catering.
"Yeah, we don't plan to sleep," said Nguyen. "We have had enough time inside and sleeping this winter. We figured we won't need to sleep again for a while."
|Coming to a neighborhood near you?|
Perhaps most exciting is the news that the restaurant comes with one of the few full liquor licenses in the neighborhood.
"That's right! Birky's back behind the bar," Nguyen told us. Grudem was known for his craft cocktail skills back when he was working at Bradstreet Crafthouse and the hallowed drinking grounds of Town Talk Diner. Ever since he's been dreaming up drink recipes, sippers that are sure to please if refreshments from the truck are any indication. The drinks won't be solely tequila or rum-based, and they won't be overly fussy -- or as Nguyen said, "Not too craft cocktail-y."
The prices will remain affordable, with a plate of arepas and house-made tortilla chips hovering in the $10 to $20 range. The room will be casual, but they will be a full-service operation. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, expect to find cachapas, those Venezuelan sweet corn pancakes with roasted shitake mushrooms, huitlacoche, poached egg and house queso or one of their variety of hashes. In the evenings, linger over small plates like bacalao (salt cod) spread with fried plantain chips, a press plantain tostada with braised beef, tamarind sauce and curtido pickled cabbage. Once up and running, there is even talk of adding delivery for the surrounding area where you might be able to order a Peruvian torta or even a burrito.
Start planning your patio season now, as the doors to this location will likely be open before the official start of summer.
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