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Hmong restaurant by Chef Yia Vang will open in Minneapolis in the spring

The chef behind Union Hmong Kitchen will open his first brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Yia Vang outside Vinai. 

Yia Vang outside Vinai. 

The highly anticipated Hmong restaurant from Chef Yia Vang is slated to open in Northeast Minneapolis in Spring 2021. 

After raising nearly $100,000 on a Kickstarter campaign this spring, Vang – the chef behind Union Hmong Kitchen outside of Sociable Ciderwerks in Minneapolis – is opening his first brick-and-mortar restaurant called Vinai, a news release says.

Vinai, at 1717 2nd St. NE, will feature Vang's brand of Hmong cooking, which is done mostly over a wood fire. 

“Vinai, the camp where my parents met and where I was born, was a symbol of hope for refugees, and now for me, the restaurant has become a symbol of hope for all of us — my team, our staff, our friends. We will come out on the other side of this thing, and I can’t wait to see people sitting together, sharing meals again," Vang said in a news release, noting when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, there will be a community table in the heart of the restaurant. 

Vinai will be in a 3,100 square foot brick building, which was built in 1933 and originally housed Fleischmann's Malting. A woodfire grill will be the focal point of the inside of the restaurant, which will seat 40-60 people. During patio season, more will be able to sit outside. 

When the restaurant opens, tables will be spaced at least 6 feet apart and there will be a dedicated takeout area that allows for customers to safely flow through to pick up their orders, the release says. 

Local chef Marshall Paulsen, formerly of Birchwood Cafe, has joined the team at Vinai in an operations role, focusing on creating a restaurant that focuses on local ingredients and creating a business that is progressive and equitable. 

"These principles have always been important to us, but now we can give them life," Vang said in the release. "In Marshall, we have someone who has helped bring change to the whole system.

“Marshall and I met a few years back and have had the chance to collaborate on some great things — we did a fundraiser for Urban Roots together, and we’ve been good friends ever since. We geek out on a lot of the same stuff, so collaborating is a blast. I’m so excited to work with him as we create this place I’ve dreamed of for so long: a true home that will honor the past, present, and future of Hmong cooking.”

Construction on the restaurant is slated to begin this fall. Meanwhile, there are "no current plans" to close Union Hmong Kitchen, but dishes from the food truck will be on Vinai's menu next spring, the release notes.

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