The restaurant scene is always evolving. When one restaurant closes (we’ll miss you, Saffron), another opens.
And lately, the Twin Cities is seeing a lot of openings.
In Minneapolis we have Tullibee in the new Hewing Hotel, focusing on Nordic cuisine; Café Alma, an expansion of Restaurant Alma offering deliciously crafted bites and creative drink concoctions; and heck, even Farmington got in on the action with the opening of Bourbon Butcher this week, doing just what their name implies: bourbon and meat.
One of the long awaited openings is Young Joni.
The restaurant is an endeavor at least two years in the making, and Chef Ann Kim’s journey to restaurant ownership started several years before that.
I remember sitting in a Women Who Really Cook (WWRC) meeting back in 2009 and listening to Kim talk about this fancy copper pizza oven she ordered from France. After all, she is certified as a pizzaiola from the International School of Pizza (Yes, that is a thing). The pizza oven would be the first of its kind in Minnesota and the centerpiece of her new restaurant, Pizzeria Lola.
Shortly after, in 2010, Pizzeria Lola opened in South Minneapolis and was soon followed by a more casual pizza joint, Hello Pizza.
When the space next to the Dangerous Man taproom in Northeast Minneapolis was snatched up, rumor was that Kim was planning something new. Maybe it would be pizza related, maybe it would be meat focused. Either way, there was going to be wood fire and amazing food.
Turns out, it’s a little bit of both.
The menu features a large selection of pizzas cooked in the copper oven, a nice variety of meats – like Thai sausage, Korean spare ribs, and spicy meatballs – and even a decently sized veggie menu with options like mushrooms with miso butter, sweet potatoes with charred scallions and more.
We went on opening night and ordered The Royale pizza – which comes with ham, ricotta, and arugula – and a side of Brussels sprouts with pork belly and kumquats. Both were delicious and, if you’re a pizza fan, it’s not to be missed.
The restaurant itself is gorgeous with large wood tables and pillars and plenty of activity. There’s a back chef’s bar, where you can watch the vegetables be prepared in a wood oven. There’s the actual bar, which doubles as a great workspace during the day, and there are several communal tables which lend to the inclusivity of the restaurant.
It’s the perfect spot to be in the winter with all of those wood fires burning!
There’s one more thing I have to mention: the speakeasy back bar.
While part of Young Joni, you can’t access it through the restaurant. It’s more of a “look for the red light in the alley and find a door” type of entrance. Don’t worry, it’s not too secret as there was a paper sign clearly labeling the door when I visited.
Inside you’ll find a dimly lit lounge with a variety of comfy seating and an entirely different menu of cocktails designed by bartender Adam Gorski, formerly of La Belle Vie. I tried the Vaya con Dios that had mezcal, celery, citrus and vermouth. So refreshing and right up my alley.
All of the other drinks I tried were equally refreshing and meant to be sipped and enjoyed while conversing with friends.
If you’re looking for a place to go this weekend, check out Young Joni. Make a reservation for the restaurant. Then, venture to the back bar for a cocktail before or after.
Or, just swing in for dessert. Young Joni has soft serve drizzled with olive oil and sea salt (trust me, it’s a fantastic combination) or order the church basement bars. It’s just the type of desert you’d expect when going to a church potluck.
Young Joni is located at 165 13th Avenue NE. For more information, or to make reservations, call 612-345-5719 or visit the restaurant online.