MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It doesn’t get more neighborhood restaurant, than Xavi. It’s right across the street from a now snow-covered South Minneapolis softball field.
“I’ve always felt really strongly that we wanted to be part of a neighborhood,” said Michael Agan, chef and co-owner.
Agan and his co-owner James Elm met more than 20 years ago, when they were in their 20s.
“We were a few years into the restaurant industry, we became good friends and talked about, oh someday, we’d like to open a restaurant,” he said.
They opened Xavi on 56th Street and Chicago in the summer of 2016. The name is a derivative of a Basque word, which means “the new place”. The restaurant is with a small collection of other businesses, nestled into the former First Course space.
“We pulled each other aside and asked, ‘Is this it? Are you sure?’ OK it’s it,” said Elm.
Agan and Elm knew they didn’t want to do a typical neighborhood spot — with a ton of burgers and flatbreads and sandwiches. It’s affordable, approachable, haute cuisine. Crudo with a tarragon sauce, a carrot salad tossed in carrot ginger dressing served alongside a wedge of cabbage.
“A lot of the diners in the Twin Cities have more knowledge than they did five or 10 years ago. We can do more interesting and exciting things while still being approachable to everyone,” said Agan.
Agan works in the kitchen with his culinary team, while Elm works the front of the house. He said he sees the same thrill-seeking approach with the wine: instead of just drinking California wine or French reds, they’re trying Slovenia and South Africa.
“People are adventurous in the neighborhood, they’re not going for the same old thing,” Elm said.
There is a limit to the adventurousness, though. The lamb ribs have been on the menu since day one.
“I’ve been threatened with bodily harm if I take it off the menu so it’s not going anywhere,” laughed Agan.
Caribbean jerk-marinated and topped with mango and a cilantro pesto, the lamb ribs are snackable, rich in flavor with a subtle heat, and a perfect symbol of the kinds of foods Xavi is bringing to the neighborhood.
“You have to have something unique and tells a different story and at the same time something comfortable for people to relate to,” said Agan.
Friends for most of their adult lives, they’re sharing their love for food and service with a neighborhood that loves them back.
“I really feel like we push each other. To go farther and do more. It’s a really healthy and symbiotic relationship,” Agan said.
5607 Chicago Ave S., Minneapolis 55417
Closed Monday; Open at 5 p.m. Tue-Sat; Sunday brunch, and dinner at 4 p.m. Sunday.