MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — With ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, most Minnesota restaurant owners are ending the worst year they’ve ever known. But a few are surprisingly seeing significant growth.

Hospitality Minnesota reports, “Over half of all Minnesota restaurants are facing permanent closure.” But amid it all, there are certain types of restaurants that are actually thriving.

Facundo De Fraia grew up in Buenes Aires.

“There’s pizza joints on every single street, it’s insane,” De Fraia said. “So I was trying to bring that to the Twin Cities.”

So he did just that opening Boludo, a pizza and empanada shop in south Minneapolis. Like every other restaurant owner, COVID caused a scramble.

“It was uncertain,” De Fraia said. “We didn’t know what to expect.”

Boludo Pizza (credit: CBS)

Restaurants started closing and struggling at an alarming rate. Stephanie March, food and dining editor for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, talked with WCCO about the restaurant industry in Minneapolis.

“They can’t open, but should they be trying to do takeout? Should they be risking more of that? Should they be taking loans? It’s a very confusing place right now,” March said.

But she says some restaurants are seeing success.

“People love pizza for a reason, and when you’re in a pandemic and everything is stressful, pizza’s a pretty good answer to a lot of things,” March said.

She says fast-casual places, who already had takeout and delivery, are surviving — and in some cases thriving. Business at Lowry Hill Meats has been steady and solid. And De Fraia says Boludo has seen significant growth.

“People are waiting … one hour, two hours,” De Fraia said. “It’s just crazy.”

So he’s investing in a desolate downtown in the hopes of reviving it. He’s opening up a larger space near U.S. Bank Stadium — a sign of hope amidst an industry in desperation.

“If you have passion you can overcome anything, and this pandemic as well,” he said.

Other restaurants seeing solid business are suburban pizza and sandwich shops. Some food trucks have also seen growth.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield