Diners in neighborhoods served by MyVillager have four new restaurants from which to choose with menus that are influenced by the cuisines of the West Indies, Mexico and the good old USA:
Flava Coffee and Cafe
Owner Shaunie Grigsby’s Flava Coffee and Cafe serves up lattes and other espresso drinks as well as breakfast and lunch at Flava Coffee and Cafe in the new Neighborhood Development Center at 623 W. University Ave. In addition to pleasing local palates, her goal is to help young women of color learn new skills, gain self-confidence and prepare for future careers.
Grigsby invites patrons to spend as much time as they like in the spacious cafe, which is furnished with plush chairs and accented with potted plants. A large shelf offers books for sale, and a Little Free Library is planned.
Grigsby names her beverages after famous black women, such as the Nina Simone (espresso and dark chocolate) and the Octavia Butler (masala chai). Her menu specializes in breakfast and lunch bowls as well as breakfast burritos and Sweet Love Pies. One of those pies is made with scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese and kale, all baked in puff pastry.
Hours are 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Thursdays and 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays.
West Indies Soul Food
Owner Sharon Richards-Noel recently reopened West Indies Soul Food at 839 W. University Ave. That is just four blocks from the brick-and-mortar restaurant Richards-Noel closed several years ago. In the interim, she has operated a catering business, a food truck, and food booths at the Midtown Global Market on Lake Street in Minneapolis and in the International Bazaar at the Minnesota State Fair.
Opening her new restaurant almost did not happen due to the $500,000 needed to build out the space. Richards-Noel accomplished the renovation with help from the city of Saint Paul’s Neighborhood Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) program. The STAR funds, which are derived from the city’s half-percent sales tax, subsidized 40 percent of the cost.
The menu at West Indies Soul Food includes such Caribbean cuisine as jerk chicken; chicken curry stew; barbecued pork or beef ribs; Jamaican patties made with either beef, chicken or vegetables; seafood gumbo; and Caribbean-flavored fish or chicken. Patrons may slake their thirst with Richards-Noel’s home-brewed but non-alcoholic ginger beer. The dessert menu features such favorites as sweet potato pie, bread pudding and peach cobbler.
Hours are noon-7 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.
Burgers, hot dogs and milkshakes are the staples at Burger Press, 718 S. Cleveland Ave. The quick-service restaurant opened in the fall in the space that had been planned for a new banh mi Vietnamese sandwich shop. Burger Press serves bubble tea, but that is the only Asian item on the otherwise all-American menu. Hours are 10:30 a.m. -8 p.m. daily.
Tacos, Tacos, Tacos
Expected to open by late December is Tacos, Tacos, Tacos in the former Jimmy John’s space at 241 W. Seventh St. Owner Robert Giuliani is promising a menu of authentic Mexican street food. His mother is Mexican, and he has spent a lot of time south of the border sampling the offerings of no less than 250 tacquerias. “I grew up with this food,” he said.
Giuliani received his formal chef’s training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He worked in a variety of restaurants in California before opening Clyde Iron Works in Duluth with his brother. After closing his restaurant there, he operated a food truck last summer.
Tacos, Tacos, Tacos will have about a dozen seats, but the service will be primarily grab-and-go. The tacos will be made to order on a flat-top grill with a choice of meats, cilantro, onions and a selection of three or more fresh salsas, including a mild salsa verde, which is a green sauce made with tomatillos and avocado.
House specialties include the Al Pastor, which is marinated pork cooked on a vertical rotisserie; and Campechano, two meats with melted Oaxacan cheese. The menu will also include tortas, which are Mexican sandwiches, and street hot dogs with bacon, melted cheese, pickled jalapeno, ketchup and lime.
— Carolyn Walkup
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