How abuzz has everyone in town been about the new Ann Kim restaurant? Very, very abuzz! Would it be Korean food? Would it be pizza? If pizza, what could be left for the pizza master behind wood-fired exquisite Pizzeria Lola, and quick-serve, gas oven, NYC-styled Hello Pizza? Roman pizza? Sardinian pizza? What??? And what will top bartender Adam Gorski, formerly of La Belle Vie, make in the new place, shochu-fire-something bark??
Deep breaths everyone. The answers have finally arrived.
Introducing the new Ann Kim restaurant, Young Joni. Coming this summer, with 140 seats, right next to Dangerous Man in Northeast. All of it will be built around two wood-burning ovens and a custom wood grill, serving food intimately connected to cooking with live fire: think pizza in the style of Pizzeria Lola (though not necessarily the exact same pies), tacos with hand-made tortillas served with traditional Mexican sauces and salsas that emerge from wood fired ovens, and Korean ssam platters of pork or beef served with abundant vegetables and sauces to turn them into wraps. There will even be a few seats right around the hearth for those who want a closer experience.
Now, a few words on what Young Joni isn’t: “It isn’t fusion,” Ann Kim told me. “I hate that word. It’s family-style eating, things to share, and the foods I feel like I could eat every day, tacos, family style Korean, pizza. To me those are the ultimate shareable foods.” Also, it is not, repeat NOT, a Korean barbecue restaurant “We're not going to have an 8 ounce steak and potatoes, it’s not going to be a huge hunk of meat,” Kim told me. “In Korea, a big plate of barbecued short ribs, that might be something you have on a special occasion, not a daily thing. I want to do the daily thing, something light, beautifully marinated meats you can wrap inside something fresh. It’ll be something you can have multiple portions of and still feel good eating.”
The restaurant will be divided into two sections, a large front restaurant fed by the wood-fired ovens and grill, and then a separate area with a separate back-alley entrance they’re calling the "back bar." That will be the domain of Adam Gorski and will feel different because it’s physically a different space with a lower ceiling (this reflects the historic nature of the one time Polish community center, which is actually several buildings stuck together.) Gorski will be in charge of a rotating menu of creative and fun cocktails. Young Joni shares the alley with Dangerous Man brewing, and Kim says that they’re talking about putting some picnic tables in the alley so that people can get, say, a growler from Dangerous Man and a takeout pizza from Young Joni and sit in the alley and chill. There's even talk of procuring a piano for that space.
But what will folks talk about when they’re chilling? How about the origins of Young Joni’s name? Kim married her longtime business partner and sweetheart Conrad Leifur last year, and the name is a tribute to their two inspirations, their mothers. Young is Ann Kim’s mom. “Mom was never a risk-taker, she had the typical immigrant story: Put your dreams aside, work hard, earn money, send your kids off to have a better life. I feel like her mission was to feed everyone as well as she could—and in a lot of ways I’m living out her dream.” Young is the perfectionist cook part of things. Joni of course is Conrad’s mother, and she brings the fun: “Conrad grew up in North Dakota, and his mother is the life of the party—she loves to drink, she loves to sing, she loves to have a good time. These two spirits coming together—it’s like the perfect marriage. We hope!”
Nothing gets a city abuzz like the run-up to a new good marriage. Raise a glass, and congrats to all— welcome Young Joni, opening hopefully sometime this summer.
Young Joni, 165 13th Ave. NE, Mpls., Coming summer 2016