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Minneapolis gets lots of love from Esquire’s ‘Best New Restaurants’ list

November 29, 2018

Hai Hai is one of the best new restaurants in America, according to Esquire.

The Northeast Minneapolis southeast Asian restaurant placed ninth in the magazines annual list of top-notch dining rooms around the country.

And the icing on the cake? Hai Hais chef Christina Nguyen was named Rising Star of the Year.

Esquires food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier selected Hai Hai for its sunny energy.

Banana blossoms, sugarcane, sticky rice, and green papayaNguyens menu reads like a street-smitten ode to Southeast Asia, a pop song that can brighten up even the murkiest of days in Ltoile du Nord. (Hai Hai, 2121 University Av. NE., Minneapolis, 612-223-8640, haihaimpls.com)

He didnt know anything about Nguyen before his meal there, he wrote, and was surprised to learn that she got her start in the business with Hola Arepa, which was a food truck before it went brick and mortar in south Minneapolis.

The deep understanding of flavor that she displays at Hai Hai is the result of life experience and raw talent, not some tony pedigree, Gordinier wrote. In an age when far too many young chefs are phoning it in with beet salads and predictable globs of burrata, Nguyen cooks with a fresh vantage point on what it means to feed the people.

Nguyen announced the news on Instagram, calling it so surreal and cool for Hai Hai to be featured.

Gordiniers trip to Minneapolis didnt end at Hai Hai.

He calls out Martinas Marco Zappia (lanky, excitable gent with one of the coolest names in the business) as Beverage Director of the Year.

And he names Jamie Malones Grand Caf as Restaurant Resurrection of the Year for transporting diners back to the postwar Paris of their dreams in a hygge-forward room where Fred Rogers wouldve felt cozy in his cardigan.

Read the full list here.

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