All the world is waiting for Sameh Wadi to open World Street Kitchen—and here’s when and why.
Why: Wadi has blazed a trail of single-minded success through the Twin Cities, going straight from cooking school to Solera, the Spanish restaurant, and then opening Saffron, a national pioneer in Middle Eastern contemporary fine-dining, then competing as the youngest-ever Iron Chef America contestant, then opening one of Minnesota’s best food trucks, the fun and fusion-unafraid World Street Kitchen. Now he’s taking WSK bricks-and-mortar, in a space near the corner of 28th and Lyndale in South Minneapolis, and: Buzz buzz buzz. Lot of buzz. The whole town is buzzing. Will Wadi do for Palestinian and Lebanese food what David “Momofuku” Chang, did for Korean? Maybe! Alternately, will the franchise-friendly WSK instead turn into a era-defining cash-machine, in the style of Chipotle? Maybe!
But here are some less open-ended questions. When do they open? Mid-November, for real, Wadi tells me. “All the bad-construction-luck that happened at Saffron, I think I’m getting all my good luck now, we’re a solid week ahead of schedule, the only thing holding us back is I’m looking for a few more cooks, cashiers, and food-runners.” So if you need a job . . .
Speaking of food-runners, Wadi tells me that WSK will join the noble league of Lyndale Avenue restaurants such as French Meadow and Common Roots, which offer counter service, give you a flag to put on your table, then run the food to you. Food like the famous Yum Yum rice bowl (a Middle Eastern variant on bibimbap) and the Bangkok Burrito, both of which will likely be permanent menu items. In addition to those staples, the restaurant will offer Indian-influenced vegetarian fare, and the world’s first falafel-based Juicy Lucy—it will be a falafel ball stuffed with meltingly sautéed, sumac-seasoned onions, the whole thing served as a sandwich with Turkish pickles, tahini, and lettuce. “For some odd reason I am all about vegetarian food lately,” Wadi told me. “Chickpeas, lentils, potatoes—hearty vegetarian.”
In addition to hearty vegetarian fare, expect some fancier seafood-based dishes: A poor boy with oysters and shrimp, a banana-leaf wrapped whole fish served with coconut chutney and steamed rice, and so on. Most everything on the menu will be under $12, except for more elaborate dishes such as the banana-leaf wrapped fish, which will run $14 or so. If you’re thinking, ‘Banana wrapped fish? That sounds like sit-down, fancy food,” you’re right, and WSK will have the beer and wine list to support it, with a tap-line of all local beers, import bottles from around the world, and half a dozen wines that will change frequently. Plus some wine- and beer-based cocktails, like, perhaps a Michelada.
And what goes better with a Michelada than brunch? Nothing. Wadi says they’ve been playing with a sausage and egg plate (chicken sausage, of course, WSK remains pork-free) as well as a lamb-belly, jalapeno-vinegar touched version of red-flannel hash. And that’s not all! Open till midnight most days, and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights, WSK should be making Chipotle quake in its boots. The actual hour and second of the opening will only be known by watching the front door, but I’m going to be looking very carefully from about Nov. 12 on, and of course, I’ll be looking at the door at 2743 Lyndale Avenue South.
World Street Kitchen, 2743 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., eatwsk.com
Want to participate in the deer hunt opening weekend in a non-deer hunting, sitting by the fire and drinking wine sort of way? Have I got the event for you! Nov. 2–4, Bluefin Bay Wine Lover’s Weekend! I’ll be there, and I am thrilled. Fancy wine dinners with food from Thunder Bay, Ontario chef Jean Robillard, spa services at Bluefin Bay, and of course great wine—the Saturday wine tasting will be all Pinot Noir, from Champagne to Oregon and back again. Hey, if trophy wines are more your style than trophy bucks, there’s a place for you.