Dave’s Popcorn lives!
The building does, anyway. The beloved snack shack – which has graced the corner of Longfellow and 38th in south Minneapolis for more than 60 years – has been sold by owner Andy Gray to brothers Sameh and Saed Wadi, the enterprising duo behind Milkjam Creamery and World Street Kitchen.
“It makes absolutely no sense, as per usual,” Sameh Wadi said with a laugh. “I mean, it’s tiny. It’s 280 square feet. That’s a fourth of the size of Milkjam. It’s crazy.”
Popcorn – and the stand’s dreamy caramel corn, a recipe passed from Dave’s owner to Dave’s owner – is a thing of the past. Instead, the menu will concentrate on hot dogs and ice cream.
Milkjam Creamery chef Sean Little will supply the new place with 10 flavors of the popular shop's ice cream.
“We’ll have at least one flavor that’ll be exclusive to this place,” said Sameh Wadi. “And we’ll have sundaes, and floats.”
It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that Wadi is opening a hot dog stand.
“At Saffron, hot dogs were the staff meal at least once or twice a week,” he said. “I really love them.”
He’s on the hunt for an all-beef, natural-casings product, and he and World Street Kitchen chefs Matt Eisele and Jeremy Fritz will be topping them with flavors inspired by their WSK menu.
“We’ll have a kimchi hot dog, and a banh mi hot dog, and a Japanese-inspired hot dog with kewpie mayo, seaweed and pickled daikon,” said Sameh Wadi. “And a beer-cheese hot dog, with popcorn. We’ve got to have some fun, and not take ourselves too seriously, because, at the end of the day, it’s wienies.”
They’ll be a guacamole-topped hot dog, too.
“I know, that should be illegal,” he said. “But it’s so rich, and fatty, and wonderful. I’m still thinking about it. Basically, we’re just using these hot dogs to show off all these cool global flavors.”
One staple that Wadi is steering clear of, however, is hummus.
“Nope, can’t do it,” he said. “Maybe it’s my upbringing, I don’t know. But I cried for five minutes for even thinking of doing something so sacrilegious.”
Like the dogs, their brioche-style buns will be steamed, because that’s basically the only cooking equipment that the non-vented facility can handle.
“To give them that soft, pillowy texture,” said Wadi.
There's no name yet, but the Brothers Wadi will have to come up with one, fast, since the place is going to open on Sunday, Aug. 12. (Hours are noon to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, until the weather turns cold).
“Right now, for fun, we’re calling it Big Scoop Little Wienie,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve also played around with ‘Two Scoops and a Wienie,’ and ‘Little Jam’ is another contender.”
The Wadis are having having a busy year. In May, they opened Grand Catch on St. Paul's Grand Avenue. For this project, the Wadi brothers have teamed up with another pair of siblings, Aaron Day and Noah Day, owners of Blue Construction and Day Properties; their office is next door.
The stand (that's it, pre-Wadi Brothers, pictured, above, in a 2015 Star Tribune file photo) is no stranger to change, having gone through numerous owners over the years.
“There’s lot of history here, and it’s an important spot for the neighborhood,” said Sameh Wadi. “It’s exciting to go back into a building that has lots of history.”
(His former Saffron Restaurant & Lounge had a 10-year-run in a prominent first-floor spot in the Colwell Building, a 1912 brick warehouse in downtown Minneapolis).
“Here’s how old it is,” said Wadi. “There was a leak in the roof, and when we went to fix it we found an original sign that had been chopped up and used as roofing material. No wonder it was leaking.”
It’s also seasonal structure, with no indoor seating, just a stretch of picnic tables next to the sidewalk. Wadi added that he’s taking a wait-and-see attitude on the future.
“Who knows?” he said. “Maybe we’ll expand it into a full-service restaurant, or we’ll try and get a beer and wine license. Whatever we do, we want to do something cool for the neighborhood. We don’t want to do too much until we figure it out. We’ll do our research, and see how it goes.”