When a trio of siblings took over a KFC in Brooklyn Park in 2018, they didn't know they'd become fast-food warriors three years later.
This spring, the team behind Mi-Sant Bahn Mi Co. will make the leap to a second locale in Roseville, this time in a remade former Bakers Square.
They signed the paperwork on the place a month before COVID hit, but had an out when it was clear the pandemic would greatly impact the restaurant industry. A developer offered to take the new site off their hands, with the caveat that they'd be putting in two fast-food restaurants in its place.
"We just didn't feel right giving it up," said Linh Nguyen, who co-owns Mi-Sant with her family. "We just said, 'You know, the last thing we need is more fast food.' Especially since the small mom-and-pop authentic restaurants are the ones that are suffering the most. We just wanted to do our part and keep anything that's authentic around."
It was a question that was bigger than the bánh mì sandwiches Mi-Sant is known for.
"I just think about what I want future generations to be able to enjoy, and fast food is not what I want to see," Nguyen said.
In that vein, Mi-Sant is even transforming the idea of the fast food drive-through.
The original spot in Brooklyn Park came with a drive-through window, which turned out to be exactly what the fast casual Asian cuisine market was missing, Nguyen said.
"It really saved us during COVID," she said. "People love to be able to buy a bánh mì at a drive-through."
The new Roseville restaurant, named Mi-Sant Kitchen & Bakery, won't have a drive-through, but it will have those great sandwiches, French croissants and baguettes, noodles and other dishes found at the first. And with around twice the square footage, it'll give the chefs — Nguyen and her sister — a chance to expand the menu into pho and more entrees in a space that will eventually allow for dining in.
And Roseville will be the better for it. Mi-Sant is just one in a mini-wave of restaurant openings the suburb can celebrate.
La Tapatia moved in January to 2730 N. Snelling Av. (651-253-6175, lafamiliatapatia.com). Abraham Ponce Delgadillo and his mother, head chef Martha Ponce, are cooking up burritos, tacos and tortas in three styles (street, Cali or Tejano).
Another recent opening is a two-for-one. High Pines Brewing Co. has taken over Joe's Crab Shack (2704 N. Snelling Av., 651-200-3581, highpinesbrewing.com). In the kitchen? The Tipsy Steer, which is in expansion mode (there's one in Blaine, and a second location opened in south Minneapolis late last year). Brick-oven pizza, burgers, tacos, salads and shakes are their signatures, available now for dine-in, with delivery and to-go coming soon. tipsysteer.com/roseville.
Mi-Sant Kitchen and Bakery is still under construction at 1881 Hwy. 36. An early spring opening is expected; in the meantime, find them at 8540 Edinburgh Centre Drive, Brooklyn Park (763-355-5947, mi-sant.com).
"We want to offer something more and not be too focused on takeout," Nguyen said. "It's kind of like our experiment kitchen, so it's whatever we want to cook."