Que Viet, the beloved Vietnamese restaurant known for its giant egg rolls at the Minnesota State Fair, will open a St. Paul location this spring.
Em Que Viet — "em" is the Vietnamese word for little brother or sister — is part of the Que Viet family of restaurants descending from what they say is Minnesota's longest-running Vietnamese restaurant. The new location (1332 Grand Av., St. Paul) will serve some of the restaurant's classic dishes, including the popular egg rolls and the beef and potatoes. Unique to this location, owned by Maria Nguyen and Brianna Le, will be dishes that are more traditionally Vietnamese, such as banh xeo, a crispy savory crêpe stuffed with meat and fresh herbs. Other dishes will take some creative modern liberties, like nachos topped with braised pork belly served on crunchy rice paper crackers.
"When my mother-in-law opened Que Viet, I think she served American breakfast," said Nguyen. The prevalence of Vietnamese cuisine in Minnesota has come a long way since that first restaurant opened in the 1980s.
Like the family-run Minneapolis location (2211 NE. Johnson St., quevietmn.com) there will also be a bakery case, filled with sweet treats like macarons and coffee almond cookies.
The project has been a long time coming. "We actually started working on it in June," said Nguyen.
The space is small, a former used-book store that had to be completely transformed into a restaurant. There will be about 40 tables and an additional 10 seats at the bar, where they plan to have a full cocktail lineup that plays into the multitude of aromatics found in Vietnamese cuisine. The interior is built for Instagram moments, like dragon- and phoenix-themed restrooms.
Because of its smaller size, Em Que Viet will also sport a sidewalk-facing takeout window so customers can walk up and grab their orders. Look for an early spring opening.