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With Victory 44 Closed, Big E's Soul Food Could Return To The North Side

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The closing of a popular neighborhood restaurant in north Minneapolis is making way for a local chef's dream.

Big E, or Chef Eric Austin, wants to bring his brand of soul food back to the Twin Cities in the old Victory 44 space.

For nine years, Big E tantalized our taste buds with his brand of soul food, inside a 25-seat restaurant on Eat Street.

big e soul food
Big E (credit: CBS)

"If you do it well and everything falls into place, people will remember an experience," he said.

Customers remember the spot that made the name Big E synonymous with soul food in the Twin Cities, and Big E remembers his regulars.

"I may not know your name, but I know everything you ordered, and so my response would be 'Hey, pork chop with extra gravy, no onions! How you doing today? How is jambalaya doing and the kids -- macaroni and only teriyaki chicken?'"

Big E's closed in 2009. He kept his name and food out there by catering to the stars.

"I did a lot of Snoop Dogg and Shaquille O'Neal, who had come to the restaurant," he said.

He also ran a juvenile culinary program at Pillsbury's Oak Park Center, training the next generation of chefs as well as feeding the community. Now, an empty building in north Minneapolis may be the next place Big E calls home.

victory 44
Victory 44 (credit: CBS)

Kris Brogan lives in the Victory neighborhood and says the community wants a restaurant that will be an asset.

"Having vacant space is never a good idea, and it doesn't play well in the community, and we'd love to have a wonderful restaurant with absolutely gorgeous food," he said. "Bringing anything to the North Side is always exciting."

So what would the new Big E's look like?

"I absolutely wouldn't change a thing," he said. "Big E's was geared toward the senses, towards 'eat this and remember.'"

Big E wants to his food to once again take people back to Sundays at big mama's house. He's looking for the Twin Cities community to help him bring back his brand of soul food -- you can donate to his GoFundMe page to support it.

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