Walk down Washington Avenue in Minneapolis' North Loop and you'll have your pick of places to eat.
But while the number of restaurants is vast, the variety is few.
On Jan. 21, the authentic Sichuan restaurant opened its doors along the main strip in North Loop. Situated where Rojo Mexican Grill and Shag were located previously, the Chinese restaurant is co-owned by mother-son team Jessie and Jack Wong, the pair behind Szechuan in Roseville.
With a tightened up menu, JUN still features spicy, Sichuan favorites while also introducing diners to fresh, handmade noodle dishes, Shandong dumplings and craft cocktails.
Jack took a moment to speak about the new restaurant and what he and his mother hope it will accomplish.
Congratulations on the opening of JUN! I know you and your mother Jessie also own and operate Szechuan in Roseville, how did you two decide to come together and open a restaurant in the first place?
Jack: My family has always been in the restaurant industry ever since we came to the United States. It's what we know. Food and hospitality is very much a large part of our culture and we wanted to share that with others.
I'm sure diners love that you share it with them! After opening and successfully running Szechuan, what lead to the decision to open another restaurant?
Jack: Szechuan focuses on variety but customers new to Sichuan cuisine often get confused by the sheer volume of choices. We wanted to introduce our food to new guests by offering a more focused menu, incorporate some Shandong cuisine and retain the flexibility to change our offerings periodically. We saw JUN as the perfect vehicle for that.
Roseville isn't too far from Minneapolis, but it definitely is a different setting. Tell me, how did you decide on North Loop as the location for the restaurant?
Jack: We had been looking at potential locations for over a year for our new restaurant. The North Loop space was a combination of luck and timing—we really liked the space and there was a lack of Chinese cuisine in that particular area. Everything kind of fell into place after that.
So for those that are familiar with Szechuan, how will JUN differ?
Jack: As previously discussed, the menu is much more limited than Szechuan and much more fluid. Many of JUN's menu items that are more labor intensive to prepare are not available at Szechuan. A few examples include few fresh Bao Bao, veggie Shandong style Jiao Zi (dumplings), Teng Jiao Fish Fillets, pork ribs and our desserts.
Sounds like there are quite a few new items for diners to enjoy! Tell me, what is a dish you are most excited about?
Jack: Our Bao Bao and noodles! This is comfort food for me and not readily available fresh in Minneapolis. Eating these just brings me back to my childhood.
Those will have to be a must-try! So, you mention that flexibility of menu was a big part of opening a new restaurant. Will you be adding any new dishes to the menu at JUN?
Jack: We want to see how our guests respond to the current selection and will continue to experiment, offer specials and bring new items as we see fit. Ultimately, we want to introduce more Shandong cuisine alongside our Sichuan offerings, and perhaps dim sum options in the future.
It makes sense to see how the audience responds to the menu before changing, but it sounds like you have a lot of exciting things planned for the future! That being said, what do you hope audiences will enjoy most at the restaurant?
Jack: We want guests to not only enjoy our food but also their overall experience—this includes the ambiance and service. We also want to introduce guests to Baijiu-infused cocktails and walk away (and hopefully come back) with a different perspective of Chinese cuisine.
So, other than your own restaurants, where is your favorite place to eat in the Twin Cities?
Jack: That is a hard question! I enjoy many different types of foods. I like 112 for late night dining and a long-time favorite is Cheng Heng in St. Paul. They serve the best (maybe only) Cambodian food in town and have delicious chive cakes.
JUN is located at 730 N. Washington Avenue. Hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 612-208-0706.
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