At Hai Hai, chef Christina Nguyen and her partner Birk Grudem—the duo behind the wildly popular Hola Arepa—are serving some of the most interesting and celebrated food in the Twin Cities these days. Located in Minneapolis’ Northeast neighborhood, it’s been packed since the doors swung open in 2017. Not only was it named one of the best new restaurants in the country by Eater, Thrillist and Esquire in 2018, chef Nguyen was nominated for a James Beard Award this year. The menu is comprised of bold, flavorful Southeast Asian street food—each dish is bright, colorful and full of satisfying textural contrasts. It’s affordable, meant to be shared, and incredibly accommodating for the vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free member of the party. In the winter, the indoor tropical vibes are a welcome respite from the frozen tundra I call home, while the patio might be the most sought-after seat in town come summer. A few favorites include the banana blossom salad with nuoc cham, lettuce wrap-style Vietnamese crepes, a killer rendition of beef larb and the Balinese chicken thighs. End the meal with a Vietnamese coffee pot de creme or silken tofu with lemongrass-ginger syrup.
2121 University Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418