Grand Forks area sees 3 new restaurantsGRAND FORKS - Sergio Aguirre has noticed an increasing geographic certainty, regardless where you are. “You will always find a Mexican restaurant,” he said.
GRAND FORKS - Sergio Aguirre has noticed an increasing geographic certainty, regardless where you are.
“You will always find a Mexican restaurant,” he said.
Soon East Grand Forks will have one, too, thanks to Aguirre, who is opening his restaurant Casa Mexico at 112 14th St., near the Hugo’s Supermarket, possibly sometime this month.
The Grand Forks area already has several Mexican restaurants, running the gamut from regional chain Paradiso, to the home-style Chacherz at the Grand Cities Mall to taco shop/local institution Red Pepper. But Aguirre hopes his menu of traditional Mexican items will find its own place in town.
“I figured the town needed a restaurant,” he said.
Aguirre’s business is one of a few new additions to the small local restaurant scene here, including a recently opened Japanese restaurant and a soon-to-open venture combining food and indoor golf.
During Aguirre’s early years in the restaurant business, which he has worked in since he came to the United States from Mexico at 17, his challenge was too many Mexican places where he was living, in Atlanta.
“Down South, there’s a lot of competition,” he said. “Sometimes you invest a lot of money and end up not being successful.”
In 2001, he opened his first restaurant in Vermillion, S.D., a town with a small Hispanic population at the time, he said.
“Some people stopped by and kind of warned me, there’s no Hispanic population or no Mexican population,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not for everyone.”
Today he owns two restaurants in South Dakota, is opening his third in North Dakota and operates another in Minnesota. His nearest store to Grand Forks is El Toro, in Wahpeton, N.D.
Two cooks from China also saw potential in a smaller market like Grand Forks.
“What we make is kind of different,” said Steven Ming Li, who opened Shing Ya Japanese Cuisine at 108 N. Third St. in Grand Forks in November.
“It’s pretty close to traditional Japanese food,” said his partner Meng Guang Sheng.
Li and Sheng knew each other through restaurant jobs in California, but when Sheng took a job as a sushi chef in Fargo he told Li about the locals’ enthusiastic response.
“He’s the first sushi chef in the town of Fargo,” Li said. “He’s so popular in town. Everybody knows him.”
Sheng moved north to be a sushi chef for Little Bangkok in East Grand Forks, but Li asked him to run the sushi bar in new venture in Grand Forks.
Though Li is from China, he learned Japanese cooking in restaurants in Japan before moving to California in the 1990s.
Besides sushi, Shing Ya’s menu features several noodle dishes, Japanese curry and fried meat dishes.
The area has several other Asian places, from standard Chinese-American fare to newer Thai and Japanese businesses such Fuji in Grand Forks and Little Bangkok and Drunken Noodle in East Grand Forks. Li thinks his menu brings a new dimension to the local options.
“I want to make real Japanese and let them (people) try it,” he said.
Another new entrepreneur plans to open a business with three attractions: food, drink and golf.
“I’ve been working on the business plan for awhile, but this my first full-on entrepreneurial venture,” said Andrew Krauseneck, a 2009 UND graduate. He plans to open Albatross, at 2950 10th Ave. N. in Grand Forks, the former location of Suite 49 bar, which closed in 2008.
The business is built around golf simulators that allow players to tee off on to screens displaying fairways and greens. Cameras capture the motion of the hit balls and projectors show their course on the screen.
The 7,000-square-foot building will also feature a dining area with a menu built around meatballs and French bread pizza and a bar area offering beer and wine and games including foosball and bubble hockey. Krauseneck hopes people will come for the golf and stay for the food, or whatever combination of eating, drinking, playing and hanging out they want.
An Albatross is a double-eagle or three under par and a name Krauseneck chose to reflect the golf side of the business. But if the food side takes off, he said it would still fit.
“I thought Albatross was still a catchy, kind of cool name,” he said.