A Mexican bakery, market, and small-plate space heads to Northeast

COVID-19 has positively brutalized restaurants, which… isn’t really something we need to tell you!

But here’s a little bit of good news: Just a few weeks after Popol Vuh’s COVID closure, the space will burst back to life—in a very on-the-nose fashion—with ViV!R. (Vivir is Spanish for “to live.”)

A Wednesday press release points to ViV!R having some shades of its predecessor, including a seasonal menu of “composed” Mexican small plates like chilaquiles and enmoladas. Popol Vuh chef and co-owner Jose Alarcon developed the menu here, too, and they’ll continue hosting agave classes and focusing on Mexican wines (though on a very scaled back level).

“Other than that and Jose’s food, everything is pretty much an introduction of something new,” Jami Olsen, co-owner of ViV!R and the adjacent taco hot spot Centro, tells City Pages.

Like everything else in the time of COVID, opening a restaurant means rethinking the space, the service, and what just being a restaurant means. So while there will be a bit of Popol Vuh essence in ViV!R, it’s an entirely independent animal.

“The biggest thing for me was wanting to flip the space and not making it feel like we’re trying to force Popol Vuh to be something that it’s not,” Olsen says.

Among the biggest changes (and biggest bummers)? The massive wood fire is gone. But it’s a compromise that lets pastry chef Ngia Xiong work her magic; she’ll join Alcaron on ViV!R’s baked goods side, turning out a selection of conchas, cemitas, and polvorones. 

At ViV!R, visitors can look forward to rotating empanadas and verduras, plus ceviches, salads, and sandwiches—all inspired by Mexico’s casual market food, not the (exceptional) Mexican fine dining Alcaron brought to the Northeast neighborhood in 2018. And it’ll be an all-day affair, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

ViV!R will also offer grab-and-go items and by-the-pound bulk foods from a new deli counter. And it will have a retail market with snacks and condiments (made in-house), and home goods (made by Northeast and Mexican artisans).

“We would have done it forever, if we could have,” Olsen says of Popol Vuh. “But now is the opportunity to create something that makes a lot more sense for the neighborhood and makes a lot more sense for the times.”

Expect ViV!R to open sometime this fall. 

1414 Quincy St. NE #2, Minneapolis