One of the biggest blessings about living in Minneapolis again – I have close friends here who actually want to eat high caliber meals!
After years in Madison with hard to coordinate foodie friends and with BFFs on limited budgets in Chicago (me included!), there had been a restaurant draught in my life for some time. That is, save for my time spent with Lana in New York 😘.
Relishing in my newfound weekly bliss of delicious Twin Cities haunts, on a sticky summer evening, my friend Victoria and I ventured to Northeast for drinks and dinner. The spot: Young Joni.
Situated on an unassuming corner, Young Joni is the powerhouse sister of Southwest’s Pizzeria Lola. With an overwhelming entrance, speckled with forrest-grade foliage and an interior that screams industrial barn (in a good way), the fare is as exciting as the ambiance. Citing the owner’s Korean roots, the menu pairs pizzas with delicious Asian flavors.
Young Joni is simply divine.
Bonus Points: the Backbar, of course
After tumbling out of an Uber in front of Young Joni, Victoria and I made a bee-line for the hostess stand. We were hoping for some sort of miracle, crossing our fingers for a wait that was less than an hour.
I have known Victoria for several years. We constantly circled among the same group of friends at Madison, and I was fortunate enough to have become even closer with her upon my return to Minneapolis. She has a light ease about her that makes me feel totally comfortable, perhaps because she is also a Virgo, like me. And she knows my boyfriend well, which is rare, considering he lives across the world. It’s like she knows a part of my life that most other friends don’t! And, for this I love her even more. Plus she likes spending money with me on frivolous yet delicious meals, so I would say we are a match made in heaven. Expect to see her here often moving forward 👭
But nonetheless, with buzzer in hand and a two hour wait ahead, we looped around the back of the building instead. Ducking under the red light, we slithered into Backbar, a speakeasy style space with a 1930s depression era, farmhouse vibe.
Sitting at the short bar, we ordered drinks. I started with an Aperol Spritz and Victoria indulged in a Mai Tai (honestly, I think this is what we ordered, I simply can’t remember – sorry lol). We were both starving. So, we ordered a plain cheese pizza as an appetizer, which although ambitious, was well worth it. A simple classic, the cheese pie did not disappoint. As a crust afficionado, I was particularly happy with the pizza’s, a perfect amount of bread to crunch.
Somehow, we managed to stretch the hour and a half with lots of conversation and two more glasses of red wine.
Once our table was finally ready! So, we returned to the main restaurant to be seated. The place was bustling, packed at 9:00 on a Saturday (FYI, this does not happen in Minnesota, the typical lunch hour is 11:30am and dinner is at a prompt 6:00pm). But, the commanding space held the bloat well, and the atmosphere, as a result, was jovial.
Sitting at a prime spot overlooking the wood fire oven, we settled in and ordered more red wine.
While perusing the menu, we noticed the sous chef in front of us prepare cauliflower dish after cauliflower dish. It seemed his only responsibility was cauliflower. And, the cauliflower looked so delicious! See cauliflower man, above. Taking its popularity as a sign, we ordered cauliflower as a starter. And, after some adept recommendations from our gruff yet on point server, we finally settled on the La Parisienne pizza. We awaited our meal, watching the cauliflower master make cauliflower.
the cauliflower & pizza.
We awaited the cauliflower with anticipation, attempting to guess which batch was ours.
The dish didn’t disappoint. Packed with flavor and the right amount of spice, the wood oven added a crispiness that a good cauliflower dish often requires. It was light and bright and perfect. And, I would dare, say dramatically better than the sister dish of Pizzeria Lola’s.
Sadly, I believe that the cauliflower is only on the summer menu, so until next May!
And finally, the belle of the ball: the La Parisienne. The gooey yet perfectly crispy base was layered with gruyère (yay Switzerland!) and ricotta cheese, brown butter, caramelized onion, and incredibly fresh LaQuercia prosciutto. The pie was topped with fresh arugula and pickled mustard seed. The combo of flavors was outstanding! Like our first pizza, it was equal parts crispy yet doughy, just the way I like it.
And, not to bash on the ole’ faithful cheese, but there was something so much more robust and creative about a pizza like this. Well worth the 2 hour wait.
It was an eventful evening at Young Joni, a truly unique gem in the Minneapolis restaurant scene. We closed the night where we began – in the back of an Uber. We then made our way to Uptown to check out a couple breweries.