After mulling over a street food restaurant concept, several years ago brothers Saed and Sameh Wadi, owners of the Saffron Restaurant & Lounge in Minneapolis, decided to start out with a World Street Kitchen food truck.
Local legislation had only just changed to allow for food trucks. “We jumped right on it,” Sameh says. “What better way to test the market for street food than on the street?”
World Street Kitchen, which features a seasonal menu of foods from street carts around the world--with a twist--was one of the city’s first food trucks, he adds.
It wasn’t long before the Wadis returned to the idea of a physical restaurant. They looked for a location that would complement the food truck, not compete with it.
Last week they opened a bricks-and-mortar version of the restaurant in Minneapolis’s Uptown area, in The Greenleaf, a building that includes apartments and first-floor retail.
Uptown seemed ideal because “It has a neighborhood feel, but it also has a little nightlife,” he says. “That fits really well with the concept.”
Beginning with an empty shell, they buillt the space out over the last year. “We wanted it to have the same vibe as the food truck, and translate it into here.”
One way they accomplished that is by having counter service. That way, “There’s no separation between you and a guest. You don’t wait for a waiter.”
An open kitchen also lets people see the food being prepped. “It’s an instant connection with the people making the food,” Sameh says.
The dining room has an industrial feel, with recycled materials, wood and concrete, and metal accents. Many items have been repurposed.
Besides the big, bold flavors of many street foods, “There’s something about being curbside,” eating, he says.
He fondly remembers eating street food as a young boy. “Some of the best food I’ve had is from a rinky-dink stand where the person does one thing, and does it really well,” he says.
This kind of food is also a creative challenge to the chef. “While Saffron is a reflection of me as a chef, this is more of a reflection of me as a person,” he says. “This isn’t what I’m trained in, but it’s what I like to eat.”
Source: Sameh Wadi, World Street Kitchen
Writer: Anna Pratt
This story originally appeared in The Line
on Dec. 5, 2012.