5 reasons to get excited about Popol Vuh, the new Mexican restaurant coming to Northeast

Mexican, by way of Minnesota: "Pato al Tamarindo," duck breast with ancho-tamarind glaze, parsnips, and apples.

Mexican, by way of Minnesota: "Pato al Tamarindo," duck breast with ancho-tamarind glaze, parsnips, and apples. Mecca Bos

Lyn 65 is easy to like.

The Richfield bistro serves all the dependable favorites: fried chicken, big old smash burgers, and pizza (along with some vegetables because you have to have your vegetables, too).

And now, the team behind Lyn 65 is getting into the other big thing that's easy to like: tacos. Here are five things to know about Popol, their new project coming to northeast Minneapolis later this year.

1. It's technically two restaurants in one.

Popol will be divided into two restaurants: Popol Vuh and Central. Popol Vuh will be the 56-seat “heightened cuisine” annex of Central, the larger, more casual anchor for the restaurant. 

2. Jose Alarcon, from Morelos, Mexico will be the chef.

When Ben Rients, co-owner of Lyn 65, hired Alarcon to work at the restaurant, he knew he had someone special on his hands. “Everything he does is perfect,” said Rients. And though Alarcon had been with the company for only around a year, Rients quickly asked him if he ever had a desire to open his own place. Alarcon said yes. He imagined it would be called Popol Vuh, named for the Mayan creation story. 

“It’s about the relationships we have with the earth and the animals, and how we co-exist,” said Alarcon, who is adorably shy with a toothy smile as bright as the sun. Rients thought it was perfect.

Alarcon is Mexican and has an interesting facility with Mexican ingredients, French technique, and Midwestern dishes. You can see it in his beet salad, which may look familiar, until you bite into the Mexican requeson cheese instead of chèvre, and find in place of lettuces the hoja santa, a tropical aromatic herb that Alarcon says is used for good digestion in Mexico. You'll also notice it in the seared duck breast, served lolling around in silky tamarind-ancho sauce instead of the more familiar French demi glace reductions.

Alarcon grew up in his grandparents bakery in Morelos and has worked all over the Twin Cities, from Cafe Ena to Travail to the late Oak Grill at Macy’s. As a result, he has a singular culinary perspective. He says he loves our seasonality here, because in Mexico, it's just "rainy season," and "not rainy season." 

"The root vegetables you guys have are amazing," he beams. 

The ingredient he misses most from home is “jumiles,” an edible insect that his mother would regularly use in her cooking, which Alarcon says is reminiscent of citron. He’s not saying he’s going to use them at the restaurant (he’s not sure if it is legal to do so) but he didn’t say he wouldn’t, either. So maybe, just maybe, you won’t have to travel to New York or Mexico City to get a taste of the cutting-edge Mexican treatment of bugs. “It’s very healthy,” he adds.

3. Popol Central will be a big, boisterous taqueria with margaritas by the pitcher and TV screens for watching soccer games.

Ever been to Big Star in Chicago? Do you love Big Star in Chicago? This will be like that, only different.

The team is considering a “market feel,” where you’ll go up and get your food, bring it back to your table, and then you can order drinks from the full bar. Do you know Green Street Meats in Chicago? Do you love it? This will be something like that, too. But, again, different. 

4. The location is perfect.

It's situated right next to Indeed Brewing Company in Northeast, so you know: tacos, margaritas, beer.

5. There's going to be a raw bar.

The raw bar will feature fresh oysters and aguachile (think ceviche), because if there’s one thing this town needs more of it's aguachile. And there will be a big wood fire and a big plancha (grill), and Alarcon and his team are going to be cooking with a whole lot of smoke.

“There’s going to be so much wood and smoke in that room,” says Rients. “It’s going to be a fully immersive experience.”

So, to recap: Popol will offer a fully immersive experience with tacos, free-flowing margaritas, lots of smoke, more aguachile, and possibly some cutting-edge Mexican cooking the likes of which we haven’t quite seen around here.

Excited yet?

Go to the Popol preview this Monday, February 27. Buy tickets here.

The restaurant opens “around fall” of 2017.