Update (1/5/2017, 3:45 p.m.): Sounds like if Big E does make a move to north Minneapolis, it won't be in the Victory 44 space.
After telling WCCO's Reg Champan about his dream of reopening Big E's Soul Food in North, confused folks in the Victory Neighborhood Facebook group commented that another chef has already signed on for that space. Austin says he's updating the GoFundMe page accordingly and hopes to find another location where he can revive the restaurant.
Original story below:
In 2001, chef Eric "Big E" Austin brought Southern-style, neo-soul food to the snowy North, thanks to his much-loved, 25-seat restaurant on Eat Street.
Big E's Soul Food served some of the finest jerk chicken and jambalaya around. "He's a very talented chef," Jeremy Iggers, former restaurant critic for the Star Tribune, told City Pages when we profiled Austin in 2011. "His soul food, for the short time that Big E's was open, was really the best ever served in the Twin Cities."
Well, we have some good news: It sounds like he could bring the same outstanding flavors of the South north again -- this time, from south Minneapolis, where his restaurant dazzled until 2009, to north Minneapolis, in the space that formerly housed Victory 44.
"Big E's was more than just another soul food joint," reads a GoFundMe campaign Big E launched in late December. "It acted as a beacon to show that thriving African American ventures were possible in a Minneapolis depleted of such endeavors. In the latest installment of Big E's Soul Food I intend to bring the same vibe of community, food, and family to the Victory neighborhood of north Minneapolis."
(Since Big E's Soul Food shuttered, the chef's been in the catering biz. He told WCCO: "I did a lot of [cooking for] Snoop Dogg and Shaquille O’Neal, who had come to the restaurant.")
The GoFundMe lists a tentative spring 2018 opening in north Minneapolis for the 40- to 60-seat full-service eatery, which will have a casual fine dining vibe (and a patio). Funds raised will be funneled into initial startup costs, inventory, and licensing.
Big E writes:
"This is it people of Minneapolis, and all else that know me. You all know through various social media and speaking with me directly that this is a project very dear to me. From offering culinary training and jobs skill placement to our neighborhood's so called 'at risk youth' to keeping our families fed. I am asking for your help, the man who has spent his Minneapolis residence showing you what the Big (purple) E stands for. It belongs to all of us. Let's all of us bring it back!"
We've reached out to Big E for some more details on the reborn neo-soul spot. In the meantime, you can support the project and find the full update from the man himself right here.