Lotus Restaurant has been a family-run Vietnamese treasure since 1983, most notably at its Loring Park-adjacent hub in downtown Minneapolis. In early 2017, the Lotus opened its largest location yet in Uptown, the neighborhood it called home way back the ‘80s.
“Uptown, I ask you: Does this sound like just the thing for the neighborhood you love, which has sort of become rudderless and hollow in recent years?” wrote former City Pages food critic Mecca Bos in her preview of the Lotus Uptown. “Well, you needn’t wait much longer.”
Fast-forward 17 months, and Uptown is about to lose the Lotus; the eggroll oasis at 2841 Hennepin Ave. S. will close for good this Sunday.
“We bit off a lot more than we can chew,” says owner Yoom Nguyen. “People thought we’d only last here four or five months anyway. This location is too big for us, and it’s not who we are as a family business.”
There’s also the Uptown issue. Yoom praised the area and his neighbors, but cited a third-party analyst’s report that contributed to the decision to close Lotus Uptown. The findings? Uptown is changing fast, and the forecast doesn’t look ideal for restaurants like his.
“It’s becoming more of a discount bar and shopping place; the money is here, but it’s just not here, if that makes sense,” Yoom explains. “Nobody lives around this area for more than two years. Being such a big location, with the demographics changing fast, we decided it’s time for us to look at other ventures.”
(Please commence the ol' Uptown is vs. is not dead debate in the comments.)
The Uptown location's large footprint also proved difficult to manage, Yoom says. And in June, three people were shot in the Lotus parking lot.
“The parking lot here is so huge," Yoom says, noting the outpouring of neighborhood support Lotus received following the shooting. "And when you’re focused on running a restaurant and bar, and there’s a bus stop [right there], it’s difficult to be able to monitor everything. It’s hard.”
Most Lotus Uptown staffers have already secured new jobs, Yoom reports. The Hennepin Avenue building was leased, so he expects a clean break from Uptown. The space has been a revolving door for restaurants in recent years, going from Old Chicago to the BoneYard to Salsa a la Salsa to Game Sports Bar to Lotus, as reader Aaron Gleeman points out.
“Don’t take this as a sad thing -- we’ve learned a lot from this location, about politics, business,” Yoom says. “We love Uptown, and we plan on coming back in the future with a smaller location. Be happy.”
If happiness is a warm bowl of a pho – and, objectively, it is – you can still score some at Lotus’ Loring Park and recently opened Maple Grove locations.