Mexican restaurant by Ann Kim heading to former Lucia's space

The former Lucia's in Uptown Minneapolis is slated to become a Mexican restaurant by celebrated local chef Ann Kim.

The former Lucia's in Uptown Minneapolis is slated to become a Mexican restaurant by celebrated local chef Ann Kim. Rick Nelson

What better fate could we imagine for the former home of Lucia's?

When the beloved Uptown institution shuttered in October 2017, visions of condos flashed before our eyes. But lo! A light has appeared on the horizon and in the center of that light: Ann Kim, restaurateur behind Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola, and Hello Pizza, and all-around badass woman chef.

We won't dwell too long on how awesome it is that Kim, a powerhouse of the new generation of women chefs, is taking over a kitchen once helmed by Lucia Watson, trailblazing woman chef of the former generation. But, damn, that is cool.

Also cool: With this new venture, Kim is transitioning from pizzas to tortillas. When the new restaurant opens in the summer of 2019, diners will taste handmade nixtamal tortillas that Kim has been perfecting.

“The first time I tried a corn tortilla made with heirloom blue corn was in Valle de Guadalupe. I almost cried because it was unlike anything I had ever tasted,” Kim said in a press release shared this morning. “How could this be a corn tortilla? I had an epiphany: The difference between fresh, traditionally made tortillas and what most of us wrap around our tacos is the difference between a frozen pizza crust and the blistered, airy, charred, imperfectly round pizza crust, fragrant with hardwood smoke from a wood burning pizza oven. That’s when I decided my next mission is to re-create this tortilla experience.”

Along with Conrad Leifur, co-founder of Vestalia Hospitality, Kim will completely revamp the trifurcated space of Lucia's, Lucia's Wine Bar, and Lucia's To-Go at 1432 W. 31st St. in Minneapolis. The same design firm responsible for Young Joni in northeast Minneapolis will lead the charge. Construction is slated to begin this fall.

“We’re deep into the research and development phase and exploring many exciting possibilities,” Kim said in the statement. “There is a lot yet to be defined, but some things are clear. It will be inspired by my love for Mexican flavors that go beyond chips and salsa. There will be chile heat and a cooking fire. There will be experimentation with equatorial ingredients, not necessarily limited to the Americas. There will be an emphasis on the craft behind deceptively simple foods which are fairly complex to make correctly. You might even see a little hint of my signature Korean influence here and there.”