Wanderers by Thom Pham coming soon, Azia likely to close

Thom Pham unveiled his new downtown Minneapolis restaurant venture today, called Wanderers Wondrous Azian Kitchen, at 555 Hennepin Avenue. At the same time, he said his Eat Street restaurant Azia will "probably" close in the near future.

Pham's newest venture is in an enormous, 9,000-foot space that most recently housed Zake (several other operators have struggled there over the years, including Musashi and Olive Garden), but Pham says he's not daunted by the building's reputation. "Actually, that's one of the most exciting things about it for me," he says. "I love challenges." Pham then pointed out that the space that now houses Azia was home to seven restaurants between 1997 and 2002.

Pham says he was drawn to the Plymouth building for its history, its corner location, skyway connections, and proximity to the theater and entertainment districts, as well as the new Target Field stadium.

Pham says he plans to decorate the dining room to evoke classic Asian-American cuisine in Minneapolis, including using 1930s-era furniture and artwork from Minneapolis's storied Nankin. "We're excited to bring some of that back to life," he says. The large bar area will have a more contemporary decor, and Pham plans to have floor-to-ceiling glass doors open onto Hennepin Avenue.

Of the menu, Pham says, "you're going to have it all," including everything from modern, fusion-style dishes like those at Azia to retro dishes like chow mein and egg fou young, including recipes from the Nankin he tracked down from one of the restaurant's old chefs.

Pham hopes to have Wanderers Wondrous Azian Kitchen open in early August.

As for Pham's other restaurants, he says that Thanh Do's recent move across the street from its former St. Louis Park location has been a big success. "It almost doubled the business," he says. But Azia's future is more uncertain, based on the fact that Pham doesn't own the building and it needs a lot of repairs. "The building's falling apart," he says. "It would take a lot of energy to bring it up to code."

He says Azia will "probably" close soon, but that he still likes the Eat Street location and that business is steady, so he would consider shutting Azia and then reopening in the same space with a different concept. But his first priority is to get Wanderers open before dealing with Azia's issues. "We'll go from there," he says.

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