Downtown Restaurant Closes; 2 Chains Expand Locally

Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen has closed; meanwhile, two quick-service restaurant chains—Corner Bakery Café and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen—are expanding in Minnesota.

Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen—which has occupied the corner of Fifth Street and Hennepin Avenue since summer 2010—has closed its doors.
Few details are known about the abrupt closure, which reportedly occurred Tuesday. A message on the website says: “Wondrous Azian Kitchen is now closed. Thank you to all our friends, family, and guests for your support and love.”

But Pham appears to be facing challenges. Late Thursday afternoon, media reports surfaced indicating that he faces felony charges after writing $30,000 of bad checks to A-Z Restaurant Equipment of Princeton. The Star Tribune cited a complaint that was filed in Mille Lacs County, and said that when Pham failed to appear for a court appearance, an arrest warrant was issued.
Pham continues to operate Thanh Do in St. Louis Park, and a new version of his most successful former restaurant, Azia, is reportedly opening in the coming months (although Pham told the Star Tribune that he sold that restaurant to a friend and will simply help with the concept). It will be called Azia Market Bar & Restaurant, and it will be located at the corner of East 26th Street and Nicollet Avenue, on the same block as the original Azia.
Meanwhile, two quick-service restaurant chains are expanding in Minnesota.
Dallas-based Corner Bakery Café, a 21-year-old fast-casual bakery that was founded more than two decades ago, said Wednesday that it plans to open at least 18 new restaurants in the Twin Cities area. There are currently more than 140 Corner Bakery locations in 14 states and Washington, D.C., and the company plans to double its footprint within the United States over the next four years through a combination of franchised and company-owned cafés.
The Twin Cities “will play a big role in that growth,” said Corner Bakery, which currently has no Minnesota locations. Its menu features hot breakfast scramblers, paninis and sandwiches, homemade soups, salads, pastas, and desserts—and it also offers catering.
One other restaurant concept also plans to make its mark on Minnesota. AFC Enterprises, Inc., which franchises and operates Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen quick-service chicken restaurants, recently announced that it has agreed to pay $13.8 million for 28 restaurant locations in Minnesota and northern California. Although the restaurants are currently branded under another quick-service restaurant concept, AFC plans to convert them to Popeyes locations at a cost of roughly $11.5 million.
AFC CEO Cheryl Bachelder said that the 28 new restaurants “will give Popeyes a major footprint in places where we currently have almost no presence.”
In its announcement, the company didn’t specify how many of the 28 new restaurants will be in Minnesota and how many will be in California. According to Popeyes’ website, it currently operates just one restaurant within Minnesota; it’s located at 310 West Lake Street in Minneapolis.