Tuesday is taste-test day for staff at Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, opening this winter at 2524 Nicollet Ave. On a recent Tuesday, they tasted Jamaican roast fish off the grill, stuffed with herbs and vegetables. They grilled inside a hidden courtyard tucked behind the building, surrounded by building walls with graffiti art.
“You would never know that this was here,” said co-owner Yoni Reinharz.
They’re planning to green up the space, commission new mural work and host live music on the stage. Reinharz is a rapper and songwriter, and he may perform as well.
“He’s never seen a mic he didn’t like,” said co-owner Tomme Beevas.
Reinharz and Beevas met each other as next-door neighbors in Bryn Mawr, and they bonded over music and food. Reinharz has since moved to the Victory neighborhood, and Beevas said his backyard just isn’t the same — he became accustomed to cooking twice the food whenever it was time to grill.
The aspiring restaurateurs won a contest on the show Food Court Wars to open their own restaurant at the Burnsville Center in 2013. They assumed that dishes like braised oxtail would scare away Burnsville patrons, but it’s proven to be a favorite.
“I don’t think there is a single weekend we’ve made it and it hasn’t sold out,” Reinharz said.
They have searched everywhere for a home for the past two years, and they came close to landing the former Falafel King storefront at Lake & Lyndale. Reinharz said it’s nice to find a spot in the former Café Kem storefront that fuses the old world Eat Street with new investment coming in to the area.
“It’s still affordable to startup guys like us,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier.”
They raised more than $30,000 on Kickstarter to help open the restaurant.
Pimento donates a percentage of net profits to Refill MN, a group dedicated to hunger in Minnesota. One meal purchased at Pimento also purchases a meal for someone homeless in the Twin Cities, Beevas said.
They’re planning a Shoe String Cook Off on Oct. 25, which challenges local chefs and food truck owners to create a meal that can feed a family for about $12 or under. The dish must be tasty, healthy, appealing to kids, and easy enough for a single parent to make in a pinch. Two families will determine the winner, and all of the recipes will go into a cookbook published by Beevas’ wife.
“I don’t think there are many cookbooks out there serving underserved communities,” Beevas said.