Popol Vuh May Be Gone, But Vivir Is Alive and Kicking

With conchas, cricket snacks, and molinillo whisks

What’s cookin’ at Vivir, the Mexican bakery, café, and market that replaced Popol Vuh in Northeast Minneapolis? All this deliciousness.

Restauranteur Jami Olson opened Vivir in November 2020 with executive chef Jose Alarcon and pastry wizard Ngia Xiong, the same team that took Centro and its fine-dining cousin to such great heights. Now they’re making salted mole cupcakes, guava glitter rolls, bone-warming atole (a cinnamon-y, maize-based drink), and the best breakfast sandwich we’ve eaten all year: a house-baked cemita with mushrooms, panela cheese, scrambled eggs, and kale. The mini-market is good fun too, stocked with Mexican beer and wine, cricket snacks, Pulparindo, and Fabuloso-scented candles.

Minnevangelist’s Andrew Parks interviewed Xiong, a Hmong alumna of Alma and the late Piccolo, for Minnesota Monthly. Here are some excerpted highlights:

What is your favorite menu item right now?
I really like the savory empanadas — the crispy, chewy exterior and beef filling with golden raisins. You get salty, pops of sweet, the crunch of the masa crust, and a kick from the salsa.

Anything diners aren’t ordering but should?
Yes! The mole chicken. If you could only smell it when it’s cooking… I want to eat that every day. People should also try the atole. The consistency is smoothie-like but richer tasting than a horchata. And in this cold weather, it’ll heat you up like a cup of hot chocolate!

What’s a restaurant you really miss dining in?
Kadi No Mise, the best sushi in town. It’s unfettered, thoughtful, intentional, and impactful.

Any favorite takeout spots?
Right now I’m riding a Momo Sushi high, and Dong Yang.

If I’m going to Vivir! tomorrow morning, what should I order?
The breakfast tacos. They’re made with freshly ground nixtamalized masa from our friends at Nixta. It’s like eating the best of what corn and masa was meant to be. And with cottony scrambled eggs, melty cheese, and soft and chewy potatoes wrapped in a warmed tortilla that smells of roasted corn—ingredients that are simple and yet so good together—who wouldn’t want to eat that?”

To read Xiong’s full Q+A, click here.

1414 Quincy St. NE, Minneapolis, MN; 612-345-5527.

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