Tapas Comes to 38th Street

The corner storefront used to hold the Fairy Godmother.

Look out 38th Street. Tapas are coming your way.

and co-owner and chef Hector Ruiz is opening a new restaurant at the corner of 38th and Grand Avenue, to be called Rincon 38.

“Rincon” means “little corner” in Spanish, and little it will be, with only 35 seats and plenty of little tables and a counter of single stools. The inspiration, Ruiz said, was the Spanish habit of eating little bites and drinking a glass of wine in the long breaks in between meals—Spanish breakfast happens around 8 a.m., lunch around 3 or 4 p.m., and dinner not until 9 or 10 p.m.

“Tapas fill the space in between,” he said.

“When my (Spanish) friends invite me to their houses, this is stuff I eat with them,” added the well-traveled Ruiz, a native of Mexico who’s worked in restaurants in France and visited Spain many times. “I tried to replicate or recombine those things into new dishes.”

Ruiz takes advantage of that far-flung network of friends for more than just menu inspiration. When Southwest Minneapolis Patch dropped by Café Ena last week, the lead chef was on his way down to Morelos, Mexico, for a week of training in molecular gastronomy with Vicente Torres, Ruiz's old friend from his days in France.

Affordability, Ruiz said, was his other guiding star. None of the wines, he said, will go above $5 to $10 per glass, and the plates will likely run between $10 and $12.

El Meson and Café Ena regulars will recognize a couple of dishes like the empanadas, the gambas, the flan, and aroz con leche, but many dishes are new. Ruiz said he thinks restaurant-goers should particularly look forward to the huevos—like deviled eggs, but with salmon mousse—and the bocadillo, an open faced sandwich.

“The most exciting thing for me, as a chef I want my food to get accepted in the neighborhood and get honest feedback,” he said. “I love to be at the restaurants I love to go to the food warehouses. I don’t do it for the money.”

“My mom owned a catering business back home, so I was always around cooking,” he added. “If I’m in the kitchen it makes me happy, it makes me relaxed, it challenges me. With my kitchens and my restaurants, it’s like being married to them.”

Rincon 38 is slated to open at the end of March or in the first week of April.


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