Young Joni (rhymes with “pony”) is Ann Kim’s third pizza place which opened a few months ago in northeast Minneapolis. You like the wood-fire pizzas of Pizzeria Lola? Great, you’ll like Young Joni. If you’re not feeling ‘za, that’s okay too — Young Joni offers a wider food selection compared to Lola.
Short review: we enjoyed many of the pizzas (as expected) but the “non-pizza” was a mixed bag.
Long review: here we go…
Welcome to Young Joni! Hooray, you are moments away from great food! Now… huh, wait a second… there should be… am I an idiot? Where the heck is the door? I’ll just keep walking forward and pretend like I know where I’m going… just feel around… this can’t be too hard… oh, I guess this metal lip kind of counts as a handle… hey, it’s opening! Whew, that was close…
Oh come on, seriously? Again? Just let me in. I know there’s food here, I can see people eating… oh, oh no, the hostess is walking over… forget it, it’s not worth it, I’m out… she’s going to laugh at– no, wait, she’s just pushing open the door… yes, thank you! She must think I’m an idiot……………. I’m an idiot.
I’ve visited Young Joni twice. Once with FDC (let’s call this “Round 1”) and a second time with fellow pizza/MN State Fair fans Ryan and Rachel (#shoutout, let’s call this “Round 2”) and everybody struggled with the doors. It’s 95% funny and 5% “why would they make this so difficult?” So not only is it hard to get a table with walk-in waits upwards of 2 hours (!), it’s literally difficult to get inside the doors! Maybe Young Joni was going for a Fort Knox vibe. Or maybe it just wanted stronger borders that make it more difficult for people, especially foreigners, to get inside. Like, oh, I don’t know…
…the sonic fence from “Lost”, hello! So frustrating!
Now, as you wait, you might be inclined to check out Young Joni’s own speakeasy bar. It’s inaccessible from inside the restaurant so you’ll need to leave through the restaurant’s Gates of Mordor, hook two lefts down an alley, and head towards a white light. This sounds ominous but inside you’ll find wood-planked walls covered in fun decorations and a cool photo album-like menu with creative drink names.
The drinks were very underwhelming on Round 1 — a $12 cocktail for something two-thirds filled with ice is a bummer. Rumor has it the staff quickly rectified this and the Round 2 crew can confirm the drinks are much better now. While Young Joni’s speakeasy doesn’t warrant its own visit, it’s nice for a pre-dinner cocktail to kill some time or post-dinner nightcap. If too much ice scares you, there’s always Dangerous Man next door as well.
Back to Young Joni, the restaurant — the menu itself is broken into the following sections: vegetable, salad, pizza, dessert, and the intriguingly worded “other delights” (i.e. non-pizza entrees).
So, up first — the salad course.
The bibim grain salad is delightfully colorful and consists of… well, several things I had never heard of before such as Job’s tears and purple daikon. Now, Job’s tears is a far *cry* from lettuce but it’s a surprisingly pleasant, mildly sweet, earthy grain. And purple daikon is just a type of radish. Also a rad dish? This entire salad. So good.
Next came one of the “other delights” — the thai sausage. Wrap one in a piece of cabbage and dunk away in nam him kai (Thai sweet chili) sauce. These were simple and delicious.
Next out – the vegetable (brussels sprouts) and remaining “other delights” including prawns, korean beef short ribs, and sweet and spicy pork spare ribs. The pork spare ribs were tender, juicy, and tasty but the rest of the dishes were not earth-shattering. The brussels sprouts and prawns were not particularly flavorful nor memorable.
The korean beef short ribs came with a nice yogurt sauce and chimichurri but still didn’t wow. We certainly enjoyed having food options outside of pizza but we suspect the selection of “other delights” is a work-in-progress which may see frequent rotations. The pizzas set the bar very high but in time the “other delights” will surely reach the same standard.
Speaking of pizzas, they ranged from amazing (as expected) to disappointing. Here’s the rapid [wood-]fire review:
The Amatriciana was red. It was saucy. It was forgetful. #MakeAmatricianaGreatAgain
The Korean BBQ pizza is a very popular pizza at Pizzeria Lola and made the menu at Young Joni. Spoiler: it’s still great. Bonus: it came free-of-charge! #blessed #FDCperks
The Basque looked absolutely incredible with vibrant colors that rivaled the bibim grain salad. It combines chunks of chorizo, large dollops of creamy goat cheese, castelventrano olives (I’d describe these as crunchy but with a buttery/oily taste that’s more subdued than your usual olives), and thin strips of red onion. Round 1 wasn’t totally sold on this pizza (“it looks better than it tastes”) but Round 2 loved it. It’s possible the Round 2 Basque might’ve been cooked better or lucked out with extra goat cheese but regardless, this one is worth a shot.
After eating these 3 pizzas during Round 1, Brad and I called an audible, ordered the Broccolini, and wolfed it down by ourselves. The almonds and the broccolini made for a fun-to-eat, not-overly-rich, crunchy pizza. Castelventrano olives must be olive the rage right now because these made an appearance as well.
In addition to the Basque, the Round 2 crew ordered two other new pizzas – La Parisienne and Sausage and Onion. Underneath La Parisienne’s Mount Arugula (Ann Kim sure loves piles of arugula on pizza) were layers of gruyere, ricotta, carmelized onion, pickled mustard seed, and prosciutto which combined for a deliciously sweet and salty pizza. There’s no picture for La Parisienne because it looks the same as the Korean BBQ — green and leafy. The plain sounding Sauage and Onion pizza was a suprise hit and tasted anything but plain. The sausage was juicy, pleasantly spicy, and complemented the creme fraiche and carmelized onion in gooey, cheesy perfection. After we placed our order, our waittress approved and said the Sausage and Onion, La Parisienne, and Basque were her three favorites on the menu (in that order). Maybe she always says that (eye roll) but after two visits to Young Joni, I think she’s telling the truth. She also told a great story about how she used to work at Pizzeria Lola and someone was really sad after dropping one of two plates with a creepy doll on it. Thankfully, the Young Joni plates are much less nightmare-inducing.
And if you need dessert, highly recommend the hazelnut chocolate soft serve.
So, to recap: pizzas — very good, as expected, with an occasional dud. Non-pizza “other delights” — pretty good but needs some work. Entrance doors — hilariously but needlessly complicated, effective at keeping out wildlings, White Walkers, and customers. Young Joni is only 3ish months old but has all the ingredients needed to mature into wise “Old” Joni which can deliver both great pizza and much more.