Popol Vuh, the fine-dining Mexican concept in Northeast Minneapolis that took the Charlie's honors for Outstanding Restaurant in February 2020, ended the year under a new concept and a new name, Viv!r, which is Spanish for "to live."
Owner Jamie Olson, who also serves as general manager, said she and her partner, Executive Chef José Alarcon, said the fine-dining model never caught on the way they thought it would, while their fast-casual sister concept next door, Centro, was becoming a mecca for the bar crowd. The two decided to shift the concept to fast casual, with the added appeal of a Mexican bakery and market. The focus also capitalizes on pastry chef Ngia Xiong’s strength with an impressive morning-pastries spread.
When asked if having two fast-casual concepts under one roof might present a conflict, Olson replied that each concept has its own strengths. Centro focuses on tacos and the bar crowd (once nightlife is back), while Viv!r will attract the morning coffee and pastry group, plus lunch and dinner takeout from a more diverse menu, including all-day breakfast.
There are also food staples for the Mexican pantry, grab-and-go items and gifts curated from Olson's and Alarcon’s pre-Covid trips to Mexico.
The new design by Shea also relocated the entrance to a side street, which not only gives the space a separate entry, but frees up the former walkway between the two concepts to host a long high-top overlooking the street where guests can sip their coffee while checking their emails.