Minnetonka’s Avenida Cocina & Bar marries Mexican and Latin flavors for a fresh, new dining experience

Latin-American flavors, bright colors and ambiance are the stars at Avenida Cocina & Bar in Minnetonka.
Classico ceviche

It’s May. The winter boots have gone into storage. The temps are steadily short-sleeve-worthy. And if you’re like most Minnesotans, you’re coming out of hibernation in search of anything that feels—or tastes—like summer.

Lake-area neighbors, rejoice! Kaskaid Hospitality—the company that brought you Crave, Salsa a la Salsa, and BLVD—has teamed up with celebrity chef and author Daniel Green to develop a Mexican-meets-Latin fusion restaurant on Wayzata Boulevard in Minnetonka.

Avenida Cocina & Bar opened in December and offers a full range of fresh salads, tapas-esque small dishes, traditional Latin favorites, a huge selection of tequilas, and a trademark ceviche bar. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

“It’s a new experience. There’s nothing like it in the Twin Cities,” says Zach Sussman, marketing director for Kaskaid Hospitality. The restaurant, which is located at the former site of a Macaroni Grill, was created with a deep knowledge of the community and a conscious effort to avoid duplicating what was already available there.

“We’re not just filling a need—people saying, ‘Hey, I’m hungry. Let’s get a cheeseburger,’ ” says Sussman. Instead, Avenida offers a start-to-finish experience. “It’s not just Mexican. It’s edgy, a fusion between Mexican, Peruvian, Argentinian and Brazilian flavors,” says Sussman.

The interior of the restaurant was created in partnership with Minneapolis design firm Shea, and inspired by the international travels of its owner, David Shea. Colored glass sliding doors add pops of light and color, and rope features heavily in lighting and room-divider fixtures as a nod to the eatery’s coastal Latin influence. A casual but chic color palette energizes the space, along with a few quirky, modern touches. There’s “wallpaper with shimmering geckos and a big, open bar that’s conducive to people having a good time,” says Sussman.

Celebrity chef Daniel Green, a native of London and now an Edina resident, is known for his paleo recipes and healthy, natural approach to cooking. His most recent book, Paleo Monday to Friday: A Diet So Good You Can Take the Weekend Off, came out earlier this year. Between television gigs, promotional tours for his books and spending time with his family, Green also finds time for his role as a spokesperson for the Kaskaid brand, helping develop menus and promote the ever-expanding selection of Kaskaid venues. He’s excited about Avenida’s fresh take on familiar flavors, and especially the interior space that provides a perfect ambiance.

“It’s a very clean look, warm without being too starchy. It’s really nice and light,” says Green. “Nice and light” could describe the menu, too, and that’s right up Green’s alley. “ ‘Healthy’ is a buzzword right now. But what does it mean? Fresh? Organic? It’s such an open statement—people overuse it,” says Green. The focus at Avenida, he says, has been a sparing use of fried, fatty foods, and catering to the local clientele “that wants to experience what’s ‘in’ at the moment but not have to travel downtown.”

“People feel like if they want to go out on a Friday or Saturday, they have to eat badly. I want to tell people they can have ‘healthy,’ too,” says Green. “My mission and passion is healthy food. To me, that means it’s full of flavor, has protein that fills you up, and is fresh—not compromising.”

Peruvian cuisine was a natural fit for the menu, because it takes a palette of flavors that are familiar to Twin Cities diners from mainstream Mexican-American fare and combines them with extra freshness, cilantro- and onion-laden crispness, and bite.

At Avenida, “there are hints of things [guests] have seen before—Mexican staples like tacos, guacamole, and margaritas—mixed with Peruvian street food,” says Sussman. Head chef Billy Sanchez, formerly of Salsa a la Salsa in Uptown, traveled the country to sample the best Latin-fusion flavors and add his touch to the unique menu. Chaufa (Peruvian stir-fry with scrambled egg) and anticuchos (skewers with your choice of marinated meat) top the list. Like BLVD across the street, Avenida includes an indoor-outdoor space with a fountain and a fire pit, and a private dining area for up to 50 people. There’s also a full bar.

“Our cocktails aren’t too serious. They’re casual and drinkable. The bar transports you to the beach with an umbrella in your drink,” says Sussman. The team is planning to add tequila flights to the bar menu this spring (think sample-sized pours of reposados, blancos, or Jose Cuervos). Those cocktails and flights complement the wide selection of happy hour specials and small plates—perfect for sharing with a group of friends.

“It’s a familiar experience but fun,” says Sussman. “Avenida Cocina is approachable and casual. Fun and energetic. Very friendly. You’ll feel like you’ve been there before.”

Ceviche—say what?

A unique feature of Avenida Cocina is a
dedicated ceviche bar. Playing off the smashing success of Crave’s sushi
bars, it’s a decidedly Latin take on raw seafood. Ceviche takes up its
own section of the Avenida menu, but the team plans to add even more
options as the restaurant evolves. Specialty and seasonal ceviches are
on the menu, and the team plans to launch ceviche flights this spring,
says Zach Sussman, marketing director for Kaskaid Hospitality, Avenida’s
parent company.

Just like at a sushi bar, clients can take a
seat, talk through options and watch their meal being prepared in front
of them. “It’s a fun, interactive experience. Prefer a certain flavor
profile? A chef can help you find one that fits your tastes,” says

“It’s almost a new sushi,” says Green. “It’s an easy, guilt-free feeling of going out. It’s like new Japanese.”

¿Hablas español?

Ever felt the urge to whip out a
translation app at a restaurant? Here are a few terms that’ll come in
handy on your first trip to Avenida Cocina.

Avenida Cocina.
Avenida means “avenue” in Spanish. It’s a playful nod at BLVD, its
sister eatery, right across the street. Cocina means “kitchen.”

A dish of fresh raw fish, cured in citrus juices and flavored with
fresh herbs, peppers, onions and spices. Popular in coastal Latin

Lomo saltado. Translated literally, it means “stir-fried
filet.” In Avenida’s ode to a quintessential Peruvian dish, you’ll find
beef tenderloin stir-fried with onion, tomato, cilantro, garlic and soy
sauce, served with crispy potatoes and rice. “The cilantro makes it
pop,” says chef Daniel Green.

Tequila reposado. Reposado means
“rested” in Spanish. These aged tequilas are kept in oak barrels for at
least two months to earn this classification. Lime and salt optional.

Avenida Cocina & Bar
11390 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka