The legacies of Keefer Court, Khyber Pass and immigrant-owned restaurants

Three brown people pose for a photo
Ánh-Hoa Thị Nguyễn (from left), Michelle Kwan and Emel Sherzad pose for a photo inside the Kling Public Media Center in St. Paul on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Do you have a particular food that reminds you of home? Maybe it’s your grandma’s spaghetti recipe, the lumpia your family used to make or the pozole from the Mexican restaurant down the street. 

Whatever the dish may be, food has the power to comfort us and to connect us to our families and our cultures. And when we find a restaurant that serves those familiar foods, it can make us feel more at home. 

MPR News host Angela Davis talks about two restaurants that did just that for many Minnesotans — Khyber Pass in St. Paul and Keefer Court in Minneapolis.

Both restaurants closed in late 2022. And they’re not the only ones. A handful of other longtime Asian-owned restaurants in the Twin Cities closed in 2022 — like Asia Chow Mein in Columbia Heights and David Fong’s in Bloomington.

And the New York Times reported in 2019 the share of Chinese-owned restaurants in major metropolitan areas is on the decline. 

a host and three guests sit in a studio
MPR News host Angela Davis talks with Michelle Kwan, Ánh-Hoa Thị Nguyễn and Emel Sherzad about how restaurants owned by immigrant families keep culture alive through food and what we lose when they close.
Samantha Matsumoto | MPR News

Guests:

  • Michelle Kwan is the former owner of Chinese bakery Keefer Court in Minneapolis. Keefer Court closed in December 2022. 

  • Emel Sherzad  is the former owner of the Afghan restaurant Khyber Pass in St. Paul. Khyber Pass closed in November 2022. 

  • Ánh-Hoa Thị Nguyễn is a poet and writer raised in St. Paul by parents from Vietnam. She’s worked in grocery stores and restaurants, and has written about the connection between food and cultural identity.

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This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment‘s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.