Guacaya Bistreaux, in the heart of Minneapolis’ North Loop, is a Latin Caribbean restaurant with Louisiana flare. As one of few Latin-owned joints in the neighborhood, the restaurant is a dream come true for Pedro Wolcott, chef and owner.
The Panamanian native moved to Minnesota from New Orleans (where his culinary journey began) with his wife five years ago. With intentions of opening shop in 2020, Wolcott halted his plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pivoting his focus to community service, he supported locals affected by the pandemic and the worldwide reckoning following the death of George Floyd in May 2020.
His actions of kindness found their way back to him when he pursued his restaurant goals. Partially made possible through the help of community members and organizations that he once aided, elements such as the tables, lighting, and artwork were donated to furnish the restaurant.
“What you put out into the universe comes back,” he says. “[The restaurant] is so full of emotion.”
In what Wolcott describes as the land of meat and potatoes (the Midwest), he says he strives to bring food education and enlightenment to the region. Serving a lineup of his favorite foods, Wolcott says he wouldn’t serve anything he wouldn’t eat himself. “If I don’t want to eat it, I won’t bring it to the table,” he says.
The menu features a rotating selection of family-style tapas that are inspired by Central American, South American, and Caribbean cuisines, and are made fresh from seasonal ingredients. “We didn’t want to be limited to one dimension, we wanted freedom to explore,” he says, regarding the multiregional approach. “We try to be creative and include any culture that speaks to us. We want to experiment with that and build off that to create layers.”
To complement the fusion of bold flavors, Meteor Bar, a Minneapolis cocktail lounge, collaborated with Guacaya to craft an array of beverages—many with plenty of rum to go around.
Though food and drink are at its core, Guacaya also provides a place to uplift diverse voices and showcase cultural traditions. It does so by using its location off the Washington Avenue Bridge—a space that offers an extra-wide sidewalk space in addition to its expansive patio.
Hosting a variety of public and private events, Guacaya’s biggest venture is The Mercado, a market on the bridge that provides a space for local Latino artists and vendors to showcase their crafts alongside live music from a DJ and, of course, food.
“Bringing completely different culture[s] to a neighborhood like this is one of my biggest goals,” he says.
Embracing the core values of inclusion, care, and celebration, the restaurant does not take reservations to encourage a “come as you are” approach—making it more accessible and welcoming to all. However, Guacaya is also available for buyouts and offers catering services for other meetings and events in the area.