The pandemic has brought many changes to our lives—more people working from home, a focus on getting outdoors more often, and, surprisingly, a number of new restaurant openings around the Twin Cities.

One of those new restaurants opened up earlier this month right here in Richfield—Protagonist.

It’s the brainchild of Sandy’s Tavern co-owners Jahn Brink and Pejmon Nadimi. And it’s a welcome addition to the burgeoning Richfield restaurant scene.

We had the chance to sit down with Pejmon recently, talk about the new restaurant and sample some of the tasty food!

Why did you decide to open a restaurant during a worldwide pandemic?

Before the pandemic, I had worked with my business partner over at Republic, which was then owned and operated by Matty O’Reilly. Then in 2020, COVID happens, Republic shutters its doors, and we started talking about opening a similar concept somewhere in the Twin Cities. Elevated pub food, or “new Americana.” At the same time, we had taken over ownership of Sandy’s Tavern. We liked Richfield. So, we started exploring spaces in town, like the former Houlihan’s space. We loved it right away, worked out a lease, did a few minor renovations, and here we are!

So this is your second restaurant in Richfield—why did you choose Richfield again?

Well, there’s a perk to being down the road from your other restaurant! And we knew we could use the Protagonist kitchen as a prep kitchen for our food at Sandy’s. That was important, too. When we re-opened Sandy’s after that first initial wave of the pandemic, we saw such an outpouring of support from the Richfield community. They kept us afloat. We’ll never forget that. We just really feel a strong pull to this community.

What do you love most about working in Richfield?

I grew up in Fridley and Richfield kinda feels like Fridley. It’s an inner ring suburb. It’s a cross-section of the city and suburbs. And it feels very “up-and-coming.”

What have you heard from the community so far after the initial opening?

Nothing but overwhelmingly positive support. Everything on the menu has exceeded my expectations so far.

OK, what are your favorite items on the menu?

The steakhouse burger is unbelievable! Mushrooms, cheese, and braised bacon? What’s not to like? It almost brings a tear to my eye when I see how much sear is on that patty when I pick it up. Our poutine is also excellent. It comes with braised brisket and our fries are hand-cut. I also love the grilled eggplant sandwich. It has an amazing texture–you wouldn’t know it’s not meat! Our chef was formerly at Sonder Shaker in Minneapolis—he’s amazingly talented. We’re lucky to have him.

Anything else we should know about Protagonist?

We’re also planning to offer brunch on Saturdays and Sundays soon. I’m a big brunch person so I’m excited to see how that takes off. We’re hoping to give the Richfield community a good solid brunch option—something we don’t have a lot of in this community.