Minnesota Soul: A state with a sparse history of black-owned restaurants looks toward a bountiful future

It isn’t an accident that “Minnesota” and “soul food” are not exactly bedfellows.  Unlike other major northern cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul did not see a significant migration of African-Americans between the first and second World Wars. By the 1940 census, there were just 4,646 black people living in Minneapolis, and about as many in … [ Read more]

Bright Colors, Deep Flavors: In Hai Hai, chef Christina Nguyen has created an autobiographical powerhouse

Three facts about Christina Nguyen, chef-owner at Hai Hai and Hola Arepa: 1. She believes that the customer is right…unless the subject is omelette larb. “It’s the one dish I won’t allow people to get less spicy, because I am a total tyrant and crazy person,” she says. “There are certain things that you should … [ Read more]

Case Study: St. Paul’s upmarket Keg and Case food hall is a triumph—and a gamble

With 33,000 square feet of space and more than 20 upscale vendors, the newly opened Keg and Case West 7th Market is in immediate contention to be among Minnesota’s foremost food destinations. It’s architecturally significant—the renovated Schmidt Brewery keg house looms with a muscular, industrial power that is softened and streamlined by the addition of … [ Read more]

The Ramen Architect

John Ng of Zen Box Izakaya is a designer, engineer, and builder (of soup) If he weren’t a chef, John Ng of Zen Box Izakaya might be a kung fu master. This is literally true: the architect-turned-izakaya co-owner has been practicing martial arts for 16 years, having begun his training while living in San Francisco. … [ Read more]

First Course: Revolution!

A ‘Guerrilla Harvest Dinner’ heralded the birth of the Ashland and Bayfield chapter of the Wisconsin Farmers Union I. An Improvised Feast The spreadsheet for the harvest dinner stretched 49 lines deep. Each line was an offering from an individual that reflected a different aspect of the harvest: “Two pecks of apples and some onions.” … [ Read more]

Hunter, Writer, Butcher, Cook: Jamie Carlson and Minnesota’s wild foods movement

Jamie Carlson’s idea of a perfect field snack is a raw antelope liver, taken directly from the freshly killed animal itself. “Raw antelope liver is the sweetest thing you’re ever going to have,” he says while tending a campfire at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan. “Pull it out, rinse it off, put a little … [ Read more]

Last of the Embers: The final holdout of the Embers restaurant chain keeps the flames burning in Fridley

On a recent Thursday, we stopped by Ricky’s Embers Family Restaurant, just off 694 in Fridley. We’d arrived for the last Cruise Night of the summer season, and the parking lot was full of cars from every era, some more interesting than others—like a souped-up ’58 Ford Custom 300 with stainless steel dice on the … [ Read more]

Raw Talent: The new St. Paul chef collective just/us creates wild coursed meals

Everyone loves to talk about the so-called rock star chef—young, brash, arrogant, a servant only to their own wild imagination—but truthfully there aren’t too many of them around. For the most part, restaurants aren’t stages that play host to wild performances. They’re businesses with carefully calculated margins that represent a holy covenant between the investors … [ Read more]

Food for Thought: A U of M partnership yields some exotic fruits

Across the country, campus dining tends to be where mediocre food comes to a bad end, ladled from plastic bags into heating vessels and then into troughs where it is consumed with a mixture of indifference and resentment. “Banquets” are sorry affairs, dominated by overcooked vegetables, cloying desserts, and rubber chicken entrees more appropriate to … [ Read more]

Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store: A world of surprises in one big yellow barn

On a regular Thursday afternoon in the town of Jordan, Minnesota, two young boys are standing in the middle of a giant yellow barn, surrounded by every kind of candy imaginable and having a very important debate. “Okay, if you could only get one, would you get a gummy snake or alien?” one boy asks. … [ Read more]

Taste of the Country, On an Urban Table: Lenny Russo and Daniel Cataldo of ninetwentyfive

If you’re going to tell the story of food in the Upper Midwest, it’s helpful to think of a circle. People here were once intimately interconnected with the land and seasons as farmers, hunters, and fishers, and every ingredient had a story about where it was from and when it was harvested that was intimately … [ Read more]

Spinning the Wheels: The goats (and cheese) of Capra Nera Creamery

The gently pitched and sprawling green fields of Altura, Minnesota, are part of the Driftless Area. The land shrugs and dips, and there are whorls and ripples that make their way across the turf. You are tenderly enfolded by the landscape rather than dwarfed by it. This is where Capra Nera Creamery cheesemaker Katie Bonow’s … [ Read more]

Soil Farmers: How A Renewed Focus On The Land Is Building More Resilient Farms

Peter Allen wants to bury a fence. Tucked within the rolling landscape of the driftless region, on a farm outside of Viola, Wisconsin, a barbed wire fence runs along the spine of a ridge separating a strip of pasture from the valley below. The noticeable three-foot drop between the fence and the field is the … [ Read more]

Smoke and No Mirrors: The effort and integrity behind Northern Waters Smokehaus

I spent a couple decades in real estate, where I saw every kind of sales pitch, from the clumsiest—delivered by a transparently thirsty postgraduate sweating through the armpits of his big-boy sport coat—to the most sophisticatedly smooth. One thing I learned is that we are all selling something almost all of the time, even if it’s … [ Read more]

Taste of the Great Lakes: The changing food scenes of Milwaukee, Detroit, and Toronto

The Great Lakes are home to some of the largest metropolises in the Upper Midwest, and it’s no surprise why. The shipping industry helped build port cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Toronto into the towering urban landscapes they are today. But while they are linked in their industrial origins, each city’s identity is as unique … [ Read more]