Does Nicollet Av. have more bakers per capita than any other Minneapolis street? Probably.
For fanáticos del azúcar (sugar fanatics) of all ages, happiness is an oreja from the self-service counter at Marissa’s. Or a chilindrina. Or a galleta (translation: palmier, shell-shaped and sugar-topped sweet bread, rainbow sprinkle-studded cookies, respectively). All at shockingly low prices.+ More- Less
Glam Doll Donuts co-owners Arwyn Birch and Teresa Fox could probably have big careers in stand-up comedy, because their witty way with dough, sugar and a deep fryer brings smiles to more faces than back-to-back episodes of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”+ More- Less
Solveig Tofte, baker and co-owner of Sun Street Breads, is out to make everyone a believer in rye, particularly Midwestern-grown and -milled rye. “If you hate it, it’s because you’ve never had the best version of rye,” she said. “It’s so spicy and earthy, and it goes well with everything: fruits, cheeses and meats, obviously.” Most of the gorgeous breads sold at her five-year-old bakery/cafe are somehow associated with rye. Her favorite? The dense spelt/pumpernickel loaf — with its sour bite and sweet finish — that she bakes for her Saturday a.m. appearance at the Fulton Farmers Market in southwest Minneapolis. Someday, Tofte may resurrect her formula for rye brioche with currants. Until then, take comfort in the knowledge that even Sun Street’s granola contains rye, in the form of rye flakes. “I’m telling you, we love rye here,” she said. “Give it a shot.”+ More- Less
Danielle and Chris Bjorling embody the youthful drive that is forever transforming Eat Street. Reviving a long-abandoned Vietnamese restaurant, their two-year-old Copper Hen Kitchen & Cakery is a showcase for Danielle’s gift with flour, transforming it into chewy pizza crusts, crusty breads, decadent cupcakes, flaky savory tarts, brioche buns for wicked-good cheeseburgers, or buttery, salt-dabbled chocolate chip cookies. The Bjorlings are constantly evolving their business to suit the neighborhood’s needs. The latest innovation? A craft cocktail program.+ More- Less
What customers see at the Wedge Table — a bakery counter, several quick-service dining options, a small-scale grocery — is just the tip of the real estate iceberg. Most of the 18-month-old facility is a factory-scale operation devoted to the Wedge Co-op’s busy deli and catering kitchens and a 24-hour bakery. The ovens’ daily output is impressive: several dozen varieties of bread that translate into 500-plus loaves; 15 types of croissants, Danish pastries and galettes; a huge array of cakes and tarts; and a seemingly endless array of cookies. All are prepared, co-op style, with local and organic eggs, butter, milk and flour, by a crew of 17 hardworking bakers. “They are real artisans,” said Wedge CEO Josh Resnik. “They love their craft and they’re passionate about what they do.” It shows.+ More- Less
Think “Drink Street,” thanks to an ever-growing fluency in cocktails, craft beers and wine bars.
How to differentiate their Lakes & Legends Brewing Co. from the dozens of craft breweries popping up? Co-founders Ethan Applen and Derrick Taylor wisely located their enterprise in the base of a place-making apartment tower a block west of Eat Street. Brewer Andrew Dimery’s flavor-packed Belgian-style ales, porters and stouts (often invoking fresh-picked ingredients from Minnesota farmers) are similarly distinctive.+ More- Less
Nicollet’s cocktail culture is alive and well, thanks to the creative brain trust behind the bar at Eat Street Social. It’s a non-imbiber’s haven, too, with what’s arguably the 612’s most inventive nonalcoholic libations.+ More- Less
What a gift we have in Gyst Fermentation Bar. The bar roots out wine, beer, cider and kombucha with the discernment of a truffle hog, and the kitchen keeps the passion for — and knowledge of — All Things Fermented with its equally refined nose for cheese, pickles, chocolate and other delicacies. Two more definite pluses: the welcoming surroundings, and the enthusiastic, erudite staff.+ More- Less
They built this city. Well, at least this corner of it.
Nicollet is dotted with outdoor dining possibilities, from the well-appointed patios at Corner Table, Eat Street Social, Icehouse, Hola Arepa, Pat’s Tap and Wise Acre Eatery to the sidewalk tables outside Blackbird, Kyatchi and Nighthawks. But none bests the granddaddy of them all, the highly civilized 70-seat beer garden that Black Forest Inn owners Erich and Joanne Christ installed in their landmark German restaurant in 1976. One of the city’s first outdoor dining venues, it was designed by Lyle Folkestad, who is now an architect in Ipswich, Mass., but at the time was an architecture student at the University of Minnesota. “He spent a whole year with us, thinking how it could work,” said Joanne Christ. “And it does work. It has been wonderful to live with, all of this time.” A bookstore and barbershop were bulldozed and replaced by a gracious outdoor room that’s anchored by a pair of sculptures — by artists Charles Huntington and Bruce Thomas (“both friends and customers,” said Christ) — a fountain, a sheltering grapevine-covered arbor (“a lovely place to sit during a light rain,” said Christ) and a well-tended leafy landscape. “It’s exciting when it opens every spring,” said Christ. “As soon as the weather is in any way amenable, we are all ready to sit out there.” We are, too.+ More- Less
Eat Street’s reigning monarch? Tammy Wong, the farmers market-promoting, egg roll-obsessed owner of Rainbow Chinese Restaurant & Bar. “We opened in 1987,” she said. “Can you believe that? I have a lot of gray hair. I’ve earned it. Running a small business isn’t easy, but it helps that I really love what I do. I like to be creative, and this restaurant supports me doing that.”+ More- Less
When Christian Johnson opened Spyhouse Coffee 16 years ago, little did he know that he would be using Eat Street to launch a small coffeehouse empire. “Nicollet was pretty rough-and-tumble at the time,” he said, noting that the only activity that hasn’t taken place in the restroom of his quality- and design-obsessed hangout is “a tire change.” That first shop, at 25th and Nicollet — a former corner convenience store in a handsome 1926 apartment building — has grown to four; a fifth will probably emerge in the next nine to 10 months. Meanwhile, Nicollet has evolved, seemingly before Johnson’s eyes. “All of these restaurants up and down the street have led to Nicollet’s resurrection,” he said. “They’ve increased property values, for sure.”+ More- Less
Twenty years ago, Sal Azem had no intention of running Jerusalem’s Restaurant. “I bought it as an investment,” he said. “But this business, it sucks you in. Pretty soon, you start to enjoy the challenge.” For several generations of Twin Cities diners, this hole-in-the-wall (the roof’s onion dome is a relic from another Middle Eastern classic, Abdul’s Afandy) has been a gateway to baba ghanoush, hummus, shawarma, shish kebab and other faraway delicacies. “This place keeps going, and I’m still going,” said the Jerusalem native. “We must be doing something right.”+ More- Less
Meet the entrepreneurs who are changing the face of Eat Street.
Whether it’s a mariachi quintet at Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurant, an all-ages record release show at vegetarian- and vegan-friendly Reverie Cafe + Bar, or a Grateful Dead or Van Morrison cover band at the Driftwood Char Bar, music plays a major role on Nicollet. The pinnacle of Eat Street’s music scene is Icehouse. The place boasts one enviable asset after another: the balcony-wrapped stage, the trendsetting mixology. Then there’s chef/co-owner Matt Bickford’s spirited, seasonal and wholly modern cooking. He’s one of the metro area’s underrated kitchen talents (first-timers might want to start with his rollicking weekend brunch), and Eat Street is fortunate to have him.+ More- Less
Hot dogs, at a Japanese restaurant? At Kyatchi, there’s a solid reason behind the idea: chef Hide Tozawa is a baseball fan (and a onetime cook for former Minnesota Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka), so the sports-fan fare makes sense. “We just give it a Japanese or an Asian twist,” he said. No kidding: yuzu-laced mayo, grilled shishito peppers, stir-fried soba noodles, red ginger; why didn’t someone think to top a ballpark frank like this before? The rest of the menu is more recognizably Japanese, and dazzlingly expert in its due diligence — the emphasis is on sustainably raised seafood — and execution.+ More- Less
Nicollet’s most fascinating dining experience is surely Birdie, chef Landon Schoenefeld’s three-night-a-week culinary adventure. It’s a 12-course, produce-centric tasting menu format — so attuned to the season that a diner could set their watch by it — staged for just 14 prepaid ($100 per person) guests in the restaurant’s kitchen by Schoenefeld and three hardworking disciples. Schoenefeld acts as house DJ, and all four articulate all kinds of cooking ins-and-outs as the tons-of-fun evening progresses. The restaurant’s genesis is similarly fascinating. “It’s hard to make fine dining work,” said Schoenefeld, who also operates HauteDish in the North Loop. “I wanted it to be small, with very little overhead.” He got his wish. A friend called about an available spot at 38th and Nicollet, and when Schoenefeld walked in, he knew he’d hit pay dirt. “But it had this extra 2,000 square feet that we didn’t know what to do with,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’ve always wanted to do a diner.’ So why not do both? The result: the modern-day diner (Nighthawks, a total gem) and Birdie. “I feel like I get to be one of those people who gets to do what they really love,” said Schoenefeld. “I’m lucky.”+ More- Less
How many food lovers have discovered Nicollet because of Thomas Boemer and Nick Rancone? The pair are the forces behind Corner Table and Revival — Boemer cooks, Rancone handles hospitality — and together they’re created two of Minnesota’s most talked-about (for good reason) restaurants.+ More- Less
Hola Arepa owners (and spouses) Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem went from rabidly followed food truck to instantly beloved brick-and-mortar restaurant to the cover of Food & Wine magazine (in the form of Christina’s tostada chilaquiles) in four years flat. What a trajectory! But not surprising for this creative, wise-beyond-their-years couple, who infuse heavy doses of originality into every hospitality medium they touch.+ More- Less
Restaurants don’t have a monopoly on the “Eat” part of Eat Street.
Shuang Hur Oriental Market covers the basics on the Asian supermarket front. Where it really excels is back at the seafood counter, where a dozen different varieties of whole fish — canteloupe-size octopus, teardrop-shaped golden pompano — await at any given moment, along with tanks teeming with live crabs and lobsters. Meanwhile, Truong Thanh offers a different kind of impressive inventory: 200-plus varieties of dried Chinese herbs.+ More- Less
For a literal picture of Eat Street, look to Cori Lin, who chronicles her favorite Nicollet Avenue fare in pen and watercolor. “I organize and categorize my life as I experience it around me through art,” she said. “Making lists with my food illustrations is a way to process my surroundings.” Armed with degrees in anthropology and studio art, the Chicago native landed in Minneapolis several years ago and not only worked on Eat Street, but lived there, too. “Food is what my friends and I do, and there’s so much good food there, and such diversity,” she said. “It’s easy to get sucked in.” After she told her bosses at Greater Goods about the project, they encouraged her to organize eight images into a salable ($18) format (her other food- and drink-related work can be found at etsy.com/shop/CoriLinArt). It’s easy to spy copies hanging in several Eat Street restaurants. “Now when I go into My Huong Kitchen, she gives me free egg rolls,” said Lin with a laugh. “That’s the best reason to make art: to get free egg rolls.”+ More- Less
The Kingfield Farmers Market has been making Sunday mornings merry for 15 years, its growth and popularity driven by a keenly edited vendor roster: LoveTree Farmstead Cheese, which finesses its milks into cave-aged art forms; Wicked Tarts, pie maker extraordinaire; noodle experts Dumpling & Strand, and many more. The market has also served as a launchpad for several thriving brick-and-mortar enterprises, including Sun Street Breads, Bogart’s Doughnut Co. and Foxy Falafel. The Whittier Farmers Market is new this year, and covers the vegetable shopping basics while also providing a platform for emerging food ideas: Hoyo, maker of Somali sambusas; Innate Foods, which specializes in vegan, gluten-free fare; and Minnesota Food Forest, where owner Clemon Dabney scours the region for the building blocks behind his maple products and fruit leathers.+ More- Less
Good morning, Minneapolis. Breakfast is served. And how.
Sometimes it appears as if half the city is having its weekday breakfast on Nicollet: fully loaded, three-egg organic omelets or scrambles with picture-perfect hash browns at the Bad Waitress Diner and Coffee Shop; buttermilk biscuit sandwiches and quiche at Butter; huevos rancheros or delicate Swedish pancakes dressed with cranberries and ricotta at Blackbird; quinoa-kale-black bean bowls topped with eggs at Wedge Table; the French toast to end all French toasts at Wise Acre Eatery; Nutella- and banana-filled crêpes, gigantic egg-and-fixings skillets and four styles of Benedicts at Eggy’s; kolache, turnovers, scones, Danishes and croissants at Sun Street Breads; fritters, crullers and doughnuts (including plenty of vegan options) at Glam Doll Donuts; the list goes on, and on, and on.
Say “hello” to the talented
new kids on the block.
Pimento Jamaican Kitchen co-founders D. Tomme Beevas, Yoni Reinharz and Sergey Kogan started their Burnsville Center quick-service restaurant the old-fashioned way, winning a year’s free rent (plus $10,000 in cash) on the Food Network’s “Food Court Wars.” After a planned Lyn-Lake location fell through, they opened their second spot a few months ago in a former Eat Street bubble tea spot. Timing is everything, right? “Years ago, we thought Eat Street might pigeonhole us as a family-run ethnic place,” said Reinharz. “But with the amazing development that has happened in the last few years — Icehouse, Copper Hen, Black Sheep, Eat Street Social — we saw the tide turning, and that some of the Lyn-Lake hype we’d hoped to capitalize on has shifted to Eat Street.”+ More- Less
Spouses Jordan Smith and Colleen Doran weren’t looking to add a third Black Sheep Pizza to their portfolio. Well, under one condition: if the former 26th and Nicollet home of Azia — and, long before that, the Upper Crust — ever became available, then sign them up. Two years ago, it did, and they did. “We just like the Eat Street thing,” said Smith. “It’s such a great community to be a part of, and we’re really glad that we did it.” Pizza lovers (who know to order the “Sicilian,” a square pie of monastic mozzarella, red sauce, and olive oil simplicity) second that sentiment.+ More- Less
If there’s one dish that encapsulates the Eat Street experience, it’s soup.
Soup enjoys such a strong Eat Street connotation that the thoroughfare could easily be renamed Broth Boulevard. It’s everywhere, in every fragrant form, from asam laksa at Peninsula, a tamarind-based sweet-and-sour elixir brimming with pungent anchovies and tangy pineapple, to the humble but zesty peanut soup at the oddly endearing Akwaaba Restaurant, to the signature beefy bowl at Pho Tau Bay, to the unabashedly spicy hot-and-sour soup at Krungthep Thai. Three absolute standard-bearers? The life-affirming shoyu ramen at Ramen Kazama, the meal in a bowl that is the beef-tripe-meatball pho at perennially packed Quang and the earthy pozole with chicken and lively guajillo salsa at Salsa à la Salsa.
This is a neighborhood that keeps cooking after the 10 o’clock news.
Hungry late-nighters set their GPS for Nicollet.
Market Bar-B-Que serves its pit-cooked brisket, ribs and chicken until midnight on Monday and Tuesday, and till 2 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
A Slice of New York serves subs, calzones and pizza (whole and by the slice) to midnight Sunday through Thursday, and to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Little Tijuana keeps the tostadas and chimichangas coming until 2 a.m. daily; around the corner, Pancho Villa Mexican Restaurant cooks until 1 a.m. daily.
The coal-fired ovens stay burning at Black Sheep Pizza to 12:30 a.m. daily.
Icehouse runs a late-night specials menu to midnight daily.
The entire Kyatchi menu is served to midnight daily, and neighboring Nighthawks follows suit Monday through Saturday.
Doughnut craving? Glam Doll Donuts hawks its deep-fried fripperies to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Finally, when Muffin Top Cafe owners Sam Turner and Dion Coker decided to expand into the storefront next door with a diner (where the password, by the way, is "malts"), they didn't go halfheartedly. Their sparkling Nicollet Diner is a Twin Cities rarity, offering classic short-order cooking on a 24/7/365 basis.
Peek into Eat Street’s diverse culinary scene through the prism of these 13 gotta-have menu items.
Here’s one strategy for exploring Nicollet: via your weekly calendar.
Everyone’s favorite Saturday and Sunday meal is present and accounted for on Nicollet.
On the sixth and seventh day — that’s Saturday and Sunday — there is brunch. Oh man, is there brunch, up and down Nicollet.
Go for the toast bar at Copper Hen Kitchen & Cakery, stay for the heaping $13 eggs/hash/French toast platter. Choose breakfast (pancakes five ways, tofu a.m. tacos) or lunch (big-old BLTs, veggie burgers) at the Lowbrow.
Match up the good works at the bar with chef Matt Bickford’s forward-thinking cooking at Icehouse.
Load up on lobster-topped scrambled eggs, a stacked-to-the-sky pastrami on rye and other classic fare at Eat Street Social.
Stay old-school at Pat’s Tap with a well-crafted bloody mary and the fully loaded lox plate, then get in a few rounds of Skee-Ball.
Indulge in every conceivable diner classic — filtered through the skills of chef Landon Schoenefeld — at fun-loving Nighthawks.
Place yourself in chef Chris Stevens’ egg-centric hands at Blackbird, or drop in to Sun Street Breads for baker Solveig Tofte’s diet-destroying biscuit topped with fried chicken, bacon and sausage gravy.
Learn more about Eat Street, from its farmers markets to its landmark dining institutions.
Ugh, the Lake Street Kmart. Let’s leave any commentary on the store’s quality to another day and instead focus on the civic and economic conundrum that comes from obstructing Nicollet Avenue with an ugly big-box discount store and an ocean-scaled parking lot. That’s what City Hall did 39 years ago — hey, it was the 1970s, not a peak urban renewal period — and almost ever since, there has been an outcry to restore the Mill City’s de facto Main Street. The future is looking rosier. “The city is actively pursuing the real estate deals needed to reopen Nicollet,” said David Frank, the city’s director of economic policy and development. + More- Less
Nicollet is home to an impressive list of long-running restaurants, including Little Tijuana (1964), Black Forest Inn (1965), Ping’s Szechuan Bar & Grill (1984), Market Bar-B-Que (70 years young and at its Eat Street address since 1987), Pho/Caravelle 79 (1987), Christos (1988), Rainbow Chinese Restaurant & Bar (1989), Quang (1990), Marissa’s (1993) and Jerusalem’s, which dates to at least the early 1980s. The granddaddy of them all? Curran’s Family Restaurant, which opened as a drive-in in 1948. + More- Less
Make an impromptu picnic out of lunch at the shockingly inexpensive Jasmine Deli (shrimp spring rolls, a half-dozen varieties of banh mi, one of many overstuffed vermicelli noodle salads and other approachable — and portable — Vietnamese favorites), then take a seat next door at lovely Ice House Plaza (the stones-as-statuary are remnants from the long-demolished Metropolitan Building), or stroll two blocks east to the semi-secret urban find that is the sculpture garden at the Minneapolis College of Art Design, and enjoy. + More- Less
Andrew Zimmern would fit right in on Nicollet. Not only is the culinary diversity truly on a global scale (a travel itinerary can embrace Colombia, Malaysia, Germany, Vietnam, Israel, Mexico, Japan, West Africa, Greece and Jamaica in a single two-hour Metro Transit transfer), but the non-mainstream fare is similarly delightful and impressive, including the veal kidneys or heart (served with spaetzle, of course) at the Black Forest Inn, beef tripe stew at Cocina Latina, turkey gizzards at Nighthawks, the Benedict with veal sweetbreads at Blackbird and the head cheese/pork sausage/ham banh mi at Lu’s Sandwich. + More- Less
Newcomers, like waves of immigrants, are always landing on Eat Street’s shores. The latest? A franchise of Bambu (2743 Nicollet Av. S.), a slick and fast-growing Vietnamese beverage chain (think coconut- and avocado-heavy smoothies and juices, along with coffee and tea) out of California. Then there’s Wesley Andrews, a coffeehouse featuring single-source coffees and teas from entrepreneurs Jared Thompson and Johan Podlewski. Until their shop opens at 109 E. 26th St. in October, meet them at their cart on Saturdays at the Whittier Farmers Market.
Can’t make it to Nicollet? Some of its denizens may be headed to a neighborhood near you. Revival is opening a St. Paul sibling in the former Selby Avenue home of the Cheeky Monkey. Lu’s Sandwich just debuted its second spot, in the Red 20 building (10 NE. 6th St.) in northeast Minneapolis; Glam Doll Donuts plans to take up a second residence in the same building later this year. And the Bad Waitress Diner and Coffee Shop is also headed Northeast, with a second spot slated to open later this year, anchoring the remake of a historic building at 700 Central Av. NE.