Restaurant notes: Hans' Bakery, 128 Cafe, Twisted Fork Grille, Red Cow

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 17, 2013 - 4:19 PM

Hans' Bakery in Anoka in 2006.

Photo: Ramin Rahimian, Star Tribune

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An Anoka classic, reborn

The iconic Hans’ Bakery (1423 5th Av. S., Anoka) is coming back to life.

Credit goes to real estate broker Kelly Olsen, who originally saw the long-abandoned property strictly as a real estate opportunity.

“But then it quickly made sense to revitalize it as a business,” she said. Despite aspiring to the job title “serial entrepreneur,” it never occurred to her that she might one day own a bakery. “But I stopped trying to guess what life has in store for me,” Olsen said.

It helps that she grew up on a hobby farm in nearby Blaine. “And if we went to Anoka, it was because we were going to the feed store, or the co-op, or the bakery,” she said. “I have nothing but fond memories of Hans’.”

Join the club. Here’s a measure of the cherished place that Hans’ occupies in peoples’ hearts: Olsen has accumulated more than 7,000 followers since she put up a Hans’ Bakery Facebook page in late May. That enthusiasm extends to people offering to help paint, pull weeds, mow the lawn and donate cash to help defray start-up costs.

“With that kind of reaction, my sister-in-law asked me, ‘Aren’t you nervous about letting everyone down?’ and I said, ‘Well, I wasn’t until now,’ ” Olsen said with a laugh.

German immigrants Hans and Traudy Birkner founded the bakery in 1973. Hans died in 1998, and Traudy passed away last September. The bakery changed hands several times after Hans’ death, and the building has been vacant for the past three years.

Olsen has wisely hired baker Lisa Kauppi —she worked at the bakery for more than 20 years — to run the kitchen. When the bakery reopens in September, plan on encountering a long list of its most beloved items, starting with the Beehive, a flaky, custard-filled pastry topped with slivered almonds and powdered sugar. Olsen also plans to add a soup-salad-sandwich component.

The building, damaged by vandals — who stripped it of its copper plumbing — is being refurbished, as is the bakery’s original and very familiar sign. But what Olsen is really hoping to restore is Hans’ place as a community gathering spot.

“People talk about how they went there with their grandparents, and how much they loved it,” she said. “Now I want them to be able to build those memories for their children and grandchildren.”


New face in an old favorite

Come Aug. 1, there will be a new owner — and a new chef — in the kitchen at 128 Cafe (128 N. Cleveland Av., St. Paul,, both the bricks-and-mortar version and the restaurant’s food truck.

He’s Max Thompson. The 35-year-old Twin Cities native got his start 20 years ago as a busboy at Broders’ Pasta Bar. “Working for Molly Broder was awesome,” he said. “I definitely got hooked.”

Since then, he’s cooked in New York City and Boston — and spent a recent summer teaching at a culinary school in Tuscany — before returning to Minneapolis to help open Butcher & the Boar last year.

Aside from ramping up the food truck side of the business (follow its location on Twitter, @128cafe), Thompson is going to take things slowly, change-wise.

“I’m going to try to live up to the current 128 Cafe name,” he said. “But I’m told that I can’t get rid of the ribs.” He’s referring to the kitchen’s longtime signature dish, a spectacular rack of baby backs. Here’s hoping he follows that sage advice.

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