The Twin Cities' latest organic gourmet restaurant is up and running in the corner of the Grass Roots Co-op.
The Grass Roots Co-op in Anoka had closed its deli indefinitely when Eva Vörös Sabet arrived with samples of the Swedish pastries she's been baking since childhood.
"We didn't know what the solution to our deli would be, and here comes Eva with these beautiful, delicious Swedish pastries and fresh baked bread," recalled Sarah Foss, the co-op's interim manager.
"And then she said, almost as an afterthought, 'By the way, I make great soup.'"
Customers of what is now the co-op's new deli, Swedish Crown Bakery, are raving about more than the soup.
"The quality of food here is so appealing that we come out of our way to eat lunch here at least twice a week," said Theodore William, 58, of Albertville.
"There's a level of service here that you're just not used to," said Megan Manteuffel, 23, an Elk River insurance agent. "Since coming here and eating these meals, I honestly feel like my health has improved."
Husband and wife Eva and Fari Sabet took a long and curious old-world route to help bring a new look to the deli in the front corner of the co-op. She's from Malmö, Sweden. He's from Tehran. And along the way, they learned how to turn heads and taste buds in Anoka.
Eva, 39, grew up around exotic food, and not just Swedish food. Her mother, who worked in a chocolate factory, encouraged Eva and her younger sister to try everything, even shark. By the time Eva was 12, she was baking every day.
"It became a passion of mine," she said.
A big deal
She wanted to become a chef, but was told that her back was too weak to be on her feet all day.
"I begged to go to chef school," she recalled.
Instead, she worked a variety of jobs. She worked in a chiropractor's office and in a salon, as a receptionist. She worked on a boat. And she worked as a blackjack dealer.
She hadn't dealt cards in a while when she got a call from a former boss, who was short a dealer. Could she handle a table for a night?
Fari Sabet was among those who flocked to her table.
"Sure," she remembered. "Everyone was winning that night."
Fari, 48, had been living in Anoka County when he met his future bride. He had worked at a restaurant and dreamed of running his own. They seemed the perfect match.
Their restaurant would take years. But while working other jobs, Eva said she baked for farmer's markets and for the Swedish Institute. When the Sabets and the Grass Roots Co-op hooked up, everyone understood that the co-op's clientele wasn't going to change tastes drastically after three decades.
"I want my ingredients fresh and would like meals to be seasonal," Eva said.
One main course
But two people can do only so much. The Swedish Crown Bakery, which opened less than two months ago, makes fresh soups daily and sandwiches to order. But there's only one main course each day -- and that's the dish that's turning heads and taste buds.
There is a theme each day. Monday and Friday are usually vegetarian meals, Tuesday is a fish day, Wednesday is chicken and Thursday, beef.
Recent meals have included Meatloaf à la Lindstrom, made with grass-fed ground beef, organic beets, capers and served with organic mashed potatoes; chicken with sweet potatoes, goat cheese and a balsamic dressing, served on a bed of organic salad mix; and creamy French chicken with baked vegetables and made with filleted chicken and carrots, bell peppers, zucchini and spinach -- all organic.
Eva bakes everything but cookies and hopes to introduce fresh juices to the menu.
"People are my passion, but I've poured a lot of love into these meals," she said.
Jeff Brist, 56, a Champlin chiropractor, said last week that he'd yet to miss a meal at the Swedish Crown since it opened.
"I haven't had a repeat meal yet," he said. "I've eaten at every organic place in the Twin Cities and this may be my favorite.
"There's an energy that Eva and Fari bring that's outstanding. I can't get enough of this."
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419