Tag Archives: Minneapolis

Verdant Tea: Minneapolis, MN

14 Nov
by Deanne

Verdant Tea: Minneapolis Tasting RoomPhoto of Verdant Tea

The last time I wrote the word verdant I was speaking of my garden and all the possibilities when it grows with abandon in midsummer.  This time, I am referring to a place I heard on MPR about the growth of the Seward neighborhood for good food. We had a quick trip planned to Minneapolis so I looked up Verdant Tea. Intrigued by the elegant selection of offerings, we arrived for breakfast last Saturday morning.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

Verdant Tea does serve local food.  They have partnered with Birchwood Cafe which many readers will recognize from our past reviews.  Verdant’s focus is on tea.  They source their teas from small farmers in China.  The business began as on online tea business and has now expanded to include the tasting room.

Flavour: 5

We ordered chai tea and another kind of tea that we didn’t quite catch when it was given. Both were good, but the food was what we enjoyed most.  I ordered the sweet Congee, Steve had the Soba Noodles, and Luke ordered the Birchwood Granola with Fruit and Yogurt. Photo of Rice PorridgeCongee is a porridge and the sweet version had wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, burdock root, gogi berries, walnuts, and a coconut ginger sauce.   I was able to sneak a taste of the two other options and was equally impressed with both.  The yogurt was excellent.  It appeared to be the kind of yogurt one makes at home on the counter rather than the kind one dumps from a plastic container.

Photo of Hot Soba Noodle

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

The food was surprisingly good.  Since it is a tea room that has food we were not really sure what to expect.  We went hoping the food would be decent.  It was stellar!  We talked about it for days afterward and discussed how to recreate it at home.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4.5

When we walked through the doors we were greeted immediately.  The environment is serene and makes for a peaceful calm retreat or gathering place for quiet conversation.  The staff was friendly but a bit more explanation about the options would have been helpful. They explained that they didn’t have tea flights at that time and they were in the process of changing their menu.  Having owned a restaurant, I have sympathy toward the situation they are currently finding themselves but others might be more put off by that kind of response.

Photo of Birchwood Granola

Overall Rating: 12.5+

I strongly recommend visiting Verdant Tea.  I look forward to returning and learning more about tea next time I visit.  In addition to partnering with Birchwood Cafe, they also sell Sweet Science Ice Cream.  We heard about them last year at an event for new food producers.  I look forward to trying some interesting flavors like salted caramel or toasted coconut.

Verdant Tea on Urbanspoon

Moose & Sadies: Minneapolis, MN

31 Jul
by Deanne

Moose & Sadies: Minneapolis, MN

Another Monday off from our running our cafe, led Steve and I to Minneapolis/St. Paul to pick up Joia Soda Pop and to visit United Noodle (that fun Asian grocery store that Francine introduced us to after she returned from living in China.)  We also had time to visit a new-to-us cafe. We selected Moose & Sadies because it was located near one of our stops and the online menu looked interesting.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

Moose&Sadie’s supports local/sustainable/organic purveyors and on  their website they have a list with some links: 

Larry Schultz:  organic chicken and eggs
Tim Fischer:  hormone-free/humanely-raised pork
Riverbend Farm: organic produce

Flavour: 3

We ordered two items and were quite satisfied.  We had a Black Bean Burger with chipotle gouda, roasted green pepper-avocado spread, vidalia onions and alfalfa sprouts on a toasted bun and a salad called Greens Vinaigrette.  The burger did not have quite the right bun.  It had too hard of a bite for the squishy-ness of the black bean burger. Imagine this… pick up the burger, take a bite and black beans land on your new shirt.  You get the picture. The burger was good and flavorful and in my opinion needed a soft bun rather than a hard roll.  We solved that small challenge by eating the burger with a fork and noshing on toasted hard roll with our hands.  


Even though I rate the flavour as a three, to match our criteria, I would come back again to try other items.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

Our last trip to the Twin Cities got off to a bad start with a disappointing visit to a restaurant that was highly rated on some of the online communities. We were served greasy, sloppy food.  It wasn’t even worth mentioning or remembering.  This food was enjoyable and didn’t leave us feeling like we needed a shower to remove all the grease.  It made for a great start to our day off and our little adventure to the cities.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 5

Photo of sunny patio at Moose and Sadies

Awesome is the best word to describe the service.   I say that because that word was used three to four times  by my order taker during the process of ordering. 

The decor of the place is a two tone, cool cucumber green with my all time favorite decor choice: painted brick.  The white brick with matching white painted exposed beams added comfort. 

We ate outside in the sun on a perfect summer day.  Not hot, not cold and no bugs.  What is more perfect than that? 

The server who delivered the food was not Ms. Awesome, but she was equally friendly and exuded her own form of awesomeness. 

Overall Rating: 11+

Moose & Sadies, in the warehouse district of Minneapolis is a place we look forward to stopping the next time we are in the neighborhood.

Moose & Sadie's on Urbanspoon

Common Roots Cafe: Minneapolis, MN

23 Nov
by Deanne

Common Roots Cafe: Minneapolis, MN

 I’ve been planning to visit Common Roots Cafe for a while so when we needed a place to eat before our recent trip to the UK, we decided to stop by for lunch.  I like what their website says about their food and anticipated a great experience.

At Common Roots Cafe we serve great food with character morning, noon, and night. Our kitchen uses local and organic ingredients to create a monthly-changing menu of innovative food made from scratch every day.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4

Yes, Common Roots Cafe does source their items locally and adapt the menu seasonally. They are quite sophisticated and purposeful about sourcing locally.  It is impressive that they have a chart  on their website that explains that they have sourced from 22 counties in Minnesota and supported 51 producers.

Flavour: 1

We ordered Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup, Black Bean Burger, Fennel and Apple Salad, and Sriracha Chicken Tacos.  Photo of Black Bean Burger

The description on the menu for the tacos was enticing and had us all excited: free-range pulled chicken with sriracha glaze, onion, pico de gallo and cotija on corn tortillas. When the taco plate arrived it looked wonderful.

The soup was unflattering, the burger had too big of bun which made it hard to eat, the apple salad was very good.  The chicken tacos, I am sad to say, were really bad.   The ingredients were all there but no flavor and the chicken itself actually tasted bad. Perhaps it was old.  This is really sad because these organic ingredients have so much potential to shine if the food is just prepared with care and attention to detail.  Photo of Chicken Tacos at Common Roots

Pleasant Surprise: No

We were more disappointed than pleasantly surprised.  Everything we read about the place on the website prior to our visit set us us to have high expectations.  They obviously have good intentions, but did not execute them well, at least not the day we were there.  We noticed that even though the place was busy, most people had coffee and perhaps a bagel but no one seemed to be eating from the lunch menu even though it was about 12:30 on a Monday.  This picture of the soup shows how little they care about presentation.   The butter doesn’t even look appetizing. Photo of Soup at Common Roots

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 3

There were not too many pictures of the space on the website, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  From the pictures I saw  about the space on the website, I was expecting it to be a little cold without much charm.  Even though the place was busy, I would not say it was a warm and inviting space.  The service didn’t really help our sense of comfort either.  They were not rude but they were not warm.  The tables up front by the big windows looked to be the most desirable but they were all taken when we arrived with people having coffee and working on laptops. 

Overall Rating: 8

Stopping by the Common Root Cafe as a way to send us into the world of airport food and overnight travel was overall a disappointment.  I really wanted to give them a stellar review because of what they are attempting to do in terms of sourcing food and applying sustainable practices, but sadly, expect for the salad, the food didn’t meet even our most basic expectations in terms of taste and presentation.


Common Roots Cafe on Urbanspoon

Birchwood Cafe: Minneapolis, MN

16 Oct
by Deanne

Birchwood Cafe: Minneapolis, MN

On Sunday Luke was filming one of his food videos at Eastside Food Cooperative and Steve and I went along for the ride.  On the shelves we spied granola made by the Birchwood Cafe which reminded me that it was a place I wanted to review. After a bit of a drive we arrived in the Seward neighborhood and parked around the corner from the Birchwood Cafe, amid big trees and visually interesting homes.Photo: Walking to the Cafe

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

Yes, Birchwood Cafe does source their items locally and adapt the menu seasonally. They are fairly understated about this aspect of their business.  For example, I didn’t notice the names of any specific farms on the menu. However, after I looking around the Web a bit, I saw their page on localharvest and it lists at least eleven farms from which they source ingredients.

Flavour: 3

I have to explain, when it comes to flavor, we’re a bit discriminating.  Steve and Luke have each attended classes at the Culinary Institute of America, and they both teach cooking professionally.  When we eat out, we want our food to have complex flavors and crave it the next day unfortunately that rarely happens.

Photo of Sandwich and SoupWe ordered three items.  Luke and Steve had vegetable sandwiches with curry mayonnaise.  This provided some complexity of flavor. The vegetables were delightfully fresh.  The radishes, micro greens and carrots had the desired crunch but the dark bread was dry and lacked flavor.

We all had the Vegetable Quinoa soup.  It was a nice and hearty soup.  Its broth had the distinct taste of chicken stock which wouldn’t quite work if someone was vegetarian. 

On the side, I ordered a Maple Mustard Quinoa salad; it was yummy and filled me up. Quinoa Salad

Even though I rate the flavour as a three, to match our criteria, I would come back again to try other items.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

In the world of copycats and chain restaurants, it’s always a pleasant surprise to find a thriving independent restaurant, especially when the place is tucked away in a local neighborhood that non-locals have to discover or hear about.  It was also nice to see several gluten-free options on the menu.Families eating at Birchwood

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 5

All three of us were charmed by the Birchwood Cafe.  We ordered first and then found a table amongst families of various ages who were enjoying a Sunday evening together.  The tables were those chrome and laminate mix from the mid-twentieth century with colorful and funky chairs. The coziness came from the laid back approach to ordering and the art work on the walls. We each ordered a coffee drink that was nicely prepared by kind baristas; this also added to the sense of the comfort we felt.  Photo of coffee drink

Overall Rating: 11+

While walking to the cafe, I noticed that each house in the neighborhood expressed its political views with yard signs and a sense of design with unique landscaping and paint. As we walked closer, I saw bikes everywhere. I like bikes because their owners are saying, it is ok to venture forth into the world without the protective bubble of a car. This information told me something about the people who visit the place. 

I love adventure and visiting a restaurant in a new neighborhood is like a mini-vacation with new sights and experiences free for the taking.We arrived with excitement and left with full bellies, yet light and not bogged down by heavy food or harsh service. 

If Birchwood was located in my neck of the woods, I’d grab my bike and head over there whenever I could.

Photo of Birchwood Cafe


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Birchwood Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Lowbrow: Minneapolis, MN

6 Feb
by Francine

The Lowbrow: Minneapolis, MNA photo of the restaurant

The Lowbrow’s website states they’re, “committed to bringing scratch-made comfort food to your plate using locally farmed and sustainable ingredients.” 

After a light lunch at this cleverly decorated Minneapolis eatery, I can tell you that the Lowbrow is accomplishing its goal of serving comfort food using locally produced ingredients.

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 3

The menu lists the local producers and growers who provide the ingredients that are used in their dishes. While there’s not a garden out back, they are helping to support the farmersA photo of the menu of the upper Midwest.

I was pleased to see bison meat on the menu and to see Eichten’s Bison as one of their producers.

The menu doesn’t seem to change with any regularity, but there is a chalkboard that lists rotating specials.

Flavor: 3

When I visited in late November, I had a leafy green salad (which was listed on the chalkboard as the market special) with blue cheese and walnuts. I also had a cup of the Bison chili, which was hearty.  While I didn’t encounter any new flavors I did enjoy a filling lunch.A photo of what I ate

Pleasant Surprise: YES

I liked the big windows, which let in lots of natural light…something important to consider when trying to survive a MN winter.  The decor was colorful and bright, and I loved the collage of framed artwork hanging on one wall.

A photo of wall collageComfort+Coziness=The C Factor: 4.5

I enjoyed my late afternoon lunch in a nearly empty restaurant. There are lots of booths and a large bar, which would make a great meeting place for friends. (They also have a fun-sounding $25 Tuesday date night special, which includes drinks, burgers and dessert.)  The only drawback I noticed with the space is that since it’s very open it could easily become noisy, and I didn’t noticed any hidden corners to enjoy a snuggly meal with your date.

Overall rating: 10.5+

I would visit The Lowbrow again. It would be a fun place to meet friends for brunch.

Oh…and they have a colorful mural featuring forest creatures painted on one wall.  You can visit their facebook page for a sneak peek of said fun mural.

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Wise Acre Eatery: Minneapolis, MN

19 Oct
by Deanne

Wise Acre Eatery: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Steve and I visited Tangletown Gardens, a garden center in Minneapolis, this summer.  Their website states, “We’ve created an oasis that is tranquil, yet intoxicating — a place of inspirationA photo of Wise Acre Eatery's Patio every day of the year.”  We agree, the garden center was lush and expertly designed.  We also read on their website that they had recently opened a restaurant, so we walked over to Wise Acre Eatery.

It was a hot weekday afternoon and Wise Acre was open and bustling. As we walked towards the restaurant, I noticed the neatly planted flowers and large pots overflowing with colorful blooms. The property used to be a gas station.  Its former life is noticeable in the two open glass garage doors, which allow diners to spill out onto the patio and enjoy the MN summer sun.

Review:  (See Real Local Cooking’s criteria.)A photo of the Wise Acre salad
Localness: 4.5

This restaurant sources its ingredients from its own farm in Plato, MN, which is about 45 miles from Minneapolis (directions to the farm are provided on their website). What we read about the restaurant before visiting matched the food and atmosphere we encountered. You can find menus on their website, which is always nice so that you can think about what you’d like to try before visiting.  Although they don’t mention that they serve seasonal fare, a quick glance at the online lunch menu lists items like a Shades of Autumn salad, which isn’t something that was offered when I visited in July.

Flavor: 3

The two items we ordered, the Wise Acre: a salad with smoked sausage and a Deli sandwich served with wild rice slaw and kwik pickles, sounded appealing on the menu but didn’t wow us as we ate them.  The ingredients were top notch, but we didn’t feel that they were used in creative and flavorful ways.  Since the restaurant recently opened, there is much room for growth and improvement in this area. (As restaurant owners, we know it can take time.)

Pleasant surprise: YESA photo of our Dessert

Dessert was our surprise. We don’t always order dessert but since it was my birthday we celebrated by sharing a lovely little treat of frozen vanilla custard with a rhubarb caramel topping. It was just the right kind of sweet and was served in a clear glass dish.

Also the restroom was pleasant. I know it might sound odd, but ever since I was a little girl, I’ve enjoyed visiting restaurant restrooms. Restrooms can tell you whether the owners or managers care about keeping the place clean and tidy. At Wise Acre, there were fluffy white terry cloth towels rolled up in an interesting wooden bowl. This may or may not be more sustainable than paper towels. Perhaps I should consult that book I paged through awhile back, How Bad Are Bananas?: the Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee.

Comfort + Coziness =the C factor: 5

This place had a number of interesting touches. I liked how the sandwich was wrapped in paper and tied up with string. I also liked seeing milk in glass bottles for sale in the display case as we walked in. ThoseA photo of Sandwich and Slaw kinds of things  make me feel comfortable.  On top of that, the host was very friendly and welcoming.

However, when thinking sustainable restaurant practices, a paper-wrapped deli sandwich that is not being taken out may not be the ideal presentation.

Overall Rating: 12.5+

If you ever travel to Minneapolis, you probably won’t stumble upon this restaurant and garden center because they are in a residential neighborhood, not near hotels or major businesses attractions; however, they are worth seeking out with your GPS. They aren’t too far from the airport, so if you have a few hours to spend before catching your flight, you could enjoy a seasonal meal in a comfortable restaurant and then wander across the street to explore Tangletown Gardens. Their website states that they are open all winter.  It would be wonderful to visit the lush garden center when the Minnesota winter serves up chilliness, with a side of white and gray for a solid 5 months.  (Although once again referring to How Bad Are Bananas?, greenhouses and flights have very high footprints [*sigh*…things are complicated and highly intertwined in today’s world]…but for all you banana lovers, you may be glad to know that bananas aren’t too bad after all, according to the book.)

Have you visited Wise Acre? We’d love to hear about your experience.  What things make you feel comfortable+cozy when dining out?

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