Need an account? Register
Good for the farmer. Good for the chef.
Great for you. FIND OUT MORE
Great for you. FIND OUT MORE
Markets and Menus in Minneapolis: Spoonriver and the Mill City Farmers’ Market
Many restaurants depend on farmers’ markets for their produce these days, which typically means having a designated forager or chef who gets up at the crack of dawn, gets him or herself to the market across town, and hauls the season’s best back to busy kitchens. Other restaurants have their own gardens, which means someone has to be planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting, and they can only reap as much as they sow in their (usually) tiny plots. Brenda Langton, chef/owner of Spoonriver in Minneapolis, MN, has it all: a 70-vendor farmer’s market right outside her front door.
No weeding required and a selection most of us can only dream of—how did Langton get such a great deal? Turns out, if you’re the one who puts the work into starting a market, you get to help decide where it goes. Langton opened Spoonriver and founded the Mill City Farmer’s Market in the same year (2006) and both are located on the banks of the Mississippi River in the historic Mill District of Minneapolis, sitting in the shadow of the renowned Guthrie Theater. The restaurant and the market have done much to revitalize this part of the city, which features river views, world-class arts facilities, and the nearly 130-year-old Stone Arch Bridge.
Langton is well known for her two previous Twin Cities restaurants: Café Kardamena in St. Paul, a vegetarian restaurant she opened when she was 21 years old, and Café Brenda, a Minneapolis standby that served seafood and vegetarian fare for 29 years. She and her business partner (and husband) Timothy Kane have always focused on natural, healthful eating, promoting the local/organic diet long before it was hip.When they opened Spoonriver five years ago, it gave them a chance to add local, grass-fed beef, lamb, and naturally raised pork to their menu, alongside favorites like wild rice croquettes and the Café Brenda veggie burger. The menu at Spoonriver reflects Minnesota’s local food climate: the dishes are flavorful but accessible, with something fresh and filling for people of many diets.
The Mill City Farmer’s Market also reflects Minnesota; in this case, the diversity of the Minnesota agricultural scene. Hmong farmers sell broccoli and garlic alongside bearded Amish farmers offering meats and cheeses, while a mid-twenties woman brews lightly sweet blueberry kombucha for a crowd that, for the most part, has never heard of such a beverage. The 3,500 to 5,500 people who attend the weekly market from May to October come to buy the tomatoes they grew up with (you know, the kind that taste like tomatoes), and to try things they’ve never heard of, like bison sausage and sheep’s milk blue cheese. It’s old school and new school all at once.
If you’re a Midwestern food lover, I really can’t imagine a better combination than Saturday brunch on the patio at Spoonriver followed by a walk through the Mill City Farmer’s Market. Get inspired by the local, straight-from-the-farm brunch menu, then buy supplies at the market to recreate it at home. When I visited Spoonriver recently, I had a nice big slice of the Quiche du Jour, which included chicken sausage, sweet corn, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes, ingredients that weren’t put together because of any recipe or tradition, but because they’re all in peak flavor and taste amazing. That’s my favorite way to market shop, too: buy what looks good, then throw it all together.
This marriage of restaurant and farmers’ market has been good for the restaurant, good for the farmers, good for the city, and great for the taste buds. Visit the Mill City Farmer’s Market Saturdays from 8:00am to 1:00pm through October 15th, and visit Spoonriver all year long.