PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEVE HENKE AND KATHERINE HARRIS
Bountiful is a great way to describe our local food scene, especially its rich tapestry of markets, food shops, grocery stores, co-ops, and food artisans. It’s an embarrassment of riches for the modern shopper who stops in many places before the basket is full. Sometimes it’s a quick grab from a one-stop-shop grocery store, and other times it’s a dedicated journey across town for just the right ingredient. In Kowalski’s, Lunds, and Byerly’s the TC has some of the highest-quality grocers in the country, while in our specialty markets you see the hard work and dedication of the businesses pushing to evolve the Twin Cities food scene. Whether you’re cooking for a feast or picking up food for the family, we’ve found the right spots with the best stuff. When you see the * symbols, it’s a heads-up for prepared foods that are perfect for when you need to pick up and run.
Why do we shop where we shop?
Our locally owned stores clearly set the bar high, while national imports have made a strong showing and become part of our eating landscape. The five below cultivate loyal shoppers for their commitment to high-quality items, unique personality, and approach to providing the complete experience–which means a run through the store can yield artisan breads, local cheese, fresh seasonal fish catches, and your daily provisions along with the slice of pizza you couldn’t resist.
This carpet-and-chandeliers pioneer is beyond welcoming. Its cake department creates jaw-dropping winners, and it has taken its to-go foods to a chef-driven level. The Byerly’s cooking school, tops among home cooks, also has big-name instructors. *Mac and cheese, sliders, wing bar (Golden Valley)* Eleven locations, lundsandbyerlys.com
No other major grocer is as big a hero to local purveyors as Kowalski’s (pictured), a St. Paul–based, family-run business. You’ll find local names in almost every department. Known for a homey, comfortable feel, the stores have begun callling out “Good Foods for Good Health” throughout. *Take-and-bake pizza, paninis, salad bar* Nine metro locations, kowalskis.com
Lunds has put serious effort into creating a world-class cheese program—cases are stocked with the best from here and beyond. Far from generic, signature label items are a cut above mainstream products, upholding a company standard that’s been in place for nearly a century. *Potato salad, sushi, Big Bowl Chinese express* Ten locations, lundsandbyerlys.com
Quirky packaged foods that you never knew you were missing are found under the Trader Joe’s house label. The tiki vibe is fun, the staff is personable and laid-back, and the breads, frozen seafood, and little brownies are outstanding values. *Salads, roasted chickens, and sandwiches* Five metro locations, traderjoes.com
Feeling like a co-op on megadoses of vitamins, Whole Foods delivers the biggest selection of organic and natural products around. The gluten-free selection is astounding, almost equal to the breadth of the chocolate aisle and the quality of the prepared foods. *Pizza, sandwiches, breakfast (Calhoun)*. Four locations by 2012, wholefoodsmarket.com
Find just the right ingredient
Finding just the right rice that you saw in the glossy cooking magazine might be a challenge in other cities, but locally we have amazing eaters who also happen to be retailers, and they know the joy in discovering the unique, the cultivated, and the special. While they may not be on your everyday market trajectory, when it comes to finding a specific brining solution or that Belgian beer you’ve read about, they’re worth seeking out.
Beer: The other half of the wine shop Wine Thief has become a notable den of beer. Like at many craft stores, you can buy single bottles or create your own six-pack, but when you do it at Ale Jail, you get 10 percent off. 1787 St. Clair Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-9463, winethief.net
Bull Run Coffee Bar
Coffee: There are a ton of upstart roasting companies in town, and plenty of coffee nerds to support them, but Bull Run Coffee Bar has been dedicated to the quality of a serious cup for a long time. You might be drinking the coffee in finer restaurants, but you can grab your own cup, beans, and even coffee makers at the new Uptown shop. 3346 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls. 612-545-5972, bullrunroasting.com
Seafood: Looking for a whole fish? Want to know what the flavor profile of barramundi is? Have you always wondered what mahi-mahi is about but were afraid to ask? The people at Coastal Seafoods know their fish and know that not everyone is comfortable with fish, so they’ll be patient, give you recipes, and talk you through things. Heck, the Minneapolis location will even deliver the fish to you. *Crab cakes, soups, and gravlax* 2330 Minnehaha Ave. S., Mpls., 612-724-7425; 74 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-698-4888, coastalseafoods.com
The Four Firkins
Beer: All settled into newer, spiffier, and larger digs, Four Firkins is one of the favorite beer stores of local beer geeks. Craft beer is the focus, whether it’s been crafted in St. Paul or Belgium or Japan. The clerks will tell you what’s new, what’s maybe not your bag, what’s a super-special limited run, and what’s coming next. 5630 W. 36th St., St. Louis Park, 952-938-2847, thefourfirkins.com
Golden Fig Fine Foods
Local/Spices: Laurie Crowell is decisively the grand dame of local food artisans. If someone has decided to make organic jams or start selling artisan popcorn, she knows about it. Her Golden Fig line of spices and seasonings eventually spawned a store where she carries products made by food artisans who live here. *Rustica breads, drink mixers, and soups* 790 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-0144, goldenfig.com
Local: Local D'Lish channels the farmers’ market during the off-season, hosting purveyors from the Mill City market on weekends when the snow flies. Its role as a North Loop hub is always evolving–it’s a drop-off location for a few CSAs and recently started hosting cooking demos and classes. *Hot entrees from Solo by Bonicelli and Sito’s are delivered every day during lunch* 208 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-886-3047, localdlish.com
Spices: Headquartered in Wisconsin, Penzeys is a national leader in the spice trade. The stores are bright, the staff is knowledgeable, and you can find everything from adobo seasoning and zatar to powders, special blends, and gift sets. Three metro locations, penzeys.com
The Tea Garden
Tea: Bringing tea into the limelight, the Tea Garden shops/tea bars keep it light and lively with splashy color, weekend DJs, and that sexy new darling bubble tea. All the loose-leaf teas and tisanes are available by the ounce to purchase. Five metro locations, steepery.com
Tea: TeaSource owner Bill Waddington believes that tea has a place among the great beverages of the world (coffee and wine). Here you’ll find ancient techniques and new discoveries in the same room, loose-leaf imports from all over the world, custom blends, plus all the tea gadgets you could hope for. 752 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-690-9822; 2908 Pentagon Dr. NE, St. Anthony, 612-788-4842, teasource.com
A yeasty renaissance in the Twin Cities
We’re having a bit of a bread renaissance locally. Over the last few years, the quality of bakery breads has been on the rise (pun intended), even groceries and co-ops have added artisan bread programs. But the best benefit is that it has become wonderfully easy to pop into a local bakery and come away with both old-world classic loaves and innovative new boules in the same basket.
If you can pass up the pastries in the case, the Salty Tart sourdough has a crackling good crust and a subtle tang. The baguettes, loaves of wheat, and pillowy soft buns are top-notch, too. This is also your best source for amazing custom cakes. *Sandwiches made with said bread, cupcakes and treats, plus tubs of the amazing buttercream icing can be scored* 920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-874-9206, saltytart.com
Patisserie may focus on refined breads made with exacting technique, but that doesn’t mean in can’t throw in a good beer bread once in a while, a perfect match for soups. Also grab a great wheat miche, some flax rye, or farmer’s field grains sourdough if available. *Open-faced sandwiches, all manner of French pastry, soups, and gelato year-round* 4552 Grand Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-3257, patisserie46.com
You can pop by any one of Turtle Bread's four locations and find a great selection of breads, including this vegetal and surprising spinach loaf. Don’t even get us started on the pies, scones, puff pastries, and all the good jams, sauces, and oil to go along with them. *Frozen pizza and pizza dough, mini chicken potpies, and packs of fresh pasta from Linden Hills neighbor Tosca* Four metro locations, turtlebread.com
Rustica Bakery's olive loaf is an earthy, salty, local legend. You really can’t go wrong with anything in the bins, from the egg braid to the pain de mie white, from the chunky pugliese to the dense caraway rye. Pastries, cookies, and tarts are also enough to pull you in. 3224 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-822-1119, rusticabakery.com
Lucia’s To Go
Besides Lucia's amazingly soft and plush focaccia, there’s a rotating list of artisanal breads, including a perfect cottage cheese–dill bread. Reach for the Lucia’s jarred preserves, maybe some house granola, and you’ve got breakfast. *A daily selection of crepes, sandwiches, and salads. Call ahead for the roast-chicken dinner, which feeds four for $27* 1432 W. 31st St., Mpls., 612-825-9800, lucias.com
Sun Street Breads
This is one dense and hearty hunk of walnut-buckwheat bread by Sun Street Breads. Breads here run from an easy loaf of sandwich bread to a perfectly sturdy yet airy baguette to a rich and sassy apple rye. They’re all crafted with the highest standards and best ingredients. Check the website for the daily list of breads. 4600 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-354-3414, sunstreetbreads.com
We do community grocery the biggest and best
Minnesota boasts the highest concentration of co-ops per capita in the nation. Co-ops all have a similar blueprint: an emphasis on local and organic, great produce selections, and an abiding commitment to the community to provide fresh, healthy food. Each store is owned by its own set of members, and what truly sets them apart is differing neighborhood vibes. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a member a shop, so step in and see what they are all about.
Eastside Food Co-op
Eastside Food Co-op one loves its bulk items! Bring your own container for full points. 2551 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-788-0950, eastsidefood.coop
Hampden Park Co-op
Formerly known as St. Anthony Park Too and Green Grass Community Grocery, Hampden Park Co-op is a very homey organization. 928 Raymond Ave., St. Paul, 651-646-6686, hampdenparkcoop.com
Harvest Moon Natural Foods
The newest co-op on the block, Harvest Moon Natural Foods pulls from nearby Carver County Farms and has quickly become the hub of its small community. 2380 Wayzata Blvd. W., Long Lake, 952-345-3300, harvestmoon.coop
Lakewinds Natural Foods
Über family-friendly, the Minnetonka location of Lakewinds Natural Foods has a wood-fired pizza oven. 435 Pond Promenade, Chanhassen, 952-697-3366; 17501 Minnetonka Blvd., Minnetonka, 952-473-0292, lakewinds.com
Linden Hills Co-op
Stylish in its spiffy new digs, the Linden Hills Co-op is known for throwing fun events and hosting top-notch classes. 3815 Sunnyside Ave., Mpls., 612-922-1159, lindenhills.coop
Mississippi Market has a reputation for being on the leading edge by finding new products and great local vendors. 1500 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-690-0507; 622 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-310-9499, msmarket.coop
River Market Community Co-op
You’ll find great soups on rotation during the winter at River Market Community Co-op, plus every Friday there’s a hot trout sandwich with Star Prairie Trout. 221 N. Main St., Stillwater, 651-439-0366, rivermarket.coop
Seward Co-op Grocery & Deli
The coolest green building on the block, complete with a sweet rooftop deck, the Seward Co-op Grocery & Deli (pictured) is also the site of the biggest CSA fair every spring. 2823 Franklin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-338-2465, seward.coop
Valley Natural Foods
Super competitive with the large regional grocers in the area, Valley Natural Foods does a swift catering business and has a juice and java bar complete with a drive-through. 13750 Cty. Rd. 11, Burnsville, 952-891-1212, valleynaturalfoods.coop
The Wedge is the granddaddy of local co-ops, with an amazing in-store bakehouse. Some produce comes from own Gardens of Eagan farm. 2105 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-871-3993, wedge.coop
The Twin Cities carries loads of options for the adventurous eater
Adventurous eaters already know the thrill of browsing the ethnic markets. There’s something so exciting about picking up a product—having no idea what the package says and no clue how to use it–and bringing it home anyway and having a go. Those afraid that their Minnesota accent might not be understood should banish the fear—our ethnic markets have adopted Minnesota Nice and want nothing more than to help you buy more fish sauce.
Dragon Star Oriental Foods
This huge emporium of Asian foods just expanded. Dragon Star's fresh produce is notable, but the fresh seafood is amazing: live crabs, clams, and prawns in tanks for the picking. *Bahn mi, spring rolls, and sticky rice* 633 Minnehaha Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-488-2567
United Noodles is a true exotic foods playground, where adventurous foodists could spend hours just trying to decipher labels. And yet the staff is so welcoming that timid newbies will leave happy from the largest Asian grocery in the Midwest. You can find Chinese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Japanese, and Hawaiian products on the shelves. 2015 E. 24th St., Mpls., 612-721-6677, unitednoodles.com
Shuang Hur Oriental Market
This is an easy stop on Eat Street–just don’t be afraid of the hanging roast ducks when you walk in. Looking for quail eggs? Tamarind paste? Bamboo steamers? Woks? All here at Shuang Hur Oriental Market. *Chinese sausage, head-on roasted duck* 2710 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-872-8606; 654 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-251-2196
In the middle of this warehouse structure is a green market where you can find crazy herbs, veggies, even whole stalks of sugar cane. The stalls in Hmong Village sell products and kitchen gadgets, and the food court is a grazer’s paradise. *Boba tea, pho, pork belly, laarb, noodles, and rice* 1001 Johnson Pkwy., St. Paul, 651-771-7886
Indian Spice House
Out of the way in a suburban strip mall, Indian Spice House has a giant aisle of specialty flours for naan and dal, spices and mixes for biryani, plus a few fresh vegetables and meats such as goat. *Frozen chapati, fried paneer, pakoras, and samosas* 8445 Joiner Way, Eden Prairie, 952-942-7510, indiaspicehouseep.com
Holy Land Deli
This Nordeast Minneapolis store’s selection of olives will put any other market to shame. All sorts of lentils, spices, halal meat, and snacks will lure you, but it’s Holy Land Deli's house-made pita and hummus that you can’t leave without. 2513 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-781-2627; Midtown Global Market, Lake St. and 10th Ave., Mpls., 612-870-6104, holylandbrand.com
Caspian Bistro & Market
Almost invisible from the street, Caspian Bistro & Market may be a long-standing slip of a shop, but it has a great selection of products that you might not find elsewhere, such as pre-ripened fresh green almonds. *Baklava, Turkish delight, bulk chickpeas, feta, and nuts, take-out from the attached bistro* 2418 University Ave. SE, Mpls., 612-623-1113, caspianbistro-mn.com
is well-known for their curated collection of all things edible and Italian. 2308 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-3113, broders.com
Delmonico’s Italian Foods
It’s old-school Italian-American at Delmonico’s. Buy some real pepperoni, mozzarella, a few cans of olive oil, or some oil-packed tuna. Odds are the staff will talk you into walking out with the home-made ravioli, pesto, signature meatballs, or a fat hoagie. Thank them the next time. *All that stuff* 1112 NE Summer St., Mpls., 612-331-5466
El Burrito Mercado
The most comprehensive Mexican market in town, El Burrito Mercado has a ton of grocery items, piñatas, interesting cuts of meat, and house-made tortilla chips. The deli section has a ridiculous array of salsas. *Tamales, salsas, pozole, menudo, and tres leches* 175 Cesar Chavez St., St. Paul, 651-227-2192, elburritomercado.com
La Alborada Market
A fresh and bright space, La Alborada has plenty of direct-imported goods, a great meat counter, and a notable bakery. *Tacos, liquados (milkshakes), and tortas* 1855 E. Lake St., Mpls., 888-311-1671, laalboradamarket.com
Many of the Cub Foods stores have amazing selections of Latino foods, including Jarritos soda, bags of masa, even locally made tortillas at a nice price. Forty-three metro locations, cub.com
Yes, IKEA. In the market on the lower level, you can find all sorts of ingredients and products that you never knew about–elderflower drink, marinated herring with dill, cloudberry jam. 8000 Ikea Way, Bloomington, 952-858-8088, ikea.com
Ground zero for Nordic grannies, Ingebretsen's is old-school Scandi. Find glogg concentrate, cardamom seeds, hardtack and flat breads, and tins of fish balls as authentic as the day is long. The lefse and kransekake bars are undeniable local yardsticks. 1601 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-729-9333, ingebretsens.com
Midtown Global Market
You can find lingonberry syrup, Turkish coffee, Chupa-chups, Italian gelato, Dungeness crab, pina colada cake, and takeout options that run from African to Philippine to Italian, all under one roof at Midtown Global Market. Lake St. and 10th Ave., Mpls., 612-872-4041, midtownglobalmarket.org
Where to find what you need for your ethnic dishes
1). Saffron sugar cubes from Caspian Bistro & Market, 2418 University Ave. SE, Mpls., 612-623-1113, caspianbistro-mn.com
2). Fish sauce from United Noodles, 2015 E. 24th St., Mpls., 612-721-6677, unitednoodles.com
3). Sweet rice from United Noodles
4). Taro root and dragon fruit from Dragon Star Oriental Foods, 633 Minnehaha Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-488-2567
5). Orange and rose water from Indian Spice House, 8445 Joiner Way, Eden Prairie, 952-942-7510, indiaspicehouseep.com
6). Pappadum wrappers from Indian Spice House
7). Lemongrass from Dragon Star Oriental Foods
8). Caputo flour from Broders’ Cucina, 2308 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-3113, broders.com
9). Tamarind paste from Indian Spice House
10). Vietnamese rice noodles from Dragon Star Oriental Foods
11). Pomegranate molasses from Holy Land Deli, 2513 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-781-2627; Midtown Global Market, Lake St. and 10th Ave., Mpls., 612-870-6104, holylandbrand.com
12). Mustard oil from Indian Spice House
Get to know your butcher and you'll get to know your meat
There is no better guide to the world of meat than a butcher behind a counter. Even now, with the trending meat culture, many are refreshingly old-school. These are the guys who have seen the animal whole, then broken it down into the cuts that will land in your pot. Ask questions, get to know their names, and you will be rewarded.
Is there any better place to ogle fat pink links of freshly stuffed sausage than Kramarczuk's? Where you can’t help but conjure up the Polish grandmother you think you deserved? Please know that it goes much further than knockwurst here–cases hold chorizo, Morrocan lamb, chicken sausage, even a Gummi Bear brat perhaps. *Sandwiches, borscht, and sauerkraut* 215 Hennepin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-379-3018, kramarczuk.com
Clancey’s Meats & Fish
Clancey’s is known for high-quality meats, artisanal sausages, hard-to-find cuts, and its support for local farms. For the home charcuterie nut, these guys will help you source strange things. The seafood gets equal attention, and the freezer is packed with goodies such as house-made stock. A chef’s favorite, this is a great pantry. *Killer sandwiches and pate* 4307 Upton Ave. S., Mpls., 612-926-0222, facebook.com/clanceysmeats
Heartland Farm Direct Market
In the Heartland Farm Direct Market (pictured), Lenny Russo sells food and products used in his Heartland Restaurant's kitchen. You can pick up locally sourced items, but more intriguing are the Heartland-made jars of pickled tomatoes, Mangalitsa pork fat, and kimchi. Most impressive is the meat case, where house-made charcuterie and hard-to-find artisanal meats can be hand-cut to order. *Bakery, salads, and hot entrees such as corned beef and cabbage* 289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536, heartlandrestaurant.com
Everett’s Foods and Meats
It’s old-school at Everett's. Half the love is for the guys behind the counter who will treat you like a good neighbor (talk to Jack for the inside scoop); the other half is for well-cut brisket, fat farm-raised chickens, and low prices. And beef sticks. 1833 E. 38th St., Mpls., 612-729-6626
Under its 1932 liquor license, Sentyrz can stock wine, beer, liquor, and groceries. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s really a sausage story. The variety is gigantic and runs from dill brats to blue cheese chicken sausage. All of it is house-made by a master butcher who’s been there for 20 years. 1612 NE 2nd St., Mpls., 612-781-3484
It’s kinda funny when the hipsters adopt the oldsters. So it is with Hackenmueller Meats, which has been cranking out bacon for more than 125 years and now finds itself a darling among the young, hungry, and bearded. And even if it falls out of favor with that following, it’ll still be cranking out bacon, 100-pound meat variety packs, and freshly ground beef for a long time. 4159 Broadway Ave. W., Robbinsdale, 763-537-4811, hacks.com
Cured meats and salumi are the specialties of the Broders' Cucina case, you’ll have to look past the amazing mascarpone cheese, but you’ll find beauties such as guanciale and mortadella as reward. All else Italian, such as imports like “00” Caputo flour and specialty pasta shapes, abound. *Stromboli, lasagna, stuffed peppers, tons of pastas, and pizzas* 2308 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-3113, broders.com
The pros pick the best in the Twin Cities
Crafting the best cheese plate is as easy as chatting up your favorite cheesemonger. The local affinity for fromage is evident in the tremendous selections–from the small shops to the big grocers.
Grass Roots Gourmet
It’s not just a cheese shop, but Grass Roots Gourmet has the soul of one. The strictly local cheeses at this MGM market stall run a nice variety, veering away from the expected names into fun territory such as cumin cheddar and bulk quark, a fresh cheese with German roots. Look also for local products seen in farmers’ markets such as Spring Grove sodas and Lucille’s Jams. Midtown Global Market, Lake St. and 10th Ave., Mpls., 612-871-6947
France 44 & St. Paul Cheese Shop
You almost can’t help getting a cheese primer when you stop in either of these shops; the staff is so friendly and chatty and will happily discuss the merits of any hunk. The selection is well-curated, and the cheese sandwiches are legendary. The rest of the shop holds good things such as fig jam and bomba paella rice from Valencia. *Tubs of frozen mac & cheese, soups, dips, as well as some cured meats* 4351 France Ave. S., Mpls., 612-278-4422; 1573 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-3391, france44cheeseshop.com
Lake Wine & Spirits
It’s the little cheese shop that could. Attached to the newish wine shop, the cheesemonger occupies but a small corner, though a worthy and intentional selection it is. There may not be a huge variety, but what is here is highly prized. Around the space you’ll find salts, olives, imported dry goods, and scoop-your-own dry pasta. 404 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-354-7194, lakewinespirits.com
Surdyk’s Cheese Shop
The cheese case at Surdyk’s is like a cheese-o-phile’s jewelry box. The selection is thrilling and always evolving, showcasing the best cheeses of the world. Saturdays can be crowded, but the mongers seem unflappable and ready to assist at every turn. The rest of the small shop is decked with great oils, dried pastas, crackers, chocolates, and more. *Pizza dough, whole roasted chicken, sandwiches, and dinner specials such as flank steak or porchetta* 303 Hennepin Ave. E., Mpls., 612-379-9757, surdyks.com
Lunds & Byerly’s
Don’t be afraid to ask for samples and custom sizes; friendly staff will guide you to more than the hunks in the case. lundsandbyerlys.com
Thanks to a great relationship with local dairies, stores often know ahead of time when a special cheese is on the way. kowalskis.com
Having a global cheese buyer means there can be as many as 1,000 cheeses available for your perusal. wholefoods.com
The 10 cheeses below were named some of the best by the pros behind the cheese cases listed above.
1). Robiola is a tangy Italian soft-ripened cheese.
2). Super-aged Gouda has a crackly, almost crispy nature.
3). Jasper Hill’s Winnimere, washed in beer, is rich and intense.
4). Wisconsin’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve was given top honors by the American Cheese Society.
5). Garrotxa is a Spanish goat cheese with a nutty, clean finish.
6). Made since the 13th century, St. Marcellin is earthy and creamy in its little terra-cotta pot.
7). Fourme D'Ambert, one of the oldest cheeses in France, is one of the mildest blues, a good starter.
8). Local Donnay Granite Ridge is a limited-production Camembert-style goat cheese.
9). Chabrin is a firm goat's milk from the Pyrenees.
10). Luscious Italian burrata cheese, which can be found at Broders' Cucina, is a creamy bomb of richness that is made from mozzarella and cream.
*Denotes Prepared Foods That Can Be Purchased*