Street Tour: Nicollet Avenue, Where Food And Community Intertwine
You won't leave Eat Street hungry
Mar 31, 2015

Words and illustrations by staff writer, Morgan Mercer // Photos by Marie Ketring

Nicollet Avenue South snakes out from downtown Minneapolis towards Lake Street. Colorful awnings dot storefronts on each block and pop against tan and pale red buildings. Painted window decals call out to people (and stomachs) walking by: Tamales. Boat Noodle Soup. Bolillos.

Welcome to Eat Street.

It’s a one-stop shop where it’s not out of the realm of possibility to eat Malaysian, Mexican, and German food without reparking your car. New ventures sit nestled between family-owned restaurants that have served food in the neighborhood for decades. Eat Street is a mashup of old and new, sweet and spicy, cheap eats and fine dining. In a place where food and community intertwine, we took a tour down the street to hear from business owners, managers, and bartenders alike about what kind of experience and community they’re trying to cultivate on a street that’s guaranteed not to leave you hungry.

Break 5

The Wedge Table

Website // 2412 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls

Wedge

The Wedge recently opened up its new digs along Nicollet — a beautifully open space with a little bit of everything: a market stocked with a sampling of fresh produce, bread baked daily, and other essentials; a cafe with dine-in or take-out options; and a community room that seats 25. Must-try off the menu? The miso ponzu salmon salad, or a burrito (like the ropa vieja).

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Josh Resnik, CEO

“I think this area offers a couple things. One thing is it’s one of the most diverse areas in the city and you truly just have a lot of different cultures coming together — different income levels, different ethnic groups. You have people from all over coming and meeting on Eat Street. Way before I worked at the Wedge and we had a business over here, I loved coming over here because there was a certain vibrancy on Eat Street. I think that diversity creates a richness you just can’t replicate anywhere else. We hope to really compliment a lot of what’s going on here. The co-op has always been about creating community. We like the idea of people coming together at a table, talking, and being with one another. That was part of what we wanted to be able to contribute — another community meeting spot where people can come together around food rooted in a lot of the values people hold true here [such as an] emphasis on local items, a lot of organic items, and things that are raised in a responsible way where farmers [get] a fair living wage.”

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Krungthep Thai

Website // 2523 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls

Krung

The accolades for this Thai restaurant are something of a dream. The husband and wife team at the head of this operation got their start with Bangkok Thai Deli in St. Paul. Expect the same quality food here — fresh ingredients and recipes that come straight from the couple’s kitchen at home. Must-try off the menu? Green curry, spicy noodle, and khao-soi.

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Sue Yothaiak, Manager

“On Eat Street we have all kinds of food — American, Asian, Vietnamese, Greek, German, and Malaysian. When people come, they have a choice. [The business owners] help each other out. For example, if Copper Hen ran out of a high chair they would come here to borrow one. If we ran out of containers we would got to Pho 79 – Caravelle to borrow them. We support each other’s businesses, too. When customers come here to eat they ask, ‘Where is the best Vietnamese place around here?’ We say, ‘Pho 79.'”

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Pho 79 – Caravelle

Website // 2529 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls

Pho

The bright yellow siding and blue awnings of Pho 7 and Caravelle make theses Vietnamese restaurants impossible to miss. After sitting side-by-side for years, the two businesses recently merged into one restaurant. Must-try off the menu? Sesame chicken wings and the seafood pho.

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John Tram, Owner

“It’s a good place to eat — it’s Eat Street. You have all different countries so you can try all different kinds of food. One stop, a lot of different taste. We’ve been here 35 years. We’re always honest with customers and we have a lot of repeat customers. We have all sorts of different people. We keep everything upfront. The food is good, the prices are reasonable, and we treat [the customer] right.”

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Black Sheep Pizza

Website // 2500 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls

BlackSheep

Husband and wife duo, Jordan Smith and Colleen Doran, just opened the doors to their third location — full of graphic pops of red and black, and plenty of natural sun — on a corner along Eat Street. The team brings its signature coal fired pizza to an intersection Jordan and Colleen have admired (and ate on) for years. Must-try off the menu? Cheese pizza, and anything off the grill.

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Jordan Smith, Co-owner

“The other owners we know are tremendously dedicated to both their craft and the neighborhood, and that’s a big part of what attracted us to this area. We’ve liked this intersection a long time. [It’s a] community where people work hard, do something interesting, and are passionate. I’m a big believer in more is more. I think the more critical mass that’s in this neighborhood, the better it’s going to be and the more people it’s going to attract. I don’t believe anybody is taking away from anybody.”

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Black Forest Inn

Website // 1 East 26th St., Mpls

BlkForest

This year marks 50 years of spaetzel and beer for the German eatery. It’s a neighborhood spot where free movies play next door in the vacant space on Thursday nights and the bartenders really do know your name. Anchoring one of the corners in the middle of Eat Street, this restaurant’s other claim to fame is its patio — one of the first in the city. Must-try off the menu? Veal jäger schnitzel and one of the many Weiss beers.

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Theresa Derflinger, Bartender

“I’ve been here 15 years. I’ve always known most of the people in the business. When AJ’s (SP?) used to be across the street, we’d go over there and say hi to Tom, they’d come over here and say hi to us. We all just knew each other. If I run out of limes I go down to Little Tijuana’s or Bad Waitress. Sometimes I go to East Street Social and have a drink at the bar. It doesn’t seem as competitive. At first you always start panicking because new places moved in, but it actually helped our business a lot. It brings all these people into this community and it’s great.”

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Pho Tau Bay

Website // 2837 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls

PhoTao

When it comes to a family affair, this Vietnamese gem isn’t kidding around. The four siblings at the helm of this eatery make you feel like you’re eating sitting down at your own kitchen table for meal — albeit with better food from recipes they’ve been perfecting for 40 years. Must-try off the menu? The egg roll and beef noodle pho.

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Thao Lai, Manager

“We’ve been here 20 years in June. It’s changed a lot. Twenty years ago it was very quiet. [Now] it looks very crowded. It’s a nice street that way. It looks like Uptown. We’re very proud we have a location here. We try to stay here because we love it. Our customers from downtown Minneapolis are very nice. They tell us: ‘When we eat here we feel like we’re eating at home.’ There’s a guy from downtown Minneapolis who comes in at lunch with a coworker, but at dinnertime he comes with his family. His wife says, ‘My husband talks about your restaurant all the time at home.'”

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Posted by Pollen on Mar 31, 2015

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