MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When Francine Weber opened Milton’s Vittles, Vino and Beer in suburban Crystal, Minn., she thought she’d open a fast casual soul food spot. Somehow the space she found and the response from the community changed things.

“This is how we eat,” said Weber.

Now on busy weekend nights, there’s a staff of 67 working in the kitchen, behind the bar and serving guests. The menu ranges from matzo ball soup to Caribbean jerk chicken.

“I think we’re so different than any other restaurant,” said Charles Freeman, Milton’s chef and Francine’s son.

“My mom and I like to put things on the menu that we like to eat. If we don’t eat it, we don’t serve it,” he said with a laugh.

Francine Weber said she wanted a spot near her Golden Valley home, where her family could serve her neighbor’s families.

“It’s just like at home. Lots of timeouts,” she said with a laugh.

Her daughters work up front. Her son is in the kitchen.

“My youngest who’s 16 likes to work the expo line. My husband likes to come in and bug us,” she said. “He does a great job.”

Her husband owns Park Tavern in St. Louis Park, so the family knows a little something about restaurants. Milton’s is named after Francine’s dad, so her family’s influence is everywhere.

“My father was of southern influence, my mother was 100 percent Swedish, and my mother-in-law was Jewish,” said Weber.

The jerk kitchen is awesome. It’s grilled over charcoal in the kitchen, and finished with an amazing homemade jerk sauce that Freeman said took him five years to perfect.

“The secrets can’t be told. It’s a lot of herbs and spices and marinating,” said Freeman. “You don’t want it to burn your palate. You want to taste it maybe have a little heat to finish it,” he explained.

The prices are modest. The serving sizes are not.

“We do about three to four eggs for a breakfast,” laughed Freeman. “I like eggs, I like grits, I like bacon, I like it all.”

Milton’s has become a neighborhood gathering spot. But it’s worth a longer trip. It’s food made from scratch, with one family’s love.

Weber said the restaurant’s namesake, Milton, would love it.

“He was a cool guy. He was an incredible cook, I think he’d be very proud of what we’re doing here,” she said.


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