By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There is a frequently-used word in the English language that has been known to cause disharmony amongst us.

It has been the fuel for family squabbles, social tension, and is powerful enough to send many carnivores running for the hills.

That word is — vegetarian!

Well, actually, Minneapolis restaurant Birchwood Cafe serves great vegetarian food, and has been getting along quite well for more than 20 years.

“They are huge contributors to the community, they support a lot of local nonprofits,” said customer Bruce Martens.

birchwood cafe 2 WCCO Viewers Choice For Best Vegetarian Food In Minnesota

(credit: CBS)

In fact, the Birchwood has been an anchor in the Seward neighborhood in some shape or form since it first opened as a neighborhood dairy back in 1926.

“Fantastic food, drinks, but they are really are a great community partner,” Martens said.

And that sense of community is evident when you walk in the door. But it’s what’s on the menu — which incidentally changes eight times a year with the seasons — that keeps people coming back.

“We have something for everybody here,” said Head Chef Marshall Paulsen.

That’s not just a blanket statement from Paulsen, who is not big on labels like “vegan” or “carnivore.”

To him, it’s all about good, real food.

“We don’t sacrifice the quality or appeal of a dish so that it can be gluten-free or vegan or vegetarian,” Paulsen said. “The number-one priority is are we going to feature this ingredient well? Is it going to be beautiful and delicious and nutritious?”

birchwood cafe WCCO Viewers Choice For Best Vegetarian Food In Minnesota

(credit: CBS)

And everything’s from scratch, like this Vegan Green Curry dish, and the Birchwood Bowl, which had its way with my somewhat discerning vegetarian pallet.

“Everything’s locally sourced when possible, so they’re utilizing fresh produce and meats from local growers and distributors,” Martens said.

And that is something Chef Paulsen is a bit of a stickler on.

“I know who planted the seed, I know who picked it, who weeded it, who washed it, the person who dropped it off,” Paulsen said.

Which brings us brings us back to building a sense of community.

“My favorite thing on the menu is something I can share with my non-vegetarian wife, and that’s the savory waffle,” Martens said.

Imagine that: food good enough to bridge the gap. Perhaps that’s why our viewers voted Birchwood Cafe as serving the best vegetarian food in Minnesota.

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