Old Country Buffet was in bad shape. Stores were closing, and the company was filing for bankruptcy. Then came new CEO Anthony Wedo. “We haven’t done a facelift even for 30 years in this business,” Wedo said. “If you wore the same clothes you wore 30 years ago, you’d be in trouble, right? I mean, you’d stand out in the wrong way.”
They’ll forgive you if you carry a stack of letters into The Postmark Grille in Hudson, Wis. “They love how we kept a lot of the characteristics of the building,” said manager Erica Schletty.
Mark Reese of B-52 Burgers and Brew knew he made a great burger. But competing against The Nook, MyBurger and The Gold Nugget? “It was very intimidating,” Reese said. But a panel of chefs and food critics judged the B-52 burger as the best in the Twin Cities Burger Battle.
It looks like every other grocery store from the outside. But for nearly 40 years, Valley Natural Foods has been doing things differently inside. Kirsten Shabaz is the co-op’s “Fresh Food Educator.” “You wouldn’t be able to walk into a big-box store and find dandelion greens or even ramps probably for that matter,” Shabaz said.
At Steven Brown’s award-winning Tilia in south Minneapolis, you won’t find mac and cheese on the “Cootie Catcher” kids’ menu. The shrimp fried rice is good, real, scratch cooking. But Brown’s making good kids’ food inside and out of his restaurant.
You might not expect Executive Chef Brad Berg to be searing scallops at Pittsburgh Blue. “I guess sometimes I’m surprised we do sell a lot of seafood here,” Berg said.
Inside a non-descript industrial building in Mankato, a snack that’s thousands of years old is getting a new look. Angie and Dan Bastian started popping kettle corn as a couple in 2001. “It’s amazing when you think about we started all of this by hand, we popped by hand, we bagged by hand, we did everything by hand,” Angie said.
It was nearly ten years ago when Chef Jonathan Hunt opened an Italian restaurant in the Nokomis neighborhood of Minneapolis. The city has changed. “There’s definitely a lot more restaurants and I think that [the] diner has changed as well,” Hunt said. “We’ve been able to educate.”
Inside a St. Paul commercial kitchen, two friends are forming more than just loaves of bread. Micah Taylor is a web designer, and Nate Houge is a songwriter. Together, they form Brake Bread. “Bread is all about, like, time and tension and finding out the balance between them,” Houge said.
If the first thing you think of when you hear “Swedish chef” is the Muppets character, then maybe you need to start thinking of Paul Berglund. He has a picture of his felt counterpart in the kitchen of the Bachelor Farmer, the red-hot North Loop Minneapolis restaurant. “A liver pate is one of my favorite things,” Berglund said.
The fire burns 750-degrees hot at Pizza Nea in northeast Minneapolis. But owner Mike Sherwood’s carefully-crafted dough is really what makes his pizza special. “I probably went through 150 pounds of flour before we got the crust the way I wanted it to be,” Sherwood said.
With names like “Naked Blues,” “Sweet Potato” and “Simply Sriracha,” the chips of Way Better Snacks are way different from anything you’ve tried before. Jim Breen graduated high school and college in the Twin Cities, worked on the East Coast for food companies and is now growing his own food brand in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis.
A Twin Cities family’s burger chain is ready to really get cooking. My Burger started in the Minneapolis skyways almost ten years ago. Now there are three locations, with plans for even more. John Abdo, president of My Burger, says Americans have had a love affair with the hamburger for more than 100 years. “Everybody remembers burgers and fries as a kid,” Abdo said. “When you’re eating, it always harkens back to … backyard grilling.”
When you hear the sound of slot machines, you can’t help but look to see the buffet. It’s almost Pavlovian. Executive Chef Richard Fisher says Mystic Lake has been planning a remake of their Casino’s buffet. “We have new pans, all small format,” Fisher said. “We actually have people in the food and beverage business from Vegas come out look at our buffet.”
Diane Yang may be small in stature, but she’s a big force in La Belle Vie’s kitchen. “This is my corner of the kitchen. It’s nice because we have the window,” Yang said. “We’re the only place in the kitchen that has a window, so it keeps us sane.” As executive pastry chef of the top restaurant in the Twin Cities, Yang and her team are setting the standard for desserts.