Urban Eatery, 50th St Cafe replace old restaurants

Check out new spots in Edina and near Calhoun

Just four days after Edina's most iconic restaurant, the 38-year-old Pearson's, shut its doors, the 50th Street Cafe opened in its place. Needless to say, little about the vintage decor was changed. The booths are still wrapped in quilted vinyl, the tabletops laminated with Formica, and the wall behind the diner-style counter covered in glazed ceramic tile. The carpet looks better suited to a 1980s-era country club, and the orange ceiling panels and globe-shaped light bulbs might have been ripped from a 1970s rec room.

During the transition, a wall was built to divide the large restaurant space in two, and the owners of the Muddy Pig in St. Paul plan to convert the other half to a pub called Pig & Fiddle later this summer. The layout that remained for the 50th Street Café feels a little unbalanced—the waiting area is relatively vast compared to the snug seating arrangements. (The back booth sits close enough to the restrooms that one could practically wash her hands without getting up from the table.) But on weekends the lobby quickly fills to capacity with lots of young families, so its size is probably a necessity.

During the week the restaurant tends to be populated mostly by the old Pearson's crowd, recognizable by their canes, reading glasses, and white hair fixed in permanent waves. (Put it this way: There's roughly zero percent overlap with the clientele at Cucina del Barrio down the street.) One group of retired businessmen has held court at the so-called Wisdom Table for roughly three decades, and they continue to ensure that the morning's baked goods pass muster.

Urban Eatery's veggie burger uses two fillings to mimic medium-rare meat
Sasha Landskov
Urban Eatery's veggie burger uses two fillings to mimic medium-rare meat

Location Info


Urban Eatery

2730 W. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55416

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis Park

50th Street Cafe

3808 W. 50th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55410

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Edina


Urban Eatery
2730 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
612.920.5000; www.myurbaneatery.com
appetizers $5-$11; entrées $9-$19

50th Street Cafe
3808 W. 50th St., Minneapolis
612.927.4464; www.50thstreetcafe.com
sandwiches and breakfasts $4-$10

The 50th Street Café's logo will look familiar to anyone who's ever visited the Uptown Diner, Woodbury Café, Louisiana Café, or Grandview Grill owned by restaurateur John McCarty. Each of McCarty's restaurants offers a similar menu of simple, classic breakfast and lunch dishes, such as biscuits and gravy and burgers, with hints of Cajun influence. Other than, say, andouille sausage in the scrambled eggs or a zingy cilantro-lime dressing on the chicken salad, the fare is fairly straightforward.

Upgrade from a basic egg and toast breakfast to a full plate with blackened walleye fillet and a pile of crispy hash browns—and tack on one of the ultra gooey caramel rolls while you're at it. The café's pancake list offers a few twists, including pineapple upside-down cakes that don't really have a top or a bottom but still taste sweet. Cookie dough connoisseurs, however, will likely be disappointed by the small chocolate chunks of the stuff in the cookie dough flapjacks.

McCarty has upgraded the diner concept with a few progressive touches. The restaurant serves fair trade, organic coffee and provides compostable takeout containers, for starters. The menu drew one small quibble for its description of "pure squeezed" orange juice. Would we expect it to be impurely squeezed? Contaminated? Minute Maid uses the same "foodie-washing" tactic but it still feels like a trap for luring lazy readers into thinking the oranges are squeezed on the premises.

Regulars of the previous regime will be happy to recognize Phil Pearson, a third-generation member of the Pearson family restaurant dynasty and longtime employee, who has stayed on as the new restaurant's manager. (Pearson started working in his family's restaurant when he was six years old. "I tell people I came with the building," he quips.) And while a few of the old Pearson's favorite items remain, including the Swedish meatballs, Reuben sandwich, and chicken potpie, there's one conspicuous omission: the (in)famous holiday lutefisk.

THE RESTAURANT SPACE at 2730 W. Lake St. in south Minneapolis offers such prime proximity to Calhoun's waters that the previous tenant named itself after the vista. But the View's owners, Kaskaid Hospitality (the team behind the Crave chain as well as the newly opened Sopranos), recently rebooted the restaurant with a new concept called Urban Eatery.

A large, square bar with multiple overhead televisions still anchors the main room, but the sports-bar vibe has been softened by the weathered wood on the walls and antique-style light fixtures—they look rather like brewer's carboys turned into incandescent bulbs. The space feels cozy and classic, though it will likely be upstaged by the patio once the weather breaks and every Uptown Girl in town is looking for a place to sip her namesake drink, a refreshing blend of Hendrick's gin, cucumber, mint, and fruit-flavored X-Rated vodka.

Chef Jim Kyndberg, chef-owner of the former foodie destination Bayport Cookery, has been overseeing Kaskaid's culinary team for about a year, and he designed Urban Eatery's menu to focus on bar food with an international bent. The emphasis is on quality ingredients, including naturally raised meats from regional farms, and on updating classic foods with a chef's flourish.

So instead of the ubiquitous, American mini-burger, Urban Eatery serves an Asian-style slider—a sausage version of the steamed pork belly bun popularized at New York's Momofuku and once called the "trendy new East Village version of the Wimpy burger." But they're a far feistier version of that bland U.K. snack. The chewy, sweet bun folds over a spicy patty made with Fischer Farms pork, while garnishes of pickled and raw veggies brighten each bite with acidity and crunch. Attention to detail earns Urban Eatery the gastro prefix to its pub descriptor. Even the humble pickle is house-made, in three variations of cucumber, fennel, and turnip.

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