Modern Times brings bright boho vibe to south Minneapolis

Menu is veggie-heavy, but who can forget those bacon pancakes?

Modern Times, at 3200 Chicago Ave. in south Minneapolis, shares a building with the neighborhood's community newspaper. The paper is called the Southside Pride, and Powderhorn often feels like it could use a little more of it. Everywhere there are signs that its residents aren't quite keeping up: gutters sag, concrete crumbles, paint flakes, and lawns go to seed. Dead vines and rusty bicycles seem to predominate as home decor.

Still, the neighborhood has many lovable aspects: the diversity, the colorful community gardens, the exuberant May Day parade, and, now, a new breakfast and lunch cafe that's a literal bright spot—it's painted fluorescent green—along the historically rough-and-tumble Chicago corridor.

The 1909 building has been many things to many people over the years: It was a meat market and then a venue for punk shows before housing a series of restaurants that served everything from Southern to Somali to Mexican cuisine. For a time, the Loft Literary Center even called the building home. The cafe's new owners—Dylan Alverson, Darah Lundberg, and Emily Temte—named their business after the old Modern Times Cafe, a restaurant that occupied the space in the late 1970s and was run by the building's longtime owner, Southside Pride publisher Ed Felien. The new crew discovered the iconic 1940s "Modern" sign, a relic of a former tenant, Modern Cleaners, in the basement, and decided to resurrect the name. It took three people to hoist the art moderne M into place.

Modern Times offers homemade decor and affordable food, like the Thai Tempeh Burger with fries
Alma Guzman
Modern Times offers homemade decor and affordable food, like the Thai Tempeh Burger with fries

Location Info

Map

Modern Times Cafe

3200 Chicago Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Powderhorn

Details

Modern Times
3200 Chicago Ave. S., Minneapolis
612.886.38882; all items $2-$9

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The owners did much of the renovation work themselves, with the help of friends, and the space embraces an eclectic, DIY aesthetic. The walls look like they're on about their hundredth coat of paint, the tabletops are covered with rainbows, and the restroom contains a faux potted palm with a plastic chicken roosting in its dusty fronds.

The artwork on the café's walls will change every month, and some of it seems to have taken its inspiration from hoarding disorder. One garish collage manages to incorporate a ratty hair weave with imagery of the pop-music icon Vanilla Ice. A different canvas is covered with a pair of light-wash jeans and splattered with goopy red paint that looks like the result of a ketchup-bottle accident. One of the pant legs is folded back on itself, as if the jeans are kicking themselves in the crotch. Interesting, yes. Would you hang it over your couch? Eh...maybe not.

Alverson runs the kitchen (Lundberg oversees the front of the house while Temte handles the bookkeeping) and serves a menu of mostly American breakfast foods and sandwiches that might be characterized as hippie fuel for eco-conscious, pedal-powered, social-activist sorts. Alverson has been cooking on and off for about 15 years, and even started a collectively run vegan restaurant in Seattle a few years back. He prioritizes local, organic, and sustainable ingredients, yet is mindful of keeping prices accessible to encourage neighbors to make repeat visits. While Modern Times' spread resembles those at a few other local eateries—including Seward Café, Triple Rock, and Hard Times, where Alverson once worked, actually—the newcomer executes the concept with more refinement and consistency than most of its brethren.

There's something a little subversive about ordering your short stack of vegan pancakes studded with bacon crumbles, but go ahead, Modern Times is an open-minded sort of place. The clientele is more counterculture than clean-cut, with men and women alike shaving their heads down to the skull. Patrons with longer locks tend to wear them like they're allergic to shampoo, though they're not going to judge more frequent washers. (You won't be any more incongruous than Kyle Bille, the maitre' d at the haute dining spot Heidi's, who occasionally helps out in the kitchen—though he's hardly in recognizable form, having shed his suit for a T-shirt that shows off a tattooed bicep.)

But back to those bacon pancakes. They seem impossibly feather-light for being not only vegan but made with a portion of whole wheat flour—factors that tend to make cakes gummy or heavy or both. But these flapjacks, glazed with butter and real maple syrup, taste like a salty-sweet cloud. The secret, Alverson says, is using silken tofu as an egg substitute. There are several options for breakfast scrambles, made with either eggs or tofu, and there's also a tasty, rustic Not Your Mother's Migas: tortilla strips in ruddy ranchero sauce with eggs, beans, cheese, jalapenos, and a cabbage-based salsa. The most surprising section of the menu may be its selection of open-faced breakfast sandwiches. The Croque Jean-Paul, a croque monsieur variant that combines brioche with ham, Gruyere cheese, two perfectly poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce, is a luxurious indulgence prepared with the meticulousness you'd expect of a fancy French restaurant. It seems far too elegant to grace the table of a restaurant with a stuffed pheasant in the restroom.

The café serves its lunch menu until late afternoon, and while the midday options do include a tasty grass-fed beef hamburger, they focus on vegetarian items, including a delightfully creamy macaroni and cheese spiked with roasted jalapenos. Too often, meatless dishes are an anemic alternative to their carnivorous cousins, a chef's afterthought. But Alverson, who eschewed animal flesh for eight years, combats that notion with sandwiches that pile on an abundant assembly of lively ingredients.

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55 comments
fireflynaps
fireflynaps

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel.

please, go back to Eden Prairie or wherever it is you hide out to be safe, and until you've spent more than a half an hour venturing out in the "hood" of South ;) refrain from your judgmental journalism for awhile. Yes, I will defend this neighborhood so clearly wronged in your writing. BUT I guess thanks is in order as well since we wouldn't want your neighbors over here b*tching about how dilapidated the street is. please. These neighborhoods are exactly why I love it here. my daughter's daycare is on 46th & Chicago, where I'm sure you would lock your doors and roll up your windows. I like that my daughter is growing up amongst real people that care more about each other and the community than spending even a second wondering which perfect ensemble from Restoration Hardware should adorn their porch. You know, the ones made in Korea.

Go away, find another job reviewing food court chains. And next time, if you can't keep your classist comments to yourself, just stick to the did. It's amazing here. And that art with the pants kicking itself in the crotch? It's called irony, dear..did you attend college?(silently turns and walks away)

Am3847
Am3847

**stick to the food.. not the "did" thank u auto-correct

Mark Samuelson
Mark Samuelson

Even if Hutton's description is to the point about the looks of the neighborhood, I intensely dislike the propagation of the underlying unchallenged consumer society prejudices that these things can be taken as barometer of pride in one's neighborhood, or if one is "keeping up" (keeping up with what? where does vanity matter in life when all is said and done?).

I dislike the promotion of the sense that you can and should look down upon people if they don't get out of life a need to prioritize the curb appeal of their houses.

What of the people of the world who live in a shacks with dirt floors? can we then say that they have no pride in where they live or are from? or aren't keeping up? or should we try to challenge and shed this conditioning and lens of the consumer society that has resoundingly shown to be empty and unimaginably destructive to our planet and all its life (including us)?

bun sandwalker
bun sandwalker

It's really unfortunate that City Pages picked a judgmental square to write a review of Modern Times, my favorite new place to get a nice lunch or breakfast with friends.

The artists she referenced are friends of mine who I deeply respect for their talents, ambition, kindness, and resourcefulness. They are diverse women who don't just stick to the visual realm of art. They inspire me and a number of folks in our community.

Rachel Hutton needs to look past her preconceived notions about what good art is and open her mind and eyes. I can think of a great deal of people, myself included, who would be proud to display the artwork of Beeth Cake and Kate Farstad above a couch, a toilet, on a fridge, on a wall. Hell, I own several wearable things created by Beeth Cake and I wear them on my head and shoulders with pride. Make up your own mind, Minneapolis! Don't listen to this garbage. Go see for yourself.

Seward Cafe and Hard Times are great but it's wonderful to finally have a place so near my home to get a good meal at an affordable price. The food I have eaten at Modern Times has been consistently delicious and the staff is always friendly, not to mention ADORABLE! Get over it, Rachel. Not every restaurant you walk into is going to have a staff who wears white button down shirts, black pants and shoes, and aprons. The staff at Modern Times are comfortable, healthy, and obviously having a good time feeding us. I'm fixin' to go there tomorrow and get fed!

bun sandwalker
bun sandwalker

Also, maybe Rachel Hutton should spend a little more time in our beautiful neighborhood before she writes bullshit like this.

East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

There is really no need to review a resturant in this section of town, since nobody outside that 'hood' is going to go there. I'm not surprised, people who live there subsitute sloagns like 'pride', 'historic', 'diverse', 'great .... ', 'comfort zone','love' - and try to cover up the fact that it's run down and crime ridden.

Babbysfirsttroll
Babbysfirsttroll

Yes, it reminds me of the way people from the east coast use vague buzzwords like "historic", and "13 original colonies" to cover up the fact that Donald Trump lives there and the Philadelphia Eagles have never won a Superbowl. You are truly a keen observer of the human condition.

Jeremy B
Jeremy B

Hear Hear! ECD sounds just like my suburban friends who ask if I feel "safe" living in the Chicago/Lake neighborhood. I walk, jog and bike around at all hours, and yes, I do...but then, I don't feel threatened by or look down upon people who aren't exactly like me. Vive la différence.

Doug Hill
Doug Hill

Forget the review, go try it for yourself... and on your way out the door after a great meal, take a look at the great houses and gardens across the street and on the block. Keep going east two block and enjoy Powederhorn Park while you're at it.

East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

Powderhorn Park? Don't a lot of people get shot / robbed neat there?

Tinatwotimes
Tinatwotimes

Could you suck anymore? People get shot everywhere. Even in your neat little haven that I can only assume is uptown/an outer ring suburb. Here's the thing that all of you haters of our great area are ignoring. Even poor, run down, crime loving hippies like us deserve healthy, inexpensive food that tastes good. I don't know if you've ever actually come to our area, but the only places around here to get any food are the corner stores, or the midtown produce exchange which is extremely over priced and has a certain dislike for anyone who isn't middle class and white. I think it's awesome that we no have more options other than french fries and doritos. So, I don't know. Maybe you should get out of your condo. Or go fuck yourself in your fake co-op. I don't care either way.

Jeremy B
Jeremy B

Dear Doug: you don't know what you're talking about. You've demonstrated it a couple of times now. We get it.

East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

Look Tina, I'm glad you have a resturant there, but don't get bent out of shape when people say the obvious. Tina said: "but the only places around here to get any food are the corner stores." Why is that? Well it's because of the crime and the deteriorated neighborhood., no business want's to invest in an area like yours. Tina further says: "or the midtown produce exchange which is extremely over priced and has a certain dislike for anyone who isn't middle class and white." Well that is a product of the liberals who are running the city of Mpls, who people in your neighborhood keep electing.

The key is for the citizens in your neighboorhood to fix it up, take control of it. Additionally think about electing canidates other than the DFL. Don't you think over 40 years of DFL rule over Mpls is enough? Look around where you live - it's the product of 40 years of liberal government!

Gaylaellis
Gaylaellis

I love our neighborhoods on the southside, and this restaurant is a real gift. The wait staff is very friendly, courteous, and efficient. The food is delicious. There are many options (like brown rice instead of hash browns with breakfast). It probably is outside some people's comfort zones. I thought the review was shallow. I wish the writer had opened her eyes a bit more to what was around her, not about how people look. It can be intimidating, but look below the surface to see the richness that is around. And there is violence in all parts of the city, not just here.

Ian Bicking
Ian Bicking

I live a couple blocks from Modern Times. It's true, that intersection has more than its share of unmaintained buildings, and heck, the Modern Times building didn't look so hot until recently. While I'm a little embarrassed that Chicago Avenue doesn't show off our neighborhood very well, I'm frankly more embarrassed by the reactions in this comment thread, as there's far too many unfriendly and defensive comments. Powderhorn (and Central - Modern Times is right on the border of the two neighborhoods) isn't Uptown, and neither the area nor the restaurant's clientele have that same vibe. If this isn't area or this restaurant aren't the right vibe for some people, that's fine. There's enough variety here for everyone to find something to dislike ;)

Mark Dayton
Mark Dayton

"Powderhorn (and Central - Modern Times is right on the border of the two neighborhoods)"

Is that like being on the border between Iraq and Iran?

Sara
Sara

Whoa, chill out, Southsiders. I think this review actually shows quite a bit of love for the neighborhood, not to mention a definite appreciation for the food and the vibe of the resto. Plus, this kind of whining makes us look like insecure dorks who can't handle even the slightest dis. The truth (there *are* a lot of sagging gutters...) isn't always an insult, okay? I can't wait to eat here!

Mark Dayton
Mark Dayton

I liked your comment. You see it for what it is. Nothing wrong for what it is, no need to make excuses. It's the people who make excuses, they are what's wrong.

frankie
frankie

This woman knows nothing about urban culture. she should not be writing for the city pages. I wonder where she lives? Lake Minnetonka? Dara was an infinitely better writer. But it is true, the food at the Modern Times is great.

Mark Dayton
Mark Dayton

And just what exactly is 'urban culture'? Ghetto? Unkept lawns? Dilapidated houses? Crime? Criminals?

Tedbleeks
Tedbleeks

not bathing and living in squallor isn't "urban culture"

HazelStone
HazelStone

Does this writer have an editor or can I get a job writing puerile garbage like this and never have it vetted?

HazelStone
HazelStone

I'm on paragraph six and still no food, just harshing on the art and decor. HIre someone who like food to write about it!

Artmpower
Artmpower

Well she's no Dara. Incredibly classist & not focusest on writing well plus missing the main poit---the food is amazing.

Lil' Ostrich
Lil' Ostrich

Ugh. The only thing depressing about my usually-lovely Powderhorn is that there are still piles of CIty Pages available at some businesses. This article is so insulting, City Pages! Tho not suprising. Please, do something to help the neighborhood and remove your Backpages-funded classist crap from our otherwise awesome 'hood.

Amy
Amy

Rachel, (as our entire neighborhood is pointing out) you obviously know nothing about Powderhorn if you think that we do not have pride in our community. I am so tired of "journalists" taking easy potshots at us because of a preconceived notion of what it is like to live here. Articles like this are the main reason that Powderhorn365 (http://powderhorn365.com) is in existence.

rachel sux
rachel sux

I'm done with City Pages. Terrible article.

Joeyhhford
Joeyhhford

I cannot believe that this actually got printed.

prideonthesouthside
prideonthesouthside

How sad. This review seemed like it might give a neighborhood restaurant that I love the respect and recognition it deserves. Instead, the reviewer not only spent most of her time insulting the neighborhood and customers, she also managed to backhandedly insult the restaurant and its owners. The Modern Times is not some wacky angel that has dropped down to grace our depressing South Minneapolis, it is a neighborhood spot that has grown out of the vibrant community and culture that is deeply rooted here. It is one thing for a restaurant reviewer to be classist and condescending to entire sections of a city. It is one thing for a restaurant reviewer to be stereotyped and judgmental about others style and dress. It is one thing for a restaurant reviewer to be totally out of touch with contemporary culture. It is another thing for a restaurant reviewer to be so out of touch with food that she is still shocked that vegan and vegetarian food - or something made with whole wheat flour! - can taste good. Get a clue Rachel, but you need more than one.

artlover
artlover

Now come on now I think those paintings up right now by Katelyn Farstad are totally amazing and little glimpses into a world so unknown, yet so firmilliar

arthater
arthater

The art that is up in the cafe right now is seriously the worst paintings I have ever seen I mean they are so bad like really confusing and like ugly kinda and I just don't know who that person must think they are

anon
anon

Despite the employees with weird dirty hair, the dusty decor, bad paint job, art not fit to hang in a home, and the dilapidated/dangerous state of the neighborhood, at least the food "seems too elegant to grace the table of a restaurant with a stuffed pheasant in the restroom"

Rocky
Rocky

I wonder if Rachel would like to see one of my favorite raccoon photos...http://forums.e-democracy.org/...Maybe she ran into this one while she was out looking for things to diss in the neighborhood.

Cynicthehedgehog
Cynicthehedgehog

Gee thanks Rachel, for braving our dangerous, prideless dystopia.

Pickwick2
Pickwick2

Well, I live across the street and I'm certainly insulted by the author's take on my neighborhood. Food at the Modern is great, though. If you're a carnivore, I highly recommend the Croque Jean Paul. Chow down!

P.S. I will admit that it may have been my lawn that "had gone to seed", but it's been raining, lady! Raining, raining, raining.

Dlund16
Dlund16

It takes grass more than 10 days for grass to get that unmanageable, you couldn't find 15 min to mow? I bet your yard is still a mess in a month. The food is good, the art is for the most part lame. I live on 34th and 15th I know this neighboorhood, you all talk about fixing stuff up and the "community" but the conditions of the yards and houses speak for them selves. If you weeded as well as you whine people would be more positive about our home.

Graphiczar
Graphiczar

I agree with the majority of the criticisms leveled against the article. The review spends far too much time pointing out the stereotypes of Powderhorn/Central before even landing on the subject at hand: food. Even the final paragraph — with its reference to concerns about violence — can't help itself from taking a cheap shot.

I believe the writer chose a preconceived mental shorthand over direct observation in painting this word picture. (Or, at least, had her "We're in the ghetto now" filters in place before looking around.)

Me and my dandelion-free yard (just two blocks north of you, by the way) are quite comfortable in pointing this out, and our whining has a clear conscience.

Pickwick2
Pickwick2

Up yours! I work for a living and it rained every weekend for a month. No window to mow. If you've got so much time come on over and do it for me -- or STFU!

Pammehlin
Pammehlin

Was this a restaurant review or a biased ,uneducated opinion of a neighborhood she clearly does not like.I always thought the opening paragraph was to entice the reader...this just mad me mad and uninterested in reading more. Although I did, and found the historic information on the restaurant not completely factual.The one thing she did get right is it was a much needed addition to , and this is where we differ again,a neighborhood that many of the people take great pride in living in.

iroller
iroller

That reporter writes as if they've been hiding under a rock. I swear, journalism is getting worse everyday.

Katie
Katie

The restaurant is great but it was very rude to insult the neighborhood for not having as much money as yours. What is wrong with you that you need to go in that? Low.

Dlund16
Dlund16

Being poor isn't an excuse for not mowing your lawn.

Pickwick2
Pickwick2

You are one nasty piece of work.

Lydiacapi
Lydiacapi

the other of this is a complete meat freak. i could hardly get through it.

guest
guest

...also south minneapolis is the best. i like and appreciate all the things she does not care for, i'd be honest in saying that i don't like all this "keeping up" business that this "writer" seems to be praising. i mean, where's the life in all that?

Guest
Guest

this **author is a complete meat freak. i hadn't had my coffee yet. heh.

Coll0229
Coll0229

I love the Modern Times. But the descriptions of South Minneapolis as a neglected, violent neighborhood full of people who don't wash their hair make me feel ill. The editorializing in this piece is clueless and irresponsible. Apology, please.

Tedbleeks
Tedbleeks

She didn't say South mpls residents don't wash their hair, but that a number of the cafe's patrons don't which is true

Jessi Wood
Jessi Wood

Well, Rachel, you have managed to get another terrible article (eh...maybe not) in the Pages; I do not know how you've gotten to where you are and I hate to speculate but you are unworthy. Perhaps you would do better in a suburb commenting on the mowed lawns and McD's iced lattes. As someone who had a long history in Powderhorn and now lives rural, only to come back to my favorite urban neighborhood, I find you ignorant and incredibly small minded. I have to agree with every comment posted below as well as the FB comments I have recieved re: you're shallow dish. Please stay in the neighborhood of which you came. Although Powderhorn is accepting of everyone and their lifestyles, you just don't seem to get it.

 
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