Best Neighborhood Café (St. Paul) Minneapolis 2013 - Heartland Farm Direct Market
At first glance, you might not think of Heartland, home of elegant farm-to-table, hyper-local food, as a café, but the Farm Direct Market is exactly the sort of neighborhood gathering ground every food fan would love to live near. Rich and toasty Dogwood coffee is brewed by the cup. The sandwiches are built entirely from scratch: Every slice of bread and condiment is made onsite. Even better, the flavor combinations are glorious. The vegetarian options are some of the most intriguing, like a roasted wood-ear mushroom topped with kimchee slaw. There is also a hot case, which includes dishes that would usually be served at the restaurant "family meal," where the employees eat before the customers arrive. It's worth seeking out the fried chicken. The pastry case includes both the familiar (like a to-die-for brownie) and imaginative (a savory duck scone). There are tables for lounging and eating. There is also all the eye candy: fresh produce, freezer cases stocked with ice cream, Spring Grove and Joia sodas, and shelves filled with Minnesota maple syrup and more. Effortlessly hip, with that relaxed cool-kid confidence, the Heartland Farm Direct Market is an apt fit for its remade Lowertown 'hood.