How many times have you wished you had somewhere to hang, meet, or work that wasn’t exactly Starbucks, wasn’t exactly the hipster coffee shop, and wasn’t exactly Dunkin’ Donuts, but had elements of all three?
Justin Bedford and Jeff Bull were two skyway-working, North Loop-living guys trolling the downtown area for years and years in search of just that. An escape from the drab corporate office cube, a place to meet clients, a place to get a damn decent doughnut were a few of the needs high on their list.
When they started noodling on the idea, Minnesota had not yet seen Glam Doll, Mojo Monkey Donuts, Tim Horton’s, or Dunkin’. We had a serious doughnut dearth around here, and that was just no way to live.
So, they set about making as close to perfect a doughnut as they could (their bakery chef Daniel Rosene has been doing research and prototypes for a year). And, they wanted to serve it in a bright, comfortable, approachable space that’s still stylish.
They've also included some stuff we haven’t seen in any other doughnut shop to date. What if your date wants a maple bacon bourbon bomb and you want to not blow your diet? A build-your-own Greek yogurt and oatmeal bar awaits, where you can go all healthy with fruit and granola, or cheat just a little with marshmallows and crumbled cookies.
The full coffee bar offers all the Black Eye Roasting Co. lattes and cappuccinos you desire, but also Nitro coffee on tap and two flavors of rotating kombucha flavors.
The duo wanted the place to feel like you’re sitting in a Midcentury Modern living room, which it kinda does, without the pretense. The pops of color bring a little Howard Johnson-esque joviality, suggesting warmth and familiarity instead of the too-cool-for-schoolness that plagues many a third-wave coffee shop. Indeed, they say they wanted it to serve as a “third space,” the way a good neighborhood bar might, but here it’s without the booze.
The poison of choice is of course doughnuts, and like any good shop, they have a specific point of view. Staying true to the timeless connotation of the name “Cardigan,” the kitchen is mostly concerned with classics. They’re making sure the Old Fashioned Glazed is stellar, and the crullers are made on-the-spot with whipped eggs to ensure a light, airy, custardy interior. Just look at the photo above. I’ve personally never had anything quite like it. A second tier of premium doughnuts will include things like a Mocha Longjohn or a little number filled with house made bacon jam and dusted with bacon powder.
And then a final specialty tier will let the kitchen get as wild they like, with chicken and waffle doughnuts or a rainbow road (pictured) striated with all of the colors of the rainbow, and studded with Lucky Charms marshmallows on the exterior. (A little known fact is that Lucky Charms sells boxes of marshmallow sans cereal, which is every cereal eater’s deep-down dream come true, is it not?)
A thoughtful touch is a little curated gifts section by Nicollet Avenue giftshop Greater Goods, with greeting cards, a few desktop-friendly succulents, and cubicle decorations depicting oceans and waterfalls and other aspirational geographies. Think of it as a last minute gift shop, or just a place to get a little pick-me-up to keep for yourself.
Also know that they’ll be selling a “birthday bar” with old fashioned boiled milk icing, filled with rainbow candy buttercream, and topped with sprinkles. It comes comes gift wrapped and packaged with a candle and a book of matches for that dude at the office who’s having a birthday but you don’t know him all that well. He’s really going to appreciate it.
Just as skyway walkers will probably very much appreciate Cardigan, which is situated on the skyway level of City Center, a building that has been in dire need of some vibrancy. Now it has some. May the people of the Skyway Avoidance Society put this in their pipes and smoke it. No "donut lounge" for you, skyway haters!
Price points on doughnuts fall in the $1.96 to $2.75 range, and the chef’s creations will be priced as marked. A $17.95 pre-assorted dozen will be available at all times.
Cardigan Donuts opens Thursday, May 11 at 6:30 a.m.
40 S. Seventh St., Minneapolis