On a stretch of Nicollet dominated by pho joints and swanky cocktail bars, the Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen stands out with its farmhouse chic food and ambiance. It's not a place you'd expect to find on Eat Street, and would seem more at home nestled on a bluff near Lake Pepin, but thanks to Kickstarter funding, owners Chris and Danielle Bjorling bring something fresh to this part of Minneapolis: honest-to-goodness, Midwestern haute cooking from scratch.
Copper Hen offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus. The short breakfast menu consists of choice pastries and savory meat and vegetarian hand pies. The lunch and dinner menu is more extensive, divided into starters, wooden boards (hors d'oeuvres like cheese plates and tartare), soups, salads, sandwiches, rustic pizzas, and entrees. A Farmhouse Brunch is served every Saturday and Sunday.
We sprang for the Black and White Rustic Pizza ($11), which lives up to its billing. The flatbread crust -- topped with goat cheese, figs, and caramelized onions -- tastes like it came straight out of a pizza oven from a sustainable farm in the middle of nowhere. Though a couple of pieces had burnt edges, the crackly, yeasty crust was a welcome reprieve from the poorly-done Neapolitan-style crusts popping up all around town. The pungent goat cheese was tempered by the sweet figs and a savory balsamic reduction.
The main attraction at Copper Hen is the pastry menu, specifically the variety of cakes and cupcakes. Though the cupcake trend has long since passed (or is having its heyday, depending on who you ask), Copper Hen's cupcakes make a case for its revival. The Lavender Lemon Cupcake ($2.50), Copper Hen's current seasonal special, puts all other local cupcakes to shame. Accents of lemon coax out the subtle flavor of lavender, and the sumptuous buttercream frosting actually tastes like a marriage between butter and sweet cream, instead of the ubiquitous, artificial corn sugar frosting that dominates the cupcake market.
The Mason Jar Carrot Cake ($4.50) is a perfect way to end a meal at Copper Hen. These small cakes are baked inside of Mason jars that you get to keep (though we forgot ours at the cafe). The cream cheese frosting surpasses other local iterations thanks to an extra pinch or two of sugar. The cake is moist and fresh and if you didn't know better, you'd guess the carrots were picked that morning. It's simultaneously unpretentious, wholesome, and trendy, which sums up Copper Hen in both ethos and execution.
The dining room mixes elements of rustic barn and chic city loft. Dark wood beams play off exposed brick and wallpaper schemes that almost feel like art installations. Miniature vases adorn the sleek, black wooden tables. Dining al fresco is also an option, with four tables dotting the Nicollet Avenue storefront.
The menu is painstakingly chalked on three blackboards, adjacent to the bread case housing Copper Hen's three house-made specialties. A pastry case replete with cupcakes serves as the counter, making it impossible for diners to come away without buying one or two of the delicious morsels. Two gargantuan Mason jars function as water coolers, a unique interpretation that makes their overplayed kitsch feel comfortingly homey, rather than Pinterest precious.
Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen is open Tuesday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. They are closed on Monday.
Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen 2515 Nicolet Ave., Minneapolis 612-872-2221