Poetry is at the heart of Kieran Folliard’s new venture, Kieran’s Kitchen, located in Minneapolis’ Food Building at the corner of Northeast 14th Avenue and Marshall Street.
Sometimes writers say things like this to sound deep. I’m saying it because Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney’s Digging is framed and mounted on the rear wall of the place. Folliard even had it read aloud to us before we could leave.
In Digging, interrelated themes of work and skill intertwine as menfolk of the narrator’s family toil with spades to produce their bounty, while the narrator can only use his “squat pen” to do his version of digging. The Nobel Committee gave Heaney his prize, in part, for his ability to create “works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past." At Kieran’s Kitchen, Heaney and Folliard are on the same trip.
Red Table Meat Co., Baker’s Field Flour & Bread, and Alemar Cheese Company all work from the Food Building in trades that were once passed down between generations, but have since become “craft.” Folliard founded his counter-service market concept in order to adequately honor these vendors’ work, with a staff capable of providing customers with face time to make it memorable.
This has been so much hard work that, in his own words, the founder of Kieran’s Kitchen thinks he “should have gone fishing.” And yet, no one could have put this together but him.
While giving a tour of the revamped Food Building—with long community tables flanked with windows, vantage points to see curds being separated from whey at Alemar, portals into Red Table Meat’s curing rooms, and a skylight to Skinny Jake’s honeybees—he opened up about the invisible, human parts of the place’s ethos.
“I used to be driven mad by the conflict between front of house and back of house,” he lamented. “I didn’t want that. This,” he said, gesturing at the building’s guts, “is the engine for what we do.” To better break down this barrier and reconnect all kinds of labor and craft, Kieran’s Kitchen employees can stage with any of the brands at the Food Building, or spend time working at any of the farms providing produce to the market.
“Their squat pen is salumi, milling flour, bakery, cheese-making. Our squat pen here is going to be hospitality, and how we open up these fantastic brands, these crafts and foods, the farmers that provide the unbelievable ingredients, our relationship with those,” Folliard explained to his guests.
This interrelationship is so close that it manifests in the exquisite food of executive chef Ian Gray and culinary director Zach Dunphy. Greens for salads are gathered daily from outside markets. The bread and meat for “salami croutons,” as well as the paper-thin cheese atop the dinner salad, all originate in-house.
The unmissable, spicy chevre-stuffed ravioli is equal efforts Alemar Cheese, Red Table andouille, and pasta made from flour milled that morning by Baker’s Field. The bar’s peppery mezcal bee sting was sweetened with honey from Skinny Jake’s rooftop hives. All of this local sourcing, arriving from at most 45 miles away, felt (and tasted) like a master class in intentionality.
A brand-new, pet-friendly outdoor area dotted with picnic tables has assumed the eastern lawn. Soon, they’ll be adding a walk-up service window along that same wall, to make grabbing a morning coffee and croissant (baked, of course, by the pro’s at Baker’s Field) that much easier. Gray will phase in hot breakfast slowly. It’s his priority to maintain relationships across all vendors, rather than potentially jeopardizing everyone by too rapidly expanding business.
“It is the collaborative effort to produce these crafted foods here in Minnesota that we can be proud of, so we will dig with that,” said Folliard, before commanding us to drink.
Maybe it’s the Irish lilt, but hyperlocal pride never sounded so poetic… nor tasted so good.
117 14th Ave NE, Minneapolis
Open daily 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (as of Friday, August 2)