Many in Minneapolis's Central neighborhood have been pleased and curious to see a familiar sight back up in the area. The old "MODERN" sign that has adorned a building at the corner of Chicago and 32nd off and on since the 1940s when the building was occupied by Modern Cleaners has returned, this time to welcome a cafe and restaurant with an old name but a new concept.
The Modern Times Cafe, named after the restaurant of the same name opened in the late 1970s by Southside Pride owner Eddie Felien, has kept the moniker inspired by that eye-catching art deco sign. But the concept has evolved slightly for the space, which under Felien's guidance functioned as a performance space/coffee shop meets New York-style delicatessen and has housed a number of restaurants since the original closed in the 1980s.
Opening the cafe are friends Dylan Alverson, Darah Lundberg and Emily Temte, who sought to open a restaurant that reflected their own personalities in the neighborhood where they live.
"Finding this space was totally serendipitous," explains Alverson, who came across the "For Lease" sign posted at the old Modern Times Cafe on his way to go sledding with his kids in Powderhorn Park. "We signed the lease within three hours." The trio has since been working toward opening what they envision to be a breakfast and lunch neighborhood cafe meets "hippy coffee shop," featuring working class diner fare with a good mix of vegetarian/vegan and local meats. The plan, according to Alverson, is to "make good, affordable food that is available to everyone in the neighborhood, and made from scratch, as organic and local as possible while keeping it affordable."
When asked about that "MODERN" sign, Alverson said they found it in the basement. "It was such an impressive sign, even laying down," and so they had to use it. Alverson reports the neighborhood seems happy it's being used again, though a challenge has been to decide how to use the sign without being too close to Felien's 1979 concept for the space.
Shooting for a mid-April opening, the Modern Times Cafe will be open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 to 5 weekends. It will offer French press coffee and espresso as well as food. The cafe also plans to host art shows and monthly art fairs, and its decor features hand-painted tables and a bar showcasing the talents of local artist friends.
Alverson says the cafe is not looking to be known as a chef-run restaurant. "We're trying not to have that kind of hierarchy in the kitchen." While the cafe will offer table service, tips will be shared among all in front and back of house. Although the cafe is not technically a collective, the owners come from a collective restaurant background and clearly bring those philosophies with them.
Modern Times Cafe 3200 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis 612.886.3882
4/13/11 Update: Modern Times is closed on Mondays.