New head chef Jake Johnson brings a taste of Texas to Northern Coffeeworks

This is "Texas Caviar." By way of Minnesota.

This is "Texas Caviar." By way of Minnesota. Northern Coffeeworks

The name isn't incidental: Northern Coffeeworks has always been damn proud to be a Minnesota shop. 

"Our mission is simple," their website reads, "serve amazing, wholesome, and sustainably sourced coffee and food, in a space that reflects the beautiful scenery of our home state of Minnesota."

Fitting, then, that new head chef Jake Johnson is a native... Texan?

Johnson laughs when you point out the disparity, fully aware that he's in a place that—geographically and spiritually—couldn't be further from his roots. "I'm trying to kind of fuse the two," he grins. "The Texas comes out a little bit."

Since stepping into the one-year-old coffee shop's kitchen in August—before, he was a cook at the Bachelor Farmer restaurant and then a manager at the Bachelor Farmer cafe—there's been an ever-so-slight Southern shift. You'll see it in new dishes like Texas Caviar: a summery corn and bean salad common in the Lone Star State that you won't see too many places around here. (This being Minnesota, Johnson's version also gets cheese curds.) And the biscuits on the Northern Coffeeworks menu now are an adaptation of his mom's recipe.

It's not a total Texas takeover. The Cabin Breakfast is a staple; the waffles are sticking around. Offerings will continue to stay somewhat consistent but morph seasonally—expect sweet potatoes or butternut squash to make an appearance in the skillet hash soon—along with gingerbread and pumpkin bread in the pastry case. Baristas will be whipping up pumpkin spice lattes (with real pumpkin puree) starting September 22, the first day of fall.

Plus: "Being from Texas, I like chili, so I'll probably make a chili."

But this will be Texan chili by way of Minnesota. "I think what I'm really trying to focus on is: local food, local purveyors," Johnson says, name-dropping the Fish Guys, Twin Organics, and DragSmith Farms. (Northern's produce delivery arrives during our conversation, and Johnson and DragSmith co-owner Maurice Smith laugh when they realize they're wearing matching hot-pink T-shirts printed with the farm's name.)

They're doing burgers on Fridays now, with local, house-ground Peterson beef, caramelized onions, cheddar, and from-scratch aioli and bread and butter pickles on a Patisserie 46 milk bun. And Northern hosted its first-ever dinner pop-up late last month, a series that will likely continue, with one this winter and more as the seasons go on.

"Just another way to showcase all the local farms that we're using," Johnson says simply.

And another way to be Minnesota proud.

Northern Coffeeworks
1027 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis