The neighborhood talked, and Seward Co-op listened.
They shuttered their cafe and went back to the drawing board, aiming for something that would resonate with co-op members and the community.
We popped in for a look.
Physical changes to the space are minimal, but include easier-to-read menus, a color scheme that's branded with the store, a grab-and-go case, and perhaps most important, an ice-cream well for hand-dipped ice cream cones (creamery is in the name, after all).
The biggest culinary changes come in the form of a more simplified menu by chef Katie Nielson, broken down into “breakfasts,” “salads” and “classics.” The previous iteration of the restaurant was an interesting but overly ambitious effort by chef Lucas Almendinger.
As Nielson put it (she was Almendinger’s sous chef at the time) the food arrived looking “almost like art.” But now, she says, if you order a stir-fry, it will arrive looking like a stir-fry. If you order a sausage, it will look like one.
We liked that sausage, a spicy housemade andouille with charred pepper relish, and served on one of those bun-toast hybrids, fluffy and substantial. It's classic but not dull. A pastrami melt pays homage to the noble pastrami sandwich, incorporating melted swiss, russian dressing, and good kraut.
An otherwise charming crab apple hand pie would have benefitted from some time in a warming oven-- ice cold pie will never do, no matter how simplified you’re trying to go.
The cafe has also delivered on its promise to serve more global dishes-- we spotted chilaquiles, lamb and farro, and a soba noodle stir-fry. As promised, they’re also offering handmade soft serve, and they are continuing to utilize product from the store that is potentially not visually perfect enough to sit on store shelves. These “ugly vegetables” are perfectly acceptable to turn into delicious cooking.
The “no tipping” policy has also remained, one of the few restaurants in the cities that are following through with the somewhat controversial practice. Seward says that calculating the traditional tipping percentage into the overall price of the dishes allows them to pay a living wage to all employees. They said that co-op members and diners also wished to keep the policy in place.
And, now that the menu has reverted to a more casual overall tone, there are fewer menu items to incite the “sticker shock” that once plagued the restaurant.
It will be interesting to see the further progression of Seward Coop Creamery Cafe 2.0, now with additional ice cream.
2601 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis