Brasserie Zentral, Foreign Legion, and Cafe Zentral were a trio of Eastern European restaurants brought to you by Russell and Desta Klein, the same people who bring you Meritage French Brasserie on the other side of the river.
Cafe Zentral, the downtown Minneapolis skyway level spot, lives on as World Cafe, owned and operated by Robert Whitney and Alejandro Cerdas-Monge, two former Zentral employees.
Cerdas-Monge is the same chef who worked under the notoriously exacting eye of chef Klein, and his cooking is very good, indeed. But gone are the European pastries and Muenchen dogs. In their place come foods inspired by Cerdas-Monge’s native Costa Rica and Whitney’s eye toward healthy eating.
Were you a fan of True Thai, one of the original and best Thai restaurants in all of Minneapolis? Well, Whitney’s brother owned the place, and Whitney is now serving the very curry recipes that made that institution famous.
Other reasons to visit: made-to-order crepes stuffed with Nutella and banana or ham and cheese; an excellent Cubano made with in-house braised pork and pressed to toasty precision; and “pure life bowls,” for when you need a quick and nutritious lunch. The bowls change daily, with a base of whole grains tossed with veggies and protein. (And if that sounds like a punishment, know that those fragrant curries are pure life bowls.)
The place is decidedly not fancy, and you can just as easily grab a muffin and a cup of coffee or a cup of soup at the straightforward lunch counter. Order any of these things and you’ll find that they all taste like something real, and are better than skyway food really has any business tasting. Take them over to the smattering of tables and chairs left behind from the more luxe Zentral, and you’re really living large way up here, sky-high.
Whitney’s eyes widen when he tells me: “And the Jimmy John’s line is 15 minutes deep.”
The out-of-the-way location is a bit of a liability for them, but maybe a boon for you, because there are no 15-minute lines. Look for the Soo Line Building, enter through the condominium lobby, and follow the dreamy Alice in Wonderland-esque staircase up a level. At the end is World Cafe, where the holy grail of skyway eats awaits -- scratch-made, quick, easy, and good for you.
105 5th St. S. (skyway level)