Tucked into a short strip of shops in the Nokomis neighborhood of Minneapolis, Sassy Spoon is a little hard to find. But once you enter, noticing large bright spoons painted on the wall, getting a warm welcome from the staff, and hearing blues coming from the speakers, you know you’re in the right place. Like its former incarnation as a food truck, Sassy Spoon is equal parts youthful exuberance and old soul. In another commonality, the stationary eatery is a winner.
Owner Tamara Brown permanently parked her food truck and opened the restaurant this past February in the space formerly occupied by 3 Tiers. Brown, a holistic dietician, serves up gluten-free fare featuring complex carbohydrates and lean, locally sourced, sustainable meats. Brown is on a mission to show that healthful, wholesome food can boast big, bold flavors and leave customers happy and full.
In general, Brown and her staff are making good on that promise. Sassy’s signature dish — Miso-Braised Pork ($13) — sounds heavy, but rises above. The pork (above) is tender, slightly sweet, savory, and not the least bit fatty. With vinegary slaw and fresh greens, the dish is impeccably balanced and deeply satisfying. The same is true of Southern-tinged Spiced Braised Beef ($16) served with expertly prepared bitter greens. A generous accompaniment of pickled ginger ties the dish together and gives it a funky kick.
We’re also fans of Sassy’s Thai-style chicken curry ($14) heaped atop “cauliflower fried rice.” Frankly, we were skeptical of the rice substitute, but the finely chopped and semi-firm cauliflower added texture and depth of flavor. We’re sold. Plus, the chicken was succulent, and the red curry was appropriately sweet and spicy.
The two desserts we sampled (gluten-free, of course) were dynamite. A rich, addictive chocolate cupcake ($4) with a puddinglike core led us right back to the counter for seconds. Although Sassy’s chocolate dipped macaroons ($3.50) are not as special as the cupcake, we’d definitely order them again.
Of the numerous dishes we sampled over our visits, we disliked only one: a greasy, scorching-hot bone marrow beef broth ($4). A few others could use improvement. Although flavorful, an appetizer of dates stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped with bacon ($9) was unevenly cooked, leaving the bacon crisp on just one side. Yucca patties ($6) similarly lacked crispness and had just a touch too much garlic. Flatbread pizza ($10, below) made with yucca crust was better than we anticipated — the cracker crust was tasty, and the red sauce was light and bright — but an overabundance of rosemary made the flatbread taste medicinal.
Even taking into account the restaurant’s few miscues, we’re very happy that Brown has set down roots. Along with Sassy Spoon’s fantastic entrees and desserts, Brown and her staff cultivate a cozy, warm, and joyous atmosphere. Showing appreciation and care for their customers, they check in with each table and seem to genuinely care about diners’ experiences and feedback. The good vibes and hearty food made us feel as if we were at a casual dinner party with old friends. To us, that feeling is what separates true neighborhood restaurants from more run-of-the-mill eateries that would claim the title.
Wholesome food in Nokomis
5011 34th Ave S, Minneapolis
Wed-Fri 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Sat 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sun 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
BAR: Gluten-free beer and wine
ENTREE RANGE: $10-$16
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited