Sparrow Cafe in South Minneapolis

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table
Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

In theory, coffeehouses are quaint, quiet, and cozy — a place to unwind with a warm drink and a good book. In reality, however, they often feature a parade of patrons rushing in and out to grab a latte on the run, the screech of the espresso machine, and more branded merchandise than mochas for sale. So what a relief it is that the new Sparrow Cafe, open since the beginning of the year across the street from Broders’ Pasta Bar, lives up to the ideal, a tiny corner of zen in the middle of South Minneapolis.

“How zen?” you may ask. Well, I visited there with my 2-year-old and felt more relaxed than I have in months.

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table
Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

Kudos are due to owners Jasper and Sheila Rajendren, who have curated a soothing space by inviting local artists Broken Crow to create a striking mural on the cafe’s back wall. The rich brown and earth shades of a dreamy woodland are punctuated with bursts of blue flowers and — naturally — birds. The scene is captivating yet so natural that it doesn’t jolt the senses, but rather beckons you to sink into a chair or couch and breathe. When is the last time a Starbucks had that effect on you?

Luckily, Sparrow Cafe offers another leg up on the big coffeehouse chains — its coffee drinks are smooth, not brazenly bitter or burnt. And when such an idyllic setting entices you to stay to savor your cup rather than rush out the door, you can actually appreciate the delicate foam artistry floating atop your latte in its tranquil turquoise mug.

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table
Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

Though the selection of drinks and pastries is modest, quality definitely trumps quantity in this bakery case. Featuring croissants and European-style treats from Chez Arnaud and doughnuts from Angel Food Bakery, the slate of sweets satisfies regardless if you’re a traditionalist (cinnamon-dusted raised doughnut or croissant) or someone who truly needs pork on everything (maple long john). The Rajendrens aim to expand the savory side of the menu for lunch in the near future, but for now, you’ll find a single soup as the clock nears noon.

Peace and quiet and coffee — Sparrow Cafe offers them all. Here’s hoping the coffeehouse remains that way as more and more people discover its almost sacred space.

Sparrow Cafe
Coffeehouse-cafe in South Minneapolis

5001 Penn Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55419
612.353.5177
OWNERS: Jasper and Sheila Rajendren
HOURS:
Mon-Fri 6am-2pm
Sat-Sun 8am-3pm
ENTREE RANGE: $2-5 for coffee drinks and pastries

Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table
Crystal Liepa / Heavy Table

The Churn: Bakery Buzz and More

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A profile of Delmonico’s Italian Foods in Northeast Minneapolis. One Two Three Sushi (by Masu) is set to open. Dara tackles Gray House and Nightingale. Parka’s initial buzz has been great, reports Eater. A look at upcoming gardening events (it’s never too early…). And City Pages reviews French Hen and Chez Arnaud (here’s our review of Chez Arnaud and Solomon’s, and our bite of Chez Arnaud’s Paris Minneapolis, pictured above).

The Paris Minneapolis at Chez Arnaud

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Chez Arnaud bakery, the brainchild of pastry chef and owner Arnaud de Rambures, has only been on the scene since 2010. In that short time, it has grown from its original Maple Grove location to three spots in total (it has satellite locations in White Bear Lake and St. Paul) and created palpable buzz. If I may condense what I’ve heard, it boils down to this: “The owner’s French, and he really knows his pastry.” That’s enough to compel a visit. (We did a quick review of Chez Arnaud and Solomon’s Bakery last month.)

Walking into Chez Arnaud’s newly opened shop on Grand Avenue, you get that joyful, giddy, anticipatory sugar high that can only be inspired by phalanxes of neatly arrayed, carefully crafted little edible jewels. If you frequent Patisserie 46 or Patrick’s, you know what I’m talking about.

In short: Welcome to Europe, by way of baked goods.

All of the pastries at Chez Arnaud look good enough to eat on the spot, but a select few have a visual impact factor so high that you have to fight an urge to press your nose on the glass of the display case in order to get a better look.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The shop’s “Paris Minneapolis” confection ($5) is one of those guys. It’s a joyfully striking, almond-studded wreath of pâte à choux cut in half and filled with a praline cream. It succeeds on a number of distinct levels, but two jump to mind:

Restraint: Editing is everything when it comes to food, and the Paris Minneapolis gets points for being sweet (but not overly so) and an enjoyable but fully manageable collection of textures and flavors.

Conviction: This thing is nutty. Crazy nutty. Its point of view is clear, distinct, and maintained with ferocity, and if you generally like the effect that it’s going for, you’ll really love what you taste.

The rest of the bakery’s goods (excellent eclairs, decent croissants, and a host of tempting breads and confections) may beckon to you when you visit, and you’re advised to sample around and enjoy the fruits of Arnaud’s labor. But whatever you do, don’t forget to grab a Paris Minneapolis for the road.

(Chez Arnaud; 13332 Bass Lake Rd, Maple Grove, 763.568.7756; 4735 U.S. 61, White Bear Lake, 651.653.5658; 1085 Grand Ave, St. Paul, 651.330.4453)

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Solomon’s Bakery and Chez Arnaud

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

To experience the full and mystifying range of possibilities when you mix together flour, water, yeast, and salt (and, okay, plenty of butter and sugar), all you have to do is walk through the doors of two very, very different new bakeries.

Neither is, technically speaking, brand-new. Both opened toward the end of last year and each is the newest location of another existing store. But both Solomon’s Bakery and Chez Arnaud are edging closer to the heart of their respective desired demographics.

Solomons-Bakery-Collage-1
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Solomon’s Bakery opened in an Uptown storefront on Hennepin that in recent years has cycled through tenants like it’s cursed. (Let’s hope it’s not. Editor’s note: apparently so; Solomon’s has closed and moved to 1085 Grand Ave. in St. Paul.) You might know Solomon’s bread and savory filled pastries from Mill City Market, or maybe from their bakery on Central in Northeast. Now their all-organic baked goods are in the orbit of The Wedge and available to every food-conscious condo dweller switching buses at the Uptown Transit Station.

There are croissants and pains au chocolate and they are very good. But what Solomon’s does so much better than anyone else are those earthy, Old World, fill-you-up-until-lunchtime breads and pastries. There are palmiers and raisin rolls as big as a toddler’s face — and anything but delicate. And a whole array of rich, thick-crusted turnovers. Not-too-sweet raisin buns and rosemary-scented potato buns. (These last are great if you get a cup of whatever peasanty soup is available today.)

There are cookies, too, but if you see a tray full of molasses pigs, look right past the mundane round cookies and grab a fat piggy. He’s crunchy and chewy and tart with molasses.

In the bread cases are dense, sour pumpernickels, fluffy potato breads, and soft, sandwich-worthy whole wheats.

Solomon’s isn’t fancy — in fact, it already looks a little worn around the edges — but that’s part of its charm.

Chez-Arnaud-Collage-1
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

As hearty and earthy as Solomon’s is, that’s how very refined everything — down to the chic takeout boxes — is at Chez Arnaud. (Editor’s note: Chez Arnaud was sold to the owners of Solomon’s.) Already established in Maple Grove and White Bear Lake since 2010, Arnaud has brought his award-winning baguettes and his impeccable croissants and pains au chocolat to St. Paul’s Grand Avenue.

Everything is arrayed in sleek display cases designed to elicit, “Ooh!” and, “Pretty!” In the French tradition, you very much eat with your eyes before your mouth at Chez Arnaud. Every exquisite fan-shaped apricot pastry is perfectly shaped and a delicious shade of golden yellow. And they are just as good — buttery, delicate — when you bite into them. (These are hands down our favorites at Chez Arnaud.)

There are better éclairs and macarons in the Twin Cities, but that says more about our good fortune in bakeries here than it does about Chez Arnaud, because these are very good — the perfect-sized treats for when you just need to set down the shopping bags for a moment and enjoy a chic little treat.

Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table
Tricia Cornell / Heavy Table

Solomon’s Bakery
Organic baked goods in Uptown and Northeast Minneapolis
1085 Grand Ave (formerly Chez Arnaud)
St. Paul, MN
651.330.4453

OWNER / BAKER: Veronica Anczarski
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes


The Churn: Cray Cray Coffee and More

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Head barista Jackson O’Brien of Peace Coffee demonstrates how to make a perfect cup of coffee in this video. Newly established local coffee brand Cray Cray Coffee emphasizes a robust roasting program and dodgy label art. If you missed me talking Wisconsin artisan cheese on the Current, give it a listen here (Wisconsin cheese pictured above; and read the story over here). Schell’s debuted its Chimney Sweep Black Lager at Mayslack’s this week. A couple of locally sourced wet hop beers hit the shelves in Wisconsin. A review of the new Grand Ave. location of the expanding Chez Arnaud baked goods empire. And a taste of Cedar Summit’s new grass-fed half-and-half. Finally, we know that this isn’t food-related, but apparently there’s an entire Minneapolis voting precinct located in a lake. Only in Minnesota!

Chez Arnaud, Rare Steak & Sushi, and more

Readers: Win Heavy Table pint glasses

The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a Heavy Table pint glass to the best tipster each month. The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com. July’s winner: Ashley Skogen of St. Paul

Chez Arnaud (opening soon)

4735 Highway 61, White Bear Lake | myfrenchbakery.net

Chez Arnaud has been thriving in Maple Grove, so owner Arnaud de Rambures is expanding to another side of the metro: White Bear Lake. The new outpost is set to open in early September.

De Rambures operates a classic French bakery with both pastry and breads, and he will continue to sell the whole array at both locations.

“I chose White Bear Lake because a lot of bakeries are in South Minneapolis and Uptown,” he said. “So the idea was to go to the other side of the Twin Cities, the east side, so it’s positioned like the Maple Grove spot.”

De Rambures said his current location was too small to allow desired production, so he will bake pastry in Maple Grove and bread in White Bear Lake, with a daily truck delivery between each.

“So it will still be made very fresh every day, but just focusing on bread and pastries at each location,” he said. “This should help us expand into catering, so we can do hotels and businesses with lunch boxes. This is where we’re trying to move.”

The new bakery will have a slightly expanded menu: sandwiches, quiche, and salads, like the Maple Grove version, but de Rambures said he’ll add soups and small plates like bruschetta.

“We’re trying to upgrade the quality of what we’re doing, better design, better process, so it’s creating a better image of Chez Arnaud,” he said.

Helping the image department: Last month, Chez Arnaud won the Best French Baguette of the Twin Cities award at a competition put on by the Alliance Francaise at the Saint Paul University Club. Arnaud beat out Lucia’s, Rustica, Breadsmith, the Bikery, and New French Bakery.

“Since we got this award, our demand has increased as well, so we have to keep our customers happy,” de Rambures said.

Rare Steak & Sushi (now open)

615 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.752.9595 | rarempls.com

The Grand Hotel in downtown Minneapolis has revamped its bar and restaurant, rebranding the cocktail lounge as the Six15 Room and shifting the restaurant to Rare Steak & Sushi.

Owned by the CEO of Life Time Fitness, which has a gym in the hotel, Rare replaces Zahtar, originally helmed by David Fhima. Rare’s chef is Feliciano “Chano” Bustamante, who previously has worked at Nami, Origami, Fujiya, Cafe Della Vita, Martini Blu, and Zahtar.

The menu is varied, from a plethora of sushi (21 different rolls) and sashimi to several steak and seafood entrees, soups, salads, and small plates like ceviche, potstickers, and beef tataki. There’s even a Jucy Lucy-ish cheese-stuffed burger called the Cheesy Chano.

Prices top out at $28 for the 20-ounce ribeye, but the menu is pretty diverse price-wise, especially the happy hour menu (3-6:30 M-F) with several sushi rolls and small plates for $5.

“Rare Steak & Sushi allows Life Time Fitness to help the public and its guests continue their healthy way of life with an emphasis on grass-fed and sustainably harvested proteins,” spokesperson Allison Dent said.

NOW OPEN

  • Urban Bean, 2401 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.200.8051 | urbanbeancoffee.com
  • The Lowry, 2112 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.341.2112 | Find it on Facebook
  • Claddagh Coffee, 459 W 7th, St. Paul | 612.940.9805 | Find it on Facebook
  • El Loro Mexican Restaurant, 5689 Blaine Ave, Inver Grove Heights
  • McCormick’s Pub, 331 Broadway Ave S, Wayzata | 952.767.2417 | Find it on Facebook
  • The Bachelor Farmer, 50 2nd Ave N, Minneapolis | 612.206.3920 | TheBachelorFarmer.com
  • Andale Taqueria y Mercado, 7700 Nicollet Ave S, Richfield | 651.230.6498
  • Bella Pizza, 14485 S Robert Tr, Rosemount | 651.322.1818 | bellapizzashop.com
  • The Public House, 700 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis  | 612.455.1213 | thepublichousempls.com
  • Toppers, 702 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis | toppers.com
  • Little Szechuan, 5377 16th St, Shops at West End, St. Louis Park | 952.322.7671 | littleszechuan.com
Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table
  • Blue Ox Coffee Company, 3740 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.825.6650 | blueoxcoffeecompany.com
  • Alix in Candyland, 5400 France Ave S, Edina | 952.915.1100 | alixincandyland.com
  • Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill, 1960 Rahn Cliff Ct, Eagan. Open again after fire. | 651.452.0999 | ansarisgrill.com
  • Viva Brazil, 913 W Lake St, Minneapolis | 612.871.4239 | vivabrazilrestaurant.com
  • Rare Steak & Sushi, 615 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.752.9595 | rarempls.com
  • Pizza Town, 1600 W Broadway, Minneapolis | 612.522.9999
  • Grand Szechuan, 187 Cheshire Lane N, Plymouth | 763.404.1770 | grandszechuanmn.com
  • Osaka, 6440 Wayzata Blvd, Golden Valley | 763.398.6808 | osakausa.com
  • Palumbo’s Pizzeria, 454 Snelling Ave S, St Paul | 651.698.0020 | Our take
  • Kinsen, 1300 Lagoon Ave, Minneapolis | 612.367.4595 | kinsennoodles.com
  • :D-SPOT, 705 Century Ave N, Suite B, Maplewood | 651.730.7768 | Our take
  • Asia Bistro, 10060 City Walk Dr, Woodbury | 651.788.9108 | asiabistrowoodbury.com
  • RedRossa Italian Grille, 1901 Killebrew Dr, Bloomington | 952.814.2910 | redrossa.com
Kate N.G Sommers / Heavy Table
  • Element Pizza, 96 Broadway St NE, Minneapolis | 612.379.3028 | elementpizza.com
  • Catalina’s, 2301 37th Pl, Columbia Heights | 612.695.7531
  • Muddy Waters Bar and Eatery, 2933 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.872.2232 | muddywatersmpls.com
  • Wilde Roast Cafe, 65 Main St SE, Minneapolis. Now open in new location. | 612.331.4544 | wilderoastcafe.com
  • Pandolfi, 3904 W 50th St, Edina | 612.801.7567 | Our take
  • American Grill, 3752 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Mill Valley Kitchen, 3900 Excelsior Blvd, St. Louis Park  | 952.358.2000 | millvalleykitchen.com
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

CLOSED / CLOSING:

  • Tinucci’s, 2190 Eagle Creek Ln, Woodbury
  • Purple Sandpiper, 8405 Lyndale Ave S, Bloomington
  • Curry Up, 13601 Grove Dr, Maple Grove

COMING UP:

  • Zen Box Izakaya, 602 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens in August. | 612.332.3936 | Find it on Facebook
  • Rosa Mexicano, 6th St and Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis (in City Center next to Fogo de Chao). Opens in September. | rosamexicano.com
  • Pat’s Tap, 3510 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis | 612.822.8216 | Find it on Facebook
  • Maeve’s Cafe, 300 13th Ave NE, Minneapolis | 612.379.1033 | Find it on Facebook
  • Adagio Cafe, 5001 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens this summer. | Find it on Facebook
  • Fasika, University Ave and Dale St, St. Paul (new Frogtown Square). Opens this summer. | fasika.com
  • Humble Pie, 822 W 36th St., Minneapolis. Kim Bartmann’s revamp of Gigi’s. Coming this summer. | 612.825.0818
  • Mi Sinaloa, 3801 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis
  • Joan’s on the Park, 631 Snelling Ave S, St. Paul. Soon-to-be-former Grampa Tony’s, opens early September. | 651.690.3297
  • Pig & Fiddle, 3808 W 50th St, Minneapolis. Opens late August /early September.
  • Chez Arnaud, 4735 Highway 61, White Bear Lake. Opens early September. | myfrenchbakery.net
  • Rye Delicatessen & Bar, 1930 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens in early October.
  • Crooked Pint Ale House, 501 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis. Opens this fall. | crookedpint.com
  • Eat Street Social, 14 W 26th St, Minneapolis. Opens this fall.
  • Icehouse, 2528 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis. Opens this fall.
  • Stout’s Pub, 1611 Larpenteur, Falcon Heights. Opens this fall.
  • Cranky’s Bicycle Bar, 3849 Clinton Ave, Minneapolis | Find it on Facebook
  • Pittsburgh Blue, 3200 Galleria (former Kozy’s), Edina. Opens this fall. |pittsburghbluesteak.com
  • Mesa Pizza, 1440 W. Lake St, Minneapolis. Opens this fall. | mesapizzamn.com
  • Jason’s Deli, 7565 France Ave S, Edina. Opens in November. | jasonsdeli.com
  • Mojo Monkey Donuts, 1169 7th St W, St. Paul
  • Amsterdam, 6 W 6th St, St. Paul (former Pop!)
  • Zest! Bar and Grill, 525 Diffley Rd, Eagan
  • Toppers, 1154 Grand Ave, St. Paul | toppers.com
  • Five Guys, 8360 3rd St N, Oakdale | fiveguys.com
  • La Crepe Nanou, Huey’s 24 / 7 Diner, The Wine Loft, Shops at West End, St. Louis Park. Opening this fall. | lacrepenanou.com | hueys247diner.com | thewineloft.net
  • YO!Sushi | Company says five metro locations coming, first in Minneapolis in 2011. | yosushi.com
  • Cupcake, Grand Ave, St. Paul
  • Kyoto Sushi, 13751 Grove Dr, Maple Grove | 763.488.1588 | kyotomn.com
  • Smashburger, 2140 Ford Pkwy, St. Paul | smashburger.com
  • Rodizio Grill, 12197 Elm Creek Blvd N, Maple Grove. Opens this fall. | rodiziogrill.com

The Tap is The Heavy Table’s guide to area restaurant openings, closings, and other major events. The Tap is compiled by Heavy Table writer Jason Walker, and will be published biweekly. If you already subscribe to our newsletter, look for an emailed version of The Tap every other week — otherwise, you can find it on the website on alternating Tuesdays.
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