From a perch on the steps of the Anishinabe Academy building, one may catch glimpses of the past, present, and future of this tiny, clamorous patch of Minneapolis. The name of the elementary school that establishes the borders of the farmers market is an Ojibwe word, meaning something along the line of “First People.” The people on the street, whose faces are (more often than not) a few shades darker than Sven and Ole’s, prove Lake Street’s continuing role as a magnet for immigrants.
And then there’s the Midtown Farmers Market, which is going to play a key role in the neighborhood’s future. As noted on the Churn last week, the proposed development plan for the neighborhood cites the market as a “keystone element” for shaping the community’s identity. It is so important that the impending loss of the market’s current space has prompted community planners to create a space outright for it in their proposal.
At the moment, the market is a little bit rag-tag, but has tons of character to make up for it. As one overhears the modest befuddlement of older gents cradling their first tastes of tamales, one cannot resist the temptation to be charmed. I promise — your cynical, postmodern heart will break in two when you are forced to confront the violent sincerity of PlantWorn‘s asparagus shirts. But if you want to save time with a full-blown nuclear missile of homegrown love, just look for Tootie.
The market is open Saturdays 8am-1pm and Tuesdays 3pm-7pm.
1. Tootie’s Boiled Peanuts ($3 for 8-oz bag)
Sometimes there is nothing more satisfying than being talked at by an extremely enthusiastic person. Tootie Martin will tell you all about boiled peanuts: their history, their cultural significance, and their culinary applications. I’m leaving out the details so you can get Tootie to tell you himself. The peanuts themselves are beautifully tender and salty, just the way Robert E. Lee intended.
2. Lemon Ginger Soda from Dandelion Kitchen ($2)
While Dandelion Kitchen serves great food, their lemon- and ginger-flavored soda is the perfect cure for hot weather blues. (Miss winter yet?) Made in-house and served from a keg, the soda’s ratio of lemon to ginger to water provides the right amount of tang and spice for maximum relaxation. Until you run out, and the weeping begins.
3. The Chef’s Special Crepe from Midtown Market Crepes ($6)
This crepe stand is doing an amazing job of publicizing what’s in season, dropping names left and right with every menu change. Most of their ingredients come from their farmers market comrades, like Gardens of Eagan, Laughing Stalk Farmstead, and Va Vang. Their chef’s special is an excellent way of learning what’s in season to gain some locavore street cred. When we ordered the special last month, it featured rainbow chard, kale, sugar snap peas, green onions, cheese, and local ham. Try this with the buckwheat crepes!
4. Pesto Pizza from Olive Pizza ($7)
Olive is an impressive newcomer to the city’s farmers market scene. With the help of their mobile wood-burning pizza oven, they rock Neapolitan-style pizzas with panache. Veterans of Punch Pizza will be happy to know that Olive can get you from zero to pizza in five minutes flat. (Longer, of course, if there is a line.) The pizza is thankfully not of the soggy-centered variety, which would inhibit the necessary walking-while-eating dynamic at the market. And while the ingredients are solid, it’s the crust that really — literally! — carries the dish.
5. Tamales from La Loma at Fireroast Mountain Cafe ($3.25 each)
When you think you have them pegged as a coffee and pastry bunch, Fireroast seems to pull its tamales out of thin air (or, as we find out, La Loma). Unfortunately for latecomers, they’re not a well-kept secret: They tend to run out of them really quickly at lunchtime. If you manage to snag one, really savor it,
I would argue that their tamales really give La Loma‘s a run for their money, and the price is certainly right. Though listing off the fillings seems like a moot point (because, really, just get what hasn’t sold out yet), they are: veggie, pork, chicken, mole chicken, and the larger Oaxacan chicken.