When you walk into The Kenwood, Don Saunders’ impeccable, cozy eatery in the Minneapolis neighborhood from which it took its name, there are a handful of framed black and white photos on your right that depict life in the ‘hood back in the day. The one that caught our eye is of the Minneapolis Park Board Girls Rifle Team, circa 1920. In it, three young women with bobbed haircuts, knickers, and high socks are playfully pointing their rifles either directly at or just over the photographer’s left shoulder. The Basilica looms in the background. It’s a great photo, and it instantly affirms the restaurant’s dedication to the neighborhood. The Kenwood wakes up early and goes to bed late, serving breakfast, brunch, and dinner Tuesday through Sunday. There’s even a separate menu for the kiddos, and it looks pretty good, too.
The juxtaposition of girls with guns and staid historical black and white photography could also be seen as a signifier of the restaurant’s ethos in general. While the dining room’s plaid green walls may appear stuffy and formal at a glance, the food doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously, and is in fact a lot of fun. Which is not to say that it’s not polished – this is Don Saunders we’re talking about. The menu is a nice mix of the familiar (pancakes) and the novel (duck offal cigars), and bears its refinement through the use of fresh, regional ingredients, imaginative dishes, and a visual aesthetic that’s every bit as distinctive as the space itself. It feels fancy and casual at the same time, like an aristocrat in flannel.
Brunch at The Kenwood is especially great, if not flat out brilliant. On the sweet side there are pancakes with black walnut butter, house-made granola with seasonal fruits, and steel cut oatmeal with cherries and almonds. Savory dishes include duck confit hash, shrimp ‘n grits with andouille ragout, huevos rancheros with braised pork and harissa, and a knockout benedict. Of these, the huevos rancheros is particularly brilliant.
If you’re the type who photographs their food, this dish will have you reaching for your iPhone first and your fork second. It’s gorgeous and meticulous, with bright, explosive colors that hint at what’s to come when you put down your phone and pick up your fork.
From the plate up, it looks something like this: a wide smear of spicy harissa, nicely seasoned potatoes, a generous pile of seriously awesome, tender, and juicy braised pork, a fried egg, and fiery-orange chili threads. The perimeter of the plate is decked with pickled jalapenos, salted avocado slices, cilantro, and lime. As beautiful as it is to look at, it’s an even greater pleasure to eat: spicy and rich with a nice blend of textures and snappy, fresh, and bright flavors. The first time we ordered it we asked for hot sauce, but after tasting the harissa, it was obvious additional heat would not be necessary. It’s a dish we could eat every weekend, and if we lived in the neighborhood, we probably would.
Bummer alert: If you’re thinking, “Man, a bloody Mary would be perfect with this,” you’ll be disappointed to learn there’s no vodka in the kitchen. But don’t despair entirely. The Kenwood teamed up with Marvel Bar’s Pip Hanson to create their very own version that uses a house blend bloody mix and red wine. Garnished with grapefruit, olives, prosciutto, and fig, it tastes a bit like savory sangria and has a nice peppery finish. It’s not quite a bloody Mary, but it’s a marriage that works.
Sure, breakfast may be the most important meal of the day. But brunch at The Kenwood may be the most delicious.
Neighborhood restaurant in Minneapolis
2115 W 21st St
Minneapolis, MN 55405
CHEF / OWNER: Don Saunders
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS: No, except for groups 8 or more
ENTREE RANGE: $3-$28