I’ll be honest: I was not excited about Kata Organic opening in Linden Hills. A restaurant attached to a yoga and Pilates studio? Because I want my guilt-free food with a side of guilt? No, thanks.
I imagined an afterthought of a space where people with Pilates bodies served afterthoughts of dishes created around calorie counts and the health trend of the week. I imagined a hard, bright, gymlike room where an interior designer would use the word “clean” as a stand-in for “don’t get too comfortable.” I imagined a lot of chia and acai.
It’s a good thing I stopped imagining and actually visited a handful of times. Kata is, indeed, home to both a workout space and a restaurant, but it is clearly a restaurant in its own right. It shares an entrance with the studio, but there’s no reason at all to feel guilty about coming to enjoy a hearty portion of huevos rancheros without showing signs of having sweated through a morning Pilates class. The square, open room is light and inviting during the day (a new place to bring a laptop and settle in, I hope they don’t mind my saying) and dim and cozy in the evening. Squint a little bit and the rows of woven chairs outside turn a Minneapolis avenue into a Parisian square. Full marks for neighborhood feel, top-notch smiling staff, and a welcoming atmosphere.
The corner of 43rd and Upton has become a mini restaurant hub. The now-venerable Tilia, the now-New-York-Times-famous Upton 43, the unjustly overlooked Harriet Brasserie, the perennially packed brunch spot Zumbro. But that doesn’t mean there’s not room for at least one more. There are plenty of Southwest Minneapolis restaurant patrons to go around, and plenty of people from the rest of the metro willing to venture deep into the urban grid for destination dining. It does, however, mean that the bar on this particular corner is very, very high.
And that may be why it feels like Kata’s reach exceeds its grasp.
The menu is ambitiously long and varied. It also changes seasonally, with an honorable focus on local sourcing. Most dishes are heavy on the grains and vegetables, but you can come in for a burger on days that just scream for one. There are cookies (at 25 cents each, like little three-bite gifts), scones, and a mile-high carrot cake in the bakery case that don’t (all) involve spelt.
Rice bowls ($15-$16) are a cornerstone. They check off all the boxes: comforting, varied, customizable, heavy on the veggies and grains, with highly seasoned meat, and of course, an egg on top. There’s an opportunity here for Kata to really push the boat out, go a little bolder, and become the place you go when you crave a slightly higher-end bowl of comfort and nutrition.
Our favorite dish was the Roasted Vegetable and Burrata Sandwich ($10, at top). It was stacked up as tall as a decadent club sandwich, but all the flavor and bulk was coming from roasted eggplant, thick tomato, and zingy greens. And they didn’t stint on the burrata, either. On the other hand, a promising amaranth polenta was closer to cream of wheat in texture and flavor. A slightly disappointing execution, but I did love the idea.
At brunch, the Huevos Rancheros were hearty and topped with a masterful fried egg, but they needed more kick. Not just heat, but layers of flavor and a little more presence on the plate. The Eggs Benedict got a passing grade, but I wished the hollandaise were silkier, had a little more body. I wished the English muffin were more than just store-bought. I’ll be honest again: I was enjoying this perfectly good food at the same time I was measuring it against the exceedingly high bar set by its neighbors.
I was thinking about the sublime, transporting eggs Benedict around the corner at Tilia, and about how the eggs Benedict at both Tilia and Harriet had, on separate occasions, completely turned my weekend around. And I didn’t want to be distracted like that, thinking about what could have been on my plate if I’d walked another hundred feet. I wanted Kata to find that thing that would draw me not just to brunch on this corner, but specifically here, to this menu.
Kata’s space charmed me. As a neighbor, I will definitely come back to enjoy the street life, the high ceilings, the warm smiles, and the perfectly good food. But, as a neighbor, I also want it to find its own niche. Kata exceeded my expectations once. I believe it can again.
Kata Organic Cafe and Fitness Boutique
Health-conscious, local food in Linden Hills
4279 Sheridan Ave S, Minneapolis
BAR: Beer and wine
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$18
NOISE LEVEL: Low
Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
PARKING: Street parking