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.
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.
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.
Coffeehouse-cafe in South Minneapolis
5001 Penn Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55419
OWNERS: Jasper and Sheila Rajendren
ENTREE RANGE: $2-5 for coffee drinks and pastries