Two factors have conspired to make Tao Natural Foods in Uptown a much more inviting dinner spot as of late: changes in both décor and weather. The renovation that closed Tao for a month and a half last winter turned a mismatched diner into a cozy cabin of wellness. And now, the return of cold weather completes the look. The large row of windows faces blustery Hennepin Avenue, while inside, candlelight dapples the reclaimed wood. If they replaced the apothecary shop with some snowshoes and mittens, you’d swear you were up in Ely.
For being such a longstanding institution, it’s a wonder that Tao seems to get lost in the Uptown food discussion. It doesn’t have the best sightline from the intersection and the signage could be a bit more pronounced. Maybe folks assume “Natural Foods” portends a meal of an unfrozen Morningstar Farms patty with wheatgrass to wash it down (though the bean burgers at Tao are scratch made, yes, you can get wheatgrass). Or maybe the new health-conscious eatery on the block is taking all the attention.
We’ve heard some folks in the neighborhood bristle about Tao’s pricing and, to a certain extent, we agree. That turkey sandwich feels slightly dear at $10.50, though not even as much as the grilled cheese does at $9. Then again, you can pay that much for a sandwich at plenty of places that don’t have Tao’s commitment to organic ingredients. And there are some good values to be had. Their massive quesadilla ($10.50) could easily be a meal for two with a side salad.
We think we’ve found the sweet spot on the menu. The sweet potato burrito ($9.50, above) is the meatiest meatless burrito you’re likely to get anywhere in town. Sweet potatoes and black beans get a quick stint on the griddle before being stuffed into a wheat tortilla. They’re held together by a gooey matrix of pepper jack cheese and Tao’s even excellent, rich, chunky guacamole. A drizzling of garlic-yogurt sauce completes the soulful plate with a welcome tang. It’s proof positive that your burrito can skip the barbacoa without sacrificing heartiness and depth of flavor. And make sure to get the house salad with the spectacular tahini-based “Goddess” dressing.
Learn more about this business in The Heavy Table’s Atlas of Ethical Eating and Drinking.
Tao Natural Foods
Uptown’s stalwart organic cafe
2200 Hennepin Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55405
RESERVATIONS: Yes, 5pm-close.
BAR: Beer and wine
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $6.50-12