Editor’s Note: Takk for Maten closed in early 2013.
When the winter flurries fly in northern Minnesota the Scandinavians reach for their lefse sticks. Grandmother, mother, daughter, and granddaughter will come together and perform the unofficial ritual of lefse making. It’s an heirloom art that is as important as putting up the Christmas tree.
But what does a Scandinavian do in the middle of June when Christmas is half a year away and thoughts of lefse plague the mind…? The restaurant Takk for Maten (which means “thanks for the food” in Norwegian) has teamed up with Kippis Tapas Bar to answer that question. Located in the heart of downtown Duluth off of Lake and Superior Streets, the two restaurants explore the year-round versatility of lefse.
Takk for Maten opened in the Norway Hall Building in August of 2008. After a steam heat accident in early January that resulted in damage including melted floors, Takk for Maten decided to move. For owner Sandy Thompson the devastation opened the doors for an even greater opportunity. After meeting with Ari Eilola she decided to team up with four other owners and create a joint restaurant called the Takk for Maten and Kippis Tapas Bar.
The restaurants work together — a Scandinavian lunch spot during the day becomes an edgy tapas bar with a Scandinavian influence in the evening. Eilola, one of the owners, is from Finland and plans to be here for another five years. He is a graduate from the Helsinki Culinary School Perho and has taken bartending classes offered by the International Bartenders Association. Eilola uses his experience to create cocktails and dishes with Scandinavian flair.
Takk for Maten offers a breakfast menu with Swedish pancakes with strawberry preserves ($4), Norwegian waffles with lingonberries ($4) or hot buttered lefse ($3). It continues through lunch offering sandwiches on lefse, ciabatta, rye, or a pretzel roll. The grilled lefse dog ($6) rivals the coney dogs roasting in the window down the street. Grilled and served with a Swedish hot mustard, the Lefse Dog (top) is a rare treat that might make Grandma pull out her lefse sticks in the middle of the summer. The crunch of the skin on hot dog with the soft flaky texture of the lefse is a perfectly balanced combination.
Swedish meatballs, smoked salmon, and honeyed ham also pop up throughout the menu. The honeyed ham ($6) comes with Jarlsberg cheese and a hard-cooked egg. One piece of lefse covers the entire sandwich. The lefse is so large it will make any true lefse-making Scandinavian wonder how the hell it was made. Takk for Maten actually outsources its lefse making, purchasing it from Upper Lake Foods.
The evolving cocktail menu features the “four seasons martinis” Sommar, Kevat, Haust, and Vinter. The Kevat ($9) (Finnish for “spring,” at left) includes fresh muddled cucumbers with Finlandia, Soho Lychee Liqueur, Blue Curacao, and lemonade. The juicy refreshing cocktail has a smooth balance that is sweet yet still refreshing.
Each afternoon Takk for Maten closes and the restaurant transforms into Kippis (which means “cheers” in Finnish). As customers take their seat at a candlelit table they are served an amuse bouche of hard tack; wild rice toast points, lingonberry compote, and sparkling wine are served (above). The hard tack is made from a recipe passed down from co-owner Peter Froehlingsdorf’s family.
Tapas can be ordered individually or as flights of three called tasting platters ($16). The rectangular tasting platters are artistically arranged. Duck is rested upon a brush of wine and cranberry sauce ($6) and traditional smoked salmon is served next to dill and two lines of Capelin caviar. The small plate portion and presentation is reminiscent of Minneapolis tapas bar Solera, but the tastes and creations are in a completely different vein. Baked “bread” cheese (leipäjuusto) is served with cinnamon sugar, cream, and cloudberry jam ($5), which combines a smooth and squishy texture with a sweet tartness. Local ingredients like Mississippi catfish pate ($6) are served with lefse bread.
Reservations are not required or taken at Kippis, but they have only been open a couple of months. As more Scandinavians discover this unique culinary hot spot reservations may soon be required.
Takk for Maten and Kippis Tapas Bar
11 East Superior St, Suite 110
Duluth, MN 55802
Takk for Maten
Kippis Tapas Bar
OWNERS: Sandy Thompson, Ari Eilola, Peter Froehlingsdorf, Mark Sowl, James Ross