BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Openings and closings
All things old shall be made new again! Leading the Openings and Closings is a Return. The Seward Cafe held an event to announce their relaunch on Tuesday, March 14. I had to go to a caucus that night, but I managed to drop by the first half hour of the event and gain some information. The two main pieces of information are that the Cafe Grand Reopening will be on May 1 (how appropriate), and they will reopen the
kitchen but also are going to focus a lot more on being a community space and resource, coming off of three years of being only that. By the way, 2024 will be Seward Cafe’s 50th birthday, and it is by far the longest running cooperative dining establishment in the country.
Another favorite is changing hands. The founding owner of J. Selby’s put the business up for sale, hoping, along with his fans, that it would be preserved as a vegan eatery, and it was bought by Aubry and Kale Walsh, the siblings who founded and own Herbivorous Butcher. They don’t plan to make major changes, but I’m sure any they do make will be popular, as will the best sellers they’re keeping.
And then, this is not a restaurant but it is a return of sorts. The Women’s Prison Book Project is back at Walker Community UMC this year for their famous pancake breakfast fundraiser, now branded as Book Sale and Brunch (Saturday, Aug. 29, 8 a.m. to noon). Excuse me, but I am a bit of an expert at this, and you can’t call a meal between 8 a.m. and noon a brunch.
Food industry news
The Twin Cities Eater had a piece about vegan dining in our metropolis. We now have at least 13 noteworthy establishments, either all-vegan or outstanding vegan options! I read the piece eagerly, and I got a few must-try ideas from it. (Francis Burger Joint, The Stray Dog, Advellum Vegetable Eatery.) I have no quibbles. They got almost all my own favorites – May Day Cafe, Hard Times, the Himalayan, Namaste and Reverie, as well as the two mentioned above.
America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) was acquired by Marquee Brands, a consortium which includes the Martha Stewart Brand and others. ATK itself includes more than just TV: a magazine, a cookbook, etc. Employees were assured that nothing would change, but less than two months later,
23 staff were terminated, and the ATK kids’ show was axed. Last year, workers for ATK had successfully formed a union with Communications Workers of America (CWA) but they hadn’t got a contract yet. I am detecting a pattern here. It’s almost like there’s a union-to-acquisition-to-downsizing pipeline spreading from one industry to another.
And now, in the food and beverage world, it’s food TV’s turn, it seems. In March, workers for BSTV, a production company behind two popular shows on the Food Network, “The Kitchen” and “Trisha’s Southern Kitchen” with country star Trisha Yearwood, signed cards with the Writers’ Guild. Their union drive was sparked by being converted involuntarily from employees to freelancers, losing health care and job security. As noted in Eater magazine, “Though scripted television is a highly unionized industry, nonfiction shows like [these] have not had those same protections. A 2020 poll of workers in the industry found that more than 80 percent of those who worked in nonfiction television lacked health insurance, and a vast majority reported working overtime without pay.”
Mini-review: Café Racer’s ‘Breaking Bread’
Café Racer Kitchen (2929 E. 25th St.) has a free brunch offering the last Monday of every month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. called “Breaking Bread.” They serve one special item with options, a bread side, and drinks. I took my food-insecure friend CJ there, and we had a delicious dish called sancocho. It came accompanied by a small, round, slightly sweet corn cake. I loved it!
Afterward, I did a deep dive into sancocho, because this was the first I had heard of it. Sancocho seems to be a thing in most of Central America and the Caribbean, and a few South American countries. It’s not a thing in Mexico, as far as I can determine (correct me if I’m wrong!) but it shares some DNA with posole. The dish is usually made with pork and one or two other meats, but Breaking Bread’s options were a vegan version with black beans added, or a meaty version with some boneless chicken added (we both got the chicken). Also, all the photos I saw in my research had small chunks of corn on the cob which looked very frustrating (how do you eat it?) but Breaking Bread’s just had lots of fresh sweet corn kernels and chunks of both potato and yucca, in a thick, flavorful vegetarian soup.