Reasons to Love Minnesota No. 179: Birchwood Cafe

A quarter century of 'good real food'

Birchwood Cafe was pushing local, organic, sustainable food long before it became marketing buzzspeak. The restaurant has been a cornerstone of the Seward community since 1995 — hosting film screenings and meet-your-farmer events; helping the City of Minneapolis improve the food program in its public schools; and raising money for organizations focused on food justice, climate change, and HIV/AIDS research. Birchwood was also one of the first restaurants in the Twin Cities to ban tipping and use solar energy and composting/recycling programs to reduce its carbon footprint.

All that goodwill paid off in 2013 when 980 backers donated more than $112,000 to Birchwood’s expansion-minded Kickstarter.

One big draw is the staff’s warm, neighborly vibes. But the food is reliably delicious, too. For brunch, Andrew Parks always goes for the seasonal savory waffle. (Right now it’s sweet corn on top of a cornmeal-and-cheddar waffle with spicy honey butter, tomato jam, bacon lardons, and a sunny-side-up egg.) In addition to the cafe menu, which is curbside pickup only for now, Birchwood sells grab-and-go staples such as farm-fresh eggs, Kalona SuperNatural yogurt, and whole beans from Peace Coffee.

Of course, we were thrilled to learn about owner Tracy Singleton’s new F+B Pop Up, a partnership with the Minnesota Farmers Union in the former Mill City space of Spoonriver (750 S. 2nd St.; 612-436-8877), another local food pioneer. It’s largely inspired by the team’s previous collaborations at the State Fair; its offerings include a tasty heirloom tomato-and-sweet corn chipotle BLT on Kernza focaccia (yes, you want the fried egg on top), lavender lemonade, maple cream nitro cold press, and — if it’s your lucky 🦆 day — miniature blueberry key lime pie.

The pop-up is a test run for the duo’s Shea-designed restaurant, the opening of which was delayed due to COVID-19. In the meantime, orders can be placed online and eaten at sidewalk tables or hauled over to Gold Medal Park or Mill Ruins Park for a picnic.

Birchwood Cafe
3311 E. 25th St., Minneapolis, MN; 612-722-4474.