Station 81 is not just St. Paul’s latest hit-the-spot, approachable restaurant. Amid the seasonally focused charcuterie boards and the twinkling chandeliers is a mission to nourish and empower the community with real food, driven by its owner, Appetite for Change. Founded in North Minneapolis in 2012, Appetite for Change concentrates on promoting an improved food system through urban farms, cooking workshops, food service opportunities, and advocacy. Ultimately, Appetite for Change wants to give people the tools they need to succeed, and its leaders believe food is a crucial steppingstone.
Since opening in December, Station 81 has created new job opportunities for people in an area that Appetite for Change says has disadvantaged access to career options and resources such as affordable, nutritious dining. And, because of the restuarant’s deliberate location inside St. Paul’s Union Depot—the heart of Twin Cities transit—it serves as a space to connect the communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. As Appetite for Change co-founder Princess Haley said during the tasting I attended, whether it’s a difference in backgrounds or zip codes, “Food is what blurs those lines.”
The menu is made up of high quality, local ingredients, with simplicity and affordability at the forefront. Fried brussels sprouts made with maple syrup are a neighborhood favorite, and the beef barbacoa tacos were flavorful enough for me to yearn for a trip back to try the burger made with Peterson Farm beef. Plus, many of the options are gluten free and vegan friendly. Some of the ingredients are sourced from Appetite for Change’s own local gardens, which help encourage agriculture education and multi-generational relationships. Undeveloped land in North Minneapolis houses these gardens, and neighbors learn organic gardening skills while tending to them.
The concept of building a bridge through food isn’t a new one. Through Station 81, Appetite for Change has simply made it a priority. So think about that as you dine under Depot’s historic architecture. During your musings, you might even spot the beehives atop the roof: That’s where the restaurant’s Bee Line honey is made.