Here’s one for the south Minneapolis street team: Start examining the construction permits posted in the windows of Minneapolis storefronts, find the right one, and you will have unearthed the location of the super-secret forthcoming Corner Table Market and Deli.
The Corner Table is a south Minneapolis gem—a local-food paradise helmed by visionary chef and Winona-native Scott Pampuch. I call him a visionary because Pampuch was one of the first chefs in town to source his meat exclusively from local farms, one of the first chefs to connect his city customers with rural farmers through a farmers’ market across the street. He’s also one of the first to make unfussy, chef-driven food part of a local neighborhood.
And now that same Kingfield neighborhood is about to reap even more benefits. Pampuch tells me he has long been thinking about expanding in some sensible way, and that the logical hole in the south Minneapolis food scene is a Minnesota-focused market and deli—a place where you could drop in and pick up a full dinner for the family, or grab a salad or quart of gourmet soup to warm up at home. Patrons could also purchase specialty ingredients like fine local cheeses and wild ramps. All the food will be made in the Corner Table restaurant kitchen and carried over to the as-yet-unnamed new retail spot, every day.
Pampuch is already doing some of this. Since January, he has been making sandwiches to sell at Rustica, the bakery at the corner of 46th street and Bryant Avenue in South Minneapolis. These sandwiches are beautiful, ever-changing creations: There was one sandwich made on Rustica’s tender focaccia, stuffed with slow-cooked pork shoulder topped with coriander aioli, sweet onion relish with honey, fresh parsley, lemon juice, and a little cayenne; then there was a vegetarian sandwich made with chick pea tapenade, sunflower sprouts, local breakfast radishes, and local mid-size greens on Rustica’s multi-grain bread. Sound good? They are. In fact, they’re too good: If you don’t make it over to Rustica by one o’clock on any given day, expect these glorious sandwiches to be sold out.
Well, it’s a disappointment I can handle, now that I know more is coming from Pampuch. He didn’t want to spoil it, but Pampuch did describe his ideal customer: The new market is for the person who wants to find local products for cooking, but doesn’t want to devote every weekend to driving around town to find them. It’s for the kind of person who doesn’t have much time to cook dinner, but who spends a lot of time thinking about how to eat, for lack of a better word, ethically, and wants to avoid processed foods (which sounds like about half the people I know).
What’s the projected opening for this wonderful new enterprise? June, if you can believe it. (I kind of don’t, but I like to be hopeful.) My doubt comes from Pampuch’s reports that the biggest blockade to getting the market up and running is the one thing that cannot be budged by an infinite amount of cooking talent, vision, or wild ramps: Minneapolis City Hall. Pampuch tells me he has neighborhood support, but that licensing is a big hurdle. “You’d think the city, in their infinite wisdom, would have written guidelines for a would-be business owner looking to expand,” Pampuch told me. “But I have ventured—no lie—to the city licensing office a dozen times, and every one of those times I was sent away with different or new information that was not communicated to me before.”
Pampuch suspects the main struggle between himself and the city is that there are no, or so few, other businesses like his, or rather, no other places that cook food offsite in one commercial kitchen and sell it someplace else. “I keep telling them, ‘What’s the harm in granting me the construction permits?’ If it’s illegal, just don’t let me open. It’s not like I’m telling you I’m going to open a grocery/coffee shop/deli, and then you show up and I’ve got a liquor store. But I’ve now had two guys [from City Hall] look at me and say: ‘I don’t know what the harm is, but I can’t let you do it.’”
In my experience, the city usually comes around, eventually, even if they create a lot of ulcers in the process. In the mean time, start checking local windows for Corner Table—related names. In fact, let’s make this more interesting: The first person to correctly identify the forthcoming Corner Table project in my blog comments box will win both the title of south Minneapolis Street Super Spy and a free cookbook or two from my stash. Let the sleuthing begin!
The Corner Table
4257 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis
816 W. 46th St., Minneapolis