DeRushaEats: Chef Adam Vickerman Gems at Cafe Levain

It’s been far too long since I’ve visited the gorgeous space at 48th & Chicago, the space that once was home to the genius of Chef Steven Brown and known as a great home for fine dining.

Since 2007, it’s been a “cafe”—relaunched to serve the neighborhood with a more casual menu and a bistro feel.

Adam Vickerman was an 18-year-old kid cooking the line with Brown in 2004. After opening Trattoria Tosca and a stint as sous chef at Sea Change, he’s back in South Minneapolis. For a little more than a year, he’s been quietly killing it at Levain.

It’s time to make a little noise about this place, because Friday night, we were one of about 10 tables sitting in Levain for an 8 p.m dinner. The service was attentive and fun, and the food was really excellent.

My wife and I started with a ramp & nettle soup ($8) that exploded with shaved radishes, sliced carrots, and the earthy, springy flavor of the ramps.

I could have made a whole meal of a trio of side dishes ($12)—the spring salad was bright and delicious with pea tendrils, radish, fennel, and asparagus. The charred kale was my favorite—a huge dish of shaved kale, with a perfect mix of lemon, olive oil, and chili. It was spicy and tart, one of the most welcome combinations you can have. We also had the roasted mushrooms, served with shallots, garlic, and again, a dose of lemon—quite nice.

My wife and I also shared the short rib burger ($12) which was even more decadent than the famous Vincent Burger. Topped with a relish of charred romaine lettuce and onion, and a cheddar fondue, just half of the burger was more than enough to fill me up. It’s one of the better burgers in town.

The wine list is perfect for a french Bistro feel: We liked the 2008 Baron des Chartrons Bordeaux well enough, an easy drinking merlot/cab blend.

I do hate the entrance to this place—it seems like it’s purposely set up as a secret. Turtle Bread Company has the marquee exposure on Chicago; Levain has the small sign over the door facing 48th Street. The dining room is open to the kitchen—perfect for you to keep your eye on a young chef who’s getting the job done.

Cafe Levain
4762 Chicago Ave. S., Mpls.