Some of you reading this might be convinced you’ve seen and eaten nearly everything exciting that the Twin Cities restaurant scene has to offer. This story might be for you. Not to say that a meal that immerses you in a new culture, or a dish of entirely in-season local ingredients, or a dessert dying for an Instagram post have no resonance. Maybe it’s just that building expectations around your usual metrics of flavor and service gets a little stale.
If a high level of social engagement, a small carbon footprint, and a break from uniformity sound enticing—without sacrificing flavor and service—then a Provision Community Restaurant experience is worth your time. It’s low-risk, and there’s also a charitable cause involved, but more on those points later.
Restaurant industry veteran Anna Wienke opened her “utopian dream,” Provision, in the fall of 2019 in the Salty Tart’s former Lyn-Lake location. The living, breathing menu is built by a rotating cast of chefs, some with catering gigs, and all with chops to build a memorable meal. Provision obtains food donations from partners like the Co-op Partners Warehouse, baked goods from Rustica, and leftover produce from the Good Acre’s Community-Supported Agriculture program.
It’s not 100% farm-to-table, but way above 0%. Check the website to find out the day’s meal—could be eggplant pizza, chicken penne, or vegetable fried rice—or show up for a made-from-scratch surprise that can be modified to accommodate many food allergies.
The vibe? Intentionally as communal as any small-town coffee shop, church potluck, or wedding. The Wednesday-Friday dinners and Saturday brunches are family-style in terms of how the food is served, but also in terms of how you sit. You will likely be near people you don’t know. And it’s OK to talk to them, and this is beyond just, “Pass the salad”-level functional interaction.
“We are very capable of turning the blinders to everything that’s going on,” Wienke says. “We can live in little pockets where we don’t have to see what is experienced by other people. Sitting down and talking about your day isn’t a new concept, but it’s a disappearing concept. Look at how many people go to happy hour. A fair amount of people want to drink, but some go just to hang out and be social and meet people. I would love it if this place is Cheers, but not a bar.”
It’s not low-priced alcohol providing a lubricant here, but the staff—hosts, chefs, servers. They play a role by sitting down and chatting a few times over the course of the meal. It’s not scripted.
Designed by Shea, Inc., the biggest architectural name for top local restaurants (P.S. Steak, Demi, etc.), the Provision space combines donated tables, local artwork, and a colorful aesthetic into something approachable, informal, and memorable. One of the restrooms is a shrine to Jon Bon Jovi. This is a place to be immediately at home, whether you’ve just arrived from an office building or a construction site or a shelter.
And, yeah, that whole good cause part. At Provision Community Restaurant, no one is required to pay to eat there, nor is it required that people be financially in need to take a seat. “You’re a human; that’s what gets you a seat here,” Wienke says. “Money is one barrier. But there are other barriers. It’s not enough to just keep people alive. We say, ‘Nobody should be hungry,’ right? Yes, especially in this country. But also, no one should be lonely. Nobody should feel like they’re not part of their community. It’s so important for citizens to sit with people who are struggling. That’s taking it a step further than making a contribution to a food shelf. That’s feeding more than the person’s body.”
Provision’s daily goal is that 12 folks who have the means and believe in the mission of community-based dining chip in at least $20 each. Instead of a black padded folder at the end of a meal, you walk up to a tablet and fill out a survey. There’s a chance to pay, but it certainly isn’t an obligation. Other ways to take part include ticketed monthly Sustainability Dinner pop-ups, featuring chefs from top Twin Cities restaurants, or volunteer serving shifts.
A question the Provision concept poses: How much is reframing your future restaurant experiences worth?
“Part of this experience is being open-minded about sitting with people you don’t know, and possibly not knowing, before you come, what you’re going to be eating,” Wienke says. “Most people want to know those things. But on the other hand, we’re not asking you to pay anything. If it’s not what you thought, no skin off your back. Even feeling that way is something. It does plant a seed of contemplation.”
Provision Community Restaurant
2940 Harriet Ave. S., Minneapolis
Dinner, Wed.-Fri., seating at 5 and 7 p.m.; brunch, Sat., seating at 10 a.m. and noon