The first thing a diner will likely notice when walking into Lucky Oven Bakery (5401 Penn Av. S., Mpls., luckyovenbakery.com), besides the fragrance of baking pastries, is a wall covered in 54 Easy-Bake Ovens, many of them decades old.
It’s an ode to the humble beginnings of proprietor Kristy Dirk, who, like many pastry chefs, started her baking “career” with the culinary toy. Since then, she’s worked at the likes of Salty Tart and Red Wagon Pizza Co. across the street, steppingstones that led to the opening of her own bakery and cafe, which debuted in a former dry-cleaner shop late last month.
“I like feeding people, and I just wanted the place to be really happy, really warm, and a place where people feel at home,” Dirk said. “The neighborhood has been super-receptive.”
Her new nook features a range of sweet and savory pastries, including brioche rolls, tarts, scones, muffins, cakes and cupcakes — with plans to expand into breads and croissants as soon as Dirk & Co. are able to keep up with the demand for Lucky Oven’s other focus: breakfast and lunch.
The breads Dirk is making are all aimed at dishes served at the bakery’s handful of cafe tables from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.
On the menu are such dishes as sourdough pancakes, roasted mushroom and braised greens Benedicts with house-made English muffins, and corned beef sandwiches on fresh rye. A couple of gluten-free treats, such as a coffee cake and peanut butter sandwich cookies, are also on display.
Dirk plans to add more options, as well as wine and beer, once the license is finalized this week.
It’s a far cry from what Dirk was churning out on the Easy-Bake — she has one of the 1978 square gold models that so marked her childhood — although there, too, she pushed the limits.
“It would take pretty much all day, but I was making eight-layer cakes,” she said with a laugh. “I loved baking. And it was about the freedom of being able to do that without needing help.”
Thus the reminders of that original inspiration.
“It was a really fun project,” Dirk said of her Easy-Bake wall. “I found so many online and I just started numbering them. I felt like I was curating a collection.”
Spyhouse (spyhousecoffee.com) has expanded — this time to St. Paul.
The newest location of the growing local chain, which was previously confined to Minneapolis, debuted at 420 S. Snelling Av. just before Thanksgiving with the usual complement of coffee beverages and pastries from Black Walnut Bakery.
Meanwhile, Blackeye Roasting Co. is on the verge of becoming one of the nation’s biggest boutique cold-brew producers.
The company, founded by Matt McGinn in 2015, is continuing its rapid expansion this fall after recently launching two new canned cold-brew products — nitro cocoa and white chocolate — and widening its distribution to include the East Coast.
After moving into a new 29,000-square-foot facility this summer, the Twin Cities enterprise is poised to compete with the top boutique cold-brew coffee operations nationwide: Stumptown Coffee (based in Portland, Ore.) and La Colombe (based in Philadelphia). In the coming months, the company will expand its distribution from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota to include other Midwest states such as Nebraska and Missouri, as well as all of New England and parts of the southeastern United States.
“I always had this vision and this drive, but I didn’t know what to expect,” McGinn said. “We grew out of a basement. We made a lot of mistakes; we learned through trial and error. No one knew a damn thing about cold brew — we didn’t, either, but we figured it out.”
After a series of soft openings, mega restaurateur Kim Bartmann’s latest project officially debuted Tuesday in the Armatage neighborhood of Minneapolis, on the same block as Lucky Oven.
Book Club (5411 Penn Av. S., Mpls., bookclubrestaurant.com), headed by chef Asher Miller, will serve California fusion cuisine with lunch, dinner and weekend brunch services.
Bartmann owns eight other Minneapolis restaurants, including Barbette, Bryant-Lake Bowl and Red Stag Supperclub.
The Mall of America is about to get a new vegan fast-food chain.
Earth Burger, a casual eatery sporting vegetable-based sandwiches, sides and desserts, is expected to open on Level 3 South in early 2018. Many of its offerings will mimic traditional fast-food meals, but with a vegan twist — such as the “fish-less” sandwiches, “chik-n” protein wraps and, of course, burgers. Sides include fries, kale salads and apple slices. Desserts include coconut soft-serve and brownies.
Earth Burger, which debuted in 2014, is based in San Antonio.