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Faster, fancier, and still full of heart: 5 things to know about Breaking Bread's reboot

Your killer bowl of blackened shrimp and cheesy grits represents a rising chef’s culinary education.

Your killer bowl of blackened shrimp and cheesy grits represents a rising chef’s culinary education. Sarah Chandler

Breaking Bread Cafe and Catering has risen again.

After closing for three weeks to retrain, remodel, and revise the menu, the cafe is relaunched and celebrating three years of serving global comfort food while building community and social capital. Expect to enjoy crowd-pleasing hits from the previous menu along with new quick-service lunch options, all in spruced-up digs. That sense of unbridled joy in the dining room? That’s partly the family-like staff, looking genuinely happy to be back at work. It’s also likely the loyal customers, who’ve endured three weeks of withdrawal from the cafe’s signature buttermilk biscuit breakfast sandwich.

Here are a few things to know before you go.

5. Service is still warm and friendly––and now, it’s also fast.

Prior to Breaking Bread’s reboot, the cafe was an excellent spot to have a leisurely lunch––but not necessarily an ideal place to squeeze in a sit-down salad on your 30-minute lunch break or grab a shrimp po’ boy on the run. These days, leisurely meals are still encouraged (and from the convivial vibe of the joint, widely enjoyed), but according to Michelle Horovitz, executive director of the restaurant’s parent nonprofit, Appetite for Change, the kitchen’s pace has picked up. “Our menu is more thoughtful and streamlined,” she says.

That’s thanks to a new lunch menu that includes old favorites but offers a new express service, featuring a grab-and-go section of sandwiches and salads, plus a hot bar Southerners might call a “meat and three”: pick an entree, like chicken pot pie or baked wings, a side or two (sautéed kale, mac and cheese, mashed yams), and pile on the cornbread. There’s new counter seating and fancy tablets for quick sit-down ordering, too.

4. Big flavors abound.

Nothing that emerges from this kitchen is Plain Jane. Pancakes and waffles arrive adorned with a mind-bending array of embellishments (from strawberries to turkey bacon to whipped cream), wings get luxuriously sauced with basil/tarragon or lemon/ginger aioli (yep, you can get plain old buffalo), the lemonade’s fresh-squeezed, and the fantastic coconut cornbread comes with a generous side of addictive citrus honey butter. Even the supposedly standard two eggs and toast comes with a choice of vegan portobello patty or andouille sausage in addition to good ol’ bacon.

3. Feast without your cardiologist freaking out.

Sure, they’ve got still got the chicken and waffles (and oh, what waffles!), the biscuits and gravy, the smoked brisket sandwich and the creamy mac and cheese. Yet you can balance the gluttony of, say, the Northsider poutine (fries swimming in turkey chorizo gravy, bacon, cheddar and chives) with the surprisingly tasty stuffed raw greens, a take on dolmades (stuffed greek leaves). The salads are big and flavorful and full of veggies, and you can add a healthy protein like shrimp or chicken for a few bucks.

2. Your lunch check supports a good cause.

“If this were a standalone cafe, it wouldn’t break even,” admits Michelle Horovitz. Horovitz, whose father’s family grew up on the North Side, joined AFC co-founders Princess Titus and LaTasha Powell after a stint in sunny Miami, where she worked as a public defender. Appetite for Change’s mission aims to bring social justice and community well-being through food, and Breaking Bread doubles as an innovative culinary training program for both youth and adults. Hence, that killer bowl of blackened shrimp and cheesy grits represents the culmination not only of your soul food cravings, but of a rising chef’s culinary education.

Before embarking on Breaking Bread’s workforce development program, says Horovitz, “members of the kitchen team may have worked in fast food, or as a host, but haven’t had a ton of experience with from-scratch cooking.”

1. This is soul food with a big heart.

Some restaurants have old souls. When you walk into Breaking Bread for the first time, it’s hard to imagine it’s hasn’t been around for a decade or two. There’s a comforting hum of collaboration and community in the bright storefront dining room: co-workers from the nearby Minneapolis Public Schools administration building brainstorming over salads, young moms sharing toddler tips, multigenerational families, solo diners reading novels. And that sense of community extends to the affordably priced food (all dishes are under $11). You can’t help but feel the love.