Been bemoaning the relative dearth of good soul food in town, have you? Well here's some good news: After a handful of sellout pop-ups in north Minneapolis, chef Gerard Klass' Soul Bowl is about to have a steady, permanent home there.
“My goal is to allow north Minneapolis to have some of that excellent food like south Minneapolis does,” he tells City Pages.
Klass thinks Twin Cities restaurateurs tend to operate with the same misconception: This is a lower-income area, and the people who live here won’t go out to eat. Which isn’t how he sees it at all. Folks in his North neighborhood would dine out -- of course they would -- it’s just that there are almost no options around. “For me, it’s a gold mine,” he says. “I see a huge side of the city … there’s literally two or three restaurants in a two-mile radius of where I’m at. They need something that’s their own.”
So he's taking an if-you-build-it-they-will-come approach. And, so far, it looks like he's absolutely right.
Need proof? Well, there's the fact that Soul Bowl's been selling out at every one of its pop-ups. At a mid-March Southern-style hip-hop brunch to celebrate the launch of the soul food spot's Kickstarter campaign -- think biscuits and gravy, smoked salmon and grits, chicken and waffles with watermelon and syrup -- he and his wife, Brittney, had a line running out the door for hours.
Klass calls his concept “soul food with a millennial feel,” from the fast-casual, build-it-yourself-ness of the menu -- you pick the base, meats, veggies, and sauces that fill your bowl, and the combos are practically endless -- to the abundance of vegan and vegetarian offerings. (He’s been a vegetarian for 10 years, and his mom and brother are both vegan -- two groups that are often left out when it comes to soul food. “Things that are vegetables, we’re going to leave them as vegetables,” he says simply, meaning candied yams and collard greens will be edible for all.)
There's also the audio; Klass is approaching food through the lens of hip-hop. Menu items take their names from rappers and R&B artists, and that's what you'll hear pumping through the speakers as you tuck into your Sade Sweet Corn or Lauryn Hill Lemon Pepper Mahi Mahi.
It won't be all modern, though.
“I definitely want to bring that grandma’s house feel to the service -- the food and hospitality of grandma’s house, but that vibe where you’re nodding your head while you’re eating and meeting people from the community,” Klass adds.
And he'll do it all while bringing a little diversity to Minneapolis’ restaurant scene. As an African American chef in a city that, it’s no stretch to say, has had its struggles with soul food, “I kind of took it personally after a little while,” he chuckles. “I think we could use a little bit of that.”
Take a peek at the menu below, and if you find yourself salivating over it (we tend to think you will), you can back Soul Bowl on Kickstarter here.
Whether or not the campaign reaches its goal -- with a week to go, there's still more than $80,000 left to raise toward an ambitious $100,000 goal -- Klass tells us he'll soldier on (soul-dier on?) with his plans. And either way, Soul Bowl's hosting another weekend full of pop-ups, with dinner on April 14 (5 to 9 p.m.) and hip-hop brunch April 15 (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) so you can show your support directly as the fundraising effort draws to a close.
1825 Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis
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