This month is shaping up to be quite busy, so I may be continuing on this one-post-per-week pace I seem to have gotten into. I chalk it up to having too many hobbies and too much to do! This past weekend I spent in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was my first time in Minnesota, and really my first time in the mid-west, besides a trip to Ohio years ago.
Whenever I travel I like to find a local vegan or vegetarian restaurant to try out. I wasn’t expecting tons of options in Minneapolis, but after a search on Happy Cow I found the Hard Times Cafe. The description on Happy Cow boasted vegan breakfast with pancakes, tofu scramble, seitan, and more. That definitely piqued my interest!
After reading the reviews however, I was a bit wary. Reviewers warned about the dive bar/unkempt feel of the place, gross bathrooms, and disgruntled service, but mostly claimed that the food was good. After a bit of debating, my rumbling stomach and I decided to give it a try anyway. I can’t say I wasn’t forewarned of what I was getting into.
Let me preface this by saying that I really try to find the positives about a restaurant when I’m blogging about it. In general, I like to be supportive of any restaurant that is offering vegan options because I think it’s great that they exist. But this place was unlike any restaurant I’ve ever been to.
Let’s start at the beginning. The road in front of the restaurant was completely torn up, so it had the feel of a run down construction site from the beginning.
You walk in and there’s no menu posted on the wall. There’s just a big chalk board full of instructions about how to order your food. You have to find a menu, choose what you want, write it down on a slip of paper along with the price, and slide your slip of paper over to the cashier. The cashier wasn’t overly friendly, but not rude either. I placed my order and took a seat in a torn up booth. This place fit the description of being a dive pretty completely.
It was about 10am, and the music of choice was death metal… a little much for me before my morning caffeine. The way that they alert you to your order being ready is to have the rather disgruntled chef scream loudly, “HEY! (PERSON’S NAME)!” It was quite alarming the first time it happened, but by the time my order was ready I had gotten quite used to it. So I heard a “HEY! KATHRYN!” and I wandered up to pick up our food.
What we got was one giant pancake, two sausage patties, and a plate full of hash browns, tofu scramble, and biscuits and gravy.
It looked good, but as soon as I tasted it, the predominant flavor was grease. There was really no seasoning, and it was so heavy I couldn’t eat much of it. The tea we ordered had the taste of cigarette butts. I don’t want to know why. I was really disappointed because the food was the one upside people talked about in the Happy Cow reviews. We ate less than half the food before we gave up on it.
I tried to take a photo of their front ordering area, and the chef screamed at me from the back that I couldn’t take any photos. I’ve taken photos at many restaurants and have never had anyone say anything to me, nevermind scream at me from across the restaurant. A polite or at least quieter, “We don’t allow photography,” would have sufficed.
So, although I try to find the positives about the vegan restaurants I visit, I can’t say that I could find any positives about this place. Oh wait! It was incredibly cheap, so there you go. It did provide me with a unique experience and a story to tell, so I don’t regret checking it out. Would I ever go back? No, no I wouldn’t. But chances are I won’t find myself in Minneapolis again anytime soon anyway.
The rest of the trip was quite nice though, and I did manage to find plenty of vegan food at stores nearby. The Minneapolis airport even surprisingly had vegan eggplant parmesan.
I saw the giant spoon bridge in the sculpture garden, and I went to the Mill City Museum. This museum charts the history of flour mills in Minneapolis – the Gold Medal brand and then later General Mills. In general, people in Minneapolis were quite friendly, but sadly, the Minneapolis vegans were the least friendly bunch, at least the few that I encountered. If I’d had more time, I would have liked to explore some of the other vegan options in Minneapolis… like the Triple Rock Social Club a few blocks over from Hard Times. They also have vegan pancakes and tofu scramble, and maybe a better atmosphere. Maybe next time!