Sunday, July 31, 2005

Seward Community Cafe

Minneapolis is nothing if it isn't swimming in collectives. As a native to this town, I've got some experience with the collective process, and theoretically it's still something I really believe in. Theoretically.

In practice, the Hub Bike Co-op and Extreme Noise Records are the only collectives that seem to actually have their acts together.

Enter the Seward Cafe. When it's good, it's incredible. My favorite breakfast in the world is a well-made Super Green Earth with tofu and soy cheese (hashbrowns, brocolli, and tofu sort of scrambled together on the grill and covered with soy cheese). Here's the problem. The cafe is usually filthy, which as a person of questionable hygiene, I might be able to overlook if I knew my food was going to be good. Unfortunately, the hashbrowns are almost always a sad pile of both burnt and undercooked (read: gummy) shreds of potato. At times the tofu suffers from an overdose of tamari, and it's anybody's guess whether I'm going to get my toast.

The hashbrowns are such a big part of the breakfast menu at the Seward, I have a hard timd understanding how they're so inconsistent. More to the point, it's bewildering to me that, on my last few visits, the hashbrowns have been so consistently fucked up. I feel like, if I'm a cook at the Seward, that's what I do, all day every day, is cook hashbrowns. How hard can it be? Wouldn't you get it right after a while? Wouldn't you have the sense to throw out the ones that you didn't get right, rather than serving them up?

Today I ordered a tofu mock muffin (english muffin, Gimme Lean patty, tofu, soy cheese, sprouts). It's something I can make easily enough at home, but I knew I'd be making gumbo later this afternoon and didn't feel like spending the day in the kitchen. When I received it, instead of sprouts, I was given a pile of spinach. At first I thought it was basil, and a garnish, until I realized there weren't any sprouts. This might be forgivable if a) anyone had bothered to check with me to make sure this substitution was okay with me, or b) the Seward Cafe wasn't immediately next door to a grocery co-op.

It seems that the bulk of the local anarcho-misanthropic-lefty community here in town is content to eat shitty food in a dirty restaurant, and I suppose that makes me a bitch for not wanting to settle. That said, I know I'm not alone; many friends have voiced similar complaints, grievances that up until now have dissolved into empty air.

But I won't settle. I do still believe in collectives, and the Hub's early success (two stores!) only bolsters this belief. What I don't believe is that just because a business is worker-owned and -operated, it need be mired in mediocrity.

I'm sure that some weekend morning, months down the road, I'll forget I wrote this post, wake up with a craving for a Super Green Earth, and end up disappointed once again. In the meantime, I can tell you that the secret to good hashbrowns at home is parboiling and chilling overnight. Now you can save your money.


Blogger Gilby said...

Amen. I share your thoughts on the whole collective thing here. I want to love it, but is it too much to ask for a clean table? Additionally, I'd rather not see or smell the armpits of the person handing me my food...

12:11 PM  
Blogger Monty said...

I worked at the Seward for five years in the 80's, cooked breakfast five days a week and I know the hashbrowns inside out. It's the following: start with good fresh red spuds, parboil to fork tender, quench in cold water until chilled, grate immediately before cooking, let the damn butter get hot before your toss in the spuds, and then cook at high heat with constant loving attention.

I'll agree the quality these days is spotty at best, maybe at all. There's a feeling these days that delivering an awesome plate of food over the so-weird counter while neither stoned nor filthy is passe'. I disagree. The food at the Seward is the best in the world when done well and the place itself still has the feeling. It's just that folks just don;t seem to get that what they are doing demands excellence in addition to hip attitude.

-Grumpy old ex-collective member

5:19 PM  

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