A simple, elegant sandwich shop waits at the top of the polished staircase that rises from the lobby of the Soo Line Building. It has a European sensibility about it, with crepes and fresh croissants, and a handful of pressed sandwiches at the ready. A few stools line the interior, while petit cafe tables rest against the wall in the skyway. This is exactly what we’ve been waiting for.
Now, in the fourth summer of widespread permitting of mobile food in Minneapolis, we’ve wondered when the culinary pendulum would swing back in a meaningful way. Back when a few skyway restaurants closed and bemoaned the new competition, we figured the skyway only needed to raise its game to counter the innovative eats rolling up on Marquette Ave.
We were envisioning something like Cafe Zentral – the second of three Soo Line Building projects from Russell Klein (read a great chat with him on Heavy Table). We already love the stylish Eastern European fare at Brasserie Zentral, and can’t wait to start sipping at Foreign Legion Wine Bar once it’s open on the regular. But for now, we’re happy to drop by the Cafe (open Monday-Friday, 7am-3pm) for quick panini, fresh blueberry muffins or to watch the crepe station in action (it’s mesmerizing watching that circular griddle get surfaced like a savory zamboni).
Among the sandwich options, don’t miss the duck confit panini ($7.95). It isn’t exactly massive, though it’s the perfect size for the richness it contains. Shreds of duck are layered with red cabbage that’s been cooked down to the texture and sweetness of caramelized onion. Then a hefty slab of blue cheese brings some creaminess, not overpowering funk. Pre-made, simply grilled and bagged, it’s incredible flavor in my hands in under three minutes from ordering. And best of all, compared to the street eats outside, there’s a place to sit and enjoy it.
Cafe Zentral, 5th St. and Marquette Ave., skyway level, downtown Minneapolis, 612.520.7686.