In the meat-centric Twin Cities, where you can’t walk 10 feet without tripping over a charcuterie board, where vegetarians cobble together meals from side dishes, the Trailblazers in the culinary world are growing fixated on the potential of produce. And among several chefs in the Twin Cities that deserve special recognition for their work with vegetables in 2016, Landon Schoenefeld is a Trailblazer for his work presenting them with care and creativity at Birdie.
We’d grown weary of the 10-course tasting menu, because it’s usually a slog down the path of protein—beef after pork belly after duck after foie gras, ad nauseam. But a meal at Birdie, the chef’s table annex of Schoenefeld’s modern Nicollet Avenue diner, Nighthawks, leaves the diner feeling sated instead of stuffed. There’s no less artistry and innovation in the menu, there’s just a lot less meat. And what a welcome respite it is—to indulge in a multi-hour, multi-course feast, and to emerge feeling sprightly as a spring morning.
Schoenefeld is no stranger to vegetables, with meatless Monday menus at Haute Dish entering their sixth year. But the last 12 months of plant-based creativity at Birdie has taken it to another level. You might chew on a piece of dehydrated and smoked watermelon rind and swear it’s some kind of jerky. Your fellow diners might start an impromptu drinking game when they hear Schoenefeld repeating the phrase “picked from the garden this morning.”
Birdie wasn’t a slam-dunk idea when it opened in late 2015. The market wasn’t crying out for $100 ticketed dinners. But when you see Schoenefeld casually perusing the vinyl selections at Birdie, you understand the appeal—it feels less like a restaurant and more like the best dinner party you’ve ever attended. Schoenefeld’s food is tasting mature and measured, calmer and more composed, confident in its technique, and reverent of its place in the world. Birdie has jettisoned all the trappings of “fine dining” and renewed the focus on the ingredients and conviviality. And even if there’s less meat on the plate, that’s a movement we can get behind.
Update: Schoenefeld’s days in Minneapolis are numbered, as he recently announced on Instagram.
Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.