I had the pleasure of dining at Owamni in Minneapolis earlier this year, before it received the James Beard Award for best new restaurant but after it had already received accolades. The unique concept ensures a menu that you’ve likely not encountered before: all ingredients must have been used by indigenous people prior to the colonization of the Americas. No dairy, no beef, no chicken, no egg. Non-vegetarians can order fish, bison, turkey, or elk. For the bulk of the menu, Owamni uses ingredients such as berries, corn, wild rice, beans, and maple syrup, making it largely vegan-friendly. Wines come from Mexico and Central America because of the regions’ use of non-European grapes.
A Space Where Every Table Has a View
The location, on the second floor of a commercial building, overlooks the Mississippi River. Given the accolades and difficulty of getting a reservation, I was surprised by the casual atmosphere Even the prices are reasonable. The only people without a view ate at the bar.
I recommend business casual attire, although people wore everything from jeans to sports jackets and dresses. A public parking lot, with a pre-pay station, lets you park less than a block away.
Unique Menu For the Adventurous
Owamni’s dishes arrive beautifully plated, with strategically placed flowers, herbs, and sauces. The chef has an artistic eye and an impeccable palate. You do need an open mind when ordering, however. For example, the section labeled “corn sandwiches” have a flattened and fried corn meal cake topped by the main ingredients. They are not hand-helds.
We ordered some dishes for the table and others for specific people. The lake trout and white bean spread, the elk corn sandwich and the vegetarian Three Sisters special stood out. Only the dessert, Maple Chaga Cake with berries, didn’t win me over.
Although I don’t count Owamni as my favorite restaurant in Minneapolis, I do consider it the most unique. I love the concept – it’s as educational as it is delicious. Before eating there, I never considered what constituted pre-colonization food. Here, that matters.
The chef prepares food as only an accomplished chef can, and it shows both in flavor and in how carefully each dish is presented. Even if you dine at Owamni only once, you’ll have a memorable culinary experience.