Thursday, February 27, 2020

Clogtown: Provision Community Restaurant - Revive. Repurpose. Restore.

During my time in Minneapolis, I've been trying to search out the very cool things that I think could (and SHOULD!) be emulated all over. One such place is the wonderful Provision Community Restaurant, where I finally got to visit last night to dine and learn about all of the great things they're doing as the area's only "Give what you can" restaurant.

In a major effort to combat food insecurity, waste, and isolation, owner Anna Wienke opened Provision last October in a cozy little house at 29th Street and Harriet Avenue (the former Salty Tart bakery space). 90% of the food used is donated (mostly from Co-Op Partners Warehouse) and the restaurant is staffed by volunteers, which cuts down on overhead. There is a set menu (that changes every day based on what is donated), that is served family style at community tables, so you'll never have the same meal - or the same dining mates - keeping it interesting!

There are two dinner seatings, Wednesday-Friday, at both 5 and 7 pm, and one Brunch seating on Saturdays at noon. You enter the little house, check in and fill out a little survey to let them know who you are and what you're about. Then you give a "Pay it forward" donation of any amount (or nothing if you don't have it) by either a card on the Ipad or cash in a little barrel. They don't know who pays what, so there is no shame in not having much money (and a big part of the Provision organization is stressing that ALL are welcome, and all are deserving of having a healthy and delicious meal out on the town!). You then take a seat, read the literature if you like, and wait to be seated in the charming dining room in the back of the house (where all of the furniture, dishes, and decor were also donated).

It was a chilly night and there were only three of us for the 7 pm seating, which is everyone else's loss, because we sat down to a wonderful feast, prepared by Chef Manny Winston (Shear Taste Catering/ formerly at Young Joni). All of Provision's breads and pastries are donated by the excellent Rustica Bakery, so we kicked our meal off with a basket of warm olive bread (which are also donated to the Crisis Nursery on Wednesdays). The meals tend to be vegetarian, mainly because most of the food donated is produce, with meat being donated more once in a blue moon (One regular has a hack for that, and brings her own meat to donate when she wants to eat meat!).

As our party was so small, we got to have nice chats with Wienke and Winston about the whole operation, over our next course of the salad that I'm still thinking about today ... mixed greens with blueberries and avocado with a delish vinaigrette dressing. Yum!

Next up was a creative fruit salad consisting of black "moon" grapes and oranges with lime juice and oregano! I'd never seen grapes like this, and the mix of the ingredients was a perfect mix of sweet and savory. The oranges also showed up in a super refreshing orange/ginger juice that I kept getting refills of as I could not get enough.

The main course was Hempeh (a tempeh made from hemp) fried rice with grilled vegetables, super healthy, savory, and full of protein. This is not something I'd probably ever order from a regular menu, but I loved it and thank Chef Manny for helping to mature my palate. I honestly felt healthier as I was eating it.

Provision is part of the "One World, Everybody Eats" organization of Community Caf├ęs, and they truly want whomever can be at their table to help build community, which ultimately helps everyone. A single older woman joined my friend Tonya and I for dinner, and seemed to be a bit of a regular. She lived in the area and likes to walk over and eat at Provision so she's not eating alone - but also because the food is great, and the price is whatever you want it to be and are able to pay that day (diners can also pay in time by volunteering).

Over a dessert of warm citrus sugar cookies (with the dough made by adults with disabilities through Partnership Resources) and coffee (beans supplied by Wildflyer Cofee - a company that employs homeless youth!), we learned that Provision hosts monthly Sustainer dinners that help keep the lights on and the people fed. They are a set price and prepared by visiting Chefs, the last one being Tyge Nelson of Pajarito STP. Wow! There are also Spring and Fall Gala Fundraisers, with the next one being held in April at the Lumber Exchange Event Center (tickets available here for only $50!). This is an accessible event to help Provision, but also to inspire people to their own philanthropy ... good people attracting more good people to do more good.

"I look at it like every night we have a dinner party, and it's always exciting to see who shows up," the darling and energetic Wienke told us, which is exactly what I love about it. You never know what you're going to be eating or who you're going to be sitting with, and that's exciting! It might not be everyone's cup of tea (see: picky people or snobs), but I think this is exactly the kind of place the world needs a whole lot more of in these times. Sitting down with strangers and breaking bread ... learning from and about one another is actually a small step toward world peace every time.

I really hope that Provision (and many more places like it!) will catch on like wildfire and take over as the model for modern dining. Less waste, more compassion, a world made a little bit smaller by more random people knowing and enjoying each other at a place where ALL are welcome to come as you are and give as you can ... I really love it. And I hope you will too! You can still go to all of your other spots, of course, but please try to put Provision into your regular rotation, because you'll be both wowed and helpful to keeping this special place open. And if you can't make it to Minneapolis, start your own just like it wherever you are - it's working!

Thank you, Provision and Anna Weinke. It's people like you that inspire us all to do and be better. See you soon for Brunch!

Provision Community Restaurant
2940 Harriet Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 208-0461

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