Salty Tart is exactly what Market House was missing

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Adrian Daniel Schramm

The Salty Tart is the latest Minneapolis hot spot to cross the river, and the fourth and penultimate piece of the Market House Collaborative (the last piece, a satellite brewery of Birch’s on the Lake, to come in mid-late 2018.)

So the Collaborative is, as yet, still incomplete. And, before Salty Tart opened officially on December 1, it felt that way; Octo Fishbar, the core, heart and soul of the space, operating in the middle of what felt like an empty cave.

(Even with the enormous “Instagram-worthy” shark swimming over the atrium.)

Not that we don’t love Octo. The dishes are creative and tasty, and confidently unlike any other seafood joint in the Twin Cities. And the space is fun. We expect it to be around for a long time, with much food and drink to be had. But what’s interesting is how one component can make all the difference in the overall flow of the space, and help to tie the whole project together.

The other two markets, Peterson Craftsman Meats and Almanac Fish Market, are no longer floating on their own to the south; Octo no longer treading water in the middle of a “Coming Soon!” sea. It feels complete, or more complete, now that the southeast corner is as bustling, lively, and about as beautiful, as it could possibly be.

And it really is beautiful:

But it’s also a place to relax, truly relax, especially after the weekend mayhem subsides. There’s space enough (it didn’t feel clogged even during the busiest first few days) to stretch out and enjoy your surroundings; to become part of the simple elegance in the most simple and elegant way possible.

No other words are truly apt to describe your surroundings: A bit of gold flourish to the almost-white gray tones of the tables, floors and walls, strategically-placed ferns adding a burst of organic color, a few high-brow magazines scattered throughout for decor first, and reading material second, and such great use of wide windows that face the ballpark, the farmer’s market, Lowertown’s red brick warehouses, the neighborhood beyond…

It’s also the added smells and the sounds. It’s the things you can’t really touch but want to; the abstract aura of a familiar place, and a natural, unforced cool that keeps you there comfortably for longer than you might have originally planned.

Owned and operated by Michelle Gayer, the Charlie Trotter-alum and James Beard nominee whose pastries helped redefine baking in the Twin Cities from a Midtown Market stall, Salty Tart finally has the grand home it deserves.

It’s true that Lowertown wasn’t without something similar – that there are those who might not be quite as starry-eyed excited as we are about this addition.

But, they might say,  we already have the Buttered Tin, don’t we?

We do. The lines snaking from the front door of the 7th Street bakery-and-brunch joint more than justify its staying power; you can count us among the fans and regulars since it opened back in 2013 in what was then a neighborhood devoid of fresh-baked goods and date-worthy early/midday plates.

But when you look at the way Market House Collaborative, with Salty Tart acting as something of a gateway, fits in with the farmer’s market outside, and a budding food district that includes Saint Dinette, Big River Pizza, neighborhood veteran Black Dog, and soon-to-open Biergarten Germania and Kyatchi, it becomes much easier to understand why it’s such an important piece of the puzzle.

And Salty Tart is not the same thing as Buttered Tin (or anything else in Lowertown). For one thing, Salty Tart has bread. Good bread. Great bread even, and even better with their soft and sweet butter spread across it. Their “bread service” (+equally great jam) for $5 to accompany a cup of coffee ($2.75/$3.25) is all you’ll really need to justify a visit to Market House.

The small food menu also wants to be something new. A frittata ($10) with broccolini, goat cheese, and crème fraîche, a Meritage-worthy salmon tartine ($14), a rotating selection of soups and sandwiches, all with a decidedly European feel (and portion-size, be aware), join the never-ending selection of baked goods big and small splayed across the counter, and creative morning drinks whistling with heat from behind the line.

The food is at once recognizable and new; eats you crave, and maybe didn’t realize you were missing.

Guests might also recognize the chairs formerly used in Heartland’s chic lounge and dining room set around the Salty Tart’s pristine tabletops; perhaps it is then that they will remember that this was once home to Heartland’s own expansive market (as nothing else really gives that away):

It’s hard to discuss the space, any piece of it, without remembering the ambitious Heartland that once resided there. Indeed, we haven’t seen a single article on the space, the full project, or any of the individual components that have opened thus far, that hasn’t mentioned the restaurant they replaced at least once. The spirit of Heartland is certainly still present, hanging from the rafters like a benign specter, watching with approval as the space is reinvented, or perhaps more descriptive, reinvents itself.

(As discussed in: Why the Market House Collaborative is so important)

But if the spirit is that of a Heartland past, it certainly isn’t holding anything back: Everything there now is certainly looking forward toward Lowertown’s future, and the future of St. Paul dining.

A future that we are more than excited to be a part of.

Enter here:

289 5th Street East, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101
saltytart.com | facebook.com/SaltyTart |  instagram.com/thesaltytart
 

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Wordsmith extraordinaire. Impeccable manners, sometimes. Formerly CBS Local, currently TiltMN. In a world of clickbait, sensationalism, and dollar-based journalism, he works tirelessly to present a better brand of internet news.