Keg and Case Market opened this past Friday (9/14/18). We’ve visited morning, afternoon, and evening since then to partake in and sample the goods of over two dozen vendors. We’ve enjoyed everything from French cheese to local honey to homemade halva, ice cream and craft beer, mushrooms grown onsite in a techno-glow vertical garden, coffee, donuts, pickles, switchels, flowers, fresh juice and even a few treats for Fido.
Here, along with health and wellness writer (and chef) Ranelle Kirchner, we discuss the best parts of the food hall – the vendors and their goals, and why they represent the best of food culture (and more). We talk about what it means to the close-knit West End community that surrounds it, and the city as a whole. We try to describe why visiting (again and again) should be high on your list of priorities, for now and years to come.
We try and capture in words, and a few pictures, the spirit, mission, and experience of St. Paul’s Keg and Case Market.
Why Keg and Case Market is so exciting
Ranelle: There’s something for everyone here. It’s such a welcoming place, which is what food really is all about: Food [is meant to] connect people to their community, and you can really do that here, whether by taking something home to cook with friends and family, or enjoying onsite.
And the variety! Whether it’s something familiar to you, something you grew up with, or something brand new you’ve never seen before. Local is certainly a focus here, but it’s also about filling a void; offering a taste of the world brought to our doorstep to coincide with the wonderful things grown and produced here in Minnesota.
Adrian: It goes far beyond the things meant simply for dinner plates and tables.
Ranelle: Right. The various vendors are also looking for news ways to educate and inform, and for ways to enjoy their products in the way you’d like to, and the way you’re able to. Worker B, for example, is working hard to make their honey accessible to everyone while limiting waste. The result? You’ll be able to bring in your own jar in the near future and they’ll fill it for you from their “tap” in the amount that best suits your needs.
Gatza (cheese shop) is another good example. You get Minnesota and Wisconsin cheeses alongside national and international specialties. Seasonality is important; the things best for autumn will be highlighted. And the cheese shop works with Rose Street Patisserie – John Kraus’s phenomenal bread is for sale to pair with their selections so you get a little bit of everything at once.
I also love the little butcher shop K’nack – an outpost of RJ’s Meats in Hudson. A butcher that brings true class and style to sausages and cured meats – but the coolest part is that he offers a different special every day so you can sample his goods in practics: German classics like currywurst or leberkäse make an appearance.
Adrian: I brought my dad, who was born and raised in Stuttgart, and he couldn’t believe how good the leberkäse was. It brought him back to his childhood, to the things his mother (my grandmother) used to make for him. It was a special thing to see how much he enjoyed it.
The stories are great as well – each vendor has a different story and inspiration. Spinning Wylde – artisan cotton candy with flavors like Serrano strawberry and blueberry yuzu – is named for their son Wylde. The product and space was designed with him in mind and you can see every kid head straight for the neon sign and chalkboard walls to draw as soon as they get inside.
Ranelle: Everything seems based around things to share: It’s not an inward looking project; it’s something built with sharing in mind. And there’s very little overlap – each stand offers something unique, and they work together for the most comprehensive experience.
It’s also affordable, and accessible. That’s important. And the thing with high-quality ingredients is that you don’t need a whole lot – you don’t need the Costco experience buying in bulk just to stay satiated for satiated’s sake.
St. Paul (food) culture and history
Adrian: Along with our Hmong markets (Hmongtown Marketplace and Hmong Village), the also-new and exciting Market House, now in full swing in Lowertown, and our farmers markets, as well as places like Mississippi Market that has long established itself as a community food hub and worked hard to reestablish and strengthen our relationship with food through classes and an impressive selection of local goods, and even the market at Cossetta on 7th Street… St. Paul has emerged as something of a beacon for the new food movement.
Keg and Case might be the crown jewel of this continued mission – the logical next step in reconnecting our providers with our consumers in the healthiest way possible. It exemplifies this incredible culture of food and its role in the community. People see the people making their food. They see where it comes from. They get ideas for new and interesting ways to use it.
There’s something also so perfect about the location – the palatial Schmidt Brewery, once one of the largest brewing operations in the city, now home to artists and makers of different sorts, as well as (aquaponics farm) Urban Organics. The grounds have been dedicated entirely to people looking to reconnect with the community in new and interesting ways.
Ranelle: St. Paul is so good at utilizing historic spaces, turning them into something special and new. It’s what sets St. Paul apart – bringing life into old, formerly neglected areas of a dynamic landscape to bring everything together.
Minnesotans are very proud of the food and the things made and grown here – We’re loyal, and support our artisans, our makers and growers in ways that I rarely find elsewhere. Keg and Case is a testament to that – culture is represented through food, and the offerings here, through the smallest pieces of our relationship with food to the grandest on full display, show how special this part of the world really is. It’s so cool that each stall is unique to the business housed instead – every vendor designed their own space, so each step you take is dynamic and different. I also love the way the light spills through – it’s very connected to the street outside.
Even people who aren’t “food people” will feel welcome here and find something they like and can relate to. Because, as we continue to stress, food is something that is meant to be enjoyed by all. It should never alienate someone, and it should never feel alien to anyone.
I’m excited about the restaurants still to come – In Bloom and Revival are opening this Friday (9/21), Pimento, pizza, they’re all still dark but supposed to be open in the coming days. I’m excited to see the space in its entirety. But it already feels complete. And it feels like it’s been here for years; as such a natural addition to the neighborhood.
Read this next for more St. Paul food news and information: Why the Market House Collaborative is so important