Across the River Restaurant Reviews: Modern Times Cafe

This past weekend, my parents were in town and wanted to take me out to breakfast. Let that sink in for a moment. Other times I may have been relegated to the delicious breakfast joints within walking distance—Shish, the Neighborhood Café, and the like—but this time, my parents had a car, making the whole Twin Cities metro area fair game. While my love for classic diners knows no bounds, that morning I was looking for something a little more interesting. That’s just what I found at Modern Times Café, where a creative, vegetarian/vegan inclusive menu meets… meat.

You will know Modern Times from the their building which screams out its name in huge white letters against a lime green and orange façade; it’s especially distinctive on this residential part of Chicago Ave. The first time I spotted this beauty, I was walking out of Powderhorn Park, which is only about two blocks East of the restaurant, and I was enticed by the bold exterior. When I finally made it inside last weekend, I found that they didn’t skimp on the inside décor either. Could a restaurant like this have a simple, white drop ceiling? Of course not. Each and every rectangular piece of foam was painted in mismatched (but oh so lovely) shades of retro greens, browns, oranges, you name it. Did they spare the tables in this 70’s orange and brown spree? Of course not. Each table looked like it was hand-painted with a geometric rainbow of colors that were past their prime before any of us were born. In other words, it was stunning.

We got there around 9:30 on a Saturday morning and were told we’d probably have to wait 20 minutes, but we had our seats in no time. The wait time was not bad, but the place was popular so you might expect a longer wait if you were to go later on. Either that or we were just distracted by a lovely zine rack hanging by the waiting area put up by “the Doodle Club”. Once we got situated at our groovy table, and picked up the menus (and the beautifully handwritten “specials” page) they took drink orders and brought out some really excellent coffee.

This was definitely a good omen, because this place serves up some seriously delicious food. Pops ordered the Tucson Tough Guy ($8): scrambled eggs with chorizo, and cream cheese to smooth things out a little. It was also served with black beans and their homemade cabbage salsa, which has the same acidity and kick of tomato salsa, but with a different flavor. Served with corn tortillas, I could tell that Pops was pretty ecstatic from when the plate arrived until it was clean.

Mom ordered the Beet Up ($9), another creative scramble that combined bacon, eggs, goat cheese, thyme, and (duh) beets. If you’ve never tried the ethereal combination of goat cheese and beets, this is probably one of the best ways I’ve ever tried it; the goat cheese was real mellow, not at all funky; the beets intense and sweet. Bring in the salty bacon (if you’re into that) and I’m sure you’ll want seconds. Unfortunately, restaurants don’t usually do seconds.

This author couldn’t resist one of the day’s specials, Vegetarian Biscuits and Gravy ($9). An old favorite from when I used to eat all things pork, this variation of the gravy was made with cream, leeks, and had chunks of butternut squash in it. It was a rich complement to the crispy, tender biscuits and the perfect over-easy eggs, but was balanced out super well by some garlicky kale.

The high-ish prices reflect that a lot of their ingredients are organic, made in house, or are just really great quality. Admittedly, I am drawn to places that have a certain “crunchy factor,” which might turn some folks off from Modern Times (they may or may not serve a breakfast item called Good Morning Healing Earth…). But whether this sounds like your cup of tea or not, the awesome quality and creative dishes will not disappoint.