[Sol Ave. Kitchen, Moorhead]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by M.Schleif Photography
When it comes to Fargo-Moorhead's foodie scene, restaurateurs, Nikki Berglund and chef Ryan Nitschke love to "stir" things up. Finding success with their first venture, Luna Fargo, they worked with chef Shea Syverson to curate another - Sol Ave. Kitchen in North Moorhead (NoMo). Finding a hot spot next door to Junkyard Brewing Company, Sol Ave.'s already been tempting the craft beer crowd, and locals have happily embraced their farm fresh flavors. With globally and thoughtfully-inspired street food, Sol Ave. Kitchen is Midwest soul food that will have diners on both sides of the river, eating happy.
Inside Sol Ave.
What began as a 45-day Kickstarter campaign, at the start of the year, has now come full circle with Sol Ave. Kitchen opening its garage doors to the public on August 23. Since February they've hosted an array of pop-up shops and more recently VIP soft openings, all with the goal to test our taste buds and perfect their globally-inspired menu. Offering a "fast casual", farm to table concept, each item is specially curated by Sol Ave.'s chef, Shea Syverson with chef Ryan Nitschke.
Inside, diners will find intimate, relaxed settings with family-style seating for all ages, designed to spur conversation and connect community. Sol Ave.'s custom, charred tables were designed and built by their contractor Tony Sackett, and a wall mural will soon be completed. For now, they will be open Tuesday through Saturday, 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM, with the goal to soon be open seven days a week.
Fast becoming a fan favorite is Sol Ave.'s mouth-watering take on crispy fried chicken, including a sandwich, wings, and tacos with pickles, avocado crema, cilantro and jalapeño. With a fresh approach to regional produce, meats and cheeses, the chefs also offer items like a Lamb Merquez Rice Bowl, Smoked Salmon Melt, Pickled Beet Taco, Pork and Mushroom Dumplings and Charred Broccolini. "We want our menu to be fresh and organically evolve to please our culinary desires and our guest's demands. To put it simply, we make hip food that doesn’t disappoint, while celebrating our Midwestern culture and local producers," said Nitschke.
Sol Ave. Kitchen's goal is to offer something vastly different in both food and drink; here you'll find sips like Mr. Brown iced coffee, Martinelli's apple juice, exotic Mexican sodas, hard ciders and wine. In the mini cheese case, you'll even find a trace of Luna with their picks of favorite regional cheeses and meats. Sol Ave. will offer these selections al a carte, via appetizer or small to-go platters. "We also have homemade ice creams that we make at Luna and bring to Sol Ave.," said Nitschke.
While Junkyard's "nanobrewery" and taproom does not serve food, Sol Ave. Kitchen is happy to cater to the crowler crowd. "We have menus in the clip boards over at Junkyard, so you can come in here and order, then we'll bring the food to you," said Nitschke. "We hope to one day have an online ordering system, with the idea that people will not even have to get up."
Farm to Fork Sustainability
When Berglund and Nitschke first approached Anna Macy, a former Luna manager, about the general manager position at Sol Ave. Kitchen, she had no hesitation. "Luna and Sol Ave. are two completely different restaurants, but I love their values; values that I had never heard of anywhere else in the industry," said Macy. "They believe in sustaining their staff, making sure that everyone is paid a livable wage. They also respect the earth, which means recycling, and working with sustainable food and local farmers."
"Working exclusively with local farmers reduces the carbon footprint, and we believe the closer you are to your food, the better it is for you," said Macy. "We buy from local farmers who provide produce, cheeses and meats through responsible farming practices. Sustainability is not some sort of marketing ploy for either of them; they live by it. Ryan is such a creative farm-to-table chef and sustainability is just something he inherently believes in."
"To me, farm-to-table means I'm getting fresh food from local vendors, ranchers, and farmers within a couple hundred miles from here; maybe if I find something really good, I'd go 500 miles. As far as sustaining our employees with a living wage - the topic of minimum wage is a huge concern right now, especially in the industry. We believe in the change and we know it's coming anyways, so let's take a pre-emptive strike, be the people who start it, and stand for it now," said Nitschke.
"Working exclusively with local farmers reduces the carbon footprint, and we believe the closer you are to your food, the better it is for you,"
Building a Seat at the Table:
Embracing emerging concepts is just one of the many take-aways Berglund gained from her recent James Beard Women in Leadership program. "What I learned was that even though we are from a small, fairly young, and unknown food market - we deserve a seat at the 'table' on a more national level," said Berglund. "The dishes that Ryan's producing are memorable, both for how good the food is, and the unique voice he has."
"I have also learned to take some risks and just go for it. If the Kickstarter wouldn't have worked, I would have been pretty bummed, but we decided that there's no harm in at least trying. Although Ryan and I both have a tendency to think outside of the box, hanging out with all of these incredible James Beard women gave me the confidence to actually just say, 'Screw It!'" laughed Berglund. "I have gotten to experience a lot of amazing restaurants who are winning awards, and although I might be a little biased, I completely believe that Ryan's food is up there with the best; that is something we consistently hear from our guests."
For more information, contact:
Sol Ave. Kitchen
Midwest Nest Magazine is a monthly print and digital publication that focuses on culture around the upper midwest.