This trip to Minneapolis also allowed me to indulge in another of my favorite Twin Cities culinary treasures: Kramarczuk Sausage Company on East Hennepin in Minneapolis, right where Marcy-Holmes and Nordeast meet up.
When I first moved to Minneapolis, Kramarczuk’s and the nearby Surdyk’s liquor store were the only major attractions in an otherwise tired out neighborhood of old furniture stores and former car dealers. In the years since then, Surdyk’s moved from a storefront to their own giant building up the road, the neighborhood has been almost completely rebuilt (the old IGA and strip mall are now a Whole Foods, etc). I barely recognize the neighborhood, but Kramarczuk Sausage Co is still alive and well, dishing all sausages and all varieties of eastern European food.
Kramarczuk’s takes up two storefronts: on the right side is the actual butcher shop/grocery, filled with several refrigerated cases absolutely stuffed with some of the most delectable sausage products I’ve ever experienced (one of the few places I’d even put in the same category is Karl’s Sausage Kitchen in Saugus, MA). When I first moved here this side of the store was white 1950s-style refrigerated cases lorded over by older stern Polish and Ukrainian butchers. It’s now much more bright and modern, but the bounty of sausages remains the same. Over the years I’ve sampled a substantial fraction of their sausage selection, and they produce several of the best polish sausages I’ve ever had, as well as several outstanding sausages from other countries (Chorizo, Andouille, Linguica, Italian, etc.). For everything I’ve had, the spices were just right, the texture perfect, and nothing over- or under-smoked. I seriously need to remember to bring a second suitcase on these trips to bring some sausage home with me (they very helpfully will vacuum pack your sausage for the trip home).
The other half of the store is a cafeteria-style serving line, where you grab your tray, select your meal from amongst the various sausages, sandwiches, borscht, verenky, hams, and other specials, grab a beverage, and then pay at the register, after which you can grab several slices of bread fresh sliced from a loaf. When I was living here, this process was overseen by an older Eastern European woman who would admonish you for not taking enough bread since you were (unless you were at least 200 lbs in weight) “all skin and bones.” These days, the bread is self serve, but still good.
As far as the sausages and sides? Kramarczuk’s is a veritable treasure trove of Polish and Ukrainian food. For my combo plate, I opted to go full-on Ukrainian, with three assorted varenyky (similar to peirogi), one holubets (cabbage roll), a Ukrainian sausage, sauerkraut, sour cream, and a pickle. I shudder to think about the number of calories present here, but the food is of such wonderful flavor and quality that it’s worth it (even though I had to spend two hours in the gym later in the day to partially work off the calories). Rounded out with a Sprecker Root Beer (from Wisconsin), this was a nearly perfect lunch.