Every time I drive past the massive expansion of the American Swedish Institute, I ask myself, “What kind of restaurant are they going to have in that huge Scando beast?”
This kind: a local chef with a reputation for integrity, serving simple new Nordic cuisine.
The restaurant will be called Fika (fee-kah), and will be part of the American Swedish Institute (ASI)’s new Nelson Cultural Center, opening June 30.
A fika is a Swedish coffee break, with snacks. Evidently coffee-snack-breaks are so popular in Sweden that it’s used as a verb—you fika, we fika.
The chef leading the fika-ing at Fika will be Michael Fitzgerald, a disciple of local legends Doug Flicker (Piccolo, and long-lost Auriga) and Steven Brown (Tilia). I had a brief conversation with Fitzgerald, who told me the restaurant will be less like Noma, with its groundbreaking avant-garde Nordic cuisine, and more like Tilia, in a Scandinavian vein.
“Do I like Noma? Who isn’t a fan of Noma? But realistically, am I going to try to do that in a small museum setting? No.” Fitzgerald says. “It’s going to be Scandinavian, new Nordic cuisine—open faced sandwiches, soup, little shrimp, gravlax, but no crazy food science stuff, no circulators, no chemical fireworks. I’ve experimented with a lot of that stuff, and it teaches you a lot about food, but I don’t think you have to have it to put out good food. I actually care a lot more about the basics, you know? I like the idea of being able to go somewhere and get a sandwich and soup that is well-seasoned and balanced, that feels good in your mouth, that is seasoned properly, that’s a whole dish. If you can do that, you’re ahead of the game. In the years I worked with Doug [Flicker of Piccolo], his food really stuck with me, and his simple approach to things. No matter where I am, I try to focus on the simple steps. I just want to offer a place where people can come and get a consistent product that’s made with care and honesty in the food.”
Sounds good to me. If there’s one thing I’ve liked in Minneapolis food the last couple years, it’s been the mantra of “under-promise, over-deliver”, as espoused by Flicker and Steven Brown. It seems only fitting that Minneapolis, with its deep Scandinavian roots, will now have someone working that motto, with gravlax.
Fika will be open seven days a week, serving breakfast and then lunch from 7 a.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. Sundays. Fika will be open for dinner and dessert until 8 p.m. on Wednesday evenings beginning in July.
Fika at the American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave. S., Mpls., 612-871-4907,