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Best Budget Bites: $9.99 Pasty from Milda’s Cafe

The Iron Range delicacy is served up fresh three days a week.

Ian Ringgenberg|

Damn.

The cost of things these days? Far too expensive! Inflation, supply chain, giddy price gouging from proprietors large and small—the boring factors are too numerous to count. To protect our readers, Racket recently launched the Best Budget Bites series, where we showcase toothsome, wallet-friendly food items that’ll actually fill you up. Have a nomination? Hit us up: tips@racketmn.com.

What: Jeff’s Pasty
Where: Milda’s Cafe, 1720 Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis
Cost: $9.99*
Availability: Available fresh Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. (available frozen on other days)

The pasty—pronounced PASS-tee, don’t say it wrong and embarrass yourself—is a hand pie with its origins in Cornwall, England, traditionally filled with a combination of beef, potatoes, rutabaga, and onion. As Cornish miners emigrated to America to newly found mineral deposits across the Upper Midwest, they brought their signature dish along, making it a staple of hearty lunches across northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and, in particular, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It’s a filling meal designed for the caloric demands of strenuous work in the tin mines of England. 

Thankfully, at Milda’s Cafe in the Harrison neighborhood of north Minneapolis, they didn’t ask what labor had worked up such an appetite in me. (Me? I answered some emails.) For just $9.99, Milda’s will happily serve up a Jeff’s Pasty to hungry diners of any vocation. The menu describes Jeff’s Pasty as “A Delicate Crust Filled With Chopped Beef, Potatoes, Carrots, Onions and Seasonings," and while carrots and a lack of rutabaga may raise the ire of true pasty purists, the ingredients hew close to classic recipes. This certainly isn’t as exotic as the Thai veggie or braised pork and apple offerings over at Potter’s Pasties near the U of M, which, while tasty, run 40% higher in cost than at Milda’s.

I found mine to be delicious and filling. This pie is a generous size, certainly a two-hander... or would be if I hadn’t used my fork. The rich crust eagerly reminds you of what makes a crust delicious: lard. The veggie medley was tender without disintegrating into a homogeneous soup; the beef was pleasantly spiced, and though I suspect it was at one point ground, it clung together well in savory bites spread throughout the pie. I paid the extra buck for a generous bowl of brown gravy, and would recommend you do the same—though if you use ketchup, you may not need it. The gravy was thick enough to transport via my fork, and it nicely rounded out the meal in both moisture and flavor. 

Milda's patrons may wonder if their eyes are set to sepia tone, considering the brown and tan meals arrives atop a school-cafeteria-chic brown and cream plate. Between the dishes and the payphone in the back, not to mention affordable prices, you may wonder if you’re still in 2024.

I’m not the first to note how special these pasties are. The folks over at North News profiled the eponymous Jeff Nelson and his hand pies back in 2019. “It takes a real commitment to make them," Nelson said at the time. "I take care of people, I always have." Jeff has since retired, and the role of pasty assembler in chief now belongs to the owner, Ayman Samie, who makes the signature dish fresh every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. He assured me over the phone that nothing about the recipe has changed, and that Jeff’s mentorship was thorough.

It must be noted that the official (exceedingly informal, capricious, open to be changed at any time) threshold for a Best Budget Bite is $10. Jeff’s Pasty squeaks by with only a penny to spare, but after fees and added gravy, mine rang up at $11.50. While it's the most expensive BBB yet, it’s certainly among the heartiest, and you’re unlikely to find a better pasty value this side of the Iron Range.

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