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Food & Drink

Coming Soon: Indigenous Food Lab Expands with Tea Bar, Restaurant, Market

The Midtown Global Market commissary kitchen gets a big addition.

left: sign reading "coming soon, a retail concept from indigenous food lab." right: one of their colorful herbal tea blends
Em Cassel|

Pictured on the right: one of the many house-made tea blends at the Indigenous Food Lab’s future retail space

About two years ago, the nonprofit NĀTIFS (North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems) brought the Indigenous Food Lab to Midtown Global Market. The kitchen and educational center came to the old Kitchen in the Market space, where, the NĀTIFS team teased at the time, they might eventually start serving food.

And it's happening! In a few weeks, that commissary kitchen, which currently nixtamalizes corn, presses tortillas, and does all kinds of other prep work for Owamni, Sioux Chef Catering, and Tatanka Truck, will be joined by a food counter and tea bar, as well as a market and education space.

The menu will take its cues from the four directions on a medicine wheel: As a base, you'll have your choice of grain bowls, salads, tacos, and a dish similar to a sope or huarache. Rotating proteins will include bison, turkey, and whitefish; vegan options will include squash and mushrooms and the three sisters (corn, beans, and squash).

Like Owamni, everything at the food counter and market will be made with Indigenous ingredients—no chicken or pork, no wheat or dairy, no anything that came from colonizing countries.

Em Cassel

The food counter will be accompanied by a tea bar with an herbal specialist putting together an array of house-blend teas, all available hot, iced, or sparkling. The Swamp Blend is a mix of labrador, orange peel, elderberry, elderflower, linden leaf, spearmint, and tarragon; the Xibalba Blend, named for the Mayan underworld, is lightly spiced with chipotle peppers. (When I stopped by earlier this week, I was able to sneak a sip of the Garden Tea: a hyper-refreshing blend of nettle, rose, and lemon balm sweetened with agave nectar.) They'll also serve chaga lattes and a few other blends from Anahata Herbals in Duluth.

Behind the tea and food counters, across from the commissary kitchen, is an education space. Soon, that's where they'll host cooking demos and community classes. The restaurant and tea bar will also be accompanied by a market, where you can shop for fresh tortillas, arepas, tostadas, and meats, along with cookbooks, kitchen supplies, and more.

Construction is currently underway—if you swing by the Global Market this week you'll hear saws buzzing and nail guns brrrapping—and the hope is to launch the food counter, tea bar, market, and education space simultaneously in late October or early November.

The Midtown Global Market location is something of a pilot; the long-term plan for NĀTIFS is to make the Indigenous Food Lab a sustainable model that could be replicated elsewhere throughout the country, at tribal-owned grocery stores from Wisconsin to Washington. But for now, keep an eye on their social channels to stay up-to-date on the latest.

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