08 March 2012

Minneapolis: Hard Times Café

Where else could you find a super heavily graffitied bathroom and see in tiny, neat gel pen: "I was watching an infomercial the other day and it told me to forget everything I knew about slipcovers.  Let me tell you, it was a load off my mind."

Only at Hard Times.

Hard Times Café
1821 Riverside Ave
Minneapolis, MN  55454
(612) 341-9261

Meet Valynne.  At-peace-with-the-universe vegan extraordinaire.  You've never laid eyes on a more naturally talented fashionista.  (I mean, look at those earrings.)  And she can manipulate the English language in the most refreshing way.

Thank my lucky stars for Valynne.  If she hadn't been there to guide me, I could've wound up paying $27 for asking a stupid question.

No, seriously.  Says so on the menu.  "Stupid questions - $27."

Ordering here IS rocket science, but it's okay because it's a stone's throw from the U.  So if you show up here, you're already smart.  If you went here for your undergrad AND "grad" school (aka, Masters in Education program) and ate here a few times then forgot how to order a couple years later, you have Valynne.  Or you read my blog.
First, you grab a menu.  Marvel at all the vegan options and how cheap they are.  Drool at all the possibilities.  Can't go wrong.  Take a slip of paper and the pen on the counter and write your order down with the price and your name; interbutt aliases and pr0n star names are allowed.  Give the paper to the friendly employee behind the counter and tell him you'd also like a beverage ('less you want water) and a vegan baked good from the case.  Pay him.  Then he'll give you your drink and treat.
Next, sit the eff down.  Get a load off.  Jeez.  Check out the mismatched chairs and fun wall paintings.  Bare your soul to Valynne while sipping nice, hot, spicy, homemade soy chai and nibbling a perfectly crafted peanut butter cup, savoring how much better than Reese's it is because it has less corn sugar and SUCH high quality PB and chocolate.  Steal bites of Valynne's just-moist-enough fresh raspberry chocolate chip muffin as she tells you to quit worrying so much about life and you admire her totally zen aura.

You are so chill.  The chef - nay, the gourmet prodigy - will call your name.  So step three: go get your food already.  It's why you're here.

Your vegan biscuit breakfast at $6.75 (cause you paid extra for gravy) will satisfy you in at least 12 different ways.  It's got a layer of warm, crispy hash browns under everything - they absorb all the flavors.  Be amazed and delighted.  And you must believe me when I tell you that you have never had better vegan gravy.  The way the biscuits soak it up is like the way awesome soaks up awesomesauce. It's comforting to the extreme, like good old-fashioned country-style gravy, but better.  Your tofu scramble is fantastic with the hot sauce you squeezed onto it.  It's perfectly salty and eggy.  And the vegan sausage patty resembles the real thing in taste and texture.  There's a kick to it.  A kick in the pants.

And by pants, I mean tastebuds.

Then, dear readers, there's the Banh Mi sandwich.  You pay $6.50 for a million dollar meal.  Don't worry if you've never had Vietnamese before; this is classic street food at its best and will appeal to your palette for sure.  (Unless you're Sister.)  You know that phrase, depth of flavor?  It was invented for this sandwich.  You're licking your fingers for more of the spicy green vegan mayo before you've even finished the thing.  The seitan is perfectly cooked and crispy on the edges.  When you're done, you are so satisfied, you could probably achieve enlightenment.

Well, next time you go to Hard Times, let me know.  I haven't even tried half the menu yet.


  1. Replies
    1. Um, cause... I DON'T KNOW. Come back. It'll still be here in like, a year.

  2. Hard times is my favorite! My favorite ever!

    Important to note, though: the little shaker tin up at the counter is not filled with powdered sugar for your pancakes. It's filled with cayenne pepper.

    1. Let's GO there sometime!

      ... I'm sorry about your pancakes. You know, that kind of thing can ruin people. But you pushed through! Good for you.

  3. Also bring lots of cash unless you want a brisk jog around the block to the nearest (and sketchiest) M&M machine.

  4. Yes, thank you. That is rather important.