A little bit of the United Nations has moved into the old Citizen Cafe in south Minneapolis.
The newly opened Pilgrimage Cafe boasts an intimate space with an ambitious menu. Every continent, save Antarctica, is represented. From banh mi, ramen, chilaquiles, jerk pork chops, and pastrami on rye to kolaches, tacos, and a good old-fashioned BLT, the menu is chock full of casual eats from across the globe.
While many were shocked and saddened to learn of the old Citizen’s closing, future Pilgrimage owner and head chef Craig Ball saw an opportunity.
Fresh off his stint as sous chef for Mattie’s on Main, the former corporate exec was ready to venture out on his own and with the help of a few trusted friends and colleagues from culinary school he did just that. Together the well-traveled, well-trained team plotted to put their combined love of comfort food from afar on high and share it with the neighborhood.
And share they do. Such was my experience a few weeks back. Along with a couple friends, I found myself once again eating my way across an entire menu. It was not hard, dear reader. Rather, it was a labor of love. One I hope you’ll endeavor to replicate. At your own speed, of course.
Pilgrimage Cafe has the same warm and humble vibe (and, in fact, much of the same decor) as its predecessor; an ambience appropriate for an establishment aiming to put comfort front and center. The staff is equally friendly and outgoing. Don’t hesitate to ply your server with questions about the menu either. Like proud parents, they’re happy to share with you the stories behind each dish.
The menu itself is broken up into two parts: brunch and dinner. Brunch is served until 2 p.m. and dinner from 4 p.m. until close.
Brunch is most definitely a bright spot at Pilgrimage. Not only do they offer it daily (except Monday, when they’re closed), the food is eclectic and diverse, but fun and familiar. There’s quite literally something for everyone. And the bottomless mimosas won’t hurt either.
On the breakfasty side of things, favorites included the benedicts and chilaquiles. Sure, you can have a classic benedict, but my money’s on the mole and BBQ bennies. Each is set atop a magical corn souffle from Paraguay called chipa guazú. Trust me, you want to eat this. As for the chilaquiles, add the carnitas. The richness of the pork pairs perfectly with the spicy red sauce.
On the lunchy side of brunch, your options truly run the gamut. From steak and egg salad to a sexy gruyere and oaxaca-filled grilled cheese with house-made tomato soup, you’re going to have a hard time nailing down just one entrée. Good luck. Just make sure someone at the table orders the Chimichurri Philly. If it’s not you, make sure they share. If it is you, don’t share! This Latin take on an American classic is sure to become a restaurant favorite. We were also big fans of the Buffalo Caesar Salad with its hot, spicy chicken and cool, crunchy salad.
One last suggestion: don’t leave the brunch table without ordering the donuts. Also, don’t freak out when they show up to your table and don’t look like donuts. Cruellers, beignets, cream puffs, call these peanut butter mousse-stuffed fried dough pillows whatever you like, so long as you put them in your mouth. And you’re welcome.
Dinner at Pilgrimage is just as fun and adventurous as brunch, opening up a whole other half of the menu for you to explore. And I do mean explore.
Each item on the dinner menu represents a part of the world near and dear to someone’s heart. Whether a recipe from grandma (as is the Maultaschen, a unique German meat and cheese-stuffed dumpling soup) or the black bean ravioli with turkey mole and avocado cream sauce hearkening back to Chef Craig’s time in Latin America, each dish reflects a lot of love for the culture it came from.
Or cultures. The Caribbean Pork Normandy, for example, combines fiery, vibrant jerk spice with sweet, mellow sautéed apples. And brussel sprouts that will render you speechless. The Ahi Tuna Wellington, like the pork, is another wonderful clash of flavors and technique.
As with brunch, don’t leave the dinner table without ordering the donuts. Unless they’re not available. If they’re not, don’t worry, something delicious will be. Chef Craig has a penchant for pastry, so keep an eye out for scratch-made cakes and other confections that strike his fancy.
You really do owe it to yourself to add Pilgrimage Cafe to your list of new places to check out. The humble little gem in south Minneapolis with the ambitious menu works. The stories Chef Craig and his team are telling and the cultures they’re celebrating with food are absolutely delicious. And by delicious, I mean when are we going back for donuts?
2403 East 38th Street, Minneapolis