The Hard Times Café easy on the tastebuds

Bernardo Vigil

Located a stones throw away from the U’s west bank campus just off of the intersection of Cedar and Riverside Ave. in Minneapolis, The Hard Times Cafe is an all-vegetarian, punk-rock, co-op run (all of the employees are co-owners and they make all decisions by consensus) restaurant and cafe, locally famous for their extra strong coffee and eclectic customer base.

Truly taking the DIY philosophy to heart, Hard Times asks patrons to write out their order, name, and the price of the food on a slip of paper then wait for the cook to “yell” out his or her name, where upon the customer goes and gets their food directly from the kitchen window. There are no waiters and there are no busboys; besides cooking, customers do everything themselves.

While this way of doing business certainly sits outside the realm of “normal,” the restaurant gets away with it for two reasons. First, it really is a restaurant with the soul of a coffee shop. And secondly, the food really is very good.

Taking a page straight from any coffee shop’s operating manual, the restaurant offers free Internet and books, and customers can sit around for as long as they want without being hassled to leave. As Lauren, a four-year Hard Times regular, puts it, “My favorite part is the atmosphere, it’s very relaxed, and there is a diverse group of people that come here.”

The ambiance is something that barista and co-owner, Troy, deems essential to the success of the restaurant, “It’s important for the community to have somewhere where they can feel comfortable… whether they are mainstream or not.”

The restaurant’s Grape Vine Award is well deserved, despite the fact that if you order the same thing twice you might get a slightly different result depending on the cook and what time of day it is. The food smells and tastes delicious enough to get even the most dedicated carnivore to try something meat-free.

The menu has options ranging from a surprisingly savory vegetarian Ruben, to the “big fat pancake” which, along with the rest of their other breakfast options, is served all day (and all night) long. The restaurant also features an ever-changing variety of baked goods prepared fresh every morning.

The Hard Times Cafe is everything one would expect and more from an all-vegetarian, collectively run restaurant located off of Ceder Avenue: a somewhat gritty building filled with somewhat gritty regulars, and somewhat delicious food.

Drop by if you’re feeling adventurous or are just craving some of Big Luke’s vegetarian chili––just don’t be surprised if, like Lauren, it becomes an addiction. And a word to the wise, just because it’s open until four in the morning doesn’t mean that you should come in past one.