There's A Lot to Celebrate at The Black Forest Inn

Before I begin, I feel obligated to disclose that I’m writing this under the hypnotic effects of a deliriously delicious bratwurst dinner. Having said that, I’m here to proclaim that I am, once again, officially in love with The Black Forest Inn. I say “again” because I used to love The Black Forest Inn back in my twenties, when I had a gaggle of single friends and the thrust of a weekend day revolved around deciding where to go for a bleary-eyed brunch or an afternoon beer, or two or three. I have fond memories of wiling away the afternoon in the gorgeous beer garden at The Black Forest, drinking weiss beers and sharing crispy potato pancakes with my buddies, by turns immersed in the earnest debates, uproarious laughter or funky silences of post college life. And then I grew up. I moved away, got married, had some babies and moved back. In those intervening years, the formerly shady Nicollet Avenue had blossomed into Eat Street and we developed new favorites up and down the street.

My husband and I had just been reminiscing about the great patio at The Black Forest and had decided to pay a visit on a warm sunny day sometime soon when I received an invitation called Bratwurst for a Blogger, a special promotion in honor of the restaurant’s 45th anniversary on May 15. How fortuitous! As it turns out, we went on the dreariest, rainiest day last week, so we missed out on the patio but were completely charmed nevertheless. I had forgotten how absolutely warm and delightful the inside of the Black Forest Inn is, with its painted ceilings, murals, and colorful stained glass. The place feels authentic, solid, lived in – an enchanted oasis in a busy, throw-away world. 

Erica, the daughter of the owners, Erich and Joanne Christ, sat down with us and gave us a bit of history as we tucked into a gorgeous plate of handmade bratwurst with homemade sauerkraut and potato salad. She also brought my daughter a crock of their decadent cheesy spaetzel casserole, which she . . . ok, we inhaled. The more she talked and the more I ate and looked around, the more I realized we were sitting in one of Minneapolis’ true gems: a family owned restaurant deeply rooted in tradition but which has evolved, and continues to evolve, in all the right ways. The Christs cook everything from scratch -  from the potato salad with bacon and vinegar (to die for), to the mild but succulent brats, to the apple strudel, to the delicious rye bread, to the spaetzle. For forty-five years they have been bringing delicious hearty German dishes to Minneapolis, yet manage to find the time and energy to look outside their own doors and work toward bettering the community at large. Erica’s mother, Joanne Christ, was an integral force behind the creation of Eat Street and the consequent evolution of Nicollet Avenue into the colorful, diverse, vibrant, foodie destination that it is today.

The restaurant is truly a family run endeavor and not only do Erica and all of her siblings work at the restaurant, seventy year old Erich the patriarch, still butchers all the meat and makes the bratwurst himself. As a teenager in Germany, he was a butcher's apprentice and all these years later, he's still at it, turning the sides of organic veal from Meadow’s Pride Farm into cutlets for the wiener schnitzel and using all the trimmings in his brats. As a butcher, he appreciates the quality of the veal from Meadow’s Pride, the pork from Fischer Farms and the rabbit from Hoppin’ Fresh Farms and I’m sure the farmers appreciate his old world know-how as well.

The restaurant also uses Hope Creamery butter, Pride of Mainstreet Dairy cream, Turnip Rock Farm potatoes, Ames Farm apples, mustard seed from the Wisconsin Seed Company for their delicious housemade mustard, and asparagus from the Southeast Minnesota Food Network. Their shift to using so many local ingredients has been a natural progression over the last five years or so, stemming from the family’s openness to change. As different local farmers approached the restaurant about sourcing meats and vegetables, they began to see that it was economically feasible to buy from these farmers with the upside being a superior product and working relationship. Erica explained that when they can, they do buy local because the food tastes better and working with farmers they know, works out better for everyone. For example, they are able to buy “seconds” apples from Ames Farm because they cut them up and cook them in the strudel anyway. It’s a win – win situation for both parties (all three, if you count the eaters!) But using local ingredients requires a bit of juggling for the Christs, because unlike a restaurant that can change its menu daily to feature what is available, The Black Forest needs to have certain standard dishes on the menu all the time. No one wants a bunch of Germans and German wanna-be's slamming their steins in outrage because there's no potato salad. Because of the Christs’ flexibility, creativity and willingness to do the extra work it takes to get the best tasting ingredients in the door, they manage to source a lot of their food locally while putting out consistently delicious homemade food that has meant comfort and celebration to our lucky city for nearly half a century.  

If you’re German or a lover of German cuisine, then you know that spring is Spargelsaison (asparagus season) and The Black Forest Inn celebrates by featuring a special menu for Spargelfest which begins on Friday May 21 and runs through the end of May. I took a peek at the Spargelfest menu for this year and I fear I may have to go every single day in order to sample all the deliciousness. Along with asparagus perogi and pizza, they will feature organic veal medallions topped with a fresh local fried egg, asparagus and cream sauce served with potato croquettes as well as more traditional meals like asparagus and a thick slice of Fischer Farms ham. And that’s just to name a few! They’ll even have a Spargeltini and a Bloody Asparamary to whet your whistle. 

The Black Forest Inn has loads to celebrate right now: Spargelfest, a hand in creating one of our city’s most dynamic and evolving food destination neighborhoods, and 45 great years! Let’s celebrate with them and hope for many many more!

The address for the Black Forest Inn is 1 East 26th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55404-4399. The phone number is (612) 872-0812.

 Gabriela Lambert gave up practicing law to stay home with her three kids and live a life of leisure. Given the choice between salty and sweet, she will hit the salty every time. Given the choice between pig and cow, she will clutch her chest and whimper that it’s like asking her to pick her favorite child. On her birthday, she's most likely to choose a trip to the farmers' market with her family, but that’s one of her favorite things to do any day. In addition to minding her brood, she spends her time doing yoga, driving around in her minivan, and blogging at Her last post for Simple, Good and Tasty was What's Been Cookin' with Jenny Breen of Good Life Catering.