Bread and Pickle-Bringing Local to the Lakes

Let me tell you about my new office. The view of the lake is amazing, the ceiling is so high as to seem nonexistent and the breeze can be just superb on a warm summer day. The only real problem is when I get distracted and find myself fishing or sailing instead of working. But nobody's workplace is perfect. 


So it is at the new eatery on Lake Harriet, Bread and Pickle. Set up with good, reasonably priced coffee, nice little breakfast sandwiches, wi-fi and within biking distance, I have yet to find a reason not to spend my mornings here working away. Even in inclement weather, there are six tables under a roof. Ok, fine, I admit it. While writing that last sentence, I drifted off and found myself staring out across the lake, people watching and thinking more about poetry than work.


 What I know, is that this idyllic setting is finally getting something worthy of it's space, something that might begin to respect the importance of this place. Anything involved with our parks and lakes should try and have as little impact on them as possible. Especially if your business is mere steps away. Kim Bartmann's newest establishment, Bread and Pickle, carries with it some of her focus on social and environmental responsibility. Let me explain.


The first thing you notice about Bread and Pickle (if you are me, that is) is their dedication to composting and reducing waste. The place is literally surrounded by green compost bins. To me this is a good approach. For a place with so many visitors and tourists, it seems like you should really make it obvious, to over communicate if you will. Hence the sign on the window right when you walk up informing you that all of their packaging is commercially compostable.


I asked Kim about composting and she stands firm in her dedication to it. She is not willing to back down when people say that the general public may not be ready for it. In our conversation, she called Lake Harriet and the Bandshell the "jewel" of Minneapolis and made it clear that it is the perfect place to begin making people aware of the need to reduce waste. If our own natural resources are trashed and disrespected, surely the rest of the city is lost.


This is also the reason that Kim has made the difficult decision to not offer bottled water or to even give it out in disposable cups. The only options are to buy a metal water bottle at cost ($3), use the newly installed drinking fountain or to bring your own container. I asked her about how the response has been. She said that, "People can get really angry about that, but once you explain the reasoning to them, they generally understand." I found this to be true in the moments I was there waiting to order. A couple walked up and asked for a "cup of water" and the employee quite gracefully stated that " an effort with the Minneapolis parks to reduce waste we are not offering cups of water," and then filled them in on their options. The couple seemed quite ok with this. Ironically, I was right behind them with my mug from home, which I then asked to be filled with water (I was already maxed out on coffee). To further the idea, Kim told me that they have reserved a shelf for customers to leave their own coffee mugs. The next thing you know, we might be able to go back to the radical idea of people using dishes again. I know, its crazy talk, like all of those Europeans who think that people might actually want a real cup or plate while dining out.


In my opinion, you definitely have to know what you stand for and what your values are if you are going to make a hard and unpopular decision like that. Kim was quick to point out that she is not afraid of these decisions. Just like their all beef hot dog, specially spiced and made for them by Peterson family farms, it was a no-brainer. When a product has the combination of great taste, more nutritional value and supports a local family farm, it does seem like an obvious choice. People are still learning though and the complaints about having to pay $4 for a hot dog still stream in daily. The great thing is that $4 is actually cheap. Instead of really gouging the folks who come to the bandshell and forcing them to pay more because they have no other choice, Bread and Pickle instead forces you to make more responsible decisions. When you serve thousands of visitors and tourists, this is a great opportunity to make people think about food and waste in a whole new way. I can only hope that this will encourage other businesses to be "brave" and do what is right instead of what is easy. Of course, you have to know what that is and be able to voice it.


For Bread and Pickle as well as Kim Bartmann's other establishments, it goes deeper than just the decision to buy from local growers and producers. The big picture tells us that buying locally keeps our state economy unique and strong. More than that, we see that organic, local producers are more in tune with the land and more apt to help keep it pure and free from pollutants. Kim is also very aware of the influence her food has on people, pointing out that it doesn't matter if they know anything about grass fed beef, it still has as much omega-3 as salmon and no antibiotics and other junk. Just because people may not choose to buy high quality, local food on their own, it does not mean that it is ethically sound to serve them garbage. In the end, what matters is that food is tasty and prepared well.


I like this "sneaky" good food. It is comforting to find out that all of the ice cream I feed my children at the bandshell is now made by Izzy's, who not only use high quality, natural ingredients, but support sustainable practices. Imagine the joy of someday being able to go out in the world and assume that things are good and wholesome instead of having to advertise it. Instead of a banner declaring food is organic and free of artificial junk, it was the opposite. Restaurants who decided to use compromised, low quality ingredients would have signs that say: our food is guaranteed to not be organic and will contain artificial chemicals and preservatives, but hey, it sure is cheap! Ok, a pipe dream for now, but why not dream big.


Does this mean that Bread and Pickle will change the world and people will automatically be bastions of health. No, of course not. What it does mean is that local and sustainable food becomes accessible to a whole new crowd. It is another step in the direction of "organic", "local" and "compost" becoming normal, everyday things that consumers not only hear about, but experience in a comfortable, non-threatening way. This is exactly how I believe the organic food movement has to move forward. Instead of continuing to beat our chests around all of our foodie friends and having contests to see who can be the most organic and local, the people in this food movement who can reach out to a new audience will be the ones who change the way our food system works. I, for one, hope that we can bridge the gap.


Bread and Pickle website


Lawrence Black is a writer and editor at 
Simple, Good and Tasty.  He can be reached at