Profile: Brenda Langton

Brenda Langton

Owner of Spoonriver Restaurant and founder of the Mill City Farmers Market

Brenda Langton is another pioneer in the local food movement.

She’s been working with local producers and growers since the early 1970s. Her first restaurant, Café Kardemena in St. Paul, was one of the first in the Twin Cities to emphasize a gourmet vegetarian menu with many locally sourced ingredients. She went on to open Café Brenda in downtown Minneapolis, closing it in 2009 after 23 years in business.

Langton opened Spoonriver in the Mill District in 2006 — the same year she founded the Mill City Farmers Market next door to the restaurant. The market specializes in local, sustainable and organic vendors. It’s grown to about 70 vendors and is open Saturdays, 8 a.m.–1 p.m., through Oct. 15.

The motivation for Langton to get involved in the local food scene was simply a desire for a better product. “We just simply know these foods are more nutritious. They have more vitamins; they are fresher,” she said. “I really want to know where my food is grown.”

She said she’d like to see more restaurants, schools, nursing homes and hospitals expand their use of local foods.

While many restaurants have jumped on the local food bandwagon, there are many that haven’t, she noted. She said “it’s heartbreaking” when she has to turn away a farmer who wants to sell beautiful produce to her because she already has what she needs for the restaurant.

Langton would also like to see more people do a greater portion of their grocery shopping at the farmers markets instead of just perusing them for a couple of items.

Besides her work with the restaurant and farmers market, she is a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing. She has partnered with the center on a series of evening cooking classes call “Healthy Eating/Healthy Living” at Roth Distributing in Minnetonka. The dates for this fall are Oct. 18, Nov. 1 & 8. The class costs $265 and includes a copy of “The Café Brenda Cookbook.”