Thursday, July 20, 2023

Indigenous cuisines delight in this Minneapolis restaurant

One of the pleasures of traveling is discovering unique places to eat and sampling new kinds of food. That totally describes the experience we had during our recent visit to Minneapolis.

Several of the "taco" selections at Owamni

Thanks to our daughter, who snagged a coveted reservation at the nationally recognized indigenous restaurant Owamni by The Sioux Chef, we had a meal totally different from anything we’ve ever experienced.

Behind the scenes

The creation of owner and chef Sean Sherman, along with his wife Dana Thompson, Owamni is a restaurant that focuses on North American Indigenous foods. The name comes from the Dakota name Owamniyomni which Sherman says means “place of the falling, swirling water,” referring to St. Anthony Falls. It is located inside a reclaimed mill on the banks of the Mississippi River. According to Indigenous belief, it is located at OwamniYommi, the sacred site of peace and well-being for the Dakota and Anishinabe people.

Sherman, born into the Oglala Lakota tribe, honed his talents while cooking in the U.S. and internationally for 30 years. In recognition of his culinary and creative abilities, he was awarded a 2018 James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook and a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award in 2019.

Drink menu offers unusual 
Throughout his career, Sherman’s main culinary focus has been on revitalization and awareness of indigenous food systems, integrating these into a modern context, and educating the public about ancient techniques of farming, harvesting, and land stewardship as practiced by his ancestors.

While traveling to different tribal communities Sherman became better acquainted with Native American food traditions. He began connecting to native plants and methods of production and cooking as a way to help indigenous people heal from collective trauma resulting from generations of unfair policies during America’s colonial period.

Believing that the original indigenous diet would also be healthier for today’s consumers, he set out to emulate it by preparing foods that are not processed, contain no cane sugar, soy, wheat (gluten), dairy, or high cholesterol ingredients such as found in beef, chicken, and pork.

The food

So, what does the restaurant serve, you might ask?

Delicious food and drink, I would reply.

Cherry birch tea and 
blueberry and lemon mint
zero-proof cocktail

Wild plants and game are primary ingredients, with these notably purchased from indigenous and local producers. Shareable appetizers include tacos (sandwiches), salads, and grain bowls. Three entrees feature bison, fish, and vegetarian dishes. Drinks include a long list of iced teas and craft zero-proof cocktails that utilize indigenous plants including wild rice, corn, sumac, mushrooms, and more. Some are decorated with flowers other colorful motifs.

The menu is relatively small, but there is enough variety to suit all tastes (if you let yourself be adventurous). Here is what the four of us ordered.

I started with a blueberry and lemon mint mocktail, which was not only scrumptious but colorful and visually pleasing. My daughter had cherry birch iced tea, and the two guys sampled house-made birch beer.

We ordered a selection of sharable items that were passed around and sampled by all, with each of us having different favorites. Now, I really couldn’t describe exactly what was in all the items, but the flavors and textures were exquisitely blended into combinations that we found delightful and filling.

More sharable items

From the plant section: Sweet potato with maple chili crisp, wild mushroom chowder, true wild rice (hand harvested ) with mashed bean bowl, corn taco—dumpling with jam and maple popcorn.

From the game section: Smoked turkey tinga with berries, bison asada taco with pesto and guajillo salsa, and elk taco with burnt ends, carrot, turnip slaw, and barbeque sauce.

Outdoor terrace at Owamni

Opened in 2021, the restaurant has proved very popular with locals and visitors. Inside there is a long, narrow space with tables positioned toward the river. The dining room is small, so plan ahead and make a reservation. Walk-ins will be seated at the casual outdoor patio on a first-come basis.

Owamni, 410 S. 1st St., Minneapolis, 612-444-1846,






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