215 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis
Owner: Orest Kramarczuk
Minneapolis is known for its Scandinavian heritage, but for more than a century the city’s northeast neighborhoods have been a vibrant Eastern European enclave. A great deal of that Catholic, blue-collar culture has dissipated during the past 20 years, but some overt traces remain, most notably a dozen or more elaborate churches and Kramarczuk’s, the landmark sausage-making company and restaurant.
The business dates to 1954, when Ukrainian refugees Wasyl and Anna Kramarczuk purchased Central Provisions, one of the city’s oldest butcher shops, and renamed it Kramarczuk Sausage Co. It has been at the same address, just across the Mississippi River from downtown Minneapolis, since 1967. Wasyl and Anna’s son Orest joined the business in 1979. He’s now the primary owner. His father died in 1991, and Anna Kramarczuk died in 2008.
Kramarczuk’s more closely resembles a cafeteria, with polite, mostly Ukrainian young women working behind the counter (a job at Kramarczuk’s has long been a first step for new immigrants). In addition to deli sandwiches served on fresh rye and caraway rye, it still serves the traditional fare that Anna prepared for her family: gigantic pork- and rice-filled cabbage rolls smothered in a tomato cream sauce, dumplings stuffed with potatoes and cheese and served with a dill pickle, thick Polish sausages stewed in pungent sauerkraut, colorful salads, the Kramarczuk’s storefront in Minneapolis. and crêpes filled with a medley of beef, pork, and chicken and topped with horseradish-laced sour cream. The piroshok—soft, golden buns filled with hard-cooked eggs, mushrooms, and seasoned ground beef—continue to be a staple.
Of course there’s an ever-changing selection of the house specialty, the butcher shop’s expertly made sausages, bratwurst, kielbasa, and wieners, swiped with some of the kitchen’s zesty mustard and stuffed into sturdy, housemade golden buns. Along with a relatively recent push toward elaborate tortes, cakes, and cream puffs, the bakery continues to turn out delicious kolaches filled with cheese, prunes, apricots, or poppy seeds.
The America's Classic award is given to restaurants with timeless appeal, each beloved in its region for quality food that reflects the character of its community. Establishments must have been in existence for at least ten years and be locally owned.