The Food Post: Northfield, Minnesota

This Minne-RoadTrip series of posts is sponsored by Visit Owatonna, Visit Faribault and Visiting Northfield. A special thanks to Visiting Northfield for hosting this chapter. 

When my guide mentioned that Hallmark filmed a Christmas movie in Northfield last year, I was surprised but also not really surprised.

Northfield is a college town located about 40-minutes south of the Twin Cities. The picturesque campuses of St. Olaf and Carleton lie on opposite sides of the Cannon River.

The main street area is lined with independently owned shops, antique stores, and restaurants. One of Northfield’s claims to fame is thwarting a Jesse James bank robbery in 1875. You can swing by the Northfield Historical Society downtown and see part of the restored bank for yourself.

“Is Northfield like Stars Hollow?” a friend asked.

“I suppose it kind of is,” I replied. It’s not hard to imagine either Gilmore Girls or a Hallmark movie being filmed in Northfield.

I have always been fond of this city. Besides this Minne-Road Trip opportunity, I have visited Northfield to attend St. Olaf Christmas Festivals and summer music camp, and treat myself to a bed and breakfast stay. If you are traveling along I-35 between Iowa and Minnesota, Northfield is also a good place to pause for a meal or stretch break. And with its close proximity to the Twin Cities, one could easily pop down here for a holiday shopping trip.

I spent my 24 hours in Northfield exploring the shops and restaurants. Here are some of the food places I enjoyed:

Cakewalk


Cakewalk is open as early as 8 a.m., making it a sweet breakfast, snack and dessert destination. The bakery offers many flavors of cupcakes ranging from salted caramel to chocolate stout. You’ll also find coffee drinks and plenty of seating.

When it comes to desserts, I generally prefer fruit desserts over things with frosting. The good news is that there’s a variety of treats. Cupcake lovers can choose to their heart’s content; people like me can decide between items like cannolis, eclairs, and bars.

I loved the seasonal berry bar, made with a buttery crust and topped with plump berries.

Hogan Brothers

Hogan Brothers has been serving hot hoagies since 1991. I’ve enjoyed Hogan Brothers hoagies on previous visits to Northfield. Hogan Brothers offers hoagies by the third, half, or whole. Choose a meat (vegetarian options include cheese and hummus) and your favorite toppings. I add everything (cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, banana peppers, mayo, and signature olive oil vinaigrette).


Beer cheese soup is offered every day. It’s the queso-like, salty, cheesy stuff you hope for when you order beer cheese soup. There are cookies, rice crispie treats, and ice cream for dessert.

El Triunfo

This small Mexican grocery store is located nearby the downtown area. Order take-out or enjoy your meal in the small dining area. The menu includes dishes like tacos, burritos and tortas. The weekend menu includes additional dishes like carnitas and barbacoa.

These flavorful beef tacos were made-to-order. The spicy creamy green is a must.

Northfield Olive Oils and Vinegars

This olive oil and vinegar shop is locate around the corner from the Historical Society/Jesse James bank robbery site. Don’t hesitate to walk around and try whatever strikes your fancy. Olive oils come in flavors you might expect such as lemon, garlic, and truffle, and ones you might not, including blood orange and dill. The same goes for balsamic vinegars.

Oil and vinegar flavor pairing suggestions are posted around the store. You could also ask an employee for his or her tried and true favorites. In the end, I chose a light, fruity olive oil (Picual) and syrupy balsamic vinegar. Small, 60 mil bottles make nice sizes for gifts or trying out a new flavor.

The Ole Store Restaurant

My Northfield guide recommended The Ole Store as one of her favorites, so I visited for dinner. Ole Store also serves breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. In the 1880’s, The Ole Store served as a grocery store. I liked the home-like atmosphere and wood flooring.

If you were a student and your parents came to town and offered to take you to dinner, you might ask them to take you here. We all had a place like that in our college towns.

The restaurant was packed. I snuck into a seat at the bar and enjoyed dinner.

There’s another half-rack of ribs hiding beneath the top.

Dinner entrees hover around the $20-25 range and include a vegetable and your choice of potato. Appetizers, flatbreads, and sandwiches are also available.

For oven-baked ribs, these were very good. The meat was tender to the bite, but it didn’t fall off the bone. What I found really outstanding are the homemade, skin-on french fries. They have the perfect texture. I wouldn’t hesitate to rank them in the top  five fries I’ve enjoyed in recent memory.

Thanks again to Lisa and Visiting Northfield for hosting this Minne-RoadTrip  visit! 

The Places:

Cakewalk
303 Division Street

Northfield, MN 55057
507-786-9255

Hogan Brothers
415 S. Division Street

Northfield, MN 55057
507-645-6653

El Triunfo
200 MN-3
Northfield, MN 55057

507-664-3888

The Ole Store Restaurant
1011 St. Olaf Ave

Northfield, MN 55057
507-786-9400

5 Comments

  1. That beer cheese soup looks amazeballs! Ditto those tacos, they look legit. I too am a fry snob. The best I’ve had were at Les Halles (Bourdains ex restaurant)… With the exception of the fries I make at home.

  2. I’m going to need to drive down for Cakewalk. also, what hallmark movie?! I need to watch!

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