The last time I bought sausages at one of my favorite neighborhood markets it occurred to me that NE Minneapolis actually has four full-scale meat markets! While the area’s been known throughout history for its abundance of churches and bars, and lately it’s become a hotbed for microbreweries, Northeast’s ethnic past prevails in Polish specialty sausages.
To celebrate the height of grilling season, I invited a few carnivore friends over for a taste test. With military precision, we managed to keep track of a dozen different sausages from the four different markets as they went from butcher paper to white hot briquettes to individually identified plates. Most of the sausages we tried were already smoked which makes grilling really easy — they’re already cooked! Just a few grill marks and you’re done. Bon appetite!
Here are the meat markets:
215 Hennepin Ave. E.
Deli hours: Monday–Wednesday, 8 a.m.–8 p.m.; Thursday–Saturday, 8 a.m.–9 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
In 1954 Wasyl and Anna Kramarczuk founded this James Beard award-winning “America’s Classics” restaurant and deli. Many of the specialties come from their Ukrainian homeland. When I asked which were the most popular sausages for grilling, the guy behind the counter waved his hand from one side of the long refrigerated case to the other, as if in slow motion, and said “they are all popular.” From the 40 different kinds of sausage listed on their website we ended up devouring their standard Polish Kielbasa Sausage. It was better than any Polish sausage any of us had eaten before. Though the options are vast, we loved this classic. Also be sure to check out the spicy Linguica sausage used in Portuguese kale soup and delicious bakery items like Russian tea cakes.
Sentyrz Ethnic Market
1612 2nd St. NE
Monday–Thursday, 8 a.m.–8 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 8 a.m.–10 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
The granddaddy of NE markets, Sentyrz has been in business so long that its liquor license is grandfathered into the business. They are one of the few Minneapolis grocery stores that can actually sell alcohol. Sentyrz opened in 1923 on the very spot it’s on today. The third generation family run store has a fabulous meat market tucked into the back of the store. They must have a dozen different and unusual varieties. We loved the Sentyrz Supreme and jalapeno. I also bought the maple sausages, which are probably breakfast sausages, just to give them a try. They were the most maple possible in a sausage! We called them “dessert sausages.” But they’d really be great for breakfast. Sentyrz also has lots of unusual food product and sodas made in Minnesota.
Sikora’s Polish Market and Deli
1625 Washington St. NE
Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.–3 p.m.
The newcomer in the neighborhood, having opened in 2014, Sikora’s has taken its rightful place as a NE market and deli. From the red striped awning to the overflowing flower baskets to the inviting sidewalk tables this deli is welcoming. And if you want to talk sausages, you’ll get all your questions answered here. Some are meant for grilling, others are best cooked slowly in a pan, and many are delicious just sliced and eaten on the wonderful homemade breads sold there. Though the extra smoky Black Forest sausage wasn’t necessarily recommended for grilling, I went for it anyway, and we loved it!
3550 Johnson Street NE
Tuesday–Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Founded in 1946 by Jack and Dan Ready and partner Arnold Carlson after returning from WWII, this NE meat market is now run by the second generation of family members. And you won’t find a more friendly and cheerful group of butchers anywhere. The long refrigerated counter in this busy market often has people hanging around and gossiping with the friendly crew. The white-coated guys know many people by their first names as well as their regular purchases. We liked the habanero and turkey wild rice sausages but don’t pass up the smoked pork chops or marinated chicken breasts. The cooler and freezer are also stocked with homemade spaghetti sauce and other specialty foods.
You’ve got about a month of summer to go — happy grilling!
Know of a hidden gem in the metro area? Send your tips to WeekendTourist@mnpubs.com