Northern Comfort

In search of Swedish meatballs.

Where:
Pop!
2859 Johnson St. NE, Minneapolis
612-788-0455
poprestaurant.com

 

When:
M–Th, 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m., 5–9 p.m.
F–Sa, 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m., 5–10 p.m.

Prices:
Dinner entrées, $10–$15.50

Everyone has their short list of favorite comfort foods, and high atop mine is Swedish meatballs. Around the holidays, I could always count on my mother cooking up a batch of the ones she modeled on a recipe (I still have it) from the January 1953 issue of Gourmet.

 

One would think that exemplary Scandinavian meatballs would be a commonplace item on Minnesota menus, but they’re a rarity. Nonetheless, I have found one restaurant where Swedish meatballs are a signature dish, a terrific little Northeast Minneapolis spot called Pop!—but don’t let that form your full opinion of this eclectic place.

Clark Knutson, Pop!’s Culinary Institute of America-trained owner-chef, says the meatballs on the menu were initially a bit of PR. During a meeting four years ago where he and his wife, Leslie, were asking neighbors to support their application for a wine and beer license, an unconvinced old-timer in the audience opined that the restaurant’s proposed menu wasn’t sufficiently bland for Northeast’s Scandinavians, and that Pop! wasn’t going to last long enough to need that license. A lightbulb went on and Knutson switched his planned meatloaf entrée for meatballs.

For those who don’t favor “blandness,” Pop!’s menu offers some great Latin- and Cuban-inspired dishes that include a smoked queso fondue that comes with marinated grilled vegetables, cumin bruschetta, flatbread, and plantain chips for dipping, and matambre, a grilled steak with garbanzo bean stew, blue cheese, and a chimichurri sauce.