Sparks has a great neighborhood feel, a lovely atmosphere, and some stand-out dishes, like the hummus and the ribs.
To keep up as a destination restaurant, Sparks needs to make the menu feel more special. There is little here we haven’t seen before.
Nations get the governments they deserve and neighborhoods get the restaurants they deserve. It always seemed unfair, then, that the good people of Bryn Mawr, the cozy nest of winding streets west of downtown Minneapolis, had no restaurant to call their own. That has changed.
Sparks, which opened in March, is carved cleverly out of an old coffee shop that was carved cleverly out of an old garage. And, in keeping with its neighborhood, it is as intimate as a dinner party. Culinary Director and Owner Jonathan Hunt, who serves up (mostly) pasta at Rinata and Al Vento, takes his inspiration for Sparks (mostly) from the Mediterranean, with a little bit of Texas and Korea as well.
Much of the menu comes out of the wood-burning oven that is the centerpiece of the tiny open kitchen, from barbecue ribs to apple crisp to the pizza. This comes with grown-up but not groundbreaking toppings like prosciutto, egg, and arugula or roasted chicken. The crust is a little too pillowy to call Neapolitan, a little too soft to call New York–style, but it is plenty flavorful. The “pita bread” is clearly pizza dough, baked off plain—perfect with the tangy-creamy red pepper hummus, which disappeared off our table in a flash.
Like so many restaurants, Sparks is rich in small plates: a couple of bites of merguez sausage (great spices, no snap), a tiny bulgogi taco (love the kimchi, would have liked more flavor in the meat itself), a rib or two (with an excellent, smoky barbecue sauce). And Sparks is a lovely space for lingering, with low light, warm wood, and a pleasantly low noise level.
All that lingering means the wait for Sparks’ 11 tables can be long (they don’t take reservations), but lunch crowds are more manageable, and Sparks is a very quick detour from downtown for a business lunch.
230 S. Cedar Lake Rd
Minneapolis, 612-259-8943, sparksmpls.com