Recipes  From the Show
and Culinary Musings

  • Chef John Politte

Our first visit the Keys Café in Spring Lake Park, at 8299 University Ave NE was not a pleasant one to say the least.  The waitresses and the supporting staff passed by our table numerous times before any kind of recognition or inquiry about coffee or juice, which I found interesting since once you are seated by the hostess, your waitress is informed of the seating and presumably greets you ASAP.

As a breakfast diner, I like to be greeted and have my coffee within five minutes of being seated, but this experience infected the whole dining endeavor.  And to top it off, my wife was rudely cut in front of by a certain state senator and his entourage trying to pay the check.  A fact I was not made aware of until afterwards, luckily for everyone, as I am quite protective of the fetching Mrs. Politte.

Months later, we decided to give Keys another try.  So with open minds and empty stomachs we made our way back to the famous Twin Cities eatery to give it another try.

Seated immediately, and acknowledged instantly by our waitress, I had coffee and juice on the table in less than a minute.  I know this because I timed it.

The food was exceptional.  The Florentine Benedict was a cleverly designed toasted English muffin layered with tomatoes, fresh spinach, basted eggs and topped by a creamy hollandaise, with crispy hash browns and toast made from bread baked in the back of the house.

The farmer’s omelet is definitely one made for eating before milking the cows or harvesting the crops.  Literally stuffed with ham, onions, hash browns and cheese, this breakfast entrée is also served with homemade toast and preserves, and can feed 2 people or a hungry Border collie that is mad that you left her at home.

The first Keys Café opened for business in 1973, in St. Paul on Raymond Avenue. Barbara Hunn founded this first adventure, refining and improving her successful formula until the second Keys opened in New Brighton in 1983.

Together with her family, the Keys Cafés have expanded to nine Twin Cities locations and have been recognized and awarded both locally and nationally for their fine food.

The Keys Café philosophy is simple: memorable service and absolutely the best food … breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts created from scratch recipes “you grew up with”.

As noted earlier, Keys has a full bakery and a display case that shows of their wares.  From cookies, pies, cakes and bars, there is a dessert to please everyone.

Check out the website at to see all eight Twin Cities locations and the one in Wisconsin, yes Wisconsin; where you can enjoy the home made family atmosphere and food.  And if it doesn’t work out the first time, by all means give it another try-you’ll be glad you did.

3 views0 comments
  • Chef John Politte

“Aperitif is a noun whose roots are from the Latin word aperire which is to open, stimulate or begin.  It is also a drink consumed before starting a meal, and is meant to be appetizing. “

Because the name is from a Latin word, Aperitif is an appropriate and aptly named restaurant and bar.  You can see the French, Italian and Spanish influence in the design, architecture and menu.

From the high ceilings braced with dark wooden joists, lanterns running the length of the patio, the wrought iron gates or the fountain surrounded by flowers, you can’t decide if you are in Monaco, Valencia, Naples, Monte Carlo, Athens or Tunis.

The menu is exceedingly adroit in reflecting this idea.  Ingredients such as Cous Cous, lamb, Tzatziki, pancetta, capers, Aioli, and Saffron are interwoven into this menu like a wonderful Mediterranean tapestry.

Executive Chef Chad Grant, formerly of Porterhouse, brings his fresh, locally purchased, made-from-scratch concept along with him to the outer suburbs.  You can guarantee that the meats, seafood, produce and dairy are fresh and none of the food is processed, packaged or bought in.

 The bottled water that is served to the customers is from Aqua Health and is local.  The chefs even use it to cook the pasta.  His pizza dough, brioche, bread and focaccia are made daily in their wood burning oven.  As he told me in our discussion “the bread you are eating right now was pulled out of the oven at around noon today”. 

Outside is an herb garden that boasts basil, yellow basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley and other herbs that the kitchen uses to spice up the flavor profiles of their food to keep it simple, fresh, and rustic.

As Chef Chad writes a great menu, runs a kitchen and brigade with perfection and precision, so too does the front of the house function under the direction of manager Corey T. Nyman.  The dining room and bar performed like an orchestra with all the instruments operating in synch.  Food coming and going, tables being bussed, people being seated, beverages poured and orders being taken reminded me of how a well-run dining room is supposed to function.

With a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon, Corey was accommodating and answered all of my questions.  Never in my 36 years of food service have I seen anyone as positive and upbeat.  This goes a long way into explaining the professionalism of his staff.

We started with the assorted olives, salmon cakes and house-cut chips and Alfredo.  The salmon cakes were two perfectly seasoned cakes molded with fresh salmon and lacking the extreme amount of filler you find elsewhere.  They were served with lemon aioli and an Arugula salad that was so sinfully delicious I should seek absolution from the nearest priest.  The house cut fries are a bit different.  The Alfredo sauce was a bit overpowered by the fried taste of the potatoes. They were also a bit difficult and messy to eat.  Otherwise they were well presented; stacked lengthwise in a pasta bowl, smothered in the creamy garlic sauce. The Veal Bolognese is a smooth velvety mirepoix of carrots, celery and onions cooked down with a rich tomato broth, red wine, and ground veal, then tossed with toothy fettuccine.  The rosemary focaccia bread with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and grated parmesan served alongside was the perfect accompaniment.

The Swordfish steak is cooked and coated with a citrus glaze and set atop a nest of carrots and spaghetti squash, nestled alongside an arugula salad with English peas that brought me back to my father’s garden when I ate them straight from the pod.  Aside from the swordfish, the squash was the best thing on the plate.

Dessert was an ice cream cake surrounded by ground coffee mixed with crushed Oreo cookies with a Heath bar crumble through the center, served on a plate with caramel delicately drizzled from top to bottom. It was so rich and decadent that a trip to the gym is now in the day planner.

The ambiance of the dining room is open, inviting but can be a bit loud when it gets full.  The dining room seats 236 people and there is a patio with a full bar that seats another 100.  Not many reviewers mention the bathrooms in their story, not unless they are issuing a caveat, but the bathrooms here are like a luxurious spa.  Real towels are rolled and stacked on a shelf above a trough that acts as the sink. Meanwhile you put your hands under the spout and are finessed by the water cascading onto your soapy digits.  The only thing missing was a mud pack facial and a fluffy robe.

Aperitif opened on January 30 of this year and is owned by The Nyman group which has restaurant holdings in Las Vegas, Scottsdale AZ and New York. Aperitif is located at772 Beilenberg Drive in Woodbury.  The phone # is 651-578-3000 or you can check them out online at

Do not miss the chance to dine at this exceptionally run establishment.  They care about what they do, and it is evident from the food, the staff and the management.

2 views0 comments