Local Indigenous Food

Owamni Restaurant opened in 2021 and received the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in 2022. In April of this year they had an electrical fire and had to close, but damage was not extensive so they were able to re-open recently. It is located in a historical building next to St Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. The name Owamni derives from the Dakota name Owámniyomni which roughly translates to “place of the falling, swirling water”.

The name of the restaurant is actually Owamni by the Sioux Chef. The Sioux Chef is made up of: “A team of Anishinaabe, Mdewakanton Dakota, Navajo, Northern Cheyenne, Oglala Lakota, Wahpeton-Sisseton Dakota and others. We are chefs, ethnobotanists, food preservationists, adventurers, foragers, caterers, event planners, artists, musicians, food truckers and food lovers.” The founder is Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, born in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He has been cooking for 30 years across the world and has received several Fellowships and awards including the 2018 James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook, and the 2019 James Beard Leadership Award. The cookbook is called the Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen.

At Owamni, all the food is indigenous. The waiters wear t-shirts that say ’86 Colonialism’. All the food served is sourced from indigenous food producers and does not include any colonial ingredients such as wheat flour, cane sugar or dairy. Honey and maple were the only sweeteners used that I saw. A perfect place for the gluten lacto sensitive.

The restaurant features small plates and encourages ordering multiple dishes and sharing them. We ordered the:

  • Wild Rice (hand harvested)
  • Ashela (Duck, Corn Mush, Tepary, Sunflower Seed)
  • Cured Salmon with huckleberry sauce, kelp, and trout roe
  • Bison Asada Taco with pesto and Guajillo Salsa, and a blue corn tortilla, and topped with mustard greens
  • Elk Taco with burnt ends, carrot and turnip slaw, Warrior’s BBQ Sauce, and a blue corn tortilla and topped with mustard greens

I had a Sweet Wandering tea made from sweet clover, hawthorn leaf & blossom, milky oat top damiana and sweet grass. My dining companion opted for a wild rice lager.

Elk Taco with Wild Rice and Ashela

The Ashela was interesting. It was a mush that tasted a little like refried beans. It definitely had duck in it but very subtle. Tepary is a bean. It was pretty good. The salmon was very cold and I could barely taste the huckleberry. The Elk was a little tough and the mustard greens had a bitter taste. We both agreed the Bison Asada Taco was our favorite. I could have eaten more of that. And the wild rice was excellent as always.

This was a place we had wanted to go to for ages but could never get a reservation. Maybe because of the fire, people didn’t know it had re-opened. Not sure why, but we got in. It was an interesting experience. The flavors were subtle. Not what we are used to with all the salt and spices usually thrown at us at restaurants. It was all fresh and felt healthy. We were full but not stuffed. We agreed it was a pleasant experience but we weren’t sure it was someplace we would frequent often.

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