words by Autumn Compton
visuals by Nick Junkersfeld


Whether it is throwing zero-waste outdoor music and food events, such as the Red Stag Block party, building the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified restaurant in Minnesota, or combining a restaurant with a theater and bowling alley, you can be sure that Minneapolis restauranteur Kim Bartman is always thinking of new ways to contribute positively to the Twin Cities food, entertainment and sustainability cultures. In fact, one of her passions is to create gathering spaces for TC residents that connect the dots between these elements, and encourages her customers to become better local and global citizens in the process.

Her latest endeavor--Tiny Diner, which opened this month in the Powderhorn neighborhood in South Minneapolis--takes her vision of sustainability and neighborhood restaurants a step even further, combining a solar panel covered patio, onsite demonstration gardens, urban farm food production sites just a few blocks away, and community classes providing education on urban gardening, permaculture design, seed saving and more. Just like the interconnected systems of nature, the Tiny Diner cannot stand alone, and is connecting with other Twin Cities organizations such as Youth Farm, a non-profit that provides year-round programs for youth ages 9 to 24. Youth Farm's mission is to educate and train through gardens and greenhouses, cultivating leadership in youth through planting, growing, preparing and selling the food they grow.

Tiny Diner is also partnering with the Permaculture Research Institute Cold Climate, which will provide most of the onsite design and is coordinating the educational component of the restaurant site. Permaculture is about as badass as it gets as a philosophy of design that creates systems which are in balance with the natural world, as well as with each other. It is collaborations such as these that make me excited to be a resident of South Minneapolis myself, and the more I know about food systems and their impact on and relationship to our environment, health, class systems, and corporations, the more I believe that revolution just may begin with our relationship to food. What is so exciting about the Tiny Diner project, and the urban farming movement in general, is that their mission is to empower individuals and our local communities to provide some of the most fundamental elements of survival for ourselves – healthy food, soil and water. And if it is left up to Kim Bartman, we will be doing this while enjoying some locally raised fried chicken, sipping on a locally brewed beer and listening to a Minneapolis band while lounging under the shade of a solar panel, surrounded by gardens and friends. I think I can live with that.


Watch the mini-doc directed/produced by Autumn and filmed/edited by Nick Junkersfeld:

editor's note: The solar panel roof that Autumn mentioned is a 20-kilowatt solar ray that produces 80% of the diner's electricity. To put that in perspective that is enough power to power 6-8 single family homes for a day. Included in the photos below you will also see a woman hand-weaving a patio fence made entirely from willow shrubs, a native bush to MN.  If that sort of thing gets you excited and you're in the Twin Cities, pay them a visit at 1024 East 38th Street, Mpls.